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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?

Give Me a B!

August 27th, 2015

I love beets, especially pickled. Even as a wee little lassie I had an affinity for the pickled purple roots. My mom made them often and I gobbled them up. I don’t do a lot of canning, but I always make two half gallon jars of pickled beets for the fridge. When we eat up the beets, I love throwing boiled eggs in the juice so I can have lovely pink eggs for my salads.
harvesting beets 2
For this reason, I’ve always grown beets in the garden. Not a ton, just a 15 foot row or so. Enough to eat throughout the summer and enough to pickle. I never thin my beets because I like have a wide range of sizes. I love the huge ones for slicing into big rounds and I love the tiny ones for roasting whole.
harvesting beets 1
This year I grew ‘Early Wonder’ and ‘Detroit’. They were both fantastic, very long holding in the garden. In fact these beets were seeded very early and have been growing all summer.
harvesting beets 3
We like eating the beet greens as well, but when it comes time to pickle a load of beets, the chickens end up with the tasty leaves. I’m happy to hand them over as they’re a welcome treat for them. It seems like beets are one of those vegetables that people either love or hate, I’m so happy to be on the love side!

Do you like beets? What’s your favorite way to eat them?

After being asked in the comment, I figured I’d add it here too. I love The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market (Revised Edition) and most of my pickling recipes come from it.

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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 moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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