Monday, December 24, 2018

Harvest of Joy - 24 December 2018

The other day someone asked me if we "celebrate Christmas." I replied, "in the sense of peace on earth, good will to all...yes!" In that spirit, I want to wish to all the Harvest Monday community very happy holidays. Here's hoping all your garden wishes come true in the coming year.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Another Visit to the Seed Bank

We're back from another trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was great to reconnect with family and friends, and of course, drink some wine!

As we've done for the past three years, we also swung by the nice town of Petaluma.

Petaluma is the location of Baker Creek's "Seed Bank," a candy store for gardeners. We somehow missed the memo that would have told us that they've moved from the cool old bank building to a storefront a block down the street. So the "Bank" pun doesn't really work anymore, but it's still the place to be.

Inside, the same great selection.

And as usual, we got a bit carried away with our purchases.

Note the oversized Seed Bank coffee mug, just for me.

I can't wait to try all these new varieties. The garden planning just got more complicated!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Harvest Monday - 5 November 2018

Last harvests of the year! Everything must go!

I planted carrots in late April, and we've been picking them all summer. Now it was time to pull the remaining. It made a much larger harvest than I was expecting.

Scarlet Nantes and Danvers Half-long
Also time to pull the few leeks the voles let us have. Too bad, really, because we love leeks and use them a lot. Also found were some spring-planted onions that suddenly decided November was an awesome time to start growing.

King Richard leeks
I tried growing turmeric and ginger for the first time this year. Both were planted in large pots. The ginger failed, but the turmeric grew to a nice plant. I harvested the roots this week, and saved some pieces to replant for next year.

Turmeric root
The dehydrator has been busy, what with the carrots and the apples we picked a few weeks ago. The dried carrots are great for soups and stews and won't take up freezer space (I finally was able to empty the chest freezer in the barn and shut it down). The apples are for adding to oatmeal or Cream of Wheat (my favorite!), and also for fruit leather. The Kitchen Goddess also used the last of her canning jars to make apple pie filling.

In wildlife notes, we had a visit from a bear on Friday night, who knocked down both the front and back bird feeders. "Fortunately" it had been raining hard and the ground was super-saturated, so the poles were only uprooted and not bent beyond hope. He did destroy the suet feeders though. I know, you shouldn't feed birds when bears are active (March to December), but we love watching the birds on the feeders year round.

A visit from Mr. or Ms. Bear
So no more harvests this year, and nothing to show in that department until maple syrup season in late winter. Thanks to all for reading my posts over the months, and to Dave at for hosting Harvest Monday.

I would just like to close by reminding all Americans to vote tomorrow! TKG and I will certainly be doing that, as well as serving once again as town election officials, making sure everyone's vote is counted, and all voters are treated with fairness and respect.

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Big Decision

When we bought this property 8 years ago, there were three 12-foot rows of old grapevines in the fenced garden. Like everything here, they had been sorely neglected and were wandering everywhere. We really had no idea what varieties they were, other than finding some old wine bottle labels in the barn describing a "vintage" of Canadice and Vanessa. By "old" I don't mean very old, probably 1980s or 90s.

We thought we could tame the vines by careful pruning and trellising. This took a lot of time and effort. We even added two more rows of vines, making a total of 60 row-feet. But sad to say, we were defeated. Black rot had taken hold in the vineyard, and it was impossible to control. It has the effect of turning the beautiful fruit clusters into disgusting shriveled mummies, full of the fungus spores.

As I said, we put a lot of work into it. Other tasks included removing excess foliage to encourage air flow, dropping fruit clusters to make the remaining ones more robust, and spraying with a fungicide (which really didn't do much). And the thing was, since there were so many varieties, the fruit had different maturities...some early, some late. This made wine-making a challenge. And you know what? We really weren't crazy about the wine we made.

So we made the big, painful decision...just rip them out. So here's the last glimpses.

It was sad, really, when you think of the decades-old vines in particular. But this is a process commercial wineries go through all the time.

I cut the vines down to the ground, and painted the stumps with an herbicide. Removing the trellis wires was a hassle. Here is how it looks now.

We are not going to replant vines in this space. The chances are too great that the fungus remains in the soil. Instead, I'm going to experiment with Straw Bale Gardening. As the years go on, the southern portion of the fenced garden is getting shadier, making the northern part more desirable for planting. I don't want to go through the effort and expense of building more raised beds and trucking in soil. Straw bale seems like an ideal solution for growing things like peppers and eggplants. It will be fun, I think.

We still want to grow grapes. I'm going to start with three new vines, all the same variety. Probably one of the Niagara-type wine grapes. I'll put them on a fence line away from this space. The fence will serve as a ready-made trellis. Hopefully the fungus has not migrated all over the place.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Harvest Monday - 22 October 2018

Our first killing frost arrived this past week, as anticipated. The days leading up to it were thus a flurry of activity for picking and processing.

The Mad Hatter peppers (that our Harvest Monday host, Dave, featured awhile ago) would not ripen any further, so here's my entire crop. I'd say it's a productive plant, but for me it took forever for even one to turn red-ripe. I will try again next year though.

Mad Hatter sweet pepper
The rest of the sweet peppers were hauled in and processed for the freezer, except for the shishitos which we will eat now.

The hot peppers came in as well.

The Kitchen Goddess turned all of the above into a spicy green chile base, using a recipe from the great book Fiery Ferments.

All of the remaining zucchini, eggplants, and beans came in and were frozen.

I've struggled to grow Swiss chard (usually an absurdly easy crop) in recent years. Not sure why. But I did pick some before the frost.

Peppermint and Fordhook Giant Swiss chard
I planted Summercrisp lettuce and then largely ignored it. I was surprised what the harvest added up to. And for us it's novel to have fresh salads in mid-October.

Mottistone and Nevada lettuce
Another crop I planted (in spring) and largely ignored was Red Malabar 'spinach', which of course is not a true spinach at all. It took awhile to get going, and produced lovely long vines. The only drawback is bugs seem to have a fondness for it. Despite that, the harvest was pretty large.

Red Malabar
I lightly blanched it, and here's the result. Some reviews I saw say it's too slimy for them, but that did not put me off at all. It tastes and smells just like real spinach, without the bite of some other spinach substitutes like Swiss chard or beet greens. I had some in a ramen and it was very delicious. If you, like me, struggle to grow real spinach I highly recommend this variety.

Blanched Red Malabar
Our green apple tree (maybe Granny Smith?) is a late-season variety. We picked two bushels, and there is at least that much left on the tree which will probably stay there. The reason? We already have so much canned applesauce, apple pie filling, and hard apple cider in storage. 

TKG rewarded our hard work with delicious caramel apples. I wish you could taste how good these are.

So, a busy week, but it's the last of the season. The only things left to harvest are carrots and leeks. I hope your harvests extend further than this. I look forward to reading about them!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Harvest Monday - 15 October 2018

Our fall continues atypically cool and damp. Yesterday morning there was an apparent very light frost, but the plants did not seem to be affected by it.

This translates to very diminished harvests:

I did a final harvest of winter squash. Here is a Neck Pumpkin (also called Crookneck Squash), an Early Butternut Hybrid, and a so-called Jack O'Lantern pumpkin that would be a pretty pathetic jack o'lantern.

I like to grow tall sunflowers, but doing this has been challenging in recent years for some reason. I did get a couple this year, and here's the best head. It's a variety called "Giant White-Seeded."

I'm trying a new technique to harvest sunflower seeds. Instead of trying to let them dry on the flower, where they usually mold, I pried them out soft and damp. I'm drying them in pie dishes like I do with beans.  So the beautiful fractal pattern of the seeds above became this:

Raspberries are continuing to reward us, though the canes have finally stopped flowering. Still lots of unripe ones.

But the big show this week came from the community garden plot The Kitchen Goddess shares with her mother. The two of them dug 17 pounds of sweet potatoes, and pulled a dozen leeks.

Flowers are all that's left in their plot now.

That's all for this week. According to at least one forecast, we will get a killing frost, maybe by Wednesday night. So it will be a scramble to harvest the rest of the peppers and eggplants. The tomatoes won't even be worth it. Thanks for reading, and thanks once again to Dave at for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Harvest Monday - 8 October 2018

It's been an untypical fall so far, with cool and damp conditions. Predictably, harvests have slowed to a crawl.

Two eggplants made their first, and unfortunately last, appearance in the harvest basket. On the left is "Rosita" and on the right, "Nadia". Rosita is always a slow, shy producer here but I love the color. Nadia last year was a star, but not this.

I planted "Yellow Pencil-pod Wax" beans in early August, unsure if I would get any before first frost. They reached picking size this week. Here they are along with some of the last flat-podded "Romano" bush beans.

The Kitchen Goddess got some nice things from the community garden plot.

A beginning of the week harvest basket from our home garden at least was colorful!

But by week's end it has diminished to the point of sadness.

The last two "Halona" muskmelons had detached themselves from the shriveled vines. They were good, but not as sweet as the ones from high summer. One is oddly shaped because it was stuck in the fence.

One crop that hasn't disappointed is raspberries. We estimate we've picked 10 pounds so far, and they aren't slowing down.

I’ve been wanting to write about an unusual pepper I attempted to grow this year. Since it is obvious that I won’t get any fruit, I’ll talk about the variety and what I think happened. It starts with a visit we made last fall to Regusci Winery in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa Valley. They have a huge, beautiful, well-tended vegetable garden, and sell some produce in a farm stand outside the tasting room. A pepper caught my eye. It doesn’t look anything remarkable; maybe just another hot cherry pepper. But I was not familiar with its name, “Manzano.”

$1 each? Not exactly giving them away, are they?
I obtained one with the intent of trying to grow it. I was very surprised to find it had black seeds, which I at first thought meant it had spoiled. But researching it, I found that was just one of the unusual characteristics of this species, C. pubescens. Besides that, it has purple flowers and hairy foliage (hence its species name). Its heat rating approaches Habanero. It is native to Peru, where it is called “Rocoto,” and thrives in cool climates, which I thought gave me a leg up.

Planting it this year, it grew fairly well, and began to flower very quickly. Alas, no fruit was ever set. I’m thinking it was our excessive humidity this summer. This weekend I potted up the plant, and moved it into the sunroom. Maybe it will continue to grow, and thus will get a head start next year. Worth a shot, anyway!

Manzano pepper plant ready to move indoors.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, and thanks once again to Dave of for hosting Harvest Monday.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Harvest Monday - 1 October 2018 - Blue Ribbon Edition Part III

The last week of September is time of the nearby Deerfield Fair, now in its 142nd year. For three years, we have enjoyed entering our produce and home goods in the competitions. The Fair even made the national news this I will describe in a moment.

Our involvement started immediately after the last fair...when we fantasized about all the lovely things we would enter next year! Then it's a season of planning, growing and hoping. What will it bring? So many things out of our control.

During fair week, the schedule went like this. On Tuesday, The Kitchen Goddess with help from her mother dropped off the entries. On Wednesday judging occurs. On Thursday, the fair opens. We visited on Friday, instead of Saturday as usual. I'm glad we did, as I read that the line of cars waiting to enter was backed up for six miles, but we just breezed in. Still, it was very well attended for a weekday. On Sunday after the fair closes at 7 PM we have to go back and collect our entries. It's a lot of running back and forth, but fun!

This year TKG entered nine jars of canned goods, plus two other special entries. I entered four vegetables. I wanted to do several more, but had crop failures.

Here are TKG's entries, and the results. For canned goods, the judges give helpful comments when they don't award a first prize.

  1. Strawberry Sauce - Blue
  2. Raspberry Jam - Blue
  3. Bloody Mary Mix - Blue
  4. Chopped Tomatoes in Juice - Blue
  5. Spaghetti Sauce - Blue
  6. Salsa - Blue
  7. Tomato Sauce - Blue
  8. Pears in Light Syrup - Red (judges said it was over-packed)
  9. Stewed Chopped Tomatoes - White (judges said too much headspace)
Of course she agonizes over anything that wasn't blue, but I think it was an impressive array.

Here are my results. The fresh vegetables were downright gross by the time we picked them up, so no pictures of them! The judges here don't give comments unfortunately.

  1. Pinto Beans - Blue
  2. Jilo Eggplants - Blue
  3. Calabrese Hot Peppers - White. I knew these weren't going to get 1st, because I couldn't pick 5 the same size.
  4. Romano Bush Beans - White. I thought I would do better with these; not sure what went wrong.
Next year, try harder!

There were two untypical entries for us this year. First, TKG entered the Scarecrow Contest. There aren't any rules except it has to be no more than a certain size, and must feature at least five fruits or vegetables. I think she did a really imaginative creation. It's a representation of a Corn Maiden effigy. The body was our own cornstalks and leaves, and she was adorned with seven products of our gardens, such as hops, ground cherries, corn cobs, etc.

Corn Maiden for the Scarecrow Competition
She got a 4th place award. Comparing the higher-scoring entries, I guess the judges value humor and kitsch over artistry. Still, she got a $70 cash prize.

Her other entry was in the Flower Show. It was in the category "Wild or Garden Flowers in an Unusual Container." She arranged our own flowers in a whimsical vase we found at a flea market.

The judges gave it 3rd! I thought it was super-cute.

Our total cash winnings were $119, with TKG deservedly earning most of that. Of course it's not about the money. We just love the competition, and a chance to show off our stuff. Nothing wrong with that, right?

So what's this about the national news? It was in the giant pumpkin competition. A New Hampshire man set a new US record for heaviest amazing 2,528 lb. (~1147 kg) monster!

A new US record!
He earned $6,000 in prize money. No, I'm not really tempted to get involved in the giant pumpkin process.

We continue to encourage you to get involved in fairs or agricultural expos if you have the opportunity. You won't regret it.

I'll be back next week with "real" harvest news. Until then, thanks so much for reading. Thanks as always to Dave at for providing this fun forum.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Harvest Monday - 24 September 2018

Autumn is here, and you can feel it in the air. Harvests are slowing way down. We got the remnants of Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, delivering 4 inches of rain in basically half a day. That of course is nothing compared to what the poor folks in the Carolinas got.

We still are getting some new harvests, however. First up is the Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes sweet pepper. This is probably the only one that will get ripe in time. Our Harvest Monday host, Dave, showed them off a couple of weeks ago. He's getting more than I will, as always.

Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes
It's a name that's hard to pronounce and even harder to spell. I think it loosely translates to "Aggravatingly Slow To Ripen." It is attractive, though.

The first "Calabrese" hot peppers matured. These are from the seeds of a pepper given to me by a nice man at a winery in Northern California a couple of years ago. It looks like just another cherry pepper, but it is fiery hot.

I got the first harvest of the flat-podded bush bean "Romano." These were planted at the end of July, and I wasn't sure we'd have enough time before frost to get any, but they did well.

Romano bush beans
Also new this week is the spaghetti squash "Sugaretti Hybrid." It's a 2017 AAS Selection, and is a short-vined variety. The fruits are small, about one and a half pounds. It sure does look like Delicata, which I'm guessing is in its parentage.

Sugaretti Hybrid
Also the first Early Butternut Hybrid, another short-vined variety. It's on the right, below, joined by a conventional butternut The Kitchen Goddess brought home from her community garden plot. So it's not really all that early, is it?

I planted "Painted Mountain" flour corn this year, and had high hopes. It germinated beautifully and grew quickly. Unfortunately squirrels developed a taste for it, and I couldn't control them sufficiently to prevent them from ruining basically the whole crop. Here's all I could salvage. After drying and shelling, it fills a pie dish.

Painted Mountain dry corn
I took the last two "Soloist" Chinese cabbage. The outer leaves were being eaten, but the inner cores were fine, and weighed out to about 3 pounds each.

Some late summer harvests:

Bottom: Jilo eggplants

TKG canned 6 pints of thick all-purpose tomato sauce.

More summer crops trickled in. There won't be enough tomatoes left to justify a canning (to TKG's relief), but we will get some more sauce for the fridge.

And on the weekend I took all the remaining spring-planted beets, and some of the remaining carrots.

Helpful me scrubbed them and laid them out to dry on one of TKG's precious dish towels. Boy did I get in trouble for that. Who knew beets stain? Well I did, but unfortunately forgot.

In wildlife notes, I went out into the woods to change the memory card in the Game-Cam. Here's a nice 8-point buck who seems to be inhabiting the area. The image was captured in early September, but he's still around, as I spooked him when I got to the edge of the woods. Maybe I'll have an "appointment" with him come November.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading! Please join me in viewing all the posts on Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at