Happy Holidays and New Year!

It's finally quiet time for us to take a break and actually enjoy relaxing at home by the fireplace, watching light play off the Christmas tree and reflect on the past year. It's been a busy one at that, but a good at the same time. Lots of things got accomplished, and some that had to be postponed for next year. Decorating our tree at first weekend of December is a tradition in our home, where we put ornaments that have been picked on our travels to places in Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, Amsterdam, London, Madrid, Lisbon and Germany, and some showcasing some of the local living surroundings via animals and of course garden decor - can't skip those carrots!
This year it was just a tad of too many things going at the same time and I really hope to take a step back next spring and slow down a bit. It was a bit overwhelming at times and I had hard time keeping up with gardens and the farm, and community garden, and the Master Gardener school - all at the same time. So first resolution - SLOW DOWN! Home gardens will be first priority followed by MG work (after full time work that pays the bills of course), and then will see if I can squeeze time for the farm. I really hope to do some seedlings in the greenhouse in the spring and maybe plant a row of tomatoes and peppers again as these are our main staples for winter sauces. But I won't be taking on as much space as I did this year. For the community garden I'll take a small plot and use it for squashes that the kids from local groups can harvest for the pantry. One step at the time. But for now....
from yours truly, my wonderful hubby and our 3 fur-babies - We wish YOU a very
 Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year Everyone! I really hope to see you all visiting next spring!

Planting Bulbs

It's been another busy weekend in our home, with winter fast approaching I raided local stores for sales on bulbs for spring flowers and planted them all around the ponds and along the walls of the patio. Tried to pick out bulbs that would give me waves of flowers and not all at once so that first early snow drops would be followed by crocuses, daffodils, tulips, bluebells, alliums, irises and lastly lilies.
Still have to plant about 80 or so dutch iris bulbs, at the edge of the stream, but in the ground we have:
Easy Dance - 5
AnneMarie's Dream - 5
Navona - 10
Orange County - 10
Spanish Bluebells - 20
Allium - 10
Bearded Iris - 5
Dutch Master - 40
Gigantic Star - 8
Ice Follies - 8
Pink Charm - 15
Trumpet Mix - 60
Naturalizing Mix - 40
Paperwhites (Narcissus) - 8
Tulip Parrot Blend - 15
Crocus Blue Mix - 30
Crocus Ruby Giant - 20
Snow Drops aka Leucojum Aestivum - 30

Also were planted, albeit VERY late for the season, was my garlic  - this year I'm planting it outside the garden and hope that animals won't touch it. What I want to do is create a "natural" garlic patch where it will grow year to year and I'll just pluck what I need for cooking and thin some out for winter but leave enough to replenish each fall and won't have to plant it again. Let's see if the experiment works.
I have a mix of varieties, including German Porcelain, Kettle River, Spanish Rojas, Vietnamese Red, Turkish Red and some of the Russian varieties. Let's see what grows next year :)

How is your garden doing these days? 

Forgotten Potatoes and Harvest from CSA

Another week flew by and the clean up continues. Part of the clean up was tilling the farm plot and after the tractor run through disking the leftover plants and roots, I realized that my potato row never got picked out fully. Because there was a whole lot of chopped potatoes unearthed. So I picked some that were more or less whole or with minimal damage and brought them home. Not much, but will provide us with some basic meals for few weeks.
There isn't much left on the field other than a row of cauliflower and Romanesca - green peaky cauliflower. some are just starting to form but with temps being in 20s at night I don't know if we'll get much out of it.
While I was browsing leftovers, I found a very large kricket/grass hoper on one of the kale plants.. It's more than 2 inches long and clearly enjoyed his lunch on one of my kale heads.
And this Sunday I visited the U-Pick field from Hesperides Organica CSA - it was time to pick popcorn. And Lisa was also cleaning up field. She had tilled under all unpicked potatoes as well so I ended up picking 3 more bags of fingerlings from her field, chopped or not. They'll be delivered to the kitchen so it won't go to waste. But while I was there, she also picked some Kalettes - a hybrid between Kale and Brussels Sprouts. The stalks are HUGE! Can't wait to try roasting it to see the taste.
And of course there was regular brussels sprouts and huge leeks - one leek is enough to make a good soup for large family.
At home late fall is in full swing and nothing shows it more than dropped leaves - Oak dropped all in one night so the back yard looked like it was covered in chocolate. That also prompted me to plant whole lot of spring bulbs around new patio and ponds and hope next spring it will all be covered in beautiful flowers.
So how is your gardening season wrapping up? Stop by Dave's page to see other harvests.

Goji Berry

Clean up continues all around the house, and this weekend I found a very nice surprise waiting for me - a Goji Berry bush that I thought died off and was lost in weeds actually survived, and we found it with some of the berries after we started clearing up weeds in that section of the yard. Honestly I didn't think it had any chance of surviving because deer have ravaged all plants down to nothing when we planted them, so I gave up on that section as it's not fenced in. I guess not weeding it out helped the bush to rebound and actually produce! Very happy with that plant and hope it will continue to produce in years to come.
On another note, we finally got a new gazebo for the new patio. We've been looking for one for a long time and just as we find one it would be either sold out or discontinued and our order canceled, so yet another surprise when a company emailed that one such choice was returned and is available to us. We even got a $300 discount on it because it wasn't brand new packaging. Of course my honey and I had to set it up on Saturday to see it and I love it!
Overall, it was a good weekend. How is your garden fairing this time around?

Fresh Salsa and the clean up

It's been a quiet week here after the freeze - most of the veggies that remained in the garden were frozen and destroyed. So we've been cleaning things up, removed all tomato cages, little flags that marked the spots and tags of different varieties. They'll be all reused next year. Now just need to add some sulfa to the soil to raise the acidity - my soil tests showed that Ph is 7.5 and that's way too high for vegetables in the main garden so I need to bring it down to 5.5-6.5 range. And add some gypsum to the beds that will have tomatoes next year to make sure I have enough calcium and won't get Blosom End Rot (BER) that will spoil my harvest. Need to add bone/blood meal to the areas where I plant onions and other stuff. In other words, just your average upkeep. And since it's now getting dark early, I get to cook more at home - and stocking up on lots of salsa for winter. These are pint-sized jars and I've also cooked up over two dozen half-pints as well - my hubby loves to just open one small jar and eat it all in one sitting, so it made sense to make them in smaller size for him.
And of course took a walk looking for Maitake - Grifola Frondoza aka Hen of the Woods mushroom .

It's one of my favorite in taste and I try to pick some as soon as the season starts. I did share my haul with someone else who I know, and she loves them. It's always better to share the experience :)

Pumpkin Pie

... or in reality it's a winter squash pie since I used one of the smaller squashes for it, cut up and roasted first in the oven, and then pureed with heavy cream, honey and brown sugar and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.
 The squash I picked was Golden Nugget, and it's a very sweet tasting, dry flesh and not stringy like some others so I really prefer its taste and texture to many other varieties that we have on the farm. 
And the pie came out very good, though I think next time I won't use cookie crust and will make a regular pie dough instead. This way I can cut down on sweetness a little bit. Not that my hubby complains about sweet taste - he took this one to his office.

Last harvest of the year

I can honestly say "brrr, it's cold outside" this morning. We got "balmy" 23 degrees at 6 am. Obviously with the freeze on the way this weekend, we had to harvest as much as we could so I took Friday off and just picked and picked and picked. Many green peppers and some baby eggplants. Remaining squash and few green tomatoes - thankfully not many as we got hit with late blight and most plants succumbed within a week and even green fruit showed brown splotches. 
And of course I've been using peppers in most of my cooking on daily basis. Thankfully my hubby loves cooked peppers so he's not complaining.. or at least not too much..
Most of the green peppers were crated and delivered to the CSA folks so they'll enjoy it. I did keep few large bell peppers so I can chop them up for winter. And I did make a batch of hot and sweet pepper jelly - not too much though as we don't use it all that often. I'll keep couple of jars but the rest will be shipped to CA to a friend.
And since it's been so chilly, I thought it was a good time to start baking and since I had plenty of picked apples I thought having an apple pie is a good thing. Hubby didn't complain :)
 So how are you doing with your harvest this week? Come and see it at Dave's page how others are doing.

Huge Yellow Pumpkin

Mother Nature has been very good to me this year with the harvests, but she likes to throw a curve-ball once in a while.  This year it happened to be with regards to my winter squashes and pumpkins. It was very dry in May and the plants didn't grow well at first, then once they started to set fruit the groundhog and deer have demolished most of my winter squash varieties. I did harvest several Blue Banana, but it looks like my pumpkin year was a bust. My first large carving pumpkin became a nice meal for the groundhog in August.
Then the same vine re-bloomed and created second small pumpkin. I thought that being proactive was necessary so I wrapped it in the nylon netting to keep it growing. And grow it did. The only issue, it appears to have cross pollinated with the Yellow Squash that I had nearby. So instead of a very nice orange round ball, I got a huge yellow pumpkin. I asked my hubby to hold it for me so I could take a good picture of it. And it was heavy!
Now I have no idea if this one will be the eating type since it pollinated with edible squash or just an interesting visual carving type. Either way, the Halloween week will be interesting.

Natural Harvest and Fall Colors

This weekend was a perfect "fall" day with chilly nights and crisp and sunny day, so instead of boring everyone with loads of peppers and winter squash, I thought that I'll share my "harvest" from walking around the lake.
Leaves are changing colors and starting to fall down so when you walk all you hear is rustling under your feet and a bubbling brook on the side.
We were lucky to spot few mushrooms that were edible and I picked them for winter. Maitake or Grifola Frodoza as official name, and Scaber Stalk aka Leccinum aurantiacum are my favorites for fall harvest.
Normally I cut them cleanly just above the ground, but will try to do something different this time around - save the roots and spread them in the back yard and hope they'll grow next year. Would be great if I had home grown instead of hunting in forest.

For now it satisfied my "nature" whimsy, but will have to find time next weekend to venture out once again.

Harvest first weekend of October

You'd think now that it's cold outside and we're officially in "fall" mode that the farm would really slow down, but I think my plants are on strike and refuse to accept colder temperature. Or maybe it's just my perception and it just seems like veggies are everywhere and on every surface of my home. Car is loaded once again, and all counters are full of canning supplies and finished jars are waiting for their labels - I usually wait 3-4 weeks before labeling and storing everything just to make sure that none of them blow their caps. And fresh kale has been sitting in jars waiting to be crisped or juiced.
But in reality, the veggies are slowing down. At least not as much tomatoes as we used to have and the crate that I picked has a lot of green tomatoes because someone in my area asked if I had any - their restaurant has "fried green tomato" on the menu so they'll use some of my beefsteaks that have little chance of ripening up. There are few remaining sauce tomatoes that I'll use for salsa this week.
Squash is finally slowed down, and I've picked couple of more winter Blue Banana and left to cure on the floor in the addition - there are a LOT of veggies on that floor that must be cleared out this week.  They will be chopped and frozen for winter.  The new batch of peppers in the crate will be dropped off tomorrow at the harvest house.
Of course my nemesis Mr Groundhog is having grand time at the field destroying veggies at a fast clip and not showing any signs of slowing down. Both winter squash and peppers have a lot of damage to them. Oh well, have to share with nature.
On the home front I'm still planting more things around new patio - this was one of the batches bought for the left side of the patio wall. I just hope it's not too late in season and that they'll actually grow and make it through winter. They are all perennial of course.
Also this is the season for fruit, so I've obtained some PawPaw fruit and have been enjoying it during the evening hours as my sweet treat. Not many people know about it, even if it does grow in many areas of east coast and inland.

So what are you doing in your garden this week? Come and share your stories.

End of September harvest

Fall is definitely in the air and we've now closed off both small and large garden for winter and going to let soil rest and prepare it for spring planting. But at the farm I'm still picking car loads of veggies - tomatoes are slowing down (which is great because I'm done with winter canning), but peppers have picked up and have been picked in massive quantities. Some got chopped and frozen for winter, but most are a give away.  Plenty left to eat of course every day. At which point do you say "I'm overrun with veggies?". I honestly think I'm past that point.
 And I found a creative way of giving presents - fill baskets of veggies and give away :)
And first few winter squash have been picked, even if some got chewed up by groundhog. Looking forward to trying Blue Banana - it's a Guatemalan Blue Squash from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed
One of the critters completely destroyed my best pumpkin so I'm bummed out.  Was looking forward to carving it this year. Oh well, have plenty of other squashes still coming.
How are your gardens doing and what are you harvesting? Stop by Daphne's page to see other gardens and their bounty of the week.