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Pop, Pop, Pop

October 21st, 2015

Last month, I harvest the popcorn. I would have liked to have left it in the garden to dry on the stalks, but there was tons of rain in the forecast. It sat in the top of the garage for a month and I shucked it yesterday.
popcorn 1
It isn’t as big as I would have liked, but it’s better than nothing. The lack of rain this summer was the most likely culprit. We will still have enough to get us through the year, it’s nice that we won’t have to buy popcorn this year. Homegrown popcorn is delicious, if can’t grow it yourself, find a local farm that does. You’ll be amazed at the flavor.
popcorn 2
Overall, I’m still happy with the harvest. I have already started planning which varieties I’m growing next year. I added a thick layer of compost to that section of the garden in preparation, since corn is a heavy feeder. Next year, the plan is to grow multicolored corn, black, red, and white.

Have you ever grown popcorn?

Beating the Rain

September 30th, 2015

We have rain in the forecast, lots of rain. Today we’re supposed to get 3-4 inches and then it’s supposed to rain every day for the next 10 days at least. That’s good, we really need the rain because it’s a super dry summer/fall so far. That means however that I spent yesterday madly harvesting everything from the garden. Ten days of rain is not good for crops right before harvest, especially things like popcorn!
harvesting early popcorn
The popcorn wasn’t really ready, technically you should wait until the husks have dried. With all the rain coming, I knew the risk of mold was high. As a result, it’s all laid out on shelves in the top of the garage with a fan on it. Along with the popcorn, I have loads of sunflowers drying in the top of the garage as well. These are grown for the flock.
sunflower harvest
I also grow loads of pumpkins and squash for both us and the birds. Not only do we eat lots of pumpkin and butternut squash, the birds love them. It’s nice to be able to give the birds healthy treats in the middle of winter. This year I grew ‘Connecticut Field Pumpkin’ for the flock. They produced very well, I’m very pleased with this variety. They are a carving and decorative pumpkin, pretty much your typical pumpkin.
heirloom pumpkin harvest 1
This is about 2/3 of the pumpkin harvest. It looks like I have 30 pumpkins for the birds and 8 large ‘Rouge Vif D’ Etampes’ pumpkins for us. This variety is my all-time favorite pumpkin because it makes the most wonderful pumpkin puree for pies and other goodies.
heirloom pumpkin harvest 2
The tomatoes also came in, anything that was ripe or slightly blushed was put in my basket. The photo below is about a fourth of what I harvested, I’m guessing I got about 2 bushels of tomatoes. I have plans to make another batch of soup and probably a batch or two of canned crushed tomatoes. The harvest was very good this year and that makes me very thankful. Last year I got the late blight and didn’t have much of a harvest to speak of. I like tucking as much as I can into the pantry during the good years. That way we can still enjoy tomato soup during the years of blight.
tomato harvest
This has probably been my most productive garden ever. I still have loads of things coming on, more on those tomorrow.

Do you grow pumpkins in your garden? What’s your favorite variety?

Quote of the Day: Preserving

September 13th, 2015

It is the natural course of events for food to be abundant for a little window in time. Blackberries will be lusciously ripe for just a couple weeks. Rich porcini flush quickly as the rain comes. They won’t wait for your schedule. Be it pickling or jelly making,r ally yourself for gathering and deal yourself into the working game in your kitchen. BEtter yet, deal in some friends or family too: have a working party. Putting up food together links you with thousands of years of human traditions. And it’s a blast.”

Connie Green and Sarah Scott The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes

This past week a lot of the garden has been at maximum production. It doesn’t matter how I plan, it seems everything comes ripe at once, and always before a trip or some other big event. The result is LONG days of frantically putting up food for the depths of winter.

Preserving the harvest 4
Preserving the harvest 3
This has been one of my best tomato years every, the bounty just keeps coming. So far I’ve canned around 40 pints of tomato soup, 15 quarts of tomatoes, along with putting a bushel in the freezer to be made into sauce when there is more time. I have also been drying my ‘Principe Borghese’ tomatoes, which are perfection. I grow this variety just for drying and I dry as many racks as I can. They are amazing in omelets and sprinkled on top of pizza.
Preserving the harvest 1
Preserving the harvest 5
My late flush of zucchini and beans are coming on strong, I did the first picking of beans yesterday and put a gallon of blanched haricots verts in the freezer. Zucchini was cubed and blanched, and grated as well, both varieties are tucked away in the freezer to be added to winter soups and frittatas.
Preserving the harvest 2
The apple trees are also producing by the bushel this year. One variety is ready even though I am not. I picked a half bushel for eating and then froze the rest to be turned into apple butter and some applesauce for Mr Chiots. Yesterday, I managed to preserve over 150 lbs of homegrown fruits and vegetables for us to feast on this winter. Not only will I save a bundle on my groceries, we’ll be eating healthfully as well. The satisfaction of nourishing yourself is an amazing feeling!

What are you putting by for winter?

Friday Favorite: Garlic Harvest

September 4th, 2015

There’s something about harvesting things that are buried underground. It’s like a treasure hunt. You never know quite what to expect when you plunge the spade into the ground.
garlic mulch
This year was especially exciting because I followed a friend’s advice. Susan from Moonlight Mile Herb farm mulches her garlic with litter from her chickens coops in the spring. She spreads it right on, straight from the coop. It’s always claimed that this should NEVER be done, because chicken manure it way too hot to put directly on crops. Let me me tell you, it’s the perfect mulch for garlic!
harvesting garlic 2
The chicken litter mulch provided some of the best moisture retention I’ve ever had with mulch. The fertilization was perfect as well. My garlic is AMAZING this year!
harvesting garlic 1
Another benefit is that the chicken litter kept the weeds from germinating as well, perhaps it heated up the soil enough for them to germinate under the mulch? You can bet I’ll continue using this method for years to come. I’ll also be experimenting with using fresh chicken litter on other crops (nothing that gets eaten raw within 3 months of application though).

What’s your favorite crop to harvest?

Here They Come

September 2nd, 2015

The heirloom tomatoes are coming in hot & heavy. The ‘Ten Fingers of Naples’ have been the MVP of the season. I’m super impressed with the vines, the fruit, and the harvest.
heirloom tomatoes 3
The heirloom beefsteaks are coming in strong, I have multiple varieties ripening daily. I’m happily gifting them to friends and gobbling them up at every meal. My favorite way to eat them is sliced with a little sprinkle of sea salt.
heirloom tomatoes 2
This year I also grew a wide variety of small cherry type tomatoes. The most beautiful ones are the Bumblebee varieties, there are three of them: ‘Sunrise’, ‘Purple’, and ‘Pink’. They’re lovely little beauties with great flavor and good production.
heirloom tomatoes 1
Now the race begins to preserve the bounty. I don’t do much canning at all, but I always make a batch or two of tomato soup for the pantry and some jars of whole tomatoes. My ‘Principe Borghese’ tomatoes get dried in the oven like sun dried tomatoes. I love using them throughout the winter, their intense tomatoey flavor is perfection! Overall, the tomato season has been wonderful this year. I’m hoping to get out to get a few more photos of the different varieties I’m growing to give you a full report, right now getting all these lovelies into jars take priority.

What’s your favorite kind of tomato to grow?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.