Monday, June 19, 2017

Harvest Monday - 19 June 2017

Greetings fellow gardeners! We had several "first" harvests this week, and a number of continuing ones.

The "first" first needs no introduction:

There are two varieties, the everbearing "Oglalla" on the left, and the June-bearing "Surecrop" on the right. Wait, didn't I say it needed no introduction?

The thing about strawberries is once they start rolling in, they just keep rolling in:

The Kitchen Goddess has already canned 8 jars of strawberry jam:

The other first harvest was some garlic scapes:

I planted six each of four varieties of garlic last fall. One variety ("Katahdin") is 2-3 times bigger than its mates, and produced these scapes well ahead of the others. I don't know if it's the variety, or maybe just the cloves were bigger to begin with. I don't remember.

For continuing harvests, we took all but one of the remaining Ching Chiang and tatsoi, as they were severely bolting. A couple qualify as runts, but it's all good.

Also bolting was the cilantro, so out it came.

TKG froze most of this in small covered containers with olive oil. She says that's better than water for keeping them. I had not heard of that before. I've said in the past that cilantro is one of those things I can't grow myself; they always bolt when two inches tall. These came from a six-pack of crowded-together seedlings purchased at a local farm/greenhouse, and I planted them all together in a jumbled mess. But that seemed to work, and I will try that method of starting them next year.

Next up is more salad mix. I like the method we are using: two 4-foot rows with the seeds tightly sown. You just pick off the leaves you need, and the remaining expand to fill in the gaps, then repeat. We used two variety-packs from Baker Creek: "Mesclun Mix," of which about the only thing I can identify is kale but there are many other components, and a more traditional lettuce mix called "Rocky Top." This method just seems more productive than growing heads, and it sure is easy too.

That's all the representative harvests for this week. One more picture to share though. In the Kitchen Herb Garden the sage decided to send up a flower. I know this is not unusual, but I've never had it happen before. It is lovely.

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Dave at Our Happy Acres for keeping Harvest Monday going.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Harvest Monday - 12 June 2017

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. We're in the middle of a three day heat wave, or at least what passes for one in these parts, with temps in the 90s. It's strange to think that just a week ago we had a day that didn't even reach 50, and we had to light the wood stove to take the chill out of the house.

Starting off with "first" harvests, we have a nice head of Ching Chiang.

Next, some turnip greens (sorry, blurry).

And some cilantro, starting to bolt (again blurry, what's up with that?).

The Kitchen Goddess picked chive flowers and tarragon to make a flavored vinegar.

For continuing harvests we have mesculin and radishes, great to eat with the aforementioned vinegar.

And another large head of tatsoi.

That whole thing went into a batch of soup that night, with tofu. Here it is on the stove prior to adding udon noodles. It was delicious!

And lastly yet another head of tatsoi, and more radishes.

I had reported that I planted all corn, both dry and sweet, as well as beans, both snap and shell, on May 28. I was worried about the weather getting colder, and it did. So the results have been very interesting to me.

Here is the dry corn bed (Floriani Red Flint) yesterday. You can see in the six rows on the left that germination was very good, to the point where it will have to be thinned.

But what about the sweet corn? Well, very poor germination, forcing a replant. The Sugar Buns and Silver Queen were only about 40% germinated, and surprisingly the Honey Select was better, maybe 75%. For some reason I thought the Honey Select would be the fussiest about temperature. I hope there's enough time in the season to get a good crop.

Looking at the same photograph, the rows to the right of the corn have, well, nothing. This was supposed to be 5 rows of dry beans (Kenearly Yellow Eye and Midnight Black Turtle). These also had to be replanted. Oddly, however, there was very good germination of the bush snap beans (wax and filet).

So, I'm learning. Supersweet corn really does hate temperatures below 55-60, so if there's any chance of that occurring, better off to wait. Or maybe I'll try treated seeds next year.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and thanks once again to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Harvest Monday - 5 June 2017

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Starting off with a first-of-the-year harvest, a nice head of tatsoi:

The Kitchen Goddess made a light teriyaki marinade for some beef tri-tips for the grill, and stir-fried the fresh tatsoi. Here is the result--it was yummy! You could have your choice of wines organic Petit Verdot from Yorkville Cellars, or a Grenache Rose from Trattore Farms--two of our favorite California wineries.

Other harvests this week were mesculin and radishes:

And then there was radishes and mesculin!

And now for an update on the latest project, the stock-tank planting beds. I finally transplanted all the eggplant and pepper seedlings, and they are looking good!

Now you see 'em, now you don't. We are forecasted to have several nights this week dropping down to the 40s--not good for these plants. TKG did a super job of tucking them in with Agribon.

Hopefully this will give them some protection from the cold. In June!!

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Harvest Monday - 29 May 2017

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., a day of parades and barbecues for many, and garden work for others. We got our chores done yesterday, as today is turning out cold and rainy per the prediction.

We had a light harvest of asparagus (I know, I said we weren't going to take any more, but we couldn't resist), the first delightful radishes, and a picking of Asian greens:

Yesterday we harvested more radishes, and our first picking of mesculin (no matter how you spell that word, spellcheck doesn't like it). So the first homegrown salad of the season was enjoyed last night.

The Asian greens I showed above are "Toy Choy," a miniature, fast-maturing variety. It was just 30 days from setting out, and they were starting to bolt. So we took all 6 of them.

I love the fat white spoon-shaped stems, and they are very pretty from the top side too.

The other varieties I planted are Tatsoi and a pac choi called "Brisk Green." They are coming along nicely. The Asian greens, at least, don't seem to mind all the cold we've been having. I've only been growing them for a few years, and now I won't be without them. We love our soups and stir-fries! We can get another crop too if I start more plants in mid June.

Although I guess it is risky, we just couldn't wait any longer to set out the tomatoes, as they were getting leggy and pot-bound, and who wants to go through the effort of re-potting to wait another week? We also planted 3 varieties of sweet corn (different maturities), Diva cucumbers, two varieties of zucchini, filet and wax beans, runner beans, and some sunflowers. Out in the "Survival Garden" we planted 6 long rows of flint corn, 2 types of dry beans, and pumpkins/winter squash. Working together, the job went very quickly. I'm crossing my fingers that it warms up in time. Next weekend we will set out the peppers and eggplants, and the "spring" planting is done.

Enjoy your day, and please join me in checking out all the posts on Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Harvest Monday - 22 May 2017

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm! The weather here (like a lot of places) has not been consistent, which is not good for gardening. We've had some very warm days, and just as many absolutely cold days, and especially cold nights. No hope of getting the warm weather crops in early.

For harvests, we've decided to make the following the last asparagus pick of the season. We've enjoyed every stalk, but the bed has not been especially productive, and even the plants that usually give a lot have been stingy this year. Not sure why. Better now to let the rest of the stalks just grow.

You might think that we already have enough garden space here. We have a fenced area that is 2400 square feet, plus another 600 square feet we call the "Survival Garden" where we grow dry corn and beans. But the fenced garden, which might have been perfect in its day (before we got here), is now getting more and more shaded. Plus, I've taken 2 of its raised beds out of vegetables and substituted strawberries.

When we were out in Northern California's wine country last fall, we stopped at the historic (1876) Simi Winery in Healdsburg. It is a pretty spot. There, I was completely struck by their novel (to me) raised beds:

I knew just what they were: livestock tanks!

The above bed contained a hot pepper I was unfamiliar with. I asked, and it's called "Calabrese." They let us take some, but warned us they were "atomic." I found them flavorable, but not all that hot. I saved some seeds, and now have a plant growing. It will find a home in our latest project:

You guessed it, our very own stock tanks. They measure 8 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 2 feet high. We bought two. They weren't cheap (about $250 each, plus soil). But they will outlive me (I'm tired of replacing worn out raised bed frames). I expect to place all our pepper and eggplant seedlings in them. No worry about shading in this spot. They even have threaded drain plugs. We filled them with a layer of rubble, then about a foot of sandy/gravelly/loamy soil, and the rest beautiful loam that's 20% compost. Should be plant paradise.

I of course will keep updating the progress of these beds. But for now, enjoy the other posts on Harvest Monday, kindly hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Harvest Monday - 8 May 2017 - Don't Do This!

Welcome to a Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm. Not wanting to start any post on a negative note, please "do" do this: harvest luscious asparagus if you got 'em.

But please "don't" do this! Like last year, aphids invaded the sunroom where all my precious seedlings start life. Once noticed, I started spraying with Pyrethrin. It beat them back for awhile, but they returned. So I got the brilliant idea to take a cotton swab to all the leaves in the hopes of crushing or removing them. Here is the result of that unfortunate effort:

I shortly realized that what I had done was damage the tender leaf cells. Almost all the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers started wilting. What is worst is the growing tips appear to be compromised on many plants.

Some may recover, but are starting life at a disadvantage. Of course there's no time to start new ones, so that means finding a garden center that stocks something more interesting than the typical Early Girl, Jet Star, and Big Boy varieties.

Gardening is hard!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday, and also providing so many other interesting and informative posts.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Harvest Monday - 1 May 2017

It's been a dismal spring, but I always say that. It just won't stay warm. I've delayed planting most things by at least a week. But I finally have a vegetable harvest to share on Harvest Monday. Of course, it's asparagus.

We've gotten several similar pickings this week. You'll note the lack of uniformity. You don't see that in the supermarkets, but I imagine that commercial growers get a mix of sizes just like this, and simply select only the fattest for the fresh market and relegate the skinny ones to bulk processing of one kind or another. But for us, every stalk is precious and delicious. My favorite way to prepare is just lightly steamed, then add a sprinkle of sea salt. Fabulous! We should get several more weeks of harvest before letting the plants do their growing for the season.

I guess this counts as a "harvest." I grew many more onion and leek seedlings than I had room to plant, which we did this week. Rather than throw the extras into the compost, why not eat them?

The Kitchen Goddess put some in our scrambled eggs, and they were fantastic--bursting with flavor. The rest she'll put in a quiche. They were a pain to clean, she reported. So, thanks, TKG!

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for continuing to host this great forum.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Harvest Monday - 27 February 2017

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year! Queue the rich, merry tenor voice of Andy Williams. OK, now try to turn it off in your mind. Ha, you can't! But we are not talking about Christmas. No, this was the tag line of The Kitchen Goddess's Facebook post from a week ago, with a picture of a bucket hanging from a tree. Yes, maple syrup season has come (and gone) at Eight Gate Farm!

Saturday the 18th began a very unusual warming trend here in the Northeast. And by warm, I mean really warm. In fact, on Friday the 24th it reached the 70s, and we enjoyed eating dinner outside on the screened porch, listening to the babbling brook just over the northern property line. Most of the year this brook is just a trickle or even a seep, but swelled with the rapidly melting snow it turned into a relative torrent.

You can see our property line tailing off into the woods on the right. 

A classic maple sap run has days in the 40s, and nights below freezing, which typically occurs in very late February or early March, and extends for several weeks, with days when it temporarily shuts down. But this was almost too warm, with no freezing nights. This is supposed to have an adverse effect on the quality of the sap. Something about the sap going up to the tops of the trees and staying there, which causes cloudiness in what you harvest. It's chemistry, or physics, or something like that...I don't know. Science is hard!

I've written a series of posts in the past that shows how we make maple syrup on a small scale. You can find it here, and here, and here. This year we again tapped the four large sugar maples next to the barn, one tap per tree. In just a week we had all the syrup we need for the year, and maybe enough extra to give some small gifts. An average year is a 40:1 ratio of sap to syrup. But this year, with a little over 20 gallons of sap, we yielded 3 1/2 quarts of the delicious nectar.

You can see a half-full jar in the middle. This was the last boil. Not sure why it is so much darker. But all the boils produced clear, super-sweet syrup (after being allowed to settle, of course). So the over-warm temperatures did not seem to affect us, but did substantially shorten the required season. 

As in the past, the local high school's forestry program requested our permission to tap our little "sugar bush" of young trees, which we gladly gave. They've placed over 30 buckets there, and the students come by every few days to empty them. They typically leave us a quart of syrup at the end of the season, adding to our stash.

So it was a highly successful season that was over before we knew it (the school taps much longer, so they are just starting). Well, it was easy for me. TKG had the tedious part of tending the boils. I kept singing "Most Wonderful Time" just to keep her amused.

In the store yesterday they featured "Certified Organic, Non-GMO" syrup, which made me laugh. What else could it be? The price: $14 per quart. Again, this is not something we do to "save money." The equipment (buckets, taps, boiler) we can amortize over many years. We spent maybe $25 for propane to run the boiler (a repurposed turkey fryer), so it is certainly not "free." No, this is something we do for self-sufficiency and just because it's neat to "raise" your own food, just like gardening.

Oh, and a downside to the warm weather. I went out into the woods on Saturday to change the memory card in the game-cam. It's just 50 yards, but coming out I found 6 ticks crawling up my legs. In February! Yuck! Thank you Climate Change.

Thanks for reading, and thanks as always to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Harvest Monday - 16 January 2017 - Potato Salvage Operation

Hello and Happy New Year from Eight Gate Farm. No harvests to report (of course); instead I have a post on using the crops.

Once again the storage potatoes have not lasted as long as expected. I'm keeping them in complete darkness in a bin in the basement, but I was unable to get the humidity down in the fall, and it wasn't very cool either. Consequently, the entire remaining crop has softened and sprouted. But they do not need to go to waste. Once peeled and trimmed, while you wouldn't serve them baked, they are just fine for many other purposes. On Sunday The Kitchen Goddess did a marathon salvage operation.

First, some were sliced and put into the dehydrator. The resulting "chips" are perfect for au gratin or scalloped recipes, and seem to keep forever.

Also, some were cubed and dehydrated. These are great in soups. Being thicker, they take much longer to dry, but again should keep indefinitely.

Then a whole bunch were riced and "magically" (from my perspective!) turned into a huge quantity of gnocchi. After rolling and shaping, she froze them on trays, then they are dusted with cornmeal and placed in freezer bags for use anytime. I love gnocchi!

Some of the riced potatoes are being kept aside for adding to soups, or mashing.

So while it is disappointing that the whole potatoes would not keep any longer, they can still be put to good use, and provide lots of food value. This gives you the opportunity to continue to enjoy the fruits of the garden, even when the ground is frozen solid!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Michelle for guest-hosting Harvest Monday.