Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Halloween Day Harvest

Pumpkin Carving Party
Ohhhh...the carnage. The other week Marc and I hosted a Pumpkin carving party. I love the folklore surrounding this tradition and in my opinion, Halloween in New England just wouldn't be the same without one or two jack-o'-lanterns.

The weather today was drastically different from the rather balmy Halloween we had last year and this upcoming week is shaping up to be a pretty cold one. I have a feeling that winter will arrive early this year.

Tuscan Kale
Yesterday I pulled up two of my Tuscan kale plants. This is one veggie we have plenty of currently. I have five more in addition to a half bed of Red Russian Kale. I'm looking forward to tasting it as it should be sweeter now that we've a few light frosts already.

French Breakfast Radishes
I also picked the first French Breakfast radishes of the season. I like harvesting them on the smaller side as they tend to be a bit too sharp for my taste when they are left to grow larger.

These leeks were surprising large compared to the ones I picked the other week. They are about an inch and a half in diameter are destined for my soup pot.

broccoli and turnips
Finally, I wonder how much longer our broccoli plants will last. It will be interesting to see how cold-tolerate they truly are.

This week's numbers:

Swiss chard - 0.80 lb
Kale - 4.97 lb
Radishes - 0.25 lb
Leeks - 1.63 lb
Turnips - 0.49 lb
Broccoli - 0.45 lb

Total for this week - 8.59 lb
Total so far this year - 679.13 lb

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Asparagus Berries

Asparagus Berries
It's been a while since I've paid any attention to my asparagus plants. I had planted one year-old crowns earlier this year. The plants are about waist-high at this point and are producing these rather interesting looking berries that are more reminiscent of Christmas than Halloween. Pretty soon I'll have to add a nice layer of mulch for addition protection during the winter months.

I'm looking forward to harvesting my first spears next spring. According to a fact sheet put out by Ohio State University:

The year after planting, asparagus can be harvested several times throughout a three-week period, depending on air temperatures. Research shows there is no need to wait two years after planting before harvesting. In fact, harvesting the year after planting will stimulate more bud production on the crown and provide greater yields in future years, as compared with waiting two years before harvesting.

Sounds good to me! I consider myself a reasonably patient person but having to wait two years to harvest anything would have pushed my tolerance to the limit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Late October Harvest

Meyer Lemons
Where did this month go? October is coming to a close and I have yet to get my hoops up. The temperature actually got down to 32 degrees F a few nights ago. We're expecting warmer weather this week so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to winterize the garden next weekend before the first killing frost arrives.

Today I picked the first ripe Meyer lemons of the season. Last year, my potted tree produced 9 HUGE lemons. This year, there are 20 medium-sized lemons. These weighed in at just under 2 pounds - enough for a batch of marmalade.

My fall broccoli is still producing plenty of side shoots. I actually really enjoy the young leaves that accompany them.

In other news, the field mice have taken down the last of my rhubarb chard, which is so unbelievably frustrating! I've killed 3 of them this past week alone. Sometimes I wish I had a garden cat to accompany the gnome.

This week's numbers were pretty light (by choice). I've stopped weighing my tomatoes.

Turnips- 0.26 lb
Broccoli - 0.40 lb
Artichoke - 0.20 lb
Chilies - 0.35 lb
Lemons - 1.93 lb

Total harvest this week - 3.14 lb

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Harvests

I thought I'd do a quick post on some of the things that I've been harvesting lately:

Fall harvest 3
I started pulling a few of my spring-planted leeks this past weekend. I've only had leeks once before, so at this point, I'm still learning to appreciate the mild and sweet onion flavor of this vegetable.

I've also picked some baby beets, watermelon radishes and daikon radishes. The field mice are particularly active this time of year. Already, I've lost about 50% of my winter carrots and 90% of my beets and radishes. I don't remember it being this bad last year.

Fall harvest 1
Boy I have missed my Japanese turnips. They are so mild and delicious. To me, they taste a lot like cauliflower but are much easier to grow and quicker to mature. I wish I had planted more this fall.

Out of four Napa cabbages planted, I ended up harvesting two. One was dispatched by a cut worm early on and another was devoured by slugs. Also, the broccoli plants are offering plenty of side shoots now that the main heads are gone.

Fall harvest 2
The rhubarb chard is tasting really good now that the weather has grown colder.

Fall harvest 4
Finally, I'm trying to take advantage of all of the herbs in my garden before they disappear for the winter. Fall sage is one of my favorite things. I love making an herb butter with it and some thyme and spreading the mixture all over a chicken I'm about to roast. The basil is gone at the point - The night chill got to it before I had a chance to make pesto.

Total harvest this past week: 6.33 lb

Fire, Frost and Fertilizer

Hello everyone! I must apologize for being MIA this past week. Admittedly, I'm still slowly adjusting to the change in seasons - my motivation to get things done seems to be deminishing as the days become shorter. It seems as though my fall veggies are feeling the same way as their growth has slowed way down.

A few weeks ago, we had a cord and a half of wood delivered. We love our fires so hopefully, this will get us through the winter. Last year, we burned almost two cords. One of my favorite things is coming home from a stressful workday (especially when it's cold and rainy outside) and seeing that Marc has gotten a good fire going. I feel instantly better.

The nights are dropping down into the mid to upper 30's F now and this morning, I noticed frost on our front lawn. Luckily, it didn't reach back into the garden. I guess it's time to put up the hoops and plant garlic. It will be a busy weekend for sure.

On a final note, I came across this rather disturbing NY Times article this morning. Here is an except:

"Saskatchewan is home base for the Potash Corporation, the fertilizer company...A consortium of state-backed Chinese companies and financiers may make a takeover offer for Potash that rivals a $38.6 billion hostile bid from BHP Billiton, and that prospect has lawmakers in Washington, regulators in Canada and bankers on Wall Street all talking...45 percent of Potash’s production is sold to farmers in North America. The big worry, in part, is that the Chinese could seek to redirect that supply to China, starving other counties of a much-needed commodity."

Our world seems to operate on the notion that all of the material things we take for granted in our daily lives will be readily available to us in perpetuity. It makes me wonder how the present and future conflicts between countries and multi-national corporations over the world's precious resources (in this case, fertilizer) will impact our children's generation. All the more reason, in my opinion, why it's imperative that we as individuals take on more responsiblity for own personal (and sustainable) food production.

Should we be alarmed?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Our Daily Bread

bread making 2
I don't bake my own bread as often as I should. To be honest, I hadn't found that one recipe that would satisfy my taste for artisan-style bread, while at the same time, be easy enough to make on a regular basis. That has now changed with Peter Reinhart's Pain a l' Ancienne recipe, which I tried for the first time this past weekend.

bread making
Initially, I was quite skeptical as the recipe is relatively straight forward (I'm used to 12 step recipes that call for a lot of feeding, kneading, resting, punching and repeating). For this bread, you knead the dough for 5 minutes, refrigerate it straight away, let it rise for 2-3 hours the next day and then bake.

bread making 3
The end result is absolutely phenomenal. I would describe it as a cross between a traditional french baguette and a ciabatta. This bread is nutty, crispy, chewy and bubbly - all of the things love in a rustic loaf of bread. It also freezes really well.

If you're interested in making this bread, you can find the recipe in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. (It's online if you search hard enough.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Seeing Green

Last of the Tomatoes
This weekend, I went out and picked most of the green tomatoes that were still hanging on the vine. The weather is much colder now and I don't suspect that they would have lasted much longer unprotected. These will be left to ripen inside. I've started the slow process of ripping down my tomato plants but still have a ways to go. Anybody wanna come over and help? :)

Jonathan Carrots
On a side note, the winter carrots are coming along nicely. We decided to pick a few baby ones this morning to sample. They will steadily grow sweeter as the temperature drops.

Finally, I decided to opt out of this week's Harvest Monday, but will tally the numbers next week. I will, however, be admiring everyone else's.

First Frost Warning

Frost warning
There's a frost advisory for our area tonight - the first of the season. (Yikes!) I'm a bit caught off guard by it to be honest. I had it in my head for some reason that we wouldn't get one for a least another couple of weeks. Like last year, I had to work under the glow of our spotlight in order to cover several of my beds with fabric row cover. Part of me thinks that I'm overreacting as most of my fall crops are frost-resistant to a certain degree. However, I decided to play it safe anyway. (Mental note: I should probably harvest the bulk of my basil tomorrow to make pesto.)

I also moved all of my citrus trees to our covered porch. They generally do not require added protection unless the temperature drops below 32 degrees F.

To all of my Eastern Massachusetts gardeners - Slept tight! Hopefully all will be well in the morning!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Aerial View of the Fall Garden

aerial view of back yard
Taken from our 2nd floor bedroom window, I would call this a semi-aerial view of my garden. It's not that impressive is it? Nonetheless, I like to offer it as proof that you don't need that much space to grow a decent amount of food. All in all, I think I have about 1000 square feet of growing space, though I've never officially measured it. As you can see, the dogs have done quite a number on our grass. We desperately need to train them to do their business in the back end of the yard. I'm getting quite sick of looking at the dead patches.

Our next home would ideally be situated on 3 to 5 acres of land, with pretty of open space and a reasonable amount of woodlands. Most of my garden lies in part shade and I'm looking forward to the day when I grow all of my veggies in full sun. I'd like to plant a small orchard and have access to enough freshly-cut logs to grow my own shitake mushrooms. Hopefully, this will become a reality in 3 to 5 years. For the time being, I'll be focusing on whipping this space into shape.

morning glory 2
In other news, the Heavenly Blue morning glories are finally starting to flower. It hadn't been doing much of anything all summer long. I'm guessing that the lack of rain had something to do with that.

morning glory 3
I love these blooms. They only last a day or two but are magnificent to look at.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fall Alliums

fall leeks

At this point, I've rather tired of staring at the leeks in my garden. Having never grown them before, I'm particularly stuck by how slow-growing they are. Also, they are no where near the size of the monster leaks you see at the farmers market. I probably should have spaced them farther apart and applied more compost midway through the growing season. Oh well, that won't stop me from digging up a few of them to sample this weekend.

winter scallions and leeks

On the other hand, the winter scallions and leeks that I transplanted back in August are doing really well. The scallions are practically ready to harvest. For some reason, I had it in my head that they wouldn't be ready until at least November. Not that I'm complaining as the onions we picked earlier in the year are long gone.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Cold October Harvest

Late September Harvest
Boy, was it cold today - only reaching into the 50's F. And according to the forecast, it doesn't appear as though we'll be seeing warmer temperatures anytime soon. That being said, my tomato plants worked extra hard to produce a decent harvest this week, particularly the Amish Paste. I ended up making another batch of tomato sauce this weekend.

broccoli harvest
I was also able to pick a good amount of broccoli. So tasty, I wish I had grown more.

Early October Harvest
Yes...more tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and the biggest artichoke of this year.

Herbs and greens
I don't normally talk about the herbs that I harvest each week. Along with some lettuce, here I picked several types of Italian basil, Thai basil, oregano and mint. The oregano and Italian basil went in the tomato sauce while the Thai basil and mint ended up in a Vietnamese noodle salad I made for dinner.

napa cabbage
Finally, I picked my first head of Napa cabbage this week. This one was practically free of any slug damage. I wish I could say the same about the other two I have growing. Sluggo really works well...that is, if you can remember to reapply it every week or two.

This week's numbers:

Broccoli - 1.27 lb
Calabash ('Opo') Squash - 1.95 lb
Artichokes - 0.85 lb
Peppers - 0.70 lb
Napa Cabbage - 1.03 lb
Tomatoes - 25.22 lb
Tomatillos - 1.69 lb
Greens & herbs - 0.46 lb

Total Harvest this week - 33.17 lb
Total for this year so far - 655.07 lb

Friday, October 1, 2010


windy day
Boy is it windy today! This is what happens when you don't properly stake your kale plants. This morning, it feels more like August than October. I think Indian summer arrived early this year.

In case any of you are wondering, I had to return early from my Vermont trip. Driving to and fro (a total of 7 hours) in non-stop torrential rain was enough to convince me that I had picked a bad day to go on a road trip. Hopefully, we'll see some sunshine soon.