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Archive for September, 2011

Tis the Season for Picking

September 26, 2011 2 comments
More Tomatoes to be Picked

More Tomatoes to be Picked

I’ve been trying to keep up with the ripening tomatoes since the first red alert cherries appeared, but somewhere along that timeline I fell pretty far behind, and my garden that used to be a sea of green has been blanketed with reddish orange romas and brandywines.  Davy, Sandy and I spent about 30 minutes to an hour collecting the tomatoes that we hope to give away. You see we are all pretty sick of processing tomatoes, and now that we have 120 jars full, we see no need to continue stocking up.

A Good Harvest

A Good Harvest

Now that I’ve grown more tomatoes then I ever thought I’d see in a lifetime, I’m wondering just how many of these plants I should start in next years garden. While we got far more tomatoes  then we need, none of them will go to waste. I may trim the plant count a bit, but I don’t think 100 plants would be too many.  I can then use the space that would have gone to tomato plants for starting fruit trees in the greenhouse this spring.

Peppers

Peppers

After cleaning up the tomato patch, Jessica and I moved onto the pepper patch, and quickly filled a crate with Chablis, Flexnum and California Wonder peppers. Somehow a Purple Kohlrabi wound up in the mix.

Concord Grapes

Concord Grapes

After a cup of coffee or two, it was time to move onto picking grapes. We picked Concord grapes from three native vines, then sorted them out removing all of the rotten and dried out grapes.

Straining out the Pulp and Seeds

Straining out the Pulp and Seeds

Instead of making wine we decided to try out grape juice production just to see how hard it would be, and how much work was involved. As the photo shows, many hands make quick work. I haven”t yet tried the taste of the juice once it’s been chilled, and if it’s worthwhile, I’ll share the recipe.

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Unconventional Door

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment
Door Closed

Door Closed

I finally got enough other work done to begin constructing the first door for my shed. I built the basic frame, and with Davies help attached it to the hinges. At this point, I decided to take a break. I had an idea for how I wanted to build my doors, but these doors would be like no other, so I decided to take a few hours and think about it while working on another project.

Cracked Open

Cracked Open

After clearing some brush I decided I was going to go through with my somewhat radical plan. The doors would overlap each other, and fit together like doors in an air lock. Why did I build these odd looking doors ? Mostly because I could, but this design eliminates the vertical gap that usually separates two doors. Without the vertical gap, less air will leak through in the winter.

Doors Open

Doors Open

So there they are, my unconventional doors. Whatcha think ?

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Life Beyond Tomatoes

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Cart Full of Tomatoes - Photo by Sandra Macpherson

Cart Full of Tomatoes - Photo by Sandra Macpherson

The valley is awash in a sea of ripening tomatoes. At one time it was acceptable to pick tomatoes every week or every 4 days, but that time has come and past. It’s become one of those occasions when all hands are required on deck, to pick, and pack this win-fall of healthy food. I try to help as much as possible, but the work continues even when I’m at work. My Mother, Sisters and Davie have been picking and washing off the tomatoes the last few days, and the cart above is full of tomatoes thanks to their effort.

I was told that if I would have stopped by while everyone else was helping, they were planning to pelt me with mushy red projectiles as I headed towards the front door. I’m reasonably sure the statement was in jest, but I’m glad I didn’t get to find out first-hand.

Jessica Looking at a Lot of Tomatoes

Jessica Looking at a Lot of Tomatoes

I was showing my niece, Jessica, and my nephew, the little gardener, just how much food we had produced in our garden. I’m sure both of them were just as amazed as I was to see sooooo many tomatoes.

Some of these tomatoes still need to ripen, while others have already been packed away in jars. The boxes on the floor to the right contain mostly canned tomatoes, some spaghetti, and a few boxes of other things.

The blue box labeled “Light” contains Pennsylvania home grown plums. They were a gift from a neighbor, and I hope to start a bunch of little trees from the pits.

Peppers

Peppers

There is life beyond tomatoes however, and it starts with my other big crop for the season: Peppers. The ones shown are still a bit young, but I picked them anyway. There was a tiny chance that a frost was coming our way, and I didn’t want to loose out.  While picking, I may have found a pepper plant that rivals Chablis Hybrid peppers in production. I don’t know what the name of these peppers are, but I planted them at least two weeks after the rest, and they are producing comparable amounts of peppers. I’ll be saving the seeds from these long green peppers and replanting them next year.

Saving Seeds

Saving Seeds

I’ve also been busing saving even more seeds. The peas that died a month or so ago left lots of seeds behind in dry, blackened pods. The trick to saving them for next year is simple. Take them out of the pod and keep them dry. I’ve been doing the same thing with my Ying-Yang Beans and Brown Crowder Beans. The Ying-Yang beans have been more of a pain to shell and so, I haven’t yet freed them from their pods.

"Dwarf" Bananas

"Dwarf" Bananas

My “Dwarf” Bananas are still growing very well, but with no sign of edible bananas. One of the plants is about four feet tall, and the other is at least five feet. They collect more light in my kitchens bay window they they let past, and I’m wondering what I’ll do in a few years when they have grown to the ceiling ? I guess I’ll have to add on a new tall sun room.

Opportunity Salad September Edition

Opportunity Salad September Edition

The best part of a garden is the hope it gives you in the spring, and the reward it provides you in the fall. I wanted to eat something good the other day, but I’m about sick of lettuce, so I decided to make a salad without lettuce. Instead, I added some Swiss Chard, colorful tomatoes, cucumber, celery and onions. Add to that a touch of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and you’ve got yourself a snack that would make any gardener smile. I was quite proud to notice that only the olive oil was from the store; I planted the seeds that grew the rest.

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Next Year’s Garden ’12

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment
Saving Tomato Seeds

Saving Tomato Seeds

It’s that time of year when storing away garden goodies isn’t the only priority. This is a ripe time to save seeds for next years garden, and if you’ve looked through a seed catalog, or lived anywhere other then below a large rock, you too may have noticed just how much seeds are selling for these days. If I had to buy seeds to replace the four varieties shown in the picture, I’m sure I would spend at least $10 on seeds, and I would probably get about 120 seeds for my money. Saving these seeds took very little time, and I’ve probably got about 500 seeds on the four trays.

Saving Tomato Seeds:

Cut open a tomato, and allow the seeds to drain onto a layer of newsprint, then simply let the seeds dry. When there is no more moisture, carefully peel the seeds from the paper, and store them for the spring.

Next Year's Seeds

Next Year's Seeds

I’ve also purchased quite a few seeds packets. I ordered the seeds on the right as our government was foolishly debating raising the debt ceiling. I was going to order them later in the season anyway, but I decided I would sleep easier if I ordered them before the debt deadline. I tend to sleep easy when I’m prepared for an outcome that is far worse then what I expect.

New Garden ?

New Garden ?

I’ve also been kicking around the idea of making a new garden area. It’s more or less a rough idea at this point, but the dirt is nice, the slope is less steep then the current plot, and there is lots of water nearby. It could be an additional garden, or maybe a replacement. I guess I’ll see where the world is headed during the winter months, and figure things out from there.

I’ve Become a Tomato

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment
Sterilizing Jars

Sterilizing Jars

I knew I was growing a lot of tomato plants when I was planting seeds this spring, and I realized that I would probably get a lot of tomatoes no mater what happened, but I didn’t imagine what would be done with them all. I figured that if I grew lots of tomatoes, everyone on the farm would find lots of uses for them, and we have. Lately everyone has been working on one task more then most others: Canning Tomatoes. The process begins by sterilizing the jars which will contain the veggies.

Diced Tomatoes

Diced Tomatoes

The tomatoes need to be washed off, rinsed, dried and finally diced into smaller chunks. The amount shown above will fill about seven large jars.

Fruit Fresh

Fruit Fresh

Before putting the lid on the jars, we added a small amount of “Fruit Fresh”, and added water until it was within one inch of the lid. The right amount of water is important for the jar to seal.

Sealing Jars

Sealing Jars

After placing the lids on the jars it’s time for a good half of an hour bath in boiling water. Be careful not to get burnt by the hot water.

A Lot of Canned Tomatoes

A Lot of Canned Tomatoes

Each batch yields about seven jars, so you can imagine that we have been canning quite often. All of the tomatoes shown have come from one of three gardens including my sisters, my mothers and my own garden.

Yes to Yellow

Yes to Yellow

We even tried out some yellow tomatoes after hearing that any color tomato is safe to can.

More Tomatoes

More Tomatoes

After helping with two batches of cans on Sunday, I figured I would go pick some more tomatoes. I have been trying to pick the tomatoes every four or five days, which gives the green tomatoes some time to start ripening. For now, I’ll pick any tomato that’s not green.

September Peppers

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment
Jenny Holding a Large Pepper

Jenny Holding a Large Pepper

I set out to pick more tomatoes the other day, and I soon found a few helpers. While they were looking for tomatoes, I decided to have a look at my pepper plants. I’ve only gotten a few early surprises so far this year, but this time it was different. I found about twenty peppers that were large enough to pick, and quite a few that were just starting to grow. If I remember correctly, the pepper plants were growing well into October last year, so I should be getting lots more green and red surprises in the next few weeks.

Assorted Peppers

Assorted Peppers

Chablis hybrid peppers have stole the show again this year, with a flexnum hybrid peppers coming in a close second. I’ll plant both of these types next year, but I hope to place a lot of effort trying to develop a new variety.

I planted quite a few pepper seeds directly into the soil as one of my many experiments. Several of these plants have grown large enough for peppers, and one has already succeeded in passing on it’s genes. I’ll take good care of the seeds till next year, and encourage them to grow directly from seed once again. The long term goal is to develop a pepper plant that grows faster, and is more compatible to the growing season this far north.

Happy Labor Day

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment
Tomatoes

Tomatoes

I had to share this picture of our Labor Day weekend harvest.

Categories: General