Monday, September 29, 2014

Harvest Monday - 29 September 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm. Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions, which has become my go-to site for garden wisdom and news.

This weekend the weather was absolutely gorgeous. It was what I call "Indian Summer." But thinking about it, I wondered if that really was an "official" weather term, so I looked it up. Turns out it is, but it's defined as a warm spell which follows a killing frost. We haven't had that yet. Well, whatever you want to call it, it was beautiful and rare.

The garden is still quietly producing. Here's a nice picking of chard, plus butternut squash, cherry peppers, and fall raspberries:

Also more of those yummy watermelon radishes:

I like to make an "Asian" sauce for cucumbers. But since this was a poor year for cucumbers for us, The Kitchen Goddess wondered if it would go well with these spicy radishes. Turns out it really does! It's just a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and black sesame seeds. No need to measure; just keep adding ingredients until it tastes right.Thinly slice the radishes and soak for an hour or two. Wonderful!

Here they are on a plate with a 99%  our-own production dinner: venison backstrap, onions, zucchini, grape tomatoes, and potatoes, grilled en brochette and served al fresco on the screened porch in the warm evening air. Smoky goodness!

Over in the "Survival Garden" patch, the only thing standing is the "Floriani" Red Flint corn. I had intended to let it sit out there until it was completely dry. But the birds have found it. So I decided to pick all but the greenest ears. That was fun! I estimate we got 100 ears; some huge:

Here's a close-up of one:

There are more green ones out in the patch. The ones we picked are spread out on chicken wire in a spare room. I'm thinking we should peel back all the husks to speed drying, but I'm not really sure that's the right thing.

With harvests and other garden chores so slow now, it was time to start refurbishing the 5 decaying garden benches that came with the property and are scattered around it. Here's the first one, before, on the workshop floor:

And after, back in its home in the fenced garden:

And I got to use my new super-cool table saw, too!

Here you can see what's left of the flint corn patch, after picking and cutting stalks for our fall decorations.

And that gave me an idea. I should diversify my pumpkin retirement portfolio, mentioned last week, with a new agricultural commodity:

Wait. Organic corn stalks? Who cares if they're organic? Oh right, that's "marketing." I'm getting the hang of this!

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, and happy harvests to all!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Harvest Monday - 22 September 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm. Harvest Monday, as you know, is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions. Thanks to Daphne for making Monday fun!

The weather turned colder this week, a depressing end to summer. One morning I awoke to a temperature of 37.5 F. (3 C.). Brrr! We gave in to wimpiness and lit the wood stove. But the temperatures moderated at the end of the week, so it's back to shorts and T-shirts, for awhile at least.

On Monday we harvested watermelon radishes, raspberries, cucumbers, and a golf ball-sized watermelon. We really like the way the radish tastes. It's pungent like wasabi--stings the mouth but dissipates quickly, leaving you with a smile.

On Wednesday, radishes, raspberries, a zucchini, lettuce, a muskmelon, and grape tomatoes. Wait, didn't I promise you no more tomato pictures?

Here is the dry bean harvest from the "Survival Garden." The Survival Garden is my experiment in growing foods that can be stored without energy inputs, other than human labor. We harvested 2.5 lbs. (1.14 kg.) of "Midnight Black Turtle" and 2 lbs. (.91 kg.) of "Kenearly Yellow-eye." I especially like the black beans - a component of one of my favorite dishes, black beans and rice. I first had this many years ago in Costa Rica, where it is called "pinto."

So how did we do yield-wise? Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog has an excellent reference sheet on expected yields for various crops. Dry beans are not specifically mentioned, but shell beans are. If I'm not mistaken, shell beans are just immature dry beans, out of the pod. I imagine they lose a little weight when fully dried, but it may not be significant. For 100 row-feet, an average yield is 15 pounds. I planted about 80 row-feet, so that means 12 pounds should have been expected. We came nowhere near that. Partially I think it's because the pumpkins overwhelmed so many of the bean plants. Also, once the corn got tall, many plants were partially shaded.

In other bean news, this is almost all the scarlet runners we harvested. I'll save 50 of them for next year's planting, and the rest will go into a meal or two. I really just grow them for their ornamental value.

I tried growing Duborskian Rice this year. They germinated pretty well indoors, but did not take to transplanting. So here's the "yield" from 20 row-feet:

Even the cat is disgusted. Looks like I'll have to use store-bought for my black beans and rice.

At least the tiny melons were tasty:

I've mentioned this is a terrible year for apples for us. Here's a picture from last year's apple harvest from our two mature trees:

And this year?

Oh well, it's enough for a favorite fall dessert, Eve's Pudding.

As I said, I grew pumpkins (Magic Lantern and Long Island Cheese), plus a butternut or two, along the edge of the Survival Garden. Saturday was harvest time. Nothing to be ashamed of here.

The biggest one was 25 lbs. (11.4 kg.). OK, so what to do with all these pumpkins?

I'm glad you asked...

Retirement, here I come!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Brussels Sprouts Brouhaha

I'm not a huge Brussels Sprouts fan, but I have to admit that they are much better home grown. The Kitchen Goddess, on the other hand, loves them. Consequently I am now in the Brussels Sprouts doghouse, and here's why.

This year I decided to follow the method advocated by our own University of New Hampshire's
Ag School, in this article:

This was a complete departure from my normal method of starting and transplanting them at the
same time as the spring broccoli, and letting the plants grow until fall. They get huge. Here's a picture taken last October:

And this is what we harvested in early November (after periodically robbing the stems):

In a nutshell, the steps in the UNH article are:
  1. Start seeds indoors on June 18
  2. Transplant July 14
  3. Top the plants and remove lower leaves September 17 ("when the largest sprouts are 0.5 inches in diameter")
  4. Harvest on November 12
So I'm sure that topping keeps the plant from growing any taller. Depending on the variety
they grew, the "marketable stem length" varied from 20 cm (8 inches) to 27 cm (10.8 inches).
That's not very long, compared to the plants I grew in prior years. But their results look good.

I followed the first two time steps almost exactly. And here we are at the third time step where the plants are to be topped. But what's the point of topping 6 inch stems, with only vestigial sprouts?

UNH is only 25 miles away as the crow flies, so I don't think climate is much of a factor.
And I made sure the bed they are in was well-fertilized (at least at the beginning of the
season). It may be that the sun's position at this time of the year causes this section to only have partial-day sunshine. So perhaps it's not a fair comparison. But whatever, I'm pretty sure I'll go back to the old way of planting in spring and letting them get big in the summer.

And yes, I'm getting plenty of "I told you sos" from you-know-who.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Harvest Monday - 15 September 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm in [frigid] New Hampshire, USA. Harvest Monday is graciously hosted by Daphne's Dandelions. When you've seen enough here, head back over to see all the wonderful posts from gardeners all around the world.

On Friday night the temperature dropped to 47 degrees F. (8.33 C.). Is it any wonder then that I don't have a lot to show you?

On Tuesday we picked 7.9 pounds (~3.6 kg.) of tomatoes, a "Rosita" eggplant, a butternut squash whose plant died around it, and more "Honey Select" corn, the last of it unfortunately.

On Wednesday, filet beans, Diva cucumbers, a few raspberries, another orphan butternut, and our 2nd artichoke for us to fight over.

On Thursday, The Kitchen Goddess picked the majority of the "Kenearly Yellow-Eye" and "Midnight Black Turtle" beans from our "Survival Garden," prior to a rain. We will weigh them after they are completely dry and shelled. Here's the picking in the shell:

And here's what they look like shelled (obviously just a sampling):

By Friday, it was time to harvest all the "Kennebec" potatoes that had been curing in the ground for several weeks with their foliage removed:

This weighed 32 pounds (~14.54 kg.). Here's one of the larger ones, shown in pounds:

As I've mentioned, I've never grown potatoes before. I can't believe I've wasted all this opportunity for food production. With the potatoes we'd already harvested, the season total was 42 pounds. I planted 2 1/2 pounds of seed potatoes in two 8-foot rows. That's a return of 16.8:1. Fedco says 10:1 is average and 20:1 is exceptional. So forgive me if I say I'm proud of myself!

On the weekend, I took the last of the tomatoes except for the "Sugar Plum" grapes, which are soldiering on despite the blight. We should still get some of those to ripen. But the others were completely diseased, so I picked what I could and pulled the vines. Suffering readers rejoice! No more tomato pictures!

I also took out the last of the green beans, then I pulled all the dry bean plants too, taking what was left. Once the pods are completely dry and shelled I'll tally up the weights of this experiment.

Even cooler nights are in the forecast. The garden already looks empty and sad.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, and happy harvests to all--especially those blessed with longer growing seasons!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Harvest Monday - 8 September 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm! Our thanks to Daphne's Dandelions for the opportunity to share.

The weather this week was mostly very warm and humid. But on Saturday a severe thunderstorm blew through in the late afternoon, and behind it cooler weather instantly moved in, which looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future. Is this summer's end?

I can't say a bolt of lightning hit our house, but one must have come close...the house wiring crackled an instant before the flash and crash. Fun!

The storm left us a faint but beautiful rainbow:

All the heat was of course great for ripening. On Monday, 10 more pounds (~4.5 kg.) of tomatoes:

Also beans, lettuce, and probably our last Chocolate pepper. I planted 3 plants of this type, and got exactly 3 peppers. Not exactly the abundant yielder they were claimed to be, but it could entirely be the growing conditions here this season. The fruit is attractive though, with deep red flesh under the chocolate skins, and very tasty too. I think I'll try at least one plant again.

On Wednesday, 8.8 lbs (~4 kg) tomatoes.

Also zucchini, cucumbers, mildly hot "Big Bomb" peppers, and the first fall raspberries:

A lighter picking of 4 lbs (~1.8 kg) on Thursday, with filet beans and a zucchini.

On Friday, 15.7 lbs (~7 kg) of you-know-what, plus our first (and probably only) watermelon, tiny, misshapen muskmelons, raspberries, a robbed potato, and another "Diva" cucumber:

In that haul was our last, and largest "Caspian Pink" tomato. It's hard to overstate just how delicious this variety is. Totally Tomatoes, the source of the seed, claimed it "beat Brandywine" in taste tests. I don't know about that, but it is awfully good. It's normal to have yellow shoulders like this:

Also our first Watermelon radishes. It's my first experience growing this summer variety, and I like it. So now I can have lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes together for the first time in my gardening history!

Our chard, which languished being interspersed with the broccoli, has started to thrive now they're gone:

On Sunday morning we opened the melons with apprehension. We hardly ever get any to ripen. The tiny muskmelons gave us a few bites of pure nectar. The watermelon, a "Sugar Baby" variety, presented us with this for a visual and culinary treat:

Of course, all this ripening has kept The Kitchen Goddess busy canning, right at the peak of summer heat! Here is a snap of all her canned tomato products to date, with the bulk of that this week:

That's 25 pints of pasta sauce, 6 of salsa, and 4 1/2 quarts of Bloody Mary mix.

I know what you're thinking...those guys eat pasta by the pint but drink Bloody Marys by the quart.

Lastly, another taste of "Honey Select." The tips weren't filled out, but they are so good I'm kicking myself for taking so many before they were mature like this.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, and happy harvests to all!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Harvest Monday - 1 September 2014

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm. As you already know, Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions, and we are grateful for the opportunity to participate in it.

For this, the last week of August, the weather finally warmed up to where we would expect it to be, and that has boosted productivity.

There was 6.6 pounds (~3 kg.) of sauce tomatoes on Wednesday, not including the grape tomatoes. We do add those to sauce if we have more than we can eat fresh. Also filet beans and zucchini, both slowing down but not done yet.

And a good handful of Danvers carrots:

On Thursday, another 7 pounds (~3.15 kg.) of tomatoes of all varieties we've planted, again not including grape.

There's the first "Rosita" eggplant, of beautiful color. But beware, it has nasty thorns on the calyx! It's an 84-day variety, a little late here, and more than 6 weeks behind the black "Amadeo" variety I've shown in the past, and which is still producing for us. Rosita also has lovely white flesh.

On Saturday we took the last of the spring-sown carrots and beets, as well as zucchini, cucumbers, and a few potatoes for dinner.

Funny story about the beets. They had lost almost all their foliage to something chewing them, and I could not figure out what it was. On a visit the the garden, The Kitchen Goddess came back and told me "goldfinches were eating the beet greens." I really did not believe it until I saw for myself a pair land and begin munching. I did a little research and found this is known behavior for goldfinches. In some areas they're known as "The Salad Bird." As if I don't have enough problems with bugs!

As many others are experiencing, this is a terrible year for tomato blight. All our plants (except the grape) have basically stopped flowering and setting fruit. So what we see out there is what we will get for the season, as they slowly ripen. At this rate, we might have all tomatoes ripen before first frost, something I've never seen before. Here's another large (for us) haul, 18 lbs. (~8.16 kg.).

I picked all the Mt. Hood hops from the two year old vine. It doesn't look like much, but it is easily 5 times what we got last year, so the vine is progressing as it should.

They were dehydrated, vacuum-sealed, and put in the freezer for a future batch of beer. They smelled heavenly.

I'm trying an experiment this summer--growing spring lettuce in semi-shady locations. I set a few seedlings out July 18. The varieties are "Green Ice" and "New Red Fire." As this shows, they are doing very well: tender, delicious, no bitterness. So maybe I don't have to try Summer Crisp to get late summer salads. It's a treat to get our own tomatoes and lettuce at the same time!

On Sunday we picked all our grapevines. While we lost a lot to black rot, we got a much better harvest than last year. Let the winemaking begin!

And another batch of "Honey Select" sweet corn. Not quite at full ripeness, I think, but very tasty nonetheless. But if I keep taking large samples like this there might not be any left!

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and happy harvests to all!