Monday, May 10, 2021

Harvest Monday - 10 May 2021

Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. Our only harvests this time of year are asparagus, with weekly cuttings that look like this. Just enough for the two of us.

But things are moving along planting-wise. Still way too cold for tomatoes, etc., but the brassicas are planted, and other seeds sown. The radishes, lettuce. and peas are up already, waiting for some warmth to take off. Carrots, beets, and chard were sown this week.

This is the “Field Garden.” When we moved here, it was a roughly oval patch of large gravel and weeds where an above-ground swimming pool had been. At least the site had water and power! I had a big load of loam brought in 2014 and turned it into a crop field. A few years ago I stupidly spiked the pH by spreading too much wood ash as well as using the site to burn brush in the off-season. No more of that. I’m hoping that it will return to normal pH soon.

In the foreground you can see where I planted a row of potatoes this past week. Beyond that is a row of garlic, doing well, mostly. The middle part is Russian Red, and it is not doing as well as the flanking plants of Georgian Crystal and German Extra Hardy. I got the seed bulbs from Fedco last year, as for obvious reasons there was no Vermont Garlic Festival to attend and buy direct from the growers. The Russian Red bulbs had a lot of white mold on them and I had to throw away quite a few cloves. I guess what I kept wasn’t that healthy either. No knock on Fedco; they promptly refunded me for the bad ones. These things happen.

Beyond the garlic will be a row of short bushy sunflowers, and a row of Mammoth Russian. I love tall sunflowers, and I am hoping to win first prize at the Deerfield Fair for the tallest sunflower! A man can dream at least.

Also going in this plot will be a 4’x8’ patch of Painted Mountain flour corn, several rows of yellow-eye beans, and some field pumpkins. I’m hoping for a good year of rain to ease the watering chore.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Dave at HappyAcres.blog for continuing to host Harvest Monday. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Harvest Monday...and more - 26 April 2021

 Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. What a wild spring we’re having. The days have alternated between quite warm and unpleasantly cold. We even had a snow accumulation on April 16. You might say it’s what to expect for a New England “spring,” but it seems extreme. It’s hard to get your garden timing right.

But at least I’m able to report our first harvest of the year, a modest picking of asparagus. The wild weather left the stalks somewhat shopworn, but they sure were tasty!

Since I don’t have any other harvests to share, I’ll show you a fun growing event. A few months ago I bought a tiny ginger rhizome at the market for something like 40 cents. I was hoping that since the market was Whole Foods, it had a better chance of not being treated with a growth inhibitor, but you never know. I planted it in a 4” pot filled with seed starting mix, and kept it watered. Within a short time it sent up a stalk. This weekend I transplanted it into its “permanent” home. I’ll keep it inside until we are well past the cold weather.

Young ginger plant

I’m sure most have been feeling anxious, lonely, and depressed about the pandemic. I know I have, and I’m an introvert! Fortunately, I and the people close to me have stayed healthy, and all are fully vaccinated now. But seeing all the distress around me I wondered if there was any way I could help out somehow. Then I discovered our regional Medical Reserve Corps was recruiting volunteers. For those unaware (as I was), the MRC is a little-known initiative established after 9/11 under the general umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security. It was designed to mobilize quickly and respond to natural disasters, terrorist events, and (who knew?) disease outbreaks. Both medical and non-medical staff are quickly trained and deployed. Even though I have no clinical training, it seemed like there was a place for me. At the very least I thought I could direct traffic and smile at people!

I applied for a position, got vetted, and was accepted into the Corps. Our task is to run mobile vaccination clinics. It has truly been an amazing, heartwarming experience. So far I’ve volunteered at 13 of these clinics, supplying the first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine to senior housing complexes, the teachers and staff of school administrative districts, and other venues. I’ve done all kinds of meaningful tasks, short of actually sticking anyone (lucky for them). I especially enjoy sitting at a vaccination table and entering the recipients’ data into the federal Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) database as they are getting jabbed. I’m sure many of you in the US have gotten your appointments through this system.

I’ve met some great people, all volunteers. I have tremendous respect for them, especially the nurses who spend all day filling syringes, making sure that not a drop is wasted or discarded at the end of the day. Here’s an (awkward) selfie at the exit of a school gymnasium. The staff created balloons that spelled out #VACCINATED. A nice touch!


So are the smiley-face nurse balloons!

A funny experience is to see big, burly men with arms covered in tattoos being petrified of the needle!

Being in the MRC, I was thus qualified to work at the Vaccination Super Site run by the State of New Hampshire and held at the NH Motor Speedway. I’ve attended all four of them, and it is truly a sight to behold. Here literally hundreds of volunteers are deployed to do all that it takes to vaccinate large numbers of people, typically pushing through 40 cars at a time in under four minutes.

At the Vaccination Super Site in Loudon, NH

This past Saturday was the last of these clinics, giving 7200 people their second Pfizer dose. I felt proud that my team, two vaccinators (nurse and EMT), two data loggers (like me) and a vaccine support person, administered the last dose to the recipients in the last car, at the end of the last day this site will be in operation. I’ll always remember this.

Okay, nothing to do with gardening. I just wanted to spread a little hope and joy in this difficult time. I hope you’ve stayed safe and are ready to enjoy life again.

Thanks so much for reading, and thanks as always to Dave at HappyAcres.blog for hosting Harvest Monday.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Harvest Monday - 15 March 2021

 It's been a couple of years since we tapped our sugar maple trees and made our own syrup. We had a good year back then, and we still have a few sealed jars which are holding up well. But we missed the process, so we vowed to do it again this year. We were pleased with the results; nearly two quarts of Grade A Light Amber. We've already started gifting some of the jars to grateful recipients.


The ideal situation for a good sap run is a stretch of warm days (over 40 degrees F.) and below freezing nights in late winter. This presented itself on February 22. The Kitchen Goddess invited a friend from the garden club, who is a recent transplant to The Frozen North from Florida, to witness the process. She was quite puzzled by it! Here is TKG on the right, supervising the friend set a tap and bucket.


As you can see, it was a cold and snowy day, but the weather started to warm the next day, and the "run" began. It shut down at one point when it cooled dramatically, and a howling wind blew the buckets and taps off two of the trees. No harm done, though, as whatever sap was in the buckets was frozen solid.

We removed the taps on March 6, and TKG finished boiling the collected sap. She then canned the whole lot into convenient jelly jars.

I've previously described our small-batch process, but for some reason the links I had are broken. Hopefully by next year I will have reconstructed them!

I'll be back in a few months with some "green" harvests to report. Having things grow still seems far-off now, but it's coming! Until then, please enjoy the posts from other gardeners on Harvest Monday, graciously hosted by Dave at HappyAcres.blog.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Harvest Monday - 2 November 2020

 On Friday…this:

Mother Nature decided to close out our growing season with a flourish. After the snow, a killing frost.

Fortunately, it had been predicted, so I made sure to harvest all that I could beforehand. Normally I like to let the leeks go through several light frosts, to improve their flavor (so the story goes anyway). But they would not do well in a hard frost. This is the hybrid variety “Megaton,” and I can honestly say I’ve never grown such big ones.

Megaton leeks

Similarly, I would have wanted to let the spinach grow for a few more days at least, but I couldn’t chance it, so I took this decent picking and then mulched the plants with straw, hoping for spring regrowth.

Spinach

Likewise, the last of the ripe raspberries had to be taken.

I brought the turmeric plant in, dumped out the soil, took what I wanted from the roots, and replanted a few for next year. I’m letting them air-dry for awhile, before I clean and dehydrate them.

Turmeric roots

Most of the tomatoes I brought in had completely ripened, so we made the last batch of thick sauce, a quart and a half. The Kitchen Goddess is very glad to have (most of) her kitchen counter back.


Tomato sauce

It had been over two weeks since we started fermenting several batches of hot peppers for sauce. So I extracted the sauce I could from the mashes. From left, there is a partial bottle of Hot Lemon, a Sugar Rush Peach, a bottle and a half of Habanero, and on the right, two bottles of something we call “Mash Mash.” It was what was left of the mashes of Hot Lemon and Habenero after extracting, blended with a small amount of vinegar. It at least has the consistency I like.

Fermented hot pepper sauces

I’ve sampled the Habanero, and found it to be very thin with not a lot of heat. The Sugar Rush Peach is thick like ketchup, but also lacks heat. I’m feeling very strongly that in the future I will just use the simple, unfermented method to make hot sauces.

But fermentation is not over. Using a recipe for Fermented Green Chili Base, from the great book Fiery Ferments, TKG put all the green Hot Lemon and Thai peppers (picked a few weeks ago) into the food processor, along with onions, garlic, ground cumin, and ground coriander. There is a popular commercial green salsa called “Mrs. Renfro’s.” So she’s calling this “Mrs. TKG’s” (except with her real name). It yielded 2 ½ quarts. Just tasting a little, it is unbelievably spicy and aromatic. This should be ready in a couple of weeks.

Chili base in fermenting jars

So that’s that for another year. We had a lot of successes, despite drought/insects/disease. I hope you did too, and I thank all of you for reading and commenting over the weeks. Special thanks to our Harvest Monday host Dave at HappyAcres.blog. I know keeping this forum going is a lot of work, and it is truly appreciated.

Tomorrow, November 3, is Election Day. TKG and I will once again be serving as election officials in our town--hopefully with sufficient Personal Protection Equipment! It should be interesting, to say the least. I urge you to vote if you haven't already. This is a big one!



Monday, October 26, 2020

Harvest Monday - 26 October 2020

 The weather moderated this past week, with no new frosts. That will all change this coming week. Several overnight frosts are predicted.

I took another large cutting from the spinach. I’m not sure if I’ll get another one before the frosts. In any event, my plan is to heavily mulch the plants with straw and see if they will overwinter and regrow in the early spring.

After the broccoli stopped producing sideshoots in mid-summer, I cut the plants down to the ground but was too lazy to pull them completely out. To my surprise, they regrew and two of them gave us some nice-sized heads. I may try that again next year.

Blue Wind broccoli

Raspberries are continuing to provide us well.


I picked all the late-maturing green apples. This filled two bushel baskets. I’ve gotten a lot more in the past, but I’ve been severely pruning the tree to get it back down to manageable size.

Granny Smith(?) apples

The apples themselves are spotty and lumpy, not really good for anything besides processing. We decided to make another batch of sparkling hard cider. So on Saturday we pressed the two bushels. This netted two gallons.

Fresh-pressed apple cider

Since we wanted to fill a standard 5 gallon fermentation pail, we bought three additional gallons from a nearby cider mill that does not pasteurize their cider. We are using champagne yeast to get the process going.

Last fall I planted 25 saffron crocus corms. They immediately started growing and stayed emerged all through the winter. In summer they died back, which is their expected behavior. This fall only a few re-emerged, whether it was due to the drought or voles I cannot say. But some started to flower this week! The part you get saffron from are the red thread-like stigma. While we won’t set any records with this “harvest,” it’s still fun to know we got some.

Saffron crocus

I made some simple un-fermented pepper sauces. Here are 1+ bottles of Roasted Sugar Rush Peach, and 2+ bottles of something I’m calling “Mean Green Sauce,” made with green Habanero and Suriname peppers. Both have really good flavor besides the “kick.”


The sugar and red maples get most of the attention in the New England autumn foliage display, but I think the hickory tree at the top of our field deserves recognition too.

Hickory tree at peak fall foliage

That's all for this week. Winding down! Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Dave at HappyAcres.blog for hosting Harvest Monday.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Harvest Monday - 19 October 2020

 Sad to say but our first frost arrived early Sunday morning here in southern New Hampshire. Not necessarily sad from a harvest perspective, but for what it portends (winter, with no gardening). I'll talk more about it later.

I started the harvest week by cutting all the remaining winter squash from the mostly dead vines. I've shown all of these before, except for the lone Chirimen squash (a Yokohama-type) in the bottom right corner of the photo. It was an exceptional year for squash, and we've enjoyed all we've tried so far. The one with the long neck is a surprise Neck Pumpkin that formed late in the season.

Raspberries are continuing to gift us with an abundance. I'm not sure what effect the brief frost will have on them.

Early in the week we started the fermentation process on several types of peppers. From left, here are Habanero, Sugar Rush Peach (roasted first), and Hot Lemon. Two of them have airlock lids, but the Sugar Rush in the middle has to be burped daily. These should be ready in two weeks.

I sorted through the tomatoes ripening indoors and picked out the ones that were ready. 

There was enough to make another batch of thick, unseasoned sauce. The result filled four quart freezer bags.


Now about the frost. The temperature just touched freezing around dawn, held there for awhile, then started to climb. I was pretty sure that when I went out to the garden I would find damage, but that wasn't really the case...yet. Nonetheless, I felt it was time to take down the indeterminate tomatoes and peppers. I didn't try to salvage any tomatoes; it's already been a fabulous year for them and with what we already have ripening inside, we didn't need any more. I did want to harvest all the peppers though. So here's what I brought in.

On the left are all the Hot Lemon peppers; on the right, all the Sugar Rush Peach. There are also a few Serranos.  My plan is to roast the Sugar Rush and make an unfermented hot sauce. Not sure yet about the Hot Lemon. The Serranos are excellent for salsas.


In this picture are the Habaneros, the Madame Jeanette (Suriname), and the Thai hot peppers Full Moon and Vesuvius. I'm pretty sure I will make additional unfermented sauces with them.


And in this picture are all the cayenne and the sweet(ish) Mad Hatter peppers. The Mad Hatter will get chopped and frozen. 


I set up the smoker and smoked all the cayennes for drying and grinding. Since they are so thin, it took only a short time to smoke them.

Cayenne peppers on the smoker

So with that, we said goodbye to all the summer crops. Future Harvest Monday posts will be a lot less colorful! Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Dave at HappyAcres.blog for hosting Harvest Monday.






Monday, October 12, 2020

Harvest Monday - 12 October 2020

 Hello again from Eight Gate Farm. While technically we did not get a frost last week, it got awfully close. Some of the more tender plants looked frost-nipped. Prior to that, I picked all the ripe hot peppers.

From left: thin cayenne, Madame Jeanette, Sugar Rush Peach, Habanero, Hot Lemon

Same with the sweet ones.

Jimmy Nardello's, Arroz con Pollo

We also made a generous cutting of spinach, which filled two bags.

Spinach

Later, after the cold spell, I took nearly all the rest of the hot peppers from the plants that looked damaged.

From left: thin cayenne, Vesuvius, Hot Lemon, Habanero with a single Madame Jeanette

That should be enough to finally start the hot sauce process!

Having learned they were getting damaged by voles, I picked all the carrots. The vole-damaged ones on the left far outnumbered the others. But I'll let you in on a little secret. Trimming away the damaged ends and peeling them, we use them anyway.

Yaya carrots

I also picked all the remaining turnips. Some had grown quite large. This gave us useful greens as well.

Turnips

Here's what we had for the freezer from all that. In these uncertain times, it's comforting to know we have quality food put by.



Fall raspberries are giving us pleasure, with daily pickings like this or more.


As for tomatoes, I'm continuing to pick any that show some color and adding them to the pile on the kitchen island. One day last week I sorted though what we had to see what could be immediately used.


We processed those into 3 pints of thick sauce. Not enough to efficiently can, but great for ready use as needed.


The Kitchen Goddess and her mother closed down their plot at the community garden. As usual the "MIL" went home with a bounty. But they are sad it's over for the season.


That's a wrap for another week. Thank you for reading, and thanks again to Dave at HappyAcres.blog for hosting Harvest Monday.