Monday, March 30, 2015

Harvest Monday - 30 March 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm. Thanks as always to Daphne's Dandelions for hosting this forum.

Proudly presenting our first harvest of the year...pure maple syrup!

We tapped for only 6 days this year, way later and shorter than normal. For some reason, the sugar content of the sap must have been extremely high. Normally you'd expect a 40:1 ratio of sap to syrup, but here we have 3 quarts of product, and while we did not accurately measure the amount of sap, I know it was less than 20 gallons. I read that historically maple sap is about 3% sugar, trending less in recent years due to stress on the trees from climate change. I guess the winter this year had a positive effect.

For those interested, here's a link to last year's post on how to do it. The subsequent 2 posts might be of interest too. The local high school's Forestry Dept. is again tapping some of our trees. This year they put 25 taps; last year they did more than 50. They "pay" us a pint of syrup. So we'll have enough to last us a year, I'm pretty sure.

I know there are those who actually prefer "maple-flavored" syrup, like Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima. But epicures like us (read: snobs) say it has to be pure or no-thank-you.

Saturday was cold with rain and snow, but Sunday it warmed a tiny bit, and I was able to get into the garden for the first time this year to shovel off the raised beds. The snow was compact and icy, which made for hard work, and by the end I was feeling my years. Needed a long soak in the hot tub.

The two beds which this year will hold spring crops like peas and radishes were then covered with black weed cloth, to hopefully speed warming and drying the soil. We'll see if it makes a difference. The nights are still below freezing.

The two beds on the right will be resting this year, so no need to fuss over them now.

Last week I gave a report on our storage potatoes; I neglected to mention our onions. These were pulled at the end of July, and as you can see, they are still doing fine, which is great. The variety is "Stuttgarter."

Of course, being human, we've tended to use the largest ones over the months, so only smaller ones remain; just as tasty but harder to use!

This weekend I also started peppers, eggplant, and a few perennials.

That's it for this week. There won't be any harvests from us for quite awhile; hopefully others have more!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Harvest Monday - 23 March 2015

Back in mid-September we harvested all our potatoes. The total yield for the year was around 40 lbs. as I recall. This is the variety "Kennebec," which is touted as a good keeper besides being delicious. We packed them in a bushel basket filled with shredded paper, and kept them in a cold room (50 F.) of the house. We've been enjoying them all fall and winter. Yesterday we checked on the remaining lot (maybe 8 lbs.), and found they were starting to sprout a little, but still fairly firm. So we took them all, cut them up, blanched them, and packed for the freezer.

We also shredded some using one of the attachments for the KitchenAid. I guess we used too fine a setting, as once we put them in the blanching water it turned into potato glurp. Not good for hash-browns, latkes, etc., but perfect for potato soup! Just the thing for a cold winter, er, spring night.

So this being my first experiment growing potatoes, I was not sure what to expect in terms of storage. I'm guessing 6 months is pretty good.

What's this? Something green??

Before we left for our annual jaunt to Key West, I chitted our leek seeds. Once they had sprouted (took longer than I thought) I put them in soil in an old salad container, covered with a clear lid, and left in the sunroom. By the time we got back (the 17th) they were up. I used the whole seed packet, as I know that onion seeds typically don't remain viable more than a year. This is the variety "Megaton," which is supposed to be early. My plan is to plant them in the row garden pretty close together, harvest some when they are maybe pencil-sized, and let the rest get big. That's the plan, anyway. I've never grown leeks before. And there is a lot of work to do in the row garden to improve the soil--which cannot be done since everything is still covered with snow. I hope these little fellows don't get too big too quickly.

This weekend I also started broccoli (two 6-packs) and some herbs. That's all I've got going. You've no doubt read how delayed everything is this year--it's going to be interesting, and I'm worried that all the preparation chores are going to have to be compressed into a short time period.

Speaking of broccoli, last year I tried planting them every other square instead of every square. The results were much better--big beautiful heads for the first time. I recently read on Cornell University's garden web site (very good, by the way), that broccoli planted close together yields smaller heads but more side shoots, compared to larger heads and less shoots when planted farther apart. I have found this to be true.

We've also begun tapping our sugar maple trees, almost a month later than last year. I'll write more about this in the coming weeks.

I hope you are enjoying more of your garden than we are as we come out of this brutal winter. Thanks to Daphne's Dandelions for continuing to host this forum.