Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28, 2012

Our first pint of blueberries for the season.
'Jersey' blueberries are the first to produce.
These are nights filled with the creamy fragrance of white gardenia and yellow flicker of fireflies.  We are so fortunate to have a berry patch in our back yard.  Picking berries on a quiet morning and enjoying them dewy fresh - that's the sweet stuff of life.  Our berry bushes are growing up enough to start really producing, so we don't have to depend as much on the market.  A full pint of blueberries made it into the kitchen over the weekend, but black, red, and purple raspberries didn't enjoy that kind of longevity; they don't "keep" as long, in more than one sense of that meaning!

Our harvests this week also included a large mess* of peas; we were surprised to see we still have some leftover in the freezer from last year, so we know we can enjoy as much fresh as we like.  You know they're good when the kids ask for seconds at meals!  Garden-fresh peas are so unlike anything else canned or frozen, pop-in-your-mouth tender, and surprisingly sweet like corn.

(*My grandpa used to use the phrase, "a mess of peas," but I haven't heard it used by anyone else. The meaning, enough food of a specified kind for a dish or a meal, from Late Latin missus--course at a meal--for you etymologists out there.)

Black 'Jewel' raspberries ready to enjoy.
All our pumpkin seed planted last week sprouted; there are only two crops left to plant for the summer, and we will be preparing soil this week to plant sunflowers and our second batch of sweet corn.  Just in time for Memorial Day, red and blue gladiolus are showing off in patriotic style.  Have a blessed holiday!

Red and blue gladiolus.

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21, 2012

Standard garlic, the size of elephant garlic.
Garlic curing in the sun.

Garlic, our eighth harvest of the season (brussels sprouts, spinach, lemons, greens, radishes, cherries, broccoli), is curing in the sun until it is dry and odorless; cured garlic lasts up to one year in a dark dry pantry. 

Our landscape is changing:  spinach is gone and has been replaced with 7 wells for pumpkins and winter squash. 

The pumpkin patch (peas to the left), mulched with straw.
A few volunteer sunflowers are upward of 5 ft. tall.
Last year, one of our Jack-Be-Little pumpkins (the kind that fit in the palm of a hand) developed a hard, gourd-like shell; it took a mallet to smash (we were half expecting it to be the fake plastic kind that decorate wreaths); we saved its seeds to plant this year hoping we will get more like it.  That kind of shell outlasts the fleshy varieties (though it's not edible like fleshy varieties) and can be dried and decorated.  We're trying Prizewinner and New England Pie pumpkin varieties again this year with a new variety, Superfreak:  medium to large pumpkins that are warted all over, but fully edible.  Hope this is a better year for pumpkins, and we might just set a record-breaker!  The entire pumpkin patch is mulched with wheat straw saved from last autumn's bales.

Blueberry bushes covered in bird netting.
Blueberries and raspberries are ripening; we covered them in bird nets.  Peas will be our next harvest if everything goes as planned; pods are already swollen.  Little green tomatoes have set, corn is four inches high, and the only part of the garden yet to plant is a second set of sweet corn the first weekend of June (late for us, but it helps to extend the harvest).

We organically fertilized everything as part of general maintenence this weekend.  We feel like we have a better control on weeds this year, and we're ready if the summer turns droughty - a network of soaker hoses reaches about everything growing, and is set on an automatic timer, saving us time to enjoy the good stuff.

The last time we showed our strawberry bed, these plants were barely poking up out of the dirt.
Bush cherries in the background.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14, 2012

Organic broccoli harvest.

Broccoli is in season; though cabbage worms and other pests have chewed holes in the leaves, nylon hose "socks" pulled over these developing crowns have organically protected the harvest for our enjoyment.  A hoticultural extension agent told us that broccoli, more than any vegetable in the supermarket, absorbs pesticide and stores it.  Supermarkets provide pest-free broccoli at a cost.  This organic broccoli is worth all the effort we put into it; from this harvest alone we froze six quart bags for future use and enjoyed all we could eat fresh.  This particular variety will continue to produce sizeable crowns all season long.

Sour cherries frozen for later use.
The rest of our sour cherries all ripened at once.  We picked, pitted, and either ate them fresh or froze in quart bags for future use.  It's a lot of work picking and pitting, but we think the result is worth the effort.  Next year, we will plan ahead for cherry jam.

Pea pods are growing from abundant flowers, the first set of sweet corn is about four inches tall, and the main summer vegetable garden is growing up.
The summer vegetable garden.

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 7, 2012

A head of broccoli six inches across.
We've enjoyed a week of "tomato weather."  All seed planted last week popped up in about three days and is rapidly growing; our summer vegetable garden is taking shape with some harvests in the very near future.  Broccoli heads are now six inches across, protected with nylon hose tied at one end and fitted over like a sock to keep out cabbage moths and their hungry little green worms.  It should double in size this week, and we expect to harvest some by the weekend.

Green beans sprout in rows.
We gathered a last spinach harvest before tilling to make room for pumpkins.  Peas are in flower and will be filling out pods before we can blink an eye.  Some tomatoes, too, are starting to flower.  They are now pushing over two ft. tall; we caged them and staked with conduit pipe; one variety, "Amish Paste" is known to grow more than 10 ft. tall.  We pounded a whole 10-ft conduit pipe in their cages (had to get the ladder out to do this!).

The last spinach harvest.
One half of the sweet corn was planted on Thursday evening.  With temperatures in the mid-to upper 80's F and supplemental sprinkling, it has sprouted on a fast track.  The garden is going to green up as we watch this month.
The garden in May.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


One quart of cherries from just one bush - we have 9 bushes.
Nanking bush pie cherries ready to pick.
Some people spend their Friday evenings in funny ways, but we spent ours picking home-grown sour cherries.  Just one year ago we received these bare-root sticks in the mail no taller than ten inches, but after a year of growth and a Spring of beautiful white blooms, we are being treated to cherries - the kind that taste like Life Saver cherry.  Though many of them turned red last week, after careful taste-testing and plenty of squirt tests, we determined that our first bush is ripe for the picking.  And that's what we did - the whole family was involved.  We gathered about one quart, and this is just the first out of nine bushes like it; the others still need more time to ripen.
We have helpers; the whole family was involved!

These are sour cherries, the kind that work best for pies and preserves; as opposed to sweet cherries, the kind that are good for fresh eating.  We are all fans of cherry pie, so that was the consensus for our first harvest.  The pits seem to be of a cling-free sort and pop out when the fruit is squeezed--as does a bunch of juice.  It didn't take too long to pit all of them, to mix with sugar, tapioca, and a dash of almond extract, and to fold under a pie crust. 

The result?  Homemade cherry pie, no pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers.  Just home-grown goodness from the bush to our plates in a little over an hour.  If you are wondering about the variety, these are Nanking Bush Cherries, sold here:  Product description - Early and extra productive! Produces sweetly scented spring flowers and tremendous crops of tasty fruit. Bears up to 8 qts. of bright red cherries; ripens in June. Grows 6-8 ft. high; looks good in a hurry. For best yield, plant two or more. Zones 2-8
Mixed with sugar, tapioca, and folded in a crust.
The finished product!

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 (