Monday, September 28, 2015

Harvest Monday - 28 September 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm. When I got up this morning (Sunday) the temperature was at 38 degrees F. (~3 C.). It didn't stay there long, but still, it was a sobering moment. Here's a sample of this week's harvests.

A Monday picking. The kale and leek went with some of our potatoes into a tasty, healthful dinner that night.

The very last of the sweet corn, in convenient bite-size form. Not perfectly-formed ears, but still incredibly sweet and crunchy. This will be missed.

A Tuesday harvest. The muskmelon is a "Minnesota Midget," living up to its name at 1.25 lbs. We never get much in the way of production from melons, but the taste is fantastic.

Minnesota Midget Muskmelon
Running out of freezer space, The Kitchen Goddess has started dehydrating the carrots. These will go well dropped into my favorite comfort food, homemade chicken noodle soup. Pounds of carrots shrink down to several ounces.

Dehydrated Carrots
A bonus harvest of soup peas. I had some leftover seed from the spring planting, but not enough for next year. I sowed them in the Survival Garden and promptly neglected them. They responded accordingly. Still, it shows that you can get some production from a summer planting of a traditionally spring crop.

The final harvest of the week. From left, carrots, chard, leeks, Rutgers tomatoes, raspberries, watermelon radishes, and the last of the summer crisp lettuce. As I write this, TKG is making a quiche from some of the leeks and chard. Hey, when do we eat??

How will I know the first true frost has happened? The coleus planting will tell me. I grew these six plants from seed, and they have been brightening a corner of the patio all summer. But with the first nip of frost, they will wilt to nothing.

Coleus planting

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading! For more Harvest Monday, click on back to Daphne's Dandelions, and please show your appreciation for hosting this fun and informative gathering by leaving her a comment.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

(Fairly) Easy Produce Storage Bins Made With Scrap Lumber

I'm not the handiest guy in the world, but I do like working in wood. When I saw plans in Mother Earth News for DIY produce storage bins, it looked like something I would enjoy.

Here's the link. The instructions are in the text, but you have to view the slideshow to see illustrations. I used the print magazine's article.

I basically followed the plans, with one important difference, which came about like this.

A few years ago we had a major remodel of our screened porch. Really it was more a demolition and a rebuild, to much larger dimensions.The interior is finished with 1x6 V-groove pine. We stained the boards before they went up. We ran out of stain, and the second batch was defective. The local hardware store made good on it, not only replacing the stain but replacing the boards as well. That left me with several bundles of stained boards. I've been gradually using them in projects, including the bins in this post.

Here's an unusable scrap, showing the tongue edge.

The plans for the "tall" bin called for two 1x6 (really 5 3/8") cedar fence boards on each side. I knew that after trimming off the tongue and groove edges of my scrap lumber I would need more than two. I decided to rip my boards to 4" even, and use three on each side. So I had to raise the height of the bins to accommodate them and also the ventilation gaps between. Instead of 14" risers, I made mine 15 5/8". I also built a lid, which was not in the plans.

Otherwise I followed the script (!)

Here's how the first one came out.

For the "handles," I used up some oak planks that were here in the barn when we bought the property. So there really was not a lot to purchase!

The ventilation gaps are a great idea, but I worried about mice down in the cellar, so I decided to put screening over them (another variance from the plans).

The lid is just a simple frame made with the same wood, ripped to 3"

That, too, got screened.

One 2x5 foot roll of  1/4" mesh hardware cloth is the screening (what a strange term, "hardware cloth." It's metal.). There was next to nothing left over.

These bins are bigger than they look. Twenty pounds of potatoes are lost in it.

This was a fun, not too frustrating project, with a useful result. And I got to give my table saw a workout, which I love. Why didn't I buy one years ago? I like that I used wood that would have been discarded, and I will burn the trimmings in the stove in the barn's workshop. So no waste!

I have all the materials cut for a second bin. It will be great for winter squash. I may stack it on the potato bin, and therefore need only one lid. We'll see.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Harvest Monday - 21 September 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm.

Summer crops are diminishing, but that's to be expected, since summer itself is almost gone. There won't be many more tomatoes after this. Normally the plants go strong right until frost. The shishito pepper plant is still producing though, somewhat. We're near the end of the full-sized, first ears of corn and starting to dip into the smaller, second ears.

Seedless raspberries are still giving us joy, however.

It was my intention to let the "Floriani" red flint corn in the Survival Garden stay on the stalk until all ears were fully dry. But the woodpeckers had other ideas, and many of the ears were damaged. Thus I picked them regardless of their dryness, and put them in the sunroom to hopefully finish drying. It worked for the beans anyway. There are about 50 ears, some very large, some small. As I recall this is about half of what I got last year, but I only planted about half, so I guess it works out. We still have lots of corn left from last year, and we grind it when we need it.

A mid-week harvest featuring another lovely muskmelon, and a "Sugar Baby" watermelon. They ain't kidding about the baby part--this is the size of a cue ball. We have bigger ones waiting to ripen--this was a drop, but actually the few bites we got were pink, juicy, and sweet.

The Kitchen Goddess, all by herself, shelled the Black Turtle beans whose drying pods I showed you a couple of weeks ago. At 3 lbs. 2 oz. (~1.4 kg.), this was a much better result than the yellow-eye beans. And I love black beans!

We took all the scarlet runner beans. They are finishing drying indoors, though most already were dry, and being snacked on by something. You can see the attractive purple beans at the bottom. Also shown is the last zucchini, and probably the last of the pathetic eggplant harvest.

Here's the runner beans so far. As always, I save 50 seeds for next year and we get a hearty meal from the rest. It's a pretty good return on the $3 seed packet I bought 3 years ago. I grow it more for the ornamental value, with its coral-pink blossoms.

A weekend varied harvest, "featuring" a tiny muskmelon.

Ten days ago TKG crushed all our grapes (with her hands, not her feet, thank heavens) and began the fermentation process in three loosely covered buckets. On Saturday, we got to the next phase--pressing. Actually we got 4 gallons of "free-run" wine, and pressed 2 gallons out of the fermented grapes. We probably could have gotten another 1/2 gallon from them, but didn't want to run the risk of pressing out excess tannins etc. We mixed one of the free-run gallons into the press run to even it out. We want to experiment if free-run is really that much better. So we now have two buckets on the "gross lees," covered with stoppers and airlocks.

I put the pomace (pressed grapes) in the compost, thus hanging out a welcome sign to all area alcoholic chipmunks.

This second stage is supposed to last for two days, then we will siphon into glass containers for secondary fermentation (more of a settling process). This will last for several months. So doing rough math, 6 gallons equals approximately 23 liters, or 30 bottles of wine, enough to last us a good week--ha ha! This was from about 3 bushels of grapes.

Our kale (Dwarf Blue Curled), which was interspersed with the now-harvested Chinese cabbage, has really taken off.

I like looking at it.

What do you think? Should we let it go until after first frost, or start picking it now?

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! Please click back to Daphne's Dandelions, the sponsor of Harvest Monday, and check in with the rest of the world.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Harvest Monday - 14 September 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday report from Eight Gate Farm. Here's the weekly roundup. Though the calendar still says summer, this weekend felt like fall in this neck of the woods.

Tomatoes and zucchini are slowing down, while the raspberries and summer-planted cucumbers are coming on strong.

The watermelon radishes are just ballooning.

Another mini-farm-stand picture:

That's the last two Chinese cabbages, and the last of the snap beans. But there's the first muskmelon! We had it for breakfast next day--we ate it standing up in the kitchen, and it was gone in 60 seconds.

Halona Muskmelon

The Kitchen Goddess made and canned dill pickle chips (crinkle-cut--I'm such a baby) and the radishes.

Pickles On Parade
Saturday was hop-picking day.

Mt. Hood Hops

And Sunday was apple-picking day.

These are Macintosh. It's our best year ever. Before we've gotten no more than 1/2 bushel from this tree, and here are two full bushels. Those are drops I raked up in the background. They will get thrown over the stone wall for the deer--not that they need it. Out of this crop, we selected about 50 of the nicest for fresh eating, another 100 or so for canning, and the bulk (misshapen or small) went into the freezer whole for later cider-making. TKG canned 6 pints of delicious apple sauce right away. Next she'll can apple pie filling. I pick 'em, she processes 'em--I think we know who has the harder job.

Are we done with apples? Nope. The green apple tree (maybe Granny Smith?) needs a few more weeks.

As you can see, it's loaded. I'm really dreading looking forward to picking it. But it will be easier now that I've lowered its height by 10 feet or so. These will go toward hard cider. We've found that freezing the apples makes them (when thawed) much easier to grind and press, and we can do it when it fits our schedule.

Wow, all this talk of apples makes me crave something apple-y. How about a glass of our Vintage 2013 sparkling hard cider?

Cheers! The ageing has really mellowed the flavors. It's potent, too.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! And thanks as always to Daphne's Dandelions for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Harvest Monday - 7 September 2015

Welcome to another Harvest Monday update from Eight Gate Farm! Here's the weekly report.

A light harvest on Tuesday. I've ripped out 7 out of our 12 tomato plants, and that cuts down on the production. Never before have I had plants die mid-season. The Rutgers (in foreground) is doing pretty well, however, and producing nice red fruits for table or sauce.

On Wednesday, a 2.75 gallon bucket of grapes.

Also, beans and carrots. The beans are coming now from the seeds I planted to fill in holes in the first planting, where they never germinated. That first planting gave us a lot of beans, but is long gone now. It's nice to get a few more while summer is still with us.

Also, some corn for dinner!

The watermelon radishes are sure fattening up.

Thursday pickings. The eggplants are very small this year (and few in number). Shown are the first "Cross Country" pickling cucumbers from the second planting this year, on July 14, where the peas were. The vines are much more lush than the ones from May, which never really took off. I think we might get enough for pickles before frost hits, and not just the occasional one for fresh eating. The shishito pepper plant hasn't been producing much (none of the peppers are), but with this we finally collected enough to make that super-trendy appetizer and be like the cool kids.

On Saturday, no garden work. Instead, we drove about 3 hours west to the Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival in Bennington. The stated goal was to talk to the professional garlic growers and select bulbs for fall planting. I've never grown garlic before, so I was soliciting advice. That may have been the purpose, but what a great, fun event! Good music, good food, lots of fun things to look at, and a beer tent! Of course there was garlic everything to try--fudge, popcorn, you get the picture. No garlic beer, thank goodness, or I would have had to try it. There were quite a few growers selling bulbs. Most said that hardneck garlic grows the best in the Northeast, so that's what I bought: Music, Georgian Fire, and German White (probably the most popular among the growers). I vow to properly label the plantings.We came home tired, happy, and smelly! As the festival motto goes, Vermont Stinks!

We paid on Sunday for the play on Saturday. There was a lot to harvest.

The Kitchen Goddess said the bench looked like a mini farm stand. You might notice our first, scallion-sized leeks. And a gluttonous six ears of corn. On the ground is chard in a lovely basket we bought at the fair, and another head of Soloist Chinese cabbage--weighing 4 1/2 pounds. TKG made our first batch of kimchi, and she had enough cucumbers to make refrigerator dill pickles - yay!

But the star of the show in the fenced garden was a complete picking of the remaining grapes--two bushels worth.

While she was doing all that cooking (tomato sauce too) in the hot kitchen, and then picking the grapes off the stems to go in the freezer for later wine-making, I cooked in the hot sun to pick all the "Black Turtle" beans in the Survival Garden. Here they are all laid out on a screen to finish drying in the sunroom.

Speaking of dry beans, here's the Yellow-Eye bean, shelled this week.

All those pods I showed a few weeks ago yielded 1.5 pounds. That's from about 30 row-feet. It made me wonder if potatoes are a better survival crop--we got 29 pounds of them from 15 row-feet. Of course the beans will keep practically forever, and potatoes won't. I wonder how beans compare nutritionally (in terms of calories per gram, etc) to potatoes--with the understanding that beans have a lot more protein and fat.

Here's the last artichoke, that we left to flower. Unfortunately I think we needed two separate flowers for the plant to pollinate, and I doubt there's another artichoke growing within miles of us. But it sure is pretty!

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading. Today it's Labor Day in the US, and as all gardeners know, that means another day "off" to labor in the garden. Take a break from your labors and check out the wide world of gardening on Daphne's Dandelions, the hostess of Harvest Monday!