Sunday, September 29, 2013

Harvest Monday - 30 September 2013

Welcome to the last September Harvest Monday of the year at Eight Gate Farm, hosted by Daphne.

Friday night an old friend was visiting from Vermont. It was a perfect night to dispose of some brush in a lovely bonfire.

The weather continues to be quite mild, and tomatoes are continuing to haunt The Kitchen Goddess. On Friday, 9 lbs. more, plus radishes, raspberries, and a serving of broccoli. The tomato harvest includes lots of drops, as befitting the blighty condition of the plants.

This week the KG canned 6 pints of sauce, bringing our yearly total to 68. That's 8 1/2 gallons! (~32 l.) We really do not need any more, but the tomatoes are still coming. She also did 4 more quarts of Bloody Mary mix, bringing our total to 2 gallons. I wish "we" could can some more salsa, but the peppers are completely finished.

So with canning shut down, we decided to try drying some ripe tomatoes. It takes a long time in our little dehydrator, but the result was pretty good. We will put some in olive oil.

On Sunday, another 4 lbs. of tomatoes, bringing the week's total to 13 lbs. (5.9 kg.). I've decided that since the weather is holding out I will leave whatever tomatoes cling to the vines to see if they will ripen naturally, and bring in only the drops to ripen indoors. Then we will dry or maybe freeze them.

Well that's it for harvests, but we were busy nonetheless. It was time to make apple cider. A few weeks ago I wrote that we had picked 5 bushels and jammed them into the freezer. This week, after thawing for 24 hours, they were ready to go. Here is about half of them on a workbench in the barn. Not particularly attractive, but nice and soft.

The point of freezing, besides buying us some time, was supposed to make pressing much easier. We were thinking we could avoid the intermediate step of grinding before pressing. After cutting the first few in half, I put them into the press and started cranking. They pressed well, but the resulting juice was a pale yellow, not like traditional cider. The KG believed that grinding released more goodness, and she was right. So we got into a rythm of cutting, grinding, and pressing. Here's the grinder and its product:

Here's the press ready for its next load:

The results were remarkably good. We pressed the 5 bushels in less than 4 hours, and got 10 gallons (~38 l.) of rich brown, sweet-tart goodness. We are sold on freezing! It cuts the time and effort in half.

Of course for us the process does not end there. While I did the cleanup, the KG did what is needed for hard cider. She simmered the cider for about 45 minutes, added 2 lbs. of brown sugar per 5 gallons, then let it cool for awhile. We poured them back into the fermentation buckets (after sanitizing them of course), and waited until it was cool enough to add the yeast. It turns out that took overnight. Early the next morning we pitched the yeast, stirred, put the lids on, and added the airlocks. Now we wait!

I still do not know what we are going to do with the other 2 bushels I picked last week. We sure do not need more cider, and I don't think we need more than 6 jars of applesauce.

Wait, one more "harvest." Passing through one of the gates at Eight Gate Farm, on my way into the woods to dispose of some dropped apples, I saw some sumac along the fenceline. It is an attractive native tree, but it spreads like mad if uncontrolled. I cut a dozen few seedheads. I'm going to let them dry naturally, then use them for tea and the Middle Eastern spice za'atar, once I figure out how to do that.

Thanks for reading and thanks again to Daphne for hosting.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Harvest Monday - 23 September 2013

Welcome to another Harvest Monday, courtesy of Daphne's Dandelions. I hope you too are having fine fall weather. And there are no predicted frosts in the foreseeable future. That means more tomatoes (take that, Kitchen Goddess) and maybe even some more eggplants.

We started the week with 10 lbs. of tomatoes left over from last Sunday's canning. What to do, what to do? Well, how about a gallon of Bloody Mary mix? It's like tomatoes for breakfast! Just add Vitamin V.

On Tuesday, 2.5 lbs tomatoes and a cup of seedless red raspberries. On Thursday, 12.5 lbs. tomatoes, many of them drops and not immediately usable. Also a weird fall harvest of radishes, more raspberries, the last melons (lemon-sized), and the last cucumbers (misshapen). We take what we can get this time of year.

I took another 2 bushels from the mystery green apple tree. There are still more up there, but we really have enough. And the easy ones (and not-so-easy) are already picked.

I did not think it would be possible, but one of the volunteer tomatoes has produced ripe fruit. I guess this is due to the mild early fall weather we've been having, or maybe the pure compost it's growing in. I never water it, and it really does not get much sunlight.

I gave the chard a haircut.
I grew 2 varieties of chard: Fordhook and Perpetual. Neither has done especially well, but the Fordhook is better.
On Saturday, another 13 lbs. of tomatoes. The weekly total is 28 lbs. (12.7 kg.). Tomato production is really on the downward slope of the Bell Curve. No time to make sauce this week, so fruit in varying states of ripeness is piling up on the counter.
That's basically it for the harvests this week. Now a little foray into my fall gardening, or lack thereof. I really have never had luck with it. I'm never sure when to plant things, despite reading a lot on it. It probably doesn't help that the available space at this time of year is shaded a lot. But I try anyway.
My kale is just sitting there. Something's wrong. It was planted at the end of July.

Same with the carrots. But in this case I'm not so upset since we got so many spring carrots this year.

And even the radishes are scraggly! Kids can grow radishes! Why not me?

The "fall" broccoli and Chinese Cabbage really turned out to be summer crops, and are either all picked or tired now. The cabbage was nice but the broccoli has only produced small heads and not a lot of sideshoots. I don't really like Asian greens so I don't try them, and we had so much lettuce earlier this year we got tired of salads, so I saw no need to grow it in the fall.

Well, I guess we'll be picking Brussels Sprouts and the winter squash one of these days, so we will have some fall produce. But I'm envious of all you gardeners who are able to extend the season with nice green stuff. Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Field Trip - Dublin, NH

On Saturday September 14 we took a field trip to see the cousins in Dublin, NH. Okay, they're not really my cousins, but we share an uncommon last name, which prompted me to look them up many years ago, and we've been dear friends since. The purpose of the trip was to divide up some of their perennials that have gotten too large. Karen can truly be said to have the proverbial green thumb.

A number of people came, and all walked away with beautiful plants that would cost a fortune in the garden centers. Here are some shots of their perennial gardens, pre-distribution.

Of course, no visit would be complete without a visit to her vegetable...wait for it...

Cold frames

Beautiful chocolate peppers

Thanks for the plants, Cuz. Love to stay and help you fork compost, but we have some babies we need to get in the ground!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Harvest Monday - 16 September 2013

Welcome to another Harvest Monday. brought to you by Daphne's Dandelions.

Our fall-blooming clematis. I think it's called "Traveler's Joy." It fills the garden with a jasmine-like scent.

It actually delights three of your senses: sight, smell, and sound, the latter from the bees that swarm it.

Okay, I promised no more tomato pictures. But here at 8GF we aren't harvesting too much else now.

I've mentioned that some of the Rutgers tomatoes are much larger than expected. Here you see an 11.5 oz. (325g.) beauty flanked by more normal 5 oz. siblings.

On Wednesday, 18 lbs. (8+ kg.) of tomatoes. All our production has come from 12 determinate plants in the raised beds: 4 Roma, 4 Martino's Roma, 2 Rutgers, 2 Incas F1. Based on the good yields this year, good for us anyway, I might scale that back to 8 plants. I'm not sure yet what varieties, except not the Martino, as I mentioned a few weeks ago. And I'm out of Incas seeds. Does anybody have a favorite, prolific, determinate paste tomato to recommend?

On Friday, 8 lbs. (3.6 kg.) of tomatoes.We have a few indeterminate plants in what I call the "row garden," but they have done hardly anything. Just one Caspian Pink so far, and a few "Sugar Plum" grape tomatoes (shown below). I don't think the soil is beefed up enough there yet.

Two volunteer tomato plants in the compost. One is a plum, and the other looks like some kind of heirloom. I really don't think there's enough warm weather left to have them ripen, which is too bad, as they are so big and healthy. All our other tomatoes are looking mighty blighty.

I chopped down the last of the corn, scavenging a few small ears. It's not a total loss, I guess. We have lots of corn stalks for fall decorations. You pay good money for them at a farmstand!

A tiny harvest of fall crops:

The seedless red raspberries went into yummy buckwheat pancakes, served with our own maple syrup.

And a slightly larger pick:

The hot "Cherry Bomb" peppers were destined for salsa. The Chinese Cabbage was frozen. The "Magic Lantern" pumpkin, about 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg.), was brought in because it had a blemish that might have rotted in the field.

The entire crop of scarlet runner beans. I really grow them for their ornamental value, and have never eaten them. This year we might have enough to eat some and still have seed for next year. I love the purple and pink color of the beans.

On Sunday, another 15 lbs (6.8 kg.) of tomatoes. The weekly total is 41 lbs., good but not as good as last week's 65.

The long-suffering Kitchen Goddess made 8 pints of sauce, and 8 jars of spicy salsa. That makes 62 pints of sauce for the season. I detect many meals of comfort food for those chilly winter nights. We still have a lot of unprocessed tomatoes left, never mind those still ripening in the garden. Whew!

And she had enough energy left to turn 5 fresh picked apples into my favorite apple dessert, Eve's Pudding.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Daphne. I hope you had a great gardening week!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Harvest Monday - 9 September 2013

Welcome to another Harvest Monday, and as always, thanks to Daphne for hosting.

The weather has been beautiful, but Fall is definitely in the air. The hummingbirds left us this week, on their way to Mexico. I read they cross the Gulf of Mexico nonstop--a fact that never ceases to amaze me. I know, where are they going to stop? So long, Little Jewels, see you again around May 10.

Another sign of the season, the last pick of beans and a pile of plants bound for the compost. In past years I let them go until frost; this year we have sufficient, and the production was getting very slow. I pulled all our zucchini plants; with that and the beans gone the beds are starting to looking empty. But what a year so far!

On Monday, Labor Day, 27 more pounds (~12 kg.) of sauce tomatoes. A few dozen were not quite ripe; either they were drops or picking fake-outs--ripe on one side, not on the other. These were left on a kitchen counter to ripen. The rest went into another 10 pints of pasta sauce, bringing our yearly total to 34 pints. Still many more on the vines. Rumor has it The Kitchen Goddess is secretly doing an early-frost dance. But what is she complaining about? I have a colleague, the son of Italian immigrants, who remembers the whole family processing 30 bushels of tomatoes in one long day. But then, they ate pasta with red sauce 6 nights a week, and on Saturday, pasta with white sauce!

A 2+ pound (~1 kg.) head of (Soloist F1) Chinese Cabbage. This was cut into strips, blanched, and put in the freezer for various dishes to come.

On Wednesday morning, another 11+ lbs. (~5 kg.) of tomatoes. On Thursday, another 8+ lbs (3.6 kg.). Sauce total now 42 pints.

Last year was a poor one for our apples. We had a very warm spell in early Spring, tricking the trees into flowering early, which was followed by a freeze, killing the buds. This year, the planets aligned:

The green ones might be Granny Smith, hard and tart, but I don't really know what they are. Just one tree. The red ones are from a McIntosh tree--my favorite, but not as productive as the greenies. I really pruned the trees hard in late winter, to bring down the canopies. They had been neglected for years. I sprayed them with dormant oil just before leaf break, but no spraying of any kind since then.
They certainly aren't supermarket-quality, but they will serve our purpose. And what is that, you ask? Hard apple cider, of course!

The "Chucky" thing is kind of an inside joke--illustrating my solution to our occasional woodchuck problem. Unlucky Chucky. Yes, I know there is a commercial brand named "Woodchuck Draft Cider." We have a few bottles left from last fall, sadly made with farmstand cider (unpasteurized at least), but absolutely delicious, sparkling, and potent!
In past years we would pick, wash, chop, grind, and press the apples, then heat, cool, pour in the primary fermentation buckets and pitch the yeast, all in a very tiring weekend. This year we are trying something new--freezing first. Would you believe 5 bushels (sorry, don't know the metric equivalent) fit in an upright freezer that already had vegetables in it?

Freezing is said to soften the apples, making for easier pressing. I experimented with 2 apples last weekend. When they thawed they were so soft you could almost squish them with your fist. So this may work out well. Now we can press when it fits our schedules. Still a lot of garden work to do right now, and football to watch.


And still at least a bushel of apples left on the tree. At this point, we have no plans for them, though it kills me to leave them unpicked.

What is this?
A New Hampshire lei! Sunflower heads drying on fishing line. Last year I unwisely put them in paper bags to dry, and they got moldy.
 The very last of the Spring carrots. Twenty-two more cups for the bulging freezers.

And on Sunday, another 19 pounds (8.6 kg.) of tomatoes. That makes 65 lbs. (29+ kg.) for the week. The diligent Kitchen Goddess now has amassed 54 jars of yummy sauce. I don't think I'm growing so many next year, or so The Kitchen Goddess commands.
Okay, I promise, no more tomato pictures, even though there are more to pick. No more sunflower pictures either, so here's a last glimpse of Summer's glory: