Archive for the ‘harvest’ Tag

10-05-2014 Journal Entry-Garden & Yard Work!   Leave a comment

With the weather slowly but surely changing from Fall to Winter the final work to harvest the last of the herbs and to compost the garden needed to be done. My better-half had the day off and we both knew we had a few hours of hard work ahead of us. It was the last of our major tasks for the Fall.

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It was hard labor for a while as we shoveled compost into our small trailer and delivered it to the garden.  Not only does the compost reenergize the soil but it also helps to refill the frames with much needed soil.

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We filled the trailer three times which allowed us to cover the entire garden with approximately three inches of compost.  We took special precautions with the rhubarb and asparagus because they require additional protection from the coming snow and cold weather.

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In a day or so I’ll add some lime to the compost as well as a general fertilizer.  Then I’ll rototill  the entire mixture thoroughly and let it sit until Spring.

I wanted to dry and store more herbs but a surprise hard frost last week killed off ninety percent of my basil plants. Fortunately I harvested some of the plants before the frost but it still irritates me to see any of them go to waste.  Mother Nature always seems to get her fair share of things whether we like it or now.

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It’s difficult here in Maine for cold-sensitive plants to survive the winter but I’ll never stop trying to find a way.  Instead of harvesting all of the Rosemary and Parsley I decided to compost the plants heavily and then later in the season cover them with a thick layer of leaves.  I’m hoping that for once I can have a Rosemary plant that survives the Winter and is able to get larger and stronger each year. Probably just wishful thinking but we shall see. 

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‘Harvested, Cleaned’

Only about fifty percent of this parsley was harvested  in the hopes that it would retain enough energy to regrow in the Spring.  I cleaned and washed the parsley, removed the stems, and placed everything into the dehydrator.  In four hours it will be dry enough to crush and place into air tight jar for later use.

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‘And Dried’

Our harvested black beans have also been dried and stored. There seems to be more than enough for a few good meals.  It was our first year growing them and we haven’t decided whether to plant them again next year.

Once all of the days labor was completed we sat down to relax, have a drink, and discuss possible improvements and repairs of the garden for next year. One of the most interesting possibilities is the construction of a much larger cold frame that will be eight feet long and two feet wide.  This would allow us to grow a variety of lettuces and radishes well into late October and even early November. Anything we can do to extend the growing season is well worth the effort.

We’re almost ready for that damn snow.  Bring it on…..

09-03-2014 Journal Entry – 2014 Garden Results   Leave a comment

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Today’s my day to brag a little.  We finished the last of the canning yesterday which means that within the next three weeks I’ll begin to close down the garden for this year.  I have to say it’s been a great gardening summer with more enough rain to keep the plants happy and a level of production at least 30% better than last year.  This first list is the approximate amounts of veggies we harvested over the last three months.

  • 10 – pounds of cherry tomatoes
  •   6 – pounds of jalapeños
  •   2 -pounds of cayenne peppers
  •   6 – pounds of snap peas
  •   4 – pounds of black beans
  • 30 – pounds of zucchini
  •   2 – pounds of kohlrabies
  • 50 – pounds of cucumbers
  • 4 – pounds of Beets
  • 5 – pounds of radishes
  • Two additional plantings of lettuce.
  • Two additional plantings of snap peas.
  • One additional planting of radishes

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We then took most of them and processed them into the following list of usable foods for the winter months.

  • 10 – pints of hot mustard dill pickles
  • 15 – pints of pickled zucchini
  • 12 – pints of pickled jalapeños
  •   8 – pints of pickled veggie mix
  • 24 – pints of hot B&B pickles
  •   1 – pint of pickled jalapeño/habaneros
  • 13 – quarts of roasted corn/black bean salsa
  •   9 – half pints of radish relish
  • 18 – large loaves of zucchini bread
  •   5 – quarts of pickled kimchi
  • 12 – quarts of chili for freezing
  • 4 – pounds of kale, frozen

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This last list are the herbs I harvested during the Summer to help refill our stocks for winter.  We use a great deal of them in every meal we make and we also supply to to family and friends when requested.  They’re extremely easy to grow and dry and taste great.

  •   1 – quart jar of dried oregano
  •   1 – quart jar of dried parsley
  •   1 – pint jar of dried habaneros
  •   2 – quarts of dried chives
  •   1 – quart of dried garlic chives
  •   1 – pint jar of dried jalapeños
  •   2 – quarts of dried kale
  •   9 – pounds of dried sunflower seeds
  •   1 – quart of dried Cilantro
  •   1 – quart of dried Basil

All of this was from a 350 square foot garden.

Gardening is not as easy as most people think but the rewards make it well worth the effort.  My better-half and I really want to know what we’re putting into our bodies. While it’s almost impossible to do that 100% these days, it gives us a little more peace of mind than the average person.  Along with gardening we’ve become two of the biggest pain-in-the-butt label readers anywhere.  It’s something everyone should learn to do because it’s enlightening and at times a little scary.

The better-half has a few batches of jam to prepare in the next few weeks but there’s no rush.  All the necessary berries are in the freezer and can be used at any time. I always look forward to the blackberry jam made from the berries we picked, there’s nothing better. 

 

08-22-2014 Journal Entry–Fair Season Begins!   Leave a comment

This weekend began the process of harvesting and the start of Fair Season here in Maine.  My better-half, her daughter and grandson decided to attend a small fair held in the town of nearby Acton, Maine.  Compared to some of the larger fairs it left a lot to be desired but that being said it has four things everyone loves here in Maine. There was livestock (and plenty of it), there was kids rides, dozens of food booths, and of course a country and western singer. Throw in a fat guy and tree and you got Christmas.

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I totally ignored my year long weight loss program to pig out a little on funnel cakes  and french fries and it was wonderful.  I’ve been looking for a good excuse or even a bad excuse to eat something bad for me because it’s been a long, long year.  I was even followed around for a bit by this yoyo who insisted I take his picture, so I did.  Munch this, bozo.

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There was a large variety of livestock for such a small fair and if you like cows you’d have been in heaven.

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The country singer was just barely acceptable and that’s an opinion from a person who dislikes all Country and Western music.  Even my better-half, the person who hums C&W music in her sleep, wasn’t impressed. There were a few interesting animals besides just cows like alpacas and goats but I couldn’t for the life of me find a horse anywhere to photograph.  I learned that today was only the first day of the fair and the horses weren’t scheduled to make an appearance until the weekend.  Too bad for me cause I’m not coming back.

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As I walked around I came upon this sheep being sheared.  I felt sorry for the poor thing because it looked very unhappy with it’s entire situation.

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It was a gray and cloudy day with a nip in the air to remind us all that Fall is arriving a little early this year.  We had a great time nonetheless and when the grandson got tired of being pushed around in the stroller it was time to go. This final picture I snapped as we drove away. This was a member of the traffic control team who was parking cars.  No uniformed police here in Acton, he was on lunch.

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08-06-2014 Journal Entry–Fall in Maine!   Leave a comment

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‘This is From a Nearby Neighbors Farm’

I’ve been enjoying my downtime since the departure of my better-half for her trip to Ocean City.  The downside to her leaving is the fact that I’ve been stuck with some of her watering chores.  She has at least a hundred plants surrounding the house, on the deck, and even in the house.  I find having three plants six feet high in the living room very interesting.  It’s like living in a jungle and that jungle needs watering all too often.  God help me if these plants aren’t all healthy and happy upon her return.  There could be bloodshed.

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My second chore involved the babysitting of her daughters dogs.  I need to drop in at their house everyday around noon to let the little buggers out for a pee break and a romp around the yard.  I really don’t mind it all that much because I actually like most pets more than I like most people.

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‘Good Eating’

Once her chores have been handled I can then move on to my list.  Fortunately my list is flexible and if I choose not to complete anything on it no one would give a damn anyway. My list includes the garden that is continuing to produce ridiculous amounts of veggies.  I’ve been trying to keep ahead of it by canning a few things each week but I’m quickly falling behind.  Here’s a list of what we’ve canned so far and believe me I’m ready to call it a day anytime.

10 – pints of hot mustard dill pickles
  6 – pints of pickled zucchini
12 – pints of pickled jalapeños
  1 – quart of pickled veggie mix
  6 – pints of pickled veggie mix
10 – pints of hot B&B pickles

I still need to make two large batches of salsa and a huge batch of chili.  The salsa will be canned to the tune of twenty quarts or forty pints. The chili will be frozen in twelve one quart containers and that should give us enough for most of the winter.

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‘This is Kick Your Ass Chili’

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‘This is Double Kick Your Ass Salsa’

Once the better-half returns from her final trip of the summer we’ll get down to some serious work for a few weeks.  It’ll be a huge relief to get the garden processed and into storage.  If the results so far are any indication, we’ll surpass any expectations we had for a garden as small as ours. I’ve already started planning for next summer with the addition of a small greenhouse and an irrigation system that will use  our water more efficiently.  That will allow us to grow a few additional items in a more controlled atmosphere with less bug problems and better water control. 

Back to the fun.

07-27-2014 Journal Entry – Harvest Time Begins!   Leave a comment

I know it’s a little early in the year but with the garden filling up with cucumbers it was time to get busy.  Last night I gathered all of the equipment together in preparation for canning.  I cleaned jars, gathered lids and rings, pots and pans, and updated my experimental pickle recipe. We normally make hot Bread & Butter pickles and a lot of them.  I’ve made dill pickles in the past but never was really happy with the results. My approach to things has always been to identify a problem and then fix it and this new recipe for Hot Mustard Dill Pickles is the fix.

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I took my normal kosher dill recipe and jacked it up with a number of additional ingredients and spices. The end result will be pickles that are extremely hot, canned in a liquid containing dry mustard, curry, habanero powder, and a handful of other minor ingredients.  I soaked the cukes in canning Lime overnight which should help keep them crispy once their canned.

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Yesterday afternoon we picked the cucumbers, zucchini’s, and jalapeño’s from the garden along with some herbs.  I’d be making my mustard pickles and my better-half would be making her new experimental recipe for hot pickled zucchini or as she calls it Hot Zucchini Pickles. She’s trying to come up with a few solutions for processing and storing of the large number of zucchini’s we’re expecting.  She’s always made a lot of zucchini breads but we can only eat so much of that.

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We work well as a team and set up an assembly line in the kitchen.  I sliced the cukes, the habaneros, and a few jalapeños and set them aside. She prepared her zucchini,  and jalapeños, and we were ready to rock and roll.  She was responsible for packing the jars and I then added the brine, capped the jars and placed them into the water bath.  It took a couple of hours of work but we rolled along like a well oiled machine.

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After all was said and done we had ten pint jars of the mustard pickles and six additional pints of pickled zucchini.  The jars sealed properly and will be ready for labeling tomorrow. Unfortunately we have to wait a month or so before we can taste the finished product.  The veggies need time to absorb the flavor from the brine and the heat from the hot peppers.  We can’t wait to try them and will keep our fingers crossed for the anticipated good results.

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“The Finished Product”

07-23-2014 Journal Entry – Another Rainy Day!   Leave a comment

It’s raining like hell this morning so I decided to spend this time in bed enjoying the sounds and smells of the day.  I like walking in the rain almost as much as I enjoy listening to it but not today.  Today is going to be a computer day for me because I have a number of things that need to be accomplished.

In my last posting I made an attempt to create some discussion with my list of ten questions. While a good number of people visited and read the posting the response to my request for their answers apparently fell on deaf ears. Not one single response was disappointing as hell but not totally unexpected. At least I tried to wake up a few brain cells out there and just so you know, I will try again.

Today is the day I begin learning how to use the new software package I recently purchased.  Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 & Adobe Premiere Elements 12 has been purchased and installed and await my full attention for the next six hours or so. I’m also awaiting the arrival from Amazon of a 400 page User’s Manual I was forced to buy because those cheap bastards at Adobe don’t feel that including a Users Manual is cost effective.  Both of the programs are massive and without a manual you might never ever know all of the bells and whistles they contains. I’m praying that the manual arrives today or tomorrow so I can spend the next few days experimenting with the software. I need to get up to speed as quickly as possible because I have projects that will be much easier to complete once I’ve gotten a little hands-on experience.

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This week another of my goals is to begin preparations for my first canning class of 2014.  A number of my better-half’s friends are interested in learning how the process works so they can eventually can their own pickles. With so many requests I decided to do a class that would take care of them all at once.  I’m just a week or so away from canning my first batch of pickles this year so I’ve invited a group of them to get together, watch me do a batch, take appropriate notes, and return home to attempt to do some of their own. I’ve tried to convince them that canning is a simple process but they appear very skeptical.  I also make myself available 24/7 for emergency telephone calls when the occasional mishap arises.  I’ve done a few one-on-ones in the past which were very successful so this should be a breeze.

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I’ve been cleaning and preparing jars for a few weeks because it’s going to get very busy very quickly and I need to keep ahead of things.  I’m estimating we’ll be canning 40-60 pints of hot Bread & Butter pickles, 20 pints of hot Mustard Dills, and 15-20 pints of hot Kosher Dills.  Add in another 30-50 half pints of assorted jellies, jams, and relishes and you can see that we’ll be canning our asses off for six weeks or so. If I do say so myself, we make some damn good pickles, a truly excellent variety of jams, and the relishes can speak for themselves.   Many of the folks who request our pickles return the jars for a refill and as you can see I have them everywhere.

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Fun, fun, and more fun.

08-02-2013   2 comments

Gardening.  It sounds so easy but in reality it’s not.  I’d probably be more obsessed with it if I were a full fledged farmer who was supporting his family with what he could successfully produce.  Being a part-time gardener gives me a great deal of satisfaction and almost as much aggravation.

Each spring my better-half and I spend a lot of time deciding what to grow, soil preparation, and how to process the things we’ll be consuming next winter. One of our goals has always been to grow what we want without the use of insecticides and other chemicals.  To do that successfully for a couple of amateurs is difficult and at times impossible.

This year the weather’s been fairly well balanced with enough rain to keep watering to a minimum.  Along with sufficient amounts of water comes sufficient amounts of slugs, bugs, grubs, and other visiting wildlife.  It then becomes a full time job to maintain a decent level of control over the garden.  Unforeseen problems make themselves known without warning and must be dealt with as quickly as possible.

For instance, I use a black fabric to cover the garden to prevent weeds from taking over.  The fabric is expensive but in the long run will save hours of unnecessary efforts throughout the summer.  Not this year.  I bought what I thought was a product that will hinder weeds and allow water and nutrients to seep through.  Buyer Beware.  We are now more than half way through the growing season and my fabric purchase was a total scam.  The weeds have grown under the fabric and now have penetrated into the sunlight.  The fabric has virtually dissolved into nothingness in spots.  This will make my end-of-season cleanup extremely difficult and time consuming.  My only thought right now is that Home Depot blows. How can such a large company supply a product of such low caliber without some sort of pretesting before it hits the shelves. I guess I’ll be just like the prodigal returning to Lowe’s with my tail between my legs.

Let me tell you a little something about slugs.  Not only are they disgusting, there are millions of them and they’re always hungry.  They can strip a garden in short order if not controlled by insecticides.  This year we were forced to give in and use a commercial product to kill as many of those little bastards as possible.  I won’t even begin to explain my thoughts on the effing tomato worms.  They’re green, voracious, fat, and make a satisfying "pop" when you step on them.

The cucumber patch is loaded already with dozens of future pickles and hundreds of blooms indicating a lot of canning in my future. Tomorrow will be my first official canning day of 2013.  With any luck I’ll be canning approximates 15 pints of hot Bread & Butter pickles and four experimental pints of Kool Aid pickles.  The Kool Aid pickles are something new I’m trying where you mix your dill brine with a double package of Cherry Kool Aid.  It gives you a kosher dill pickle with a sweet cherry taste in a bright red pickle.  It sounds crazy I know but a mixture of sweet and sour is one of my favorite taste combinations.  I just hope it works and isn’t a little too bizarre making people afraid to even try it.  We shall see.

I guess I can stop complaining now.  I’ll get a good nights sleep and be ready to hit the ground running in the morning.  A day of hot boiling water, pots of brine, and a huge pile of sliced cucumbers and jalapeño peppers.  A fun day to be sure.  The Fall harvest is finally beginning.