This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

photo shopped sunflower ...

sunflower 3

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

late summer fields

field
pink lace bee on yellow

The late summer always surprises me. Suddenly the fields change color - the greens turn to yellows and golds. The light and the air change. The days are getting shorter. Though the vegetable garden is certainly still growing and producing, the hot weather crops are winding down and the fall crops are growing.

I have had all sorts of big events this summer. Parties and family. Its gone by much too fast. But has been a wonderful summer.

In a few days school starts, and the fall business season will be busy.

But for this Labor Day weekend - the last summer weekend - I will enjoy the rich colors of the late summer fields and the rich flavors of the late summer garden.

community garden plot update

my plot

I missed going to my garden today with other activities to occupy us. I'm looking forward to a visit tomorrow.

I'm trying to water the garden well daily. We aren't getting much rain and I planted so many seeds earlier this week. I want to make sure they get a good start.

I have a nice crop of basil, ready to be harvested. It will make a good project for tomorrow. We'll cut it down, Pull off the leaves, process, then add olive oil pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and salt. It all goes into baggies and then into the freezer. Just in time. Our pesto from last year is running low. Here's our pesto recipe.

I also want to check on the beans. I have a few varieties of shell beans that have been looking pretty plump. Black Turtle soup, Tongue of Fire and Flagrano (French flageolet). These are new crops for me. It will be fun to experiment. I have been reading about shell beans:

In order to obtain fresh seeds the pods have to be harvested when well filled but still green. Only a few varieties of Phaseolus can be easily shelled at that point. They fall into the generic name of "horticultural beans" or "shelling beans" in America, are known as green-shell-beans. The Italian Borlotti (light & dark brown seed) and Cannellini (white seed) are probably the best known of this type around the world. To obtain semi-dried seeds the whole plant can be pulled up and hanged upside down in a shed to dry ( this will limit infection by diseases such as Anthracnose which could spoil a number of seeds on non resistant varieties ), and the pods picked when a dull green and feeling dry to the touch. If the plants are left in the ground the pod colour may be closer to gray rather than green and the harvest period for this specific purpose slightly reduced. Any seed past the semi-dry stage can be consumed dried so nothing is lost... except the colour and freshness. (copied from Univ. of Melbourne)


Fresh, shelled beans are good in soups, stews, and casseroles, but also delicious simply boiled until tender, and served with a little butter or olive oil, salt/pepper or herbs. (copied from OM Organics)



I also am enjoying the big cream colored marigolds. These are really nice for cutting.

And my big pumpkin and birdhouse gourd are ripening very fast. Who knows, maybe tomorrow will be the day for picking them.

red summer crisp

red summer crisp lettuce

This is the lettuce I have been growing this summer. Red Summer Crisp from Johnny's. It has grown slow in the heat, but has not bolted. A beautiful shade of dark red in full sun, light/brighter red underneath my tomato plants.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

making red sauce

sauce 1 sauce 2
sauce 3 sauce 4
sauce 5 sauce 6
sauce 7 sauce 9
sauce 10 sauce 11

With four big bowls full of ripe tomatoes on my counter, last night I made up a quick red sauce. This was the real quick version. Just chop, cook, remove skins, then freeze. Oh, and lick out the pan - it was VERY tasty! I think the mix of so many varieties made it taste so good.

tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
Skippy's vegetable recipes

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an evening run in the fields

skippy 1 skippy 2
skippy 3 skippy 5

more pictures of skip
slide show of skippy

Thursday, August 28, 2008

summer chiles

chiles

By far, my best chile this summer is a cayenne plant given to me by Amelia. It has been producing bright red spicy chiles for a couple weeks now. I'm looking forward to saving seeds from this plant, as Amelia did, and growing them again next year.

Of course, one of the reasons this plant did so well is that it got the front seat in my chile pots. The plants towards the back have had to compete with pumpkin, gourd, sunflower and dahlia leaves. Not so easy. And considering all the clouds and rain... I'm just glad to be enjoying some red hot chiles now.

The second best chile in my garden this year is are Anaheim. The yellow and purple bell's are coming along still. Poblano's had some trouble under the pumpkin leaves.

This week, we have enjoyed cayenne and Anaheims chopped and sauteed in chicken wings and local calamari. Yum! The flavor is super.

chile and bell peppers (Capsicum)
garden gifts

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summer sunlight

sunflower

Lyng's California Greystripe

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

baby pumpkin

baby pam pumpkin
My first pumpkin is ripe! This is a variety called Baby Pam. It weighs just under 2 lbs (same as that giant yellow squash behind it).

I've resorted to using my summer squash as decoration. I don't know how long they will last in the basket on my porch. I was amused to read this post by Soilman:

At this time of year, the house feels like a farm shop. There are vegetables everywhere.

The pattypan courgettes have gone berserk. We can’t keep up. So the traditional question, “What to do with courgettes?”, is upon us.

The traditional answers – chutney, frittata etc – just make me depressed. Been there, done that.

So sod it. I’m composting the buggers. And I feel totally liberated.


I may end up there too!

Pumpkin -- Cucurbitaceae spp.
Cucurbita pepo (squash)

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fall seedlings

fall seedlings
more fall seedlings baby broccoli
radish seedlings arugula seedlings

I have transplanted all my fall seedlings into the garden now. I started them in seed packs a few weeks ago. Mostly greens. Lettuce, endive, arugula, dill, spinach and broccoli. I have a mesclun mix. Also a fall greens mix that seems to have a lot of kale and other brassicas. I also sowed roots: radish, beets and carrots.

We're down to about 50 days left until frost! The 50 day crops include early carrots, small beets and broccoli. With luck, maybe I could still seed more of these. Lettuce greens are only about 30 days - plenty of time for more planting.

I'm may get ambitions and really push my luck by sowing some early peas (Sugar Sprint) and fast beans (Provider) today. These require 50-60 days. I had such a bad pea harvest this spring that it would be nice to try again. Who knows what the weather will bring!

Note added:

I did plant a lot more seeds today at my community plot. I filled up all the bare spots. Why not?

Here's the list:

August 27:
Beans, Provider
Peas, Alaska
Peas, Sugar Sprint
Carrots, Mokum
Radish, Multicolor
Broccoli, Green Goliath
Kale, Red Russian
Kale, Winterbore
Dill, Durkat
Fall Greens Mix (Sand Hill Preservation Center)
Lettuce, Big Boston
Lettuce, Four Seasons
Lettuce, Black-Seeded Simpson

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

cultivate your own - 100 reasons

100 reasons to grow a vegetable garden:

"Find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands, and the mouth."
-Lanza Del Vasto
To participate in one of the basic parts of living - producing your own food
Free food!
Reduce trips to the grocery store
To reduce pesticides and chemicals in your food
To experience the seasons
To increase vitamin D levels by regular sunlight exposure
To breath fresh air
For physical exercise that produces something tangible
To hear the birds singing
For the beauty of the plants
For the scents, colors and sounds of the garden
To create a work of art
To express yourself with straight even rows or wild tangled patches
A weight bearing activity that can increase bone density
Produce better quality food
To grow rare and heirloom varieties not available commercially
For a quiet break from high stress and electronic activities
For access to super local food
To put your yard into productive use
To beautify your yard
To help support honey bee and butterfly populations
So you can blog about it during downloads
To produce food you can share
To lower your food costs
So you can meet other gardeners
To know exactly where your food comes from
For a hobby your whole family can participate in
For real food
To support the green movement and reduce your global footprint
To eat more vegetables and less junk food
To play in the dirt
For geosmin, the musky smell of freshly turned soil
For sustainability as an ethical and practical way to live
To support biodiversity
For access to seasonal food
For minimally processed food
For the freshest and sweetest tomatoes
For giant dark red beets
Because enjoyment of the fruit is complete when one is "inextricably entwined with the memory of the plant in its various stages of development" KGI
For more sunlight
For lots of new crops to celebrate with a martini
For happiness
To remember my grandparents' and my parents' gardens and to grow and enjoy the plants they grew
To care for the earth, ourselves and others
To learn about nature
To experience the interconnectedness of our environment

I don't quite have a 100 reasons yet. Let me know your reasons. I'm sure we can reach at least 100!


links
Cultivate Greatness
Micheal Pollan's website
Belmont Community Supported Agriculture Blog
J. Ikerd papers
Kitchen Gardeners International

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Monday, August 25, 2008

big fat Oxheart carrots

carrots 3
carrots 1 carrots 5

I pulled the last of my spring crop of carrots. These are the big guys - Oxheart. They are very tasty. Round and fat like and orange. They make a very nice "chip" when sliced horizontally. I still have a big bagful of early carrots (Mokum), a more traditionally shaped and sweeter variety, in my fridge. I took out the bagful for a photo next to the newly pulled Oxhearts.

I planted a few more rows of carrots seeds for a fall crop a couple of weeks ago. They sprouted nicely, but I'm afraid I buried most of them while digging the potatoes. Oh well....

Daucus carota

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harvest of big beets

beet harvest
a beet in the hand chiooga beets
I just love great big, dark red beets. I pulled lots of them this weekend. The big dark ones are a variety called Lutz. They are recommended as good winter keepers. I expect they will sweeten as they keep. I'll save these in my basement in a paper bag along with my potatoes. I have planted a fall crop of these that I hope will grow in time before the frosts come. Even if they don't, I have plenty of beets!

The lighter colored beets at the right of the tray are Chiogga's. These are very sweet now and we are eating them as fast as we can. Sweet and pale reddish with very tender leaves.

beets (Beta vulgaris)
harvests from my vegetable gardens

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weekend potato harvest

potatoes in a box
With a bit of help from my 15 year old son, I harvested a nice box full of potatoes on Saturday. I suppose if we were a bit more careful we wouldn't have pierced so many of them with the digging fork. We did our best.

I have mostly white fingerling potatoes, but also some big Russets and reds. They are delicious now - crisp new potatoes. I'll hang these in a paper bag from the rafters in the basement. I think they will last us a few months. A good harvest. Next year, I'd like to grow a few more large Russets. They are delicious.

potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)
harvests from my vegetable gardens

Saturday, August 23, 2008

garden work day

Or should I say 'garden fun day'. I love a Saturday when I can recruit help from my family in the garden.

Today's plan:
Pull beets and find a place to store them (I need a root cellar)
Ditto with carrots
Dig potatoes - this will be a big job as there are a lot of spuds down there
Transplant fall greens seedlings into the newly cleared beet, carrot and potato beds
Water the garden (first time in a month!)
Tie up the tomato vines in my home garden
Make a batch of tomato sauce with the pile of ripe ones I have waiting
Grate and freeze the giant summer squashes

Garden notes:
Gourd: The big birdhouse gourd vine that was growing up my window screen fell down today. I guess the gourd got too big for the tendrils to hold it up. Now the sun is pouring in the window and I miss the shade, flowers and bees as I work at my computer. I have another big gourd at the community plot on my fence and this one is able to hold on better.

Pumpkins: I picked my first pumpkin yesterday. A bright orange Baby Pam about 6 inches diameter and perfectly round. It grew in the pumpkin, gourd and sunflower patch next to my house. Maybe 3 lbs or so. The giant pumpkin at my community plot must be 20 lbs by now. It just started to show some orange color yesterday. I have a new giant pumpkin trying to set fruit in my home pumpkin patch. Maybe it will make it. I am watching.

Summer squash: This year I have almost too many summer squash, but so far I'm able to keep up with using them. I give many away to friends, in particular Elaine who often serves dinner to her church group and they seem to love fresh squash. Also, my husband brings them to the office where he says they disappear fast. I have four varieties, two plants each. I will remember not to plant more than this ever.

Kale: I have begun picking my spring planting of kale this past week. Not sure why I waited so long. Wasn't sure I liked it and it is very pretty to look at in the garden. In any case, delicious. I pick the upper young leaves. Lots of them. Excellent sautéed with potatoes, onions and choricho!

Broccoli: I STILL have new heads forming on my spring broccoli plants. The smaller ones that didn't head up earlier are heading now. Nice big heads. A great crop this year.

Lettuce: I resorted to buying a head of a beautiful red Boston lettuce at the store this week. My garden lettuce is still in its summer slump. I have a lot of summer crisp Batavian growing, but it seems to grow slow. I'll have to start this earlier next year. It seems like this holds well in the heat but doesn't necessarily grow well. I also have lots of little seedlings of col weather lettuce and greens ready for transplanting this weekend.

Skippy and the squash pile

skippy and the squash pile
harvest squash pile

Cucurbita pepo (squash)

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Friday, August 22, 2008

cheers to another Friday night!

martini 1

Cheers! We had my giant carrots in our martinis tonight.

Daucus carota

Topic: martini!

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new potato and summer squash casserole

Copy of IMG_8229

This is a fantastic casserole that I have made a few times now. Its a recipe I made up myself to use the abundant items in my refrigerator. I could eat it every night!

Prepare:
Freshly dug potatoes, any variety, washed and sliced thin (about 1/8 inch)
Summer squash, I like to use mostly yellow varieties, sliced about 1/4-1/2 inch

Layer into a baking dish:
potato slices
squash slices
salt and pepper
butter slices
repeat layers until all vegetables are used (or dish is full...)

Top with:
Grated mild melting cheese about 1/2 cup (gouda, jack or mozzarella)
Fresh bread crumbs (a good thick layer)
Grated parmigiana cheese
Salt and pepper

Add:
Milk (I use skim). Pour this into the side of the casserole dish until it reaches half way up the side.

Bake:
At 375 until its done. About 30 minutes. You can microwave it a bit first to speed up the cooking.

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the best meal ever ....

appetizers Copy of IMG_8223
Copy (2) of IMG_8221 birthday cake

... well, I have been having lots of good meals this summer, but this one was exceptional. My family was here. With picture perfect weather, we all harvested vegetables at my garden, made the food together and then enjoyed it together outside on the patio.


Menu

cheeses, olives and breads - white, wheat and zucchini
freshly steamed garden edamame
giant carrot slices
St Supery Virtu Meritage White 2006

rotisserie duck and game hens on the grill
new potato and summer squash casserole
green beans
heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella and basil
St Supery Cabernet Sauvignon

birthday cake
capucino


Tonight I picked up a copy of Micheal Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and I have to admit, that rather than starting at the beginning, I skipped right to the last chapter and read about his Perfect Meal. It reminded me of my Birthday Meal. Awesome.

I'm not sure I want to read about all of the other types of unpleasant food in the earlier chapters of the book. But I will. And by the way, I just finished reading his most recent book "In Defense of Food". I highly recommend this excellent book!


my back patio

more tomato pictures

giant belgians on the vine
These are Giant Belgian tomatoes ripening on the vines in my side yard.
green tomangos pink beauty
These are green Tomango and Pink Beauty tomatoes.

tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

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Skippy is in a gardening catalog - but I never new this

Last week, this advertisement at a small on-line vegetable gardening store was brought to my attention by a reader of this blog. http://www.tastefulgarden.com/store/pc/viewContent.asp?idpage=36 Hmm. There's Skippy, and there's my garden. The photos are from my blog in June 2006. Funny no one contacted me the ask about using these photos.

So I've been looking into copyright issues and blogs. Here's a good site with lots of information: Internet and the Law at Web Developer's. This is a quote from Thomas G. Field, Jr. from the same page:

Copyright arises automatically once an original effort has been started and some aspect of it has been fixed in a tangible medium. One need not even have notice on published copies. Registration is required only if legal action is warranted (and the work originates in the U.S. — ...


I've seen copyright notices on other gardening blogs and it seems to me they clutter up the site and distract from gardening. Nevertheless, I have now added a notice to my sidebar.

I suppose this happens to other blogs too. I'm interested to hear any stories of yours. Drop a comment below. I wonder if other sites are using my photos?

Of course, I'm thrilled if other blogs use my photos and refer or link to my blog. Also if you print or otherwise copy my work for your own personal purposes. The bottom line is : Please don't use my photos or text for commercial purposes without my permission!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

sliced and yummy

Copy of IMG_8205

This is a Brandywine. I took photos of a Giant Belgian tonight and hope to post them soon. This second variety is a new one for me and very much like a Brandywine but even meatier and bigger. I think I will list these two as my favorites, though neither produces many tomatoes. Quality, not quantity....

tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

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tomatoes

tomatoes 1
tomatoes 5 tomato 4
tomato  1 tomato 3
tomatoes 3

Time to celebrate the beauty of tomatoes! Right now they are in abundance.

I have a number of different kinds of heirloom and hybrid varieties of all different colors and sizes. My favorite are the Brandywine and Giant Belgian, which are very similar. The Beefsteak are delicious and prolific too.

My earliest tomato by far this year was Orange Blossom.

The consensus around here is that this year has been a very bad year for tomatoes. Much too much rain. Even the best gardeners at my community garden say they have only half the normal crop.

My tomato plants are about 75% defoliated from leaf spot now. Spindly, bare stems with tomatoes hanging on them.

tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

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