Monday, October 31, 2016

today's harvest

harvest - lettuce IMG_6111 I'm tallying the proportion of my family's vegetables that I grow myself. I'm doing it by weight - this is just over 0.5 lb of lettuce. I don't think the lettuce is really worth keeping track of, but I'll add it in anyway. I picked a half lb of small peppers yesterday to add too.

Garden grown: 222 lbs - Store bought: 98 lbs
Proportion of home grown: still 69%

Sunday, October 30, 2016

suzie and charley

charley IMG_5942

Charley is keeping me pretty busy. He loves being in the vegetable garden and quickly found the little lettuce plants. He thinks they taste very good.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Our new puppy, Charley, comes home tomorrow!

tallying my homegrown versus store bought vegetables

I've weighed all the vegetables and fruits in our house now and here's what I've come up with:

Garden grown: 221 lbs Store bought: 98 lbs
Proportion of home grown: 69%

Wow. I had no idea. This includes 34 lbs of my winter squash, 19 lbs potatoes, 11 qts canned tomatoes, 75 pints of other canned fruits or vegetables and 24 lbs of fresh tomatoes ripening on my counter.

I'll put the tally on my sidebar. I'll keep track as we buy and grow for a year. I know the percentage will dip in winter, them come back up in spring. If I get some fruit this year, that would really help increase my homegrown percentage.

weighing produce IMG_8844

how much of my family's vegetables do I grow?

I write in my header for this blog that my goal is to grow all of my family's vegetables. I never actually figured out what amount I do grow and if I am getting better - or worse...

In my Gardening class yesterday, Roger Swain said that NE grows only about 7% of our local food and the rest we import from elsewhere. We have so much land we could use, but we don't. He said home gardeners don't really contribute a significant amount - and we could. In 1944, the big home food production year to allow US resources to be allocated to the war, nationwide we produced 40% of our food. And that's not only vegetables - that's all of our food.

Why grow our own food at home? One point Roger spoke about is that it's better for the land. We have a lot of open untended land overgrown with invasive plants, weeds - not healthy habitat. We could use this land. sustainable gardening will improve the soils and control the invasive plants.

Another point is that it's better for people. We get any food we want now - asparagus all year long, shipped in from who knows where. Does it taste good? How much fuel was used to transport it? How many laborers did a backbreaking job to harvest it? Traditionally people in NE ate local asparagus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, fresh from their backyard, their own variety, for 3 or 4 weeks in the spring - or until they could eat anymore of it. Then they ate lettuce and peas. A seasonal diet that made us part of the land and the seasons. Has this made us less connected to the land, less aware of or cared about environmental changes that are happening?

Well, this puts into words my feelings and my interest in growing my family's vegetables. I have a sense that it's better or the land, better for our health, and better for our relationship with the land.

So, lot's of words. But I'm going to try to figure out and keep track of how much of my family 's vegetables I am actually growing.

To start, I'm weighing all of the vegetable items in my house now: fresh, canned, dried, and frozen. Then, in the future, I'll weigh the amount of vegetables that we bring in to the house. I know if will change over the year. I'm probably at a peak right now with lot's of stored potatoes, squash, canned tomatoes, etc. But I'll go ahead and start here. By Oct 27 of next year, I'll get a number across all the seasons.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

true black brandywine tomato

true black brandywine IMG_8438

My favorite slicing tomato this year is definitely the True Black Brandywine. It's a beautiful fruit. More productive than my regular Brandywines. And it tastes incredibly good. Either just plain, or with mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. Or layered on top of an eggplant with cheese, basil and olive oil then broiled to tenderness.

This tomato is sold by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I don't think it's really black - it has dark green shoulders. Dark green shoulders are the result of a gene that prevents the breakdown of chlorophyll, a process that normally happens and allows a green tomato to ripen to red. If some chlorophyll stays intact, the combination of red and green makes a dark green, purple or "black" color. Anyway, that's the biology of it... Whatever the reason, it's a great tomato.

true black brandywine IMG_8458

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

update - October has been keeping me busy

Oh gee, I meant to post regularly and here again, I've gone a long time without posting. So much is going on. (I'll fill in some back posts soon.)

I've been getting good harvests regularly, still. Lot's of lettuce. Also beans, summer squash, and peppers. All the green tomatoes I picked two weeks ago (thinking we were getting a hard frost), are on my kitchen counter and rapidly ripening. I make sauce every time I get a bowlful of ripe ones. We use that in a few days, or freeze it.

With all my beans, I've canned two batches of pickled three bean salad. A recipe that we love. I now have a pantry full of this, mixed vegetable pickles, sandwich dill pickles, and tomatoes in all different forms: salsa, Rotel-style, crushed and pizza sauce.

My Master Gardener class is coming to an end soon. I finished up my final exam today. All my homework and the 60 hours of gardening volunteer time are done. I'll miss the great classes. Our final class is tomorrow and it's on ... VEGETABLES!! Yeah. We have a treat - Roger Swain (TV host of "The Victory Garden" show) will talk to us from 9 am to 3 pm!!! I have been looking forward to this since the class started back in April. I'm told he's "a hoot". (I don't know how I'll be able to sleep tonight.)

I've been putting a lot of time into my community plot. I've stepped down as the Coordinator as of the end of this year and with my extra time I want to do a really nice job on my plot next year. I cleaned out all the summer debris, made a second compost bin, and leveled the soil in all the beds. Some of my raised beds, made 6 or 7 years ago out of untreated pine, are rotting and falling apart. I removed the wood and made raised areas with paths between. I planted 60 cloves of garlic in one bed and planted the rest with winter rye. It looks very well tended.

I've been working to make sure we have a smooth transition to new leadership at our community garden. I was so happy that many gardeners have stepped up to participate in leadership. Our new management will be a committee of 7 gardeners (including me). I think a committee will be so much better than just one person. I am very pleased.

I've been spending time with Suzie. We both miss Skippy. Suzie completed an obedience class yesterday. She is very smart and very motivated. It's fun to do classes with her. We've gone on long walks and just relaxed and hung out together.

I've been watching TV - who can avoid watching presidential politics this year!!

But best - I'm getting ready for my puppy who is coming this Saturday! Charley. I can't wait. I have been puppy-proofing our house, assembling comfy crates, re-reading puppy training info, and visiting him every couple weeks. Last week I helped the breeder bathe all 6 pups in Charley's litter. I'm sure I'll have a million puppy photos to share soon.

today's harvest

harvest IMG_8805

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

my garden in fall IMG_5903

The leaves on the beech trees in my back yard have turned to gold. The sun is rising and shining on them. My garden is still shaded in the lower left corner of the photo. It'll get sun soon.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

today's garden work

We haven't had a frost yet in my backyard garden, though many locations around us have frosted. Today I got a lot done:

- picked a big pile of beans, then pulled up and composted a row that is finished
- picked the last of my green tomatoes and peppers - we tried to pick them all a couple days ago when a frost threatened, but seems we didn't get all of them in the dark with our flashlights
- harvested a watermelon, zucchinis, one tiny cucumber, and a couple small eggplants
- thinned four rows of carrots (we'll have baby carrots for dinner tomorrow) and a couple of bulb fennel
- pulled up gourd and watermelon vines - into the compost bin
- not really garden work, but we roasted, peeled, and froze many chili peppers - also started drying down many small hot chilis - the garage smells quite pungent from the chilis in my dehydrator

Tomorrow: I'll plant garlic at my community plot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

the Topsfield fair - giant pumpkin!

topfield fair IMG_8579
topfield fair IMG_8596 topfield fair IMG_8575
topfield fair IMG_8588 topfield fair IMG_8581

topsfield fair IMG_8557

I went to the big fall fair in our area last Saturday - the Topsfield Fair. It's THE place to see displays of local produce. Especially the biggest pumpkin in the area (why do people grow these?). I walked around and enjoyed the smell of fired dough and roasted sausages. I looked at the leather and sliver jewellery sale booths. I used to go to all the rides and games booths, but skipped them this year. Already big crowds, even early in the morning.

Best, I went to the vegetable and honey displays. I've gone here yearly for the last 20 or 30 years (maybe more?) and love these. I liked the white patty pan squash, the warted pumpkins, the big garlic heads, and the beautiful jars of honey. I waited in line to photograph the giant pumpkin. OMG - 2,075.5 lbs!

Monday, October 10, 2016

how I make and use pole and string tomato supports

tomato supports IMG_5821
tomato supports IMG_5878

The season is fading and I can see my garden structures again. My husband designed these tomato supports for me and I've used then probably 10 years now. I used to make tepees out of 10-ft 1x1 inch poles. That worked OK, but poles and string are less work, support the vines better, and give better air flow. Here's what I do to set up and use pole and string tomato supports.

Side support materials:
Two 5-ft metal fence poles
Two 8-ft wood posts, 2x3 in, with a hole in the top that fits the cross pole that will be used
Post driver
Zip ties

Cross pole:
One 10-ft metal pipe (copper or galvanized)

Tomato support materials:
Twine and scissors

Setting up the supports:
First, I firmly pound the fence poles into the soil using the post driver. I place them about 9-ft from each other, so the metal cross pole will be well supported and there will be a bit of overhang. Then to each fence pole I attach the wood post with the hole in the top making sure that the holes are set up so the pole can go through them. I used to attach them with screws and bolts, but I've gotten lazy and just use zip ties now. Once the end posts are up and are very solid in the ground, I run the long metal pipe through the holes at the top.

Supporting a tomato vine:
Space plants about 12 inches apart. I usually plant 5 tomato plants below each 10-ft pole. Lay out and plant the seedlings with even spacing. While they are still small seedlings, I usually support the plants by tying them to small sticks. When the plants are about 1-2 ft high, I tie them to the top pole. To do this: I run out enough twine to go from the ground, up and over the pole, and then down to the ground again. Add some extra. I spiral the two pieces of twine around the plant down to it's base then tie it to the stem. To tie it, I choose a sturdy location of the stem, preferably below the lowest leaf. Tie a bow knot in the two strands of twine to hold them together. Then use the two ends to wrap around the tomato stem a few times and secure them with a double knot. That's it. Repeat this for all of the plants.

Caring for the vines:
For plants on pole supports, it's best to pick off suckers so the vines stay tall and don't grow into adjacent plants. I gradually remove the bottom leaves as they turn yellow. This gives the plants more airflow. It's best to water from below and keep water off the leaves to reduce the spread of fungal diseases. As the vines grow, wind them with the string. Check on the tie at the bottom of the plant. If it becomes constricting, replace it with a looser knot. Sometimes a second string is need for extra support of the vine if you have a particularly heavy crop of fruit.

tomato supports IMG_5882 tomato supports IMG_5880

frost predicted

Right on schedule - Oct 10 - a frost is predicted tonight. I thought it would be late this year, but no, right on time.

In the dusk, my husband and I picked all my green tomatoes and peppers, plus a few squash, watermelons, zucchinis, and one eggplant. We covered the beans and lettuce with row covers. It doesn't seem cold enough for a frost to me, but it's predicted so we'll see.

My counters are covered with baskets! Peppers are in a trug on the floor. We'll roast and freeze them this weekend. Not sure yet what I'll do with the green tomatoes. In the past I've just saved them and all ripen up eventually. They give me a "fresh?" garden tomato salad for Thanksgiving usually.

baskets of green tomatoes IMG_8609

garlic sources for planting

I've been asked me where I buy garlic and for other sources so I thought I'd post this list again. I posted it last October too.

Here's the list of garlic seed sources that people have recommended in response to my post a few days ago. They look awesome! I can't wait to try out some. If you have a source you like, let me know and I'll add it.

Pacific Northwest: Filaree Garlic Farm - So many! This source was seconded and thirded! Washington State Adaptive Seeds: Good selection, also grey shallots, free shipping over $50. Oregon Territorial Seeds: Oregon

Colorado: The Garlic Store Potato Garden

New England: Fedco bulbs division: Maine. Ordering deadline is early September. High Mowing Organic Seeds: Vermont Green Mountain Garlic: Vermont

Everywhere: A garlic festival: Four are in the New England/New York area Local farmer's market: no shipping charge, varieties that do well in your area Costco: Bulbs from California

I have to add that it's a good investment to buy good garlic seed. I replant my cloves for many years. About 10% of my harvest, my biggest heads, get replanted every year. I've gone 10 years without buying garlic, just replanting my own. Occasionally there's a bad crop (like I had two years ago) and I have to buy more. So starting with good healthy seed garlic gets you off to a good start. E

And every year you replant your best garlic you are selecting seed that is best for your garden and developing a strain of garlic that is best suited to your growing conditions.

I am planing to plant my garlic this weekend. This year - with LOTS of compost! So I don't get another harvest of tiny little heads. (Lots of compost like my Mom's garlic bed. You should see how big her heads are!)

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Suzie by my garden

suzie IMG_8507

The garden is still producing lot's. So many peppers and beans. I made a couple batches of bean pickles and am planting to roast and freeze peppers soon. My pepper plants are taller than me and all tangled together with the tomato vines. I love searching through them (deep in the vegetable garden jungle) for fruits. My fall salad greens, planted late, are coming along. Tomatoes aren't ripening fast any more but still many of green ones on the vines. My average first frost is tomorrow. I guess it will be late this year.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

here's Charley

Charley IMG_8483

Charley is the new puppy we are getting. He was born Aug 26 - the day Skippy died :-( Charley is beautiful. He's little right now, born a week prematurely, but growing fast. The breeder can tell he'll have long legs and a long body. I'd like a big dog - like Skippy was. We plan to bring him home Friday October 28. He'll be 9 weeks old then.

Charley IMG_8474 Charley IMG_8480 Charley IMG_8499 Charley IMG_8502

The breeder calls our pup Inky. He is black as ink with a very silky coat. I don't know - we prefer to call him Charley. I'm a Steinbeck fan and he had a dog named Charley.

I'm sure Suzie will love him. It will be nice for her to have another dog for company again.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

a weekend of rain

It's raining. All day today and more tomorrow. it rained several days last week too. We are feeling lucky that we got our lawn over seeded, aerated, and limed just in time. We also had a big magnolia tree planted for us in the front yard. The rain is good for both of these. I hope it will fill up our reservoirs.

I keep hearing the Mellencamp song in my head "Someday the rains will come, when you expect it least...". I guess they are here. But I think the rain in that song was an analogy. Not neccearliy meaning rain that's coming when you least expect it. I still miss Skippy. I did not expect to lose him so abruptly. But time moves forward.

Suzie is doing well. We're giving her double attention. She's doing "Suzie school", an obedience class that she excels at and loves. Walks in the woods. Special dinners. Playtimes on the floor with special toys. I have some pictures of her that I will post soon. She has learned to pose for the camera - like Skippy did. It just took a few treats. Now she loves to pose. And she is very pretty.

I canned garden vegetables all day today. I'll show photos of them and my new pantry soon. It's filling up. I love all the preserved pickles, jams, squashes, potatoes, and honey.

We have some news of a new addition to our family. I am very much looking forward to our new puppy. On about Nov 1, we will bring him home. I've been to see him a couple times. I'll post some photos soon. Charley. He's a Portuguese water dog from the same lineage and breeder as Skippy and Suzie. Deep black, silky fur. A spot of white on his chin and a big splash of white on his chest. He's a great little pup and I look forward to being with him.