Monday, May 13, 2019

Harvest Monday - 13 May 2019

We got the first spring harvests this week; several cuttings of asparagus like this:

This was welcome, because everything else has the slows, due to another spring of cool and damp conditions. The brassica seedlings I set out on May 1 are just sitting there pouting, and the radish, peas, turnips, and lettuce I planted from seed on April 23 are only just poking their heads up.

This year I debuted my new seed starting setup. It's a steel 6-shelf rack, from which I hung 4-foot LED shoplights daisy-chained together to the timer. The whole thing was quite inexpensive compared to the ones they sell in the garden catalogs. And you can fit four standard 1020 nursery trays on each shelf.

This now gives me the space to start a whole lot more tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants than I used to. The trouble now is the upcoming weather won't permit transplanting outdoors. But they keep growing.

I mentioned last year that I was going to experiment with straw-bale planting. On Saturday I bought ten bales of Canadian straw from the local farmer who imports it. I placed them in the fenced garden and started the conditioning process. I had room for quite a few more bales, but at $10 apiece I thought I should start small for this year at least. If all goes according to plan I will be able to plant peppers in them by the end of the month.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave at for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Harvest Monday - 25 March 2019

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. It's spring, or as we refer to it here in New Hampshire, "Mud Season." Our first harvest of the year is maple syrup!

We actually weren’t going to tap our sugar maple trees this year. We still have quite a few sealed jars from last year’s crop, and not only that, we expected the local high school to continue to tap 30+ of our trees and “pay” us with a quart at season’s end. Well, we were surprised to learn that this year the school was only going to tap the trees on their own campus. Something about a lack of suitable transportation for the students. That’s a shame, as we really enjoyed seeing the students hop around in our woods emptying buckets.

So, we tapped the four trees by the barn we reserve for ourselves. The taps went in on March 8, at the start of a warming trend, though there was still a lot of snow on the ground. 
Buckets hanging from sugar maple trees.
On March 20 we felt we had enough and pulled the taps. I estimate we got about 18 gallons of sap. The Kitchen Goddess boiled it down in two batches, a tedious job. For those interested, I've written about our small-scale process here and here

This resulted in 3 pints of  Grade A very light amber. It is not strong-tasting, but it sure is sweet!

As I've said in the past, there are those who prefer the artificial stuff, but to most anyone in maple country that is heresy!

There won't be much else to post from a harvest perspective for quite awhile. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave at for Harvest Monday.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Harvest of Joy - 24 December 2018

The other day someone asked me if we "celebrate Christmas." I replied, "in the sense of peace on earth, good will to all...yes!" In that spirit, I want to wish to all the Harvest Monday community very happy holidays. Here's hoping all your garden wishes come true in the coming year.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Another Visit to the Seed Bank

We're back from another trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was great to reconnect with family and friends, and of course, drink some wine!

As we've done for the past three years, we also swung by the nice town of Petaluma.

Petaluma is the location of Baker Creek's "Seed Bank," a candy store for gardeners. We somehow missed the memo that would have told us that they've moved from the cool old bank building to a storefront a block down the street. So the "Bank" pun doesn't really work anymore, but it's still the place to be.

Inside, the same great selection.

And as usual, we got a bit carried away with our purchases.

Note the oversized Seed Bank coffee mug, just for me.

I can't wait to try all these new varieties. The garden planning just got more complicated!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Harvest Monday - 5 November 2018

Last harvests of the year! Everything must go!

I planted carrots in late April, and we've been picking them all summer. Now it was time to pull the remaining. It made a much larger harvest than I was expecting.

Scarlet Nantes and Danvers Half-long
Also time to pull the few leeks the voles let us have. Too bad, really, because we love leeks and use them a lot. Also found were some spring-planted onions that suddenly decided November was an awesome time to start growing.

King Richard leeks
I tried growing turmeric and ginger for the first time this year. Both were planted in large pots. The ginger failed, but the turmeric grew to a nice plant. I harvested the roots this week, and saved some pieces to replant for next year.

Turmeric root
The dehydrator has been busy, what with the carrots and the apples we picked a few weeks ago. The dried carrots are great for soups and stews and won't take up freezer space (I finally was able to empty the chest freezer in the barn and shut it down). The apples are for adding to oatmeal or Cream of Wheat (my favorite!), and also for fruit leather. The Kitchen Goddess also used the last of her canning jars to make apple pie filling.

In wildlife notes, we had a visit from a bear on Friday night, who knocked down both the front and back bird feeders. "Fortunately" it had been raining hard and the ground was super-saturated, so the poles were only uprooted and not bent beyond hope. He did destroy the suet feeders though. I know, you shouldn't feed birds when bears are active (March to December), but we love watching the birds on the feeders year round.

A visit from Mr. or Ms. Bear
So no more harvests this year, and nothing to show in that department until maple syrup season in late winter. Thanks to all for reading my posts over the months, and to Dave at for hosting Harvest Monday.

I would just like to close by reminding all Americans to vote tomorrow! TKG and I will certainly be doing that, as well as serving once again as town election officials, making sure everyone's vote is counted, and all voters are treated with fairness and respect.

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Big Decision

When we bought this property 8 years ago, there were three 12-foot rows of old grapevines in the fenced garden. Like everything here, they had been sorely neglected and were wandering everywhere. We really had no idea what varieties they were, other than finding some old wine bottle labels in the barn describing a "vintage" of Canadice and Vanessa. By "old" I don't mean very old, probably 1980s or 90s.

We thought we could tame the vines by careful pruning and trellising. This took a lot of time and effort. We even added two more rows of vines, making a total of 60 row-feet. But sad to say, we were defeated. Black rot had taken hold in the vineyard, and it was impossible to control. It has the effect of turning the beautiful fruit clusters into disgusting shriveled mummies, full of the fungus spores.

As I said, we put a lot of work into it. Other tasks included removing excess foliage to encourage air flow, dropping fruit clusters to make the remaining ones more robust, and spraying with a fungicide (which really didn't do much). And the thing was, since there were so many varieties, the fruit had different maturities...some early, some late. This made wine-making a challenge. And you know what? We really weren't crazy about the wine we made.

So we made the big, painful decision...just rip them out. So here's the last glimpses.

It was sad, really, when you think of the decades-old vines in particular. But this is a process commercial wineries go through all the time.

I cut the vines down to the ground, and painted the stumps with an herbicide. Removing the trellis wires was a hassle. Here is how it looks now.

We are not going to replant vines in this space. The chances are too great that the fungus remains in the soil. Instead, I'm going to experiment with Straw Bale Gardening. As the years go on, the southern portion of the fenced garden is getting shadier, making the northern part more desirable for planting. I don't want to go through the effort and expense of building more raised beds and trucking in soil. Straw bale seems like an ideal solution for growing things like peppers and eggplants. It will be fun, I think.

We still want to grow grapes. I'm going to start with three new vines, all the same variety. Probably one of the Niagara-type wine grapes. I'll put them on a fence line away from this space. The fence will serve as a ready-made trellis. Hopefully the fungus has not migrated all over the place.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Harvest Monday - 22 October 2018

Our first killing frost arrived this past week, as anticipated. The days leading up to it were thus a flurry of activity for picking and processing.

The Mad Hatter peppers (that our Harvest Monday host, Dave, featured awhile ago) would not ripen any further, so here's my entire crop. I'd say it's a productive plant, but for me it took forever for even one to turn red-ripe. I will try again next year though.

Mad Hatter sweet pepper
The rest of the sweet peppers were hauled in and processed for the freezer, except for the shishitos which we will eat now.

The hot peppers came in as well.

The Kitchen Goddess turned all of the above into a spicy green chile base, using a recipe from the great book Fiery Ferments.

All of the remaining zucchini, eggplants, and beans came in and were frozen.

I've struggled to grow Swiss chard (usually an absurdly easy crop) in recent years. Not sure why. But I did pick some before the frost.

Peppermint and Fordhook Giant Swiss chard
I planted Summercrisp lettuce and then largely ignored it. I was surprised what the harvest added up to. And for us it's novel to have fresh salads in mid-October.

Mottistone and Nevada lettuce
Another crop I planted (in spring) and largely ignored was Red Malabar 'spinach', which of course is not a true spinach at all. It took awhile to get going, and produced lovely long vines. The only drawback is bugs seem to have a fondness for it. Despite that, the harvest was pretty large.

Red Malabar
I lightly blanched it, and here's the result. Some reviews I saw say it's too slimy for them, but that did not put me off at all. It tastes and smells just like real spinach, without the bite of some other spinach substitutes like Swiss chard or beet greens. I had some in a ramen and it was very delicious. If you, like me, struggle to grow real spinach I highly recommend this variety.

Blanched Red Malabar
Our green apple tree (maybe Granny Smith?) is a late-season variety. We picked two bushels, and there is at least that much left on the tree which will probably stay there. The reason? We already have so much canned applesauce, apple pie filling, and hard apple cider in storage. 

TKG rewarded our hard work with delicious caramel apples. I wish you could taste how good these are.

So, a busy week, but it's the last of the season. The only things left to harvest are carrots and leeks. I hope your harvests extend further than this. I look forward to reading about them!