Sunflowers

Our sunflowers have been very productive this year! The heads are drooping under their weight, and our tallest one comes in at about 10′ 4″.

A very happy bee.

This one is almost ready for drying. We’ll have to keep an eye on it and claim it before the birds do!

I’m only 5’4″ – it’s fun to know the tallest one is almost TWICE my height!!

Blueberries, Pickels, and Wine

After a long break, I’m slowly making my way back to this blog. This spring was pretty crazy with a lot of personal life changes. There was some family issues, a much needed job change, a well deserved vacation, a lot of gardening, and now, things are slowly quieting down. We’ve been keeping ourselves busy with all kinds of projects since April!

A family weekend of tilling and planting everything from seed this year while has worked out a lot better than transplanting.


Two months into planting from seed, everything is looking amazing. The only problems that we are having at the moment are pumpkin arms going everywhere and the potatoes seem to have a little early blight issues.


We picked out first cukes today and they are amazing! These are supposed to be pickling cukes but they got forgotten under all the leaves and got a little bigger. It’s okay though, they still taste amazing! We’ve also been eating fresh green beans and Swiss chard.


My husband has been experimenting with making local fruit wines. This is our first 5 gallon batch of strawberry. Next up will be peach and then apple. 🙂 I can’t wait to try it!

We’ve been doing plenty of picking on our weekends. We’ve got several quarts of strawberries put away and now we’re working on blueberries. What a year for blueberries! They are so large, sweet, and plentiful this year! At $2 a pound, we got about 3 quarts for $7. They made some awesome muffins! Oh! Yes, I’ll have to post that recipe! How can you resist “healthy” muffins?


And as of today, we have been trying our hand at making pickles. Today it was traditional bread and butter pickles. We even have a fancy crinkle cutter which really makes these guys look like the real deal.

Winter Garden Planning

It’s the middle of winter, but I have spring greens on the brain. I can’t stop thinking about that newly tilled and expanded garden sitting under that layer of snow.

That fresh  upturned soil, I can’t wait to dig into it. Anyone want to share their choices for their garden this year? This is what we’re thinking of:
Veggies-
     String beans- “Provider” (new to us)
     Dry beans- “Jacob’s Cattle” (new to us)
     Carrots- “Danvers”
     Swiss Chard- “Ruby Red”
     Cucumbers- “National Pickling”
     Potatoes- “Red Norland” (new to us)
     Pumpkins- “New England Pie” (new to us)
     Turnip- “Joan Rutabaga”
Herbs-
     Basil
     Cilantro
     Oregano
Flowers-
     Purple Coneflower (new to us)
     Sunflowers

It looks like we’re trying a lot of new stuff this year, but we’re keeping all the successful crops from last year and replacing the not so lucky crops with the new guys. Plus, we have a lot more room than last year and look forward to working with more.

Team Violette-Giroux hard at work this past fall. I think they probably doubled the size of last year’s plot. You can see we don’t have a lot of space to work with (the large fields are not ours) but it’s more than what some people have, so we are working to make the best of it. Our first year was a rough one, but it hasn’t scared us away!

Harvest & Preserving Totals- 2009

This year was the first time we’ve ever had a garden and it’s the first time we have ever tried canning. Both worked out pretty well and I thought I might encourage myself (and others) by listing what exactly we ended up harvesting and preserving this year. And what’s really exciting about all of this is that all of it came from our backyard or from local growers.

Garden:
*2 lbs. zucchini (not too successful)
*3 lbs. tomatoes (no thanks to the blight)
*4 lbs. cucumbers (very successful)
*3 lbs. carrots (most successful vegetable)
*5 lbs. turnips & greens (very successful)
*Handful of swiss chard
          Of those, the cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and swiss chard were eaten fresh. Most of the carrots and turnips were as well, though we have blanched and frozen a good-sized bag of both to add into soups and stews. We realized the soil is lacking in nutrients, so we have had my father come expand and deepen it with his rototiller and in the process of getting the soil tested so we know what needs to be added next spring. We already have next season’s seed catalogue from High Mowing Organic Seeds and have already begun dreaming about next season. I’ll put the catalogue away until the end of January when I will be in need of warm season dreaming and figure out next year’s plot then. And as a side note, everything that we grew this year was done so “organically”.

Carrots (2)
Herbs:
*Oregano- fresh use all season long plus more dried and put away
*Basil- fresh use until it showed signs of bolting, then made a decent sized batch of pesto which lasted several meals
*Cilantro- fresh use until is showed signs of bolting, then made some salsa
*Chives- beastly things that are still being used fresh, though I have some frozen to experiment with this winter
          Having herbs around caused me to use more of them, teaching myself more about their flavors in certain dishes (especially how amazing fresh oregano is with eggs), and really appreciate having them around. They will be planted again next year.

006

Preserving:
*Jam:
     -12 (4oz.) jars blueberry jam- blueberries from the Blais Farm
     -12 (4oz.) and 2 (half pint) jars strawberry jam- strawberries from Wellwood Orchards
     -12 (4oz.) and 2 (half pint) jars black raspberry jam- black raspberries from Cherry Hill Farm
     -12 (4oz.) and 3 (half pint) jars red raspberry jam- red raspberries from Cherry Hill Farm
*3 (pint) jars of peaches- peaches from Wellwood Orchards
*7 (pints) frozen strawberries- strawberries from Wellwood Orchards
*9 (quarts) homemade spiced applesauce- apples from Wellwood Orchards
          After our first batch of strawberry jam, the jamming and canning bug had definitely bit us. Not only is it fun, but it will bring us much joy this winter as we yearn for warm days. The jam is better than anything you’d ever find in the store, and we’re very excited to share a large portion of it with our friends and family this holiday season.

Raspberry Jam

Mid-October Photo Briefing

This blog always shows me how busy I keep myself. In the past two weeks I’ve been working on my autumn “to-do” list and so much more!

Carrots with a view

Our harvest of carrots this year! A handful got roasted, another batch blanched and frozen for soups, more used for a pot roast, and one final batch given away to my father in exchange for his time spent helping us to expand the garden.

Squash and Apples

One of my favorite things to do with squash- cooking it until tender then melting it with apples and some brown sugar to top over some brown rice. Mmmm-mmm!

Rotoman

My father with his rototiller which he graciously brought all the way from Maine to help us expand our garden to twice its size. We already have potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkins on the brain for next year thanks to the expansion. During his visit he also helped to fix our front door and replaced the old weather-stripping with new stuff that actually works. Our door shuts tightly now and lets less heat out.

Fini

I’ve figured out the secret to pumpkins- halve them with a serrated knife, scoop our the pulp and save the seeds (for roasting of course), half again, throw into a pot and boil the pieces until you can stick a fork through the skin side of the pumpkin. Drain and let cool. When cool to the touch, gently use a spoon to scoop the flesh away from the skin and you’re done! I ended up making pumpkin puree for cooking, using an electric hand mixer to get it smoother than I could by hand.

Pumpkin Muffins

And I found the best recipe ever to make the best pumpkin muffins! The perfect way to enjoy a Sunday morning? Hot cup of coffee, Sunday paper, pumpkin muffins.

October 13

And this is what I found when I saw my husband off for work at 5:30 this morning- a snow-sleet mix covering our porch. It’s all gone to rain now, but the slush is still everywhere. Not what I expected for the middle of October.

All the leaves are past their peak now, with most trees retaining less than half of their leaves. The cold nights and mornings are here, and today isn’t suppose to get much higher than the mid forties. I’m sure there will be a warm spell again soon, that familiar Indian Summer break of a few days in early November, but for now, it’s our signal to get things in order, put your garden to bed, get your storm windows in, and prepare for the cold that’s ahead.

Photo Update

Fall is closing in on us and I couldn’t be happier. I love summer, who doesn’t, but I’m not afraid to shout it out that fall is my favorite season. My husband thinks I’m nuts because I love a season that ushers in the endless winter, but that’s not true! I love autumn in and of itself. I love the colors, the smells, the activities, the food, I love it all. But before we get there, I figured I’d give an update of other summer photos I have not yet gotten around to.

Full Sunflower

Our first opened sunflower

Cilantro Seeds 1 
Drying and harvesting my own cilantro seeds (not sure if the seeds will be viable, but we’ll see)

Jamming
Jamming in the kitchen- learned how hot it can get making jam in the middle of summer!

Homemade salsa
Homemade salsa with our own cilantro from a recipe by my aunt- really yummy and really hot!

Harvest
Basket full of swiss chard, cucumbers, and tomatoes (ripe and unripe)

Late Blight
And even though it came really late (I know, I know) we still got the Late Blight. Our one surviving crimson sprinter that we started from seed held up the best, resisting it the longest, but the five we picked up at a local greenhouse didn’t do too well and were most likely where it came from. Still edible and yummy though if you cut around it.

Cute
And a little something for the family and friends, my husband and I after an afternoon hike. 🙂

Fall is quickly on its way as all the mornings start out in the 40s, the sun sets earlier, you need to wear something long-sleeved after 6pm, and the wild grapes are ripening. We’ll be pulling what we have left of the tomatoes and zucchini out this weekend. The peppers, cukes, little swiss chard, and tiny corn can stay where they are for now until the frost comes. I’m actually looking forward to our first frost now, as the carrots need to be sweetened. The turnips continue to be yummy and I’ll post our fun “frugal” recipe next time that we experimented with and loved. A happy Friday and weekend to all!