Monday, November 5, 2012

Last post for 2012

Parsley in front, and a row of garlic behind, with brassicas in the top left; half of the garden is
tucked in for winter underneath a layer of cardboard and fallen leaves.
First frost was also a killing frost for us, on Thursday morning November 1st.  Any tender vegetation that was not freeze tolerant turned black in the morning sun.  Nearly half of the vegetable garden is tucked in for winter, underneath a layer of cardboard and fallen leaves.  Parsley is still growing, bright green, to add to our late fall soups; one-third of our cabbage heads have been harvested.  Brussels sprouts increase in size, while our future corn patch is really turning green with clover.
One-third of our cabbage is harvested.
The change back to standard time has returned us to long nights.  Another growing season has come and gone; we're looking forward to enjoying our preserved harvests through the coming holidays.  The garden will remain essentially as it is now until February, when we prepare for planting early spinach. Thank you for enjoying the season with us!

The garden in November.

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29, 2012

Cabbage heads ready to cut.
As October comes to a close we still haven't observed a frost, though some nights have been very close.  A warming trend last week felt like Indian Summer, highlighted with spectacular trees showing off their searing reds and flaming oranges.  Many trees have begun to drop their leaves, while others are still green meaning we have a few weeks left of fall foliage to enjoy.

Red clover, our green manure cover crop, has begun
to spread out over our future corn patch.
Though our cherry and peach trees have decided it's time to go dormant, the growing season continues for cool weather crops.  Our Meyer lemon tree is putting on a show of white blossoms which are adding citrus perfume to the dry earthy musk of fallen leaves.  Soon, we will be bringing our potted plants indoors for the winter.

We harvested just about all our broccoli and put up 21 quarts in the freezer.  The 'Pacman' variety continues to send up smaller side shoots after its main crop is harvested.  It's time to turn our attention to cabbage; it's a real pleasure having fresh green organic vegetables in abundance to enjoy as daylight diminishes.  Brussels sprouts have finally made an appearance and are on track for an early harvest, perhaps by Thanksgiving.
Brussels sprouts have begun forming in each stem node.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22, 2012

Crepe Myrtle tree brightens up in our front yard.
Garlic row.
Our third crop of broccoli at the new place is finally approaching the quality that we achieved in the old garden, where we would routinely see broccoli heads a foot across and larger.  The head shown below was still growing when we photographed it, and it did reach 12 inches.  It has taken 2.5 years to amend our subdivision soil with compost, leaf mulch, and a cover crop of red clover in order to boost fertility to the point where it really pays to grow organically.  There are nine heads this size ready to harvest now, and what we cannot eat fresh will be blanched and frozen for later.

A cabbage head or two could be harvested also; they weight about five pounds each and are still growing.  Garlic is shooting up.  Red clover is beginning to turn our future corn patch from brown to vibrant green.

Not much else is green, however, and our attention is turned upward to trees of many types that have caught the hint that it's autumn!  Morning temperatures have consistently been in the mid 30's F on our hill top, and sunny warm days to follow are excellent for creating anthocyanin in leaves, the pigment that gives them their flaming red-orange colors.  If this weather pattern continues, we are in for a very colorful show by early November.
Broccoli head, 10 inches across.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 15, 2012

'Packman' hybrid broccoli is very close to full maturity.
Our crop of fall vegetables is racing to maturity, just six weeks after transplanting.  But everything else is winding down; our garden is pretty much the way it will stay for the next four months through the winter period, while we take a welcome rest.  Red clover seed has sprouted across our future corn patch, and it will continue to green up until heavy frosts come with regularity.  Garlic has sprouted thin green spikes up to six inches tall.

Cabbage heads still need a few weeks of growth.
It is looking like we will be enjoying a broccoli harvest this week; the large heads a hand-span across are still firm and thriving in these cooler days of October with no noticeable damage from worms of the cabbage moth.  We've left them uncovered to receive maximum sunlight in these waning days as they mature; it's so nice enjoying fresh produce knowing there were no pesticides used - only our homemade compost.  Broccoli cheese soup sounds like a perfect complement to these cooler fall days!

Roses have returned for one last show - a rare thing of beauty before November drains all the color away.
Roses last until frost.

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012

Broccoli heads, baseball sized, are swelling for a late October harvest
Last week's warm temperatures put the brakes on the annual color change; the traditional foliage peak in South Carolina comes second weekend of November, and it looks like we are on target. 

Cabbage heads are softball size.
Next year's corn patch was re-tilled, raked, and leveled before several pounds of red clover seed were broadcast and watered in.  Our summer flowers are composting while pansies and chrysanthemums add some welcome color.  It’s time to tuck our garden in for the winter, and we’re already covering it with a layer of cardboard and fallen leaves through which we will plant next year.

The only plants in active growth now are some greens, parsley, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and one volunteer tomato plant.  The tomato just blossomed this weekend, and we'll see what happens; it will probably be blackened by the first frost if we don't pot it up to bring indoors.

We're thinking ahead to the big winter project we're planning this year:  building a chicken coop.  By this time next year, we hope to be enjoying our own fresh free-range chicken eggs from chicks we raise next spring and summer.

"Fall is a gift.  A house warmed by the memory of a sore back and splinters, and a kitchen table blessed by food there as a result of dirty fingernails, sunburn, and compost is a great and generous gift.  Enjoy your fall - we are each granted a finite number of them, and it is a vast mistake to let any go by without cherishing the moments that make them real."  -Brent Olson,  Living The Country Life Fall 2012 Vol. II, No. 4, p. 40.
The garden in October.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October 1, 2012

The count is in:  we grew more than 80 pumpkins and squash.
We grew so many pumpkins and squash this year, we ended up dumping a pile by our front tree when we ran out of room to display them around the house and yard.  The pumpkin patch had to get pulled so we have room to plant next year's garlic.  In all, we tilled 1,200 sq. ft. of garden space, wiping it clean to prepare for winter.  Half of this will be sown with red clover seed, and half will be covered with cardboard and fallen leaves through which we plant next Spring.

Individual garlic cloves spaced
for planting across a 20-ft. row.
Just over one week into official autumn, we're seeing individual trees starting the annual color show; some sugar maples have joined the scene with strong hints of red-orange.  There are lots of fun local events scheduled, as last year's article on Pumpkintown's annual Pumpkin Festival will show; the festival this year will be held Saturday October 13.

It's time to withhold water from Dutch hybrid amaryllis bulbs and bring them indoors for forcing after the holidays.  Spring bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils can be planted outdoors.  With the likelihood of frost arriving by the end of this month, a flurry of chores need to be finished, like cleaning and oiling garden tools for winter storage.

Cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts grow large, seen through blackened sunflower stalks.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012

Meyer lemon tree ripens fruit.
It's about time to pull up those old summer border flowers and replace them with chrysanthemums and pansies.  Wild garlic is starting to sprout after its summer hibernation underground; its tell-tale aroma is noticeable when mowing the lawn.  That means any time now we could plant the largest of our hardneck garlic cloves saved from May's harvest, to grow through the winter.  Last year, we didn't plant our garlic until late October, and we're determined to get an earlier start.  The pumpkins have to come out first, however, to make room, and that's a chore - vines have spread everywhere and are setting new fruits.  Did you know that tender green pumpkins can be eaten just like zucchini?
Gladiolus bulbs harvested and curing
for winter storage.

As soon as our summer vegetable patch can be tilled, we will be broadcasting several pounds of red clover seed purchased from the local feed and seed store.  If you've been reading this blog regularly, you know that red clover is our favorite green manure crop because it converts nitrogen from the air and stores it, boosting both soil nutrition and adding plenty of organic humus.

Cabbage and broccoli have taken off, growing to mature size.  Tiny button heads of broccoli are visible in the crown of each plant.  Depending on how much moisture we see in the coming weeks, it won't be long.  Brussels sprouts take 120 days to harvest, longer than many pumpkins; transplanted in August, they won't begin to produce until December.

Broccoli and cabbage plants.

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012

Apples turned into tempting treats as the first day of Autumn approaches.
This was garden clean-up week:  tomato vines and their cages uprooted, bean plants pulled, pruners lost in the rubble, wheelbarrow run a marathon, compost bin more stuffed than a Thanksgiving turkey!  The whole family was involved.  Our gigantic pile of sticks is reduced to ashes over the barren garden, helping to clean the slate on stubborn grasses waging war to win back the land we are trying to transform.

Giant grey striped sunflower seed head.
A very few vegetables remain, some carrots, bell peppers, and all the winter squashes; sunflower seeds are ready to be harvested and roasted, or left for the birds.  Our fall garden is progressing nicely as cabbage and broccoli plants stretch out to fill the empty spaces between.

Day and night are now nearly 12 hours each as the impending equinox changes the calendar officially to the autumn season.  The sun is rising due east and is setting due west.  Our myrtle trees are already coloring up and dropping their leaves, while dogwood and red maple are showing noticeable tint.  It's time to sit back with a glass of fresh apple cider and take in the wonder of God's creation.  Soon enough we'll be pulling jars of canned produce out of the pantry to supplement what little fresh we can find as the weeks get colder.

Cabbages (top row), broccoli (middle), and brussels sprouts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10, 2012

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage mulched
with fresh lawn trimmings.
One valuable item our property is producing with wild abandon in these early days of a wet September is grass - a whole acre of it!  For once we have much more than we need to mulch our new cole crops, which are coming along very nicely after transplanting.  We have a lot of dry, brown carbon materials in our compost bin right now, so the wet green nitrogen in grass will be a perfect combination to help boost our compost output.

Red bell peppers finish ripening.
We are very close to the end of our summer vegetable patch.  All summer long we have been gathering fallen sticks, prunings and trimmings in a big brush pile 10 ft. long x 5 ft. wide x 5 ft. high.  If we get a dry week, we will move it to the garden and burn - removing and killing surface weed seeds, and adding potash to the soil.  Next month we will plant red clover in anticipation of rotating our corn crop over where the vegetable garden was this year.

The garden in September.  A large Prizewinner pumpkin matures in the top-right corner.

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3, 2012

Dozens of pumpkins, small and large, are now on display in our front yard.
August 31st's Blue Moon.
Harvest home.  The first of September (the start of meteorological autumn) dawned clear and golden after the previous night's Blue Moon.  Despite the subtle change of season, afternoon temperatures have crept back up to the low 90's F, while mornings are cool and dewy.  If the coming winter brings as many snows as we had fogs in August, we might see 5 winter weather advisories (this little bit of folklore will be interesting to test this year, knowing the Farmer's Almanac forecast for a colder and wetter than normal winter).

Warm, sunny days are great for our favorite harvest of the year: pumpkins!  We filled the wheelbarrow several times making trips from the pumpkin patch to our front yard where dozens of the orange fruits sit on display until we are ready to use them in culinary treats.  According to research on the topic, pumpkin seeds are more nutritious than the fruit's meaty orange flesh, but because of its low-calorie value and high concentration of vitamins like beta-carotene, this flavorful food is an all-around winner.  Our largest pumpkin (a 'Prizewinner' variety) is still ripening on the vine and will be moved up in a few weeks.
This funny-looking gourd (center) is actually
a winter squash of the 'Cucurbita moschata' family.

Our local apple harvest has finished; our fourth-year trees are still juveniles with many hopeful years of bigger and more abundant harvests.  'Heritage' red raspberries are producing heavily.  Tomato vines and pepper plants are still setting fruit, and we are pulling more carrots to supplement meals as just about everything else has finished.  Green beans on the bush now are being saved for seed.

Happy Labor Day y'all!

Fouth-year apple tree well branched and finished with harvest,
catches some morning rays in front of the pumpkin patch.

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012

A Prizewinner pumpkin grows large and orange-red as summer comes to an end.
It's time to get rid of the old to make room for the new.  Two hundred eighty-eight corn stalks were macheted at ground level, clearing a 20 ft. x 25 ft. space that will be our fall and winter vegetable garden.  The tiller evened things out, and any weeds quickly wilted in these sunny and dry days of late August.
Corn stalks dry after being cut.

The 2013 Farmer's Almanac calls for a colder than normal winter with above average precipitation for the eastern two-thirds of the nation.  Unseasonably chilly temperatures will reach as far south as the Gulf Coast.  Last winter was so warm because of a most unusual combination of a North Atlantic and Arctic Oscillation that pulled warm air up from the Southwest, and a La Nina that kept the jet stream far north.  Last winter was ideal for gardening year-round, but this winter looks to be different. So we are taking advantage of the remarkably cool August to get our fall garden in early.  Nine brussels sprouts transplants were moved to the garden under milk jug covers - not to keep the frost out, but to shield from hot sun and hungry insects.  Cabbage, broccoli, root crops and greens will soon follow.  Since grass mow is so thick, it will make an ideal mulch to keep weeds down around our new plants.
A bucket of compost went into
each planting hole

Superfreak pumpkins have an interesting appearance.
We have counted at least 50 pumpkins ripening in our patch, and more are setting daily.  We are almost ready to go through and cut everything orange from the vine.  A prizewinner giant is almost red; it really stands out among the smaller varieties.  These will soon be moved with hay bales under our front yard maple tree.

Brussels sprouts transplants underneath protective milk jug covers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 20, 2012

'New England Pie' pumpkins curing in the barn.
Grass mow is thick, mornings are dawning cooler, and evidence of the changing season is seen in fruits of harvest.  Look closely, and there is even some early leaf color in the dogwoods.  Our apple trees have let us know that their fruit is ripe and ready to be tasted.  One of those late-evening walks out to the back of our property, so busy with dragonflies and jumping locust, came to a stop when we noticed several red apples had fallen to the ground.  Their fragrance was spicy-sweet, and a bite confirmed the fruit was dead-ripe.  We sprayed these trees until the end of June with a home orchard insecticide/fungicide and then left them alone to get washed in July rain.  Insects have not bothered them in the last half of the season.

A perfect 'Winesap' apple paired with ripe figs all from our orchard.
We are seeing more fruits than vegetables as summer winds down slowly but inevitably to the autumn, our favorite season of year.  We did harvest a bushel basket of tomatoes, imperfect, but tasty enough paired with peppers and onions for salsa.  A fall crop of red raspberries is producing heavily, reminding us of a seemingly long-gone June berry season.  We picked the last of our melons and mowed the patch to the ground.

Thursday morning dawned at 58 degrees F at our elevation.  Refreshing!  Sunflowers and pumpkins are a cheery pair as we begin to think about the impending garden clean-up.  If you did not have enough milk jug covers last spring, start saving them now to cover tender transplants that will be set in the garden in early September.  We need to begin thinking of cutting down our yellowing corn patch to make room for the fall and winter garden.
A cheery sunflower bows out as summer 2012 comes to a close.

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012

August is the month of sunflowers.
Our harvests are getting smaller, but often more interesting; for example, the handful of red raspberries we picked to eat with a honeydew melon and a nice fat fig.  These combinations would never be conceivable if we weren't growing them ourselves.  'Heritage' red raspberries, which are labeled "everbearing," are just getting started on their big fall crop; we don't have to cover these in bird netting like we did with our spring berries; birds are done raising young, which have fledged and focused on protein diet of insects before the winter.

2nd-year parsley, heavy with seed, bends to the ground.
The dog days of summer are over.  We received another 5 inches of rain this week, giving us a two-week total at 9.5 inches; I think it rained every day in the past two weeks and don't remember as significant a wet period since the summer it rained 40 days in a row in 2005.  Needless to say, we're about ready to pull up our soaker hoses and mow down the melon patch.  One of the most appealing qualities of the garden this time of year is its disarray.  Plants are overgrown, blowzy, and wild--and that's part of what keeps our interest.

Brussels sprouts seedlings through
the screen of an airy window.
Folks often incorrectly assume that spring and summer are the prime gardening seasons and that the beginning of fall brings an end to the garden's glory.  But as fall rains return and the lawns green up again, the nights are cooler and the sun seems softer, we have time to catch up on a crop of brassicas and greens.  Cole crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts perform just as well as in the spring.  Didn't get that crop of April spinach that you were hoping for?  Try it now.  Since the days are often hot, it will help to sprout seeds under a 2x4 laid directly on top of the ground, but check underneath every day.  Our brussels sprouts started from seed in early July will be ready to transplant out to the garden by the end of this month.  It's time to start cabbage and broccoli seed now too.

Seed-saving is in full operation as we select the best heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

Pumpkins ripen in these warm and humid August days.

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 6, 2012

Our first ripe fig.
The hazy August time of summer settles in for the year.  Days of warm, dry idleness seem relaxing, compared to the busy pace of July.  But this time of year just drags.  Wafts of breeze, that we barely feel, skirt thin clouds through the span of sky at a turtle's pace; the air is torrid and wilting.  The sun swelters on until even nature's greenery, finished with its lush July growth, hangs spun out of energy, dull and plastic.  Some Augusts we don't garden at all.  Weeds and grasses have crept in; plants - many which we started from seed nearly half a year ago - are showing signs of advanced age.  Even the emerald green foliage of our fruit trees seems listless.  This is last chance to take a vacation before school days set in.
Fig, cut open to reveal its sweet center.

We picked 150 ears of sweet corn - these we blanched and froze whole - and left a few on the stalks to keep maturing.  The other steady producers continue to be tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, melons, and carrots.  Cucumbers may yet surprise us with something, but broccoli plants are ready to be pulled.  As soon as our melons ripen, we plan to pull up our soaker hoses and mow the entire patch to the ground.

A rewarding surprise this week was our first fig.  It was very sweet, soft, and fruity-flavored.  We've never had anything like it before and hope it continues to surprise us at a time of year when we are looking to enjoy something exotic.

New England Pie pumpkin curing.
We received 4.5 inches of rain last week; pumpkins continue to swell, though many New England Pie variety are already orange.  Hot weather turns pumpkins orange before they are truly ripe sometimes, and we solve this by covering the large ones with old rags and t-shirts to keep them shaded.  If we leave them on the vine too long bugs tend to bore in, but if we cut them too early they don't cure well.  Deciding that just-right time to cut can be tricky.  Generally, if a thumbnail can't pierce a pumpkin's skin by the stem, it's ready to cut.
The garden in August.
Our pumpkin patch is showing signs of crisping leaves; corn in the background.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012

A 'Superfreak' warted pumpkin grows to 20 pounds.
Rich tomato sauce.
It's true, gardening has numerous health benefits, but to us it's also an excuse to enjoy a touch of something special.  We would probably never buy so much fresh organic produce, or make gourmet recipes featuring garden vegetables if we did not grow them.  We're willing to work hard on the gardening end, because we like the product.  So when we pick a bushel of paste tomatoes and process them into fresh, thick juice; then reduce it down in a stock pot to rich organic tomato sauce, we're usually thinking of pizza sauce, garden spaghetti, skillet barbecued pork chops (see Note 1 below), and the like.

Cicada and its molted shell.
Fruits of harvest are ripening as cicadas buzz from tree to tree, signaling that midsummer has gone, and late summer is come.  The end of July is time to take stock of all we have brought in during the last four months.  Summer 2012 has been wilting, but copious (abundant) thanks to sufficient rain.  Our pantry and freezers are stocked to capacity.  We know much of the country can't say the same, and due to extreme drought, the price of food is going up.  Interestingly, weather sources are saying an El NiƱo will take hold by December.

Bumble bee on a pumpkin flower.
It's our traditional time to start mixing up salsas, and this year we may try some corn salsa.  Our second crop of sweet corn is ready to be enjoyed as individual ears reach maturity.  By this weekend, we will pick the whole corn crop and freeze what we will not be eating fresh.
Sweet corn ready to harvest.

4-6 Bone-In Pork Chops
1 T. Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Celery
3 T. Brown Sugar
2 T. Lemon Juice
1/2 t. Dry Mustard
3/4 t. Salt
1/8 t. Pepper
16-Ounce Jar of Tomato Sauce

In large skillet with tight fitting lid, brown chops in oil over medium heat.  Pour off excess fat.  Sprinkle celery, brown sugar, lemon juice, and seasonings evenly over chops.  Pour tomato sauce over all.  Cover, simmer over low heat 1 hour or until tender.

Skillet Barbecued Pork Chop with corn and melon.

About Me

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (