Saturday, December 29, 2007

my garden

garden aerial
Here's an aerial view of my side-yard vegetable garden today. Still half a foot of snow. Rain today, but more snow is in the forecast.

aerial views of my home vegetable garden

Friday, December 28, 2007

Florida souvenirs

This box is filled with my Florida souvenirs. As I suspected, my own garden is still covered with snow. As I plan for next year's garden, I'll enjoy these fruits from Florida. Two avocados, seven grapefruits and a lemon.

backyard grapefruit

grapefruit tree grapefruit
My little sister planted a grapefruit seed about 30 years ago. Now it is the most fantastic tree in the backyard of my parents' Florida house. Thirty feet tall and every year filled with juicy Florida sunshine. Too many to even count.

What is it about growing food in your own backyard that is sooo satisfying? It tastes delicious and is just there for the picking.

avocado flowers are unique

Here's a bit of avocado biology: Avocado flowers are the only flowers with separate male and female phases!

Each flower opens first as a female and then the next day as a male. On top of this unusual feature, there are two types of avocado trees with different timing of the flowers: A-type trees open their female flowers in the morning and these flowers reopen as males in the afternoon. B-type trees open their female flowers in the afternoon and then their male flowers the following morning. Since fruiting requires cross-pollination, it helps to have both phases. (UCLA Agriculture avocado information)

My parents have three avocado trees in their backyard in Florida. One never bears any fruit. The other two are large trees that bear delicious harvests. Maybe the trees are different phases?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas guacamole!

harvest more slices
avacados avocado
Its the middle of winter and there is lots of produce in my parents Florida garden. Three avocados fell from the tree today and made a delicious guacamole. My recipe: avocado, garlic lime and a little salt. Add chips and beer!

Skippy's vegetable recipes

Saturday, December 22, 2007

winter solstice

On the darkest day of the year, I have to admit that I have gone South.

Sat., Dec. 22, 2007, 1:08 A.M. EST (06:08 UT), marks the solstice—the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

I am now almost midway between Boston and the equator in Naples Florida, visiting my parents for Christmas. Quite a contrast in weather and sunlight. 40 degrees warmer, almost two hours more sunlight and NO SNOW!

Boston, Massachusetts latitude N42.3, daylight 7:10am-4:15pm
Naples, Florida latitude N26.1, daylight 7:11am-5:41pm

Below are pictures I took yesterday, back in the frozen Northland where snow seemed to fall all of December. I bet its 2 feet deep in our yard.
backyard under snow skippy snow

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

best of 2007

2007 garden
Since the weather is SOOOOO bleak, I have put together a composite of my favorite photos from 2007. I won't complain about the horrible nasty, lousy weather here. I'll complain later. (Cold, dark, miserable...)

It certainly was a good summer. Lots of nice vegetables and flowers. My tomatoes were wonderful. Also my edamame (soybeans) were super. Green beans and peas were nice, as were my cukes, chili peppers, and soup peas. I enjoyed watching for honey bees, though I did not spot many. (A few in the late summer.) I enjoyed watching the birds working in my garden. Several types nested nearby, including sparrows and robins. Maybe next year we can accommodate the house wrens too.

Next year, my big plans are for a couple chickens and maybe a rain barrel or two in my home garden. Plus. I look forward to starting a new plot at the local community garden. I hope I will be assigned a BIG SUNNY plot. Here's hoping. The kind of hope and excitement that gets us Northerners through the lousy weather.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

more snow

snow 5
snow 1 snow 3
I shoveled a path out to the garden this morning. Last night we got several more inches of snow for a total of 16 inches! Amazing. I have plans to harvest some kale soon for another batch of soup. With the path, at least I can get out to the kale patch.

Friday, December 14, 2007

snow puppy

wading through the snow
10 inches is a lot of snow! I think maybe I'll just stay inside for the rest of the winter...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

planning for next year

plan 10001
Since we are snowed-in tonight, I am starting to plan my garden for next year. This is a list of what I planted from seed this year and how it did. Also, whether I would like to plant the crop again next year and in which garden.

I also was very lucky to hear from Gretta Anderson, the farmer at our local CSA, of her favorite varieties this year. (Thanks!)

These are Gretta's favorites:
lettuce - summer crisp/batavian is the only thing that grows in the heat of summer, tastes great too.
lettuce -Crispino (Fedco I think), excellent tasting iceberg. Really not for production farming in the NE; needs steady water, long time to harvest .... but gets nice and big and is very tasty!
lettuce - Boston "Ermosa" from Johnny's does well all season
beets - chiogga and golden varieties nice for home garden variety (golden just doesn't germinate well)tomatoes -Ox heart is excellent paste tomato
Purple calabash - 'great taste'
Pink Beauty - excellent, tastes like an heirloom, super productive
White cherry (Fedco?) - I'm not sure if this is the name of the variety or the color of the cherry tom. Folks who grow it say it's better than sungold variety. (how can anything be better than sungold?)
eggplant - Fairy Tale - excellent taste, no bitterness. slow to harvest, which makes it not so good for a market garden, but fine for a home garden
cucumbers - sweet success "quality is awesome"

I'm looking forward to trying as many of these varieties as I can find space for.

The next thing I'll do is put together plot plans for both gardens. Then the seed orders.


more snow!!!

wreath with snow
Well, its starting out to be a wild winter. Last year we had almost no snow. In fact, snow before Christmas is fairly infrequent near Boston. The map below shows the frequency of snow depths in the US of at least 1 inch on December 25th.

In the Boston area, its less than a 50-50 chance that we'll have snow on Christmas Day. So far this year we've had lots of ice and snow. The storm today gave us about 10 inches! That's on top of last week's 3 inches. And a Nor'Easter is forecast for the weekend. Oh my.

Its a good thing Skippy enjoys the snow.
its snowing

Monday, December 10, 2007

google broccoli

google broccoli
I couldn't resist comparing the new Google image of my neighborhood with a nice brassica crop. The new satellite images were taken early in 2007, probably March it looks like to me. Definitely early in the morning - about 7 am. My vegetable garden is that big dark shady spot to the west of the largest head of broccoli. This really makes me look forward to my new sunny community garden plot!!


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Belmont CSA mid-winter veggies

Its getting pretty cold for northern vegetable gardens. But, even under several inches of snow, there are veggies growing. Skippy and I took a walk over to the Belmont CSA garden, a mile from our house and grown by Gretta Anderson.
broccoli head
I wish I had such beautiful vegetables. She has very nice heads of broccoli - probably her second harvest of this row. I planted mine too late this year and will remember that next year. This broccoli hardly seems to notice the snow.

I'm not sure what's under the row covers. Any guesses? Escarole? Along with several long rows of broccolis and the covered mystery crop, Gretta also has a several nice long rows of a purple kale (winterbor, the hardiest variety). When I took this photo, she had just harvested this crop for a winter share distribution.

row covers brocolli row
A gaggle of Canada geese were out in the front garden, where a cover crop was growing in a corn field. They saw Skippy from a distance and, with much commotion, took to wing. Skippy's reputation precedes him among the local water fowl. I guess they didn't notice I had him on a short leash.

kale geese 1
It was a lovely, warm winter day today. A clear blue sky. Its unusual for us to have snow so early in December. It makes it feel festive - like an early Christmas.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

super kale soup

I planted this kale early last spring. It was bitter when tasted it in September. Not now. It made one of the best bowls of soup I've ever had.
01 garden kale
We've had several good cold nights now, which helps improve the flavor of kale. Today, at 25F, as our first serious snow started to fall, I picked a big bunch. Since I also had some nice dried beans from my summer garden, I opened my Portuguese kale soup recipe.
03 kale 2 08 beans
Back in September and October, when these beans ripened, I didn't have time to do anything with them. I threw them in a bowl, put it in the basement and forgot about them. Now they are beautifully dried. I shelled both "tongues of fire" cranberry horticultural beans and green beans "Provider " and "Maxibel".
10 shelled beans
12 kale by the stove 16 bowl of kale soup
My Portuguese kale soup recipe is from my favorite vegetable cookbook: The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marion Morash
Portuguese Kale Soup
1 lb kale (6-8 cups)
1 lb potatoes
1 lb smoked sausage (kielbasa, linguica or chorizo)
--(I used local keilbasa from Stillman's Turkey Farm)
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
4 garlic cloves
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
2 qt water or broth
2 c peeled, chopped and seeded tomatoes
1 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans
salt and pepper

Strip leaves from washed kale. Cut diagonally into wide slices. Wash, peel and chop potatoes. Cut sausage into slices, cook and drain fat. In soup pot, saute onions, carrots and garlic in oil and butter, until softened - about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and broth. Simmer partially covered 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Stir in tomatoes and beans. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Add kale and sausage then cook 5-10 minutes. Season to taste.
14 kale soup
17 kale soup 18 yumm
I do have to comment on how delicious the beans were. These were very easy to grow and are so yummy in soup. Beans are a really good source of home grown protein.

potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)
Skippy's vegetable recipes

Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)

kale soup

Two superlatives. Tonight may be one of the most beautiful nights of the year. And tonight I made the best soup I have ever tasted! Garden kale, 'Tongues of Fire" dried beans, my frozen garden tomatoes and local keilbasa. Yummm!!

(more soon)
Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)

Friday, November 30, 2007


Skippy's getting his long winter coat now. Good timing.

That's the last of my garden parsley in front of him. The kale is to his left - and is just about ready for a good bowl of Portuguese kale soup. Yummy. That's about all thats still edible in my garden now. This past week I harvested the beets and escarole. The frozen peas are just above Skippy's head. They bloomed, but didn't produce any peas before the temperature fell. The chard and broccoli also froze before producing a harvest. I'll keep this timing in mind for next years plantings.

more pictures of skip
posts about Skippy

serious snow already ???

Our weather forecast is a little hard to believe right now. Six inches of snow are predicted for Sunday night. Its only early December. We didn't get that much snow all winter last year. Well, we'll see if it really comes and how long it lasts.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

escarole and garden planning

escarole 1
escarole 3 escarole 2
Its gotten to be the time of year when I'd rather not go out to the garden. Too cold. With temperatures in the 20s and snow predicted for the coming weekend, today I picked the last of my escarole. Its been a good crop.

Since I'm not gardening, it must be time for planning next year's garden. I've been looking forward to this. First I'll put together a list of what I grew this year - what did well and what did not. I need to decide what crops I want to grow again and what I want to give up on. Then I'll draw out where I'll plant what next year - diagrams of BOTH of my gardens. I'll guess that I'll have a new SUNNY plot that will be 15 x 20 ft. I usually try to wait until Jan 1 to start planning, but why wait? I think I'll start planning on Nov 30 this year. That's exciting!