Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Tag

07-31-2016 Journal – The Garden Jungle!   Leave a comment

It’s the last of July already. It’s a little hard to believe that summer is more than half over.  This dry spell we’ve been having for the last month is a minor annoyance but without nightly watering the garden will be burnt out.  That little bit of water accomplishes miracles as you will see in the following pictures.

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These Mammoth sunflowers will eventually reach 8 or 9 feet tall.

The sunflowers will be absolutely shredded by the hundreds of birds we feed regularly.  They wait all summer for the sunflowers to go to seed and then it’s a bird free-for-all.   This large bushy clump of plants in the next photo is, believe it or not, asparagus. The plants must be left alone for three years until they are firmly established before we can start harvesting the spears. Next Spring we’ll finally get to eat some delicious home-grown asparagus.

 

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Sautéed in butter . . . there’s nothing better.

These last three photo are just  general photos of the entire garden in three sections.  As you can see in this first one the herbs are plentiful and I’ll be drying them steadily starting in about four weeks.

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This next photo is one of the large frames. This will be the last year we grow veggies here. Starting next Spring it will be converted to nothing but herbs.

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This final photo is a large frame filled with cherry tomatoes, green beans, rhubarb, asparagus, and a selection of hot peppers.  The jalapeños are thriving this year.

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That’s the update for the month of July. Here’s one last photo in my continuing war with the yellow-jackets, This nest was found under our deck after both of us had been stung as we walked by.  I won this battle but the war will continue.

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There you have it. Another month gone so quickly.  I can almost smell Winter and the snow that will follow.

06-21-2016 Journal – June Garden Update!   Leave a comment

It appears that summer is finally decided to arrive. We having much warmer weather during the day and at night and it shows. The garden has really taken off in the last week and things are looking up except for the ghost peppers which aren’t doing well at all. They seem to need hot days and hot nights with a lot of sun to flourish and they’re certainly not finding that here in Maine.  I don’t expect much production from the ghost peppers this year and I’ve pretty much decided to try them one more time next year but in a different way. I intend to plant them either in a cold framework or I’ll build a small greenhouse to try and keep the temperature is high as possible for as long as possible. If that doesn’t work then I’ll give up on ghost peppers entirely and just buy them online. Here are a few shots of the garden taken this morning.

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 The better-half’s flower gardens are also in bloom almost everywhere on the property. This could possibly  be the best year we’ve ever had with a diversity of colors that is amazing.

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We also had a special occasion last night. We harvested the first of the lettuces for this year and they were a perfect addition to our evening meal.

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That’s all for today.  I’m having serious computer issues that need fixing and I hope I’m successful. Microsoft is making my life miserable once again and as usual they’re not much help.

06-09-2016 Journal–June Garden Update!   Leave a comment

Even though June has barely started I thought an garden update was in order. The warmer weather for the last few weeks has brought everything to life in a big way.  Due to the efforts of my better-half we have flowers blooming everywhere.

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The gardens in the yard are filled with irises as you can see. we’ve planted them every where and this is the first year we get to see them in all their glory.

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Just three years ago this rhododendron was one foot tall and looking poorly. We transplanted it to this spot and here is the results of our efforts.

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One of the better-half’s passions is to have as much color in as many places as possible.  That of course includes the deck.  We get to walk through all of these flowers on our way to the table to have our morning coffee. How great is that?

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It’s things like this that help us Mainers wipe away memories of sleet, ice,  snow, and our six month’s of winter.  It’s worth waiting for. Here’s my recent photo of the vegetable and herb garden as compared with one taken in May.  The changes as we move forward will become more and more obvious.

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‘May’

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‘June’

05-30-2016 Journal – Sake & Memorial Day!   2 comments

I found myself awake much too early this morning for some unknown reason. I usually like to get moving around 7am but this morning I was awake at 4:45am and wondering why.  Yesterday was a nothing-special day and I had no pressing personal issues  preying on my mind . . . so why? I’ll probably never know but it sure is irritating.

Yesterday was a rainy and overcast day which kept me indoors most of the day.  I decided to get back to my home brewing tasks and to bottle my batch of Sake that’s been needing my attention for more than a week.

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I checked the bottles to be sure that fermentation had truly stopped. Once many years ago I bottled a batch of wine a little too early and was awakened in the middle of the night by exploding bottles.  I can’t have that happen again . . .  what a mess! Wine making isn’t as complicated as most people think but it does require a reasonable amount of common sense.  The minute you forget that fact you’re in trouble.  I began the  siphoning process which takes no time at all and everything went smoothly. 

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I decided against using the standard wine corks with this batch. These screw caps work just as well and require much less work for me.  It also makes reusing the bottles much easier and I won’t need to exhaust my limited supply of good wine corks.

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I was pleased with the overall look and clarity of the Sake and was able to fill twelve half bottles and seven additional full size bottles. More than enough to last me for quite some time.

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I was also able to save and store a pint and one half of the Sake yeast which will allow me to make numerous batches in the future and save me money at the same time.  It’s all about the yeast!

After the bottling was completed the better-half cooked up a delicious chicken and veggie stir-fry dinner. I cracked open our first bottle of the Sake, warmed it properly, and we toasted the great meal and the Memorial Day holiday. 

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

THANK A VET FOR THEIR SERVICE

SHOW THE FLAG

(And maybe drink some Sake too.)

05-12-2016 Journal – Garden Aches & Pains!   4 comments

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I hate missing a scheduled posting but it happened this week for the first time in almost a year. The weather turned bright, sunny, and beautiful and I got swept away with garden preparations and grass cutting. By the time I was finished it was much too late in the day to sit down and post something.  I’ve been waiting five long months for these first spring days and I enjoyed the hell out of them.

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Along with all that enjoyment came the inevitable aches and pains.  The morning-after reminded me just how many muscles I have in places I’d forgotten about . . . and they weren’t happy. Oh so sore.

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My better-half and I spent some time and money this week visiting a number of local nurseries and were able to purchase almost everything we needed for the initial plantings.  We  bought, cucumbers, zucchini’s, various hot pepper plants, pea pods, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and even some early kale plants. Add to that a few dozen marigolds for a little color and we’re ready to start planting next week. We also picked up quite an assortment of herbs to replace plants lost over the winter and a number of new ones as well.

I even got a little carried away and started transplanting a few things from the flower garden to a more prominent position near the driveway.  It was a backbreaker trying to get this bush moved but it appears to have survived the trauma and is doing well.

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‘Before’

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‘After’

We’ve filled our cold frames with plants and they’ll remain there until I’m sure the weather will remain warmer and no frost in the forecasts. Regardless everything should be planted on or about Memorial Day.  Then it’ll be time to relax and let Mother Nature do what she does best.

These few photos are the first of many I’ll be posting this summer. We should have a really productive garden which will hopefully fill our pantry shelves for next winter.

I NEED TO ORDER MORE BEN-GAY!

10-09-2015 Journal – Deconstruction Continues!   Leave a comment

I found myself somewhat motivated yesterday after beginning the Fall cleanup of the garden a few days ago. The least favorite task I have in the Fall is the one I  completed yesterday. Most of you are familiar with the term “compost pile” but never have had the pleasure of using one.  Today was my turn.

After removing the garden fabric as I mentioned in a previous post it was time to get serious. I spent some time yesterday uprooting all of the better-half’s marigolds. They’d grown so large that they completely filled  my trailer. I then pulled any additional weeds from the frames and took the combined load to the compost pile set aside for 2017.

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I continued in the herb garden by removing the rosemary plants that I cleaned and immediately placed into the dehydrator.  I love the smell of fresh rosemary and my hands will probably carry that aroma for the rest of the day.  On top of that the downstairs of our house will smell of rosemary for a couple of days at the very least.  I then removed the remnants of the radishes, pea pods, cabbages, and carrots from the smaller frames and off they went to their compost pile.

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Then the hard work began. I removed the tarp from the current compost pile and began filling the trailer.  I have to remind you that as a general rule compost had a bit of an odor.  Fortunately the longer it sits the less it smells. This pile was more than two years old and only a little bit stinky.

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I took four trailer loads of compost to the garden and spread the contents evenly over the frames.  I’ll let the garden rest for a day or so because they’re forecasting rain for tomorrow.  I definitely wouldn’t want to be knee deep in wet compost because I’ve been there before. Never again. Once things have dried out completely I can return and rototill the compost into the soil.

One more solid day of work and the garden will  be finished for this year and won’t be touched again until May of 2016. I may be forced to wait a while until the weather decided to cooperate which it hardly every does.

10-01-2015 Journal–My 2015 Garden Eulogy!   Leave a comment

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This week isn’t one I ever look forward to.  It’s the week every year when I begin to dismantle our garden.  It’s been a priority for my better-half and I for the last six months requiring a tremendous amount of TLC and just as much water.  It actually began last winter when we sat down at the kitchen table and planned it all out. As with all plans it never seems to workout perfectly without problems of one sort or another cropping up.

First it was the damn stunk that did everything in it’s power to destroy things. It was one lucky SOB because he survived a number of night time surveillances where I sat in the dark on the deck with a loaded rifle waiting to end his life of vandalism and mayhem.  He must have a really hardworking guardian angel because I seriously wanted to do him harm. After all of the repair jobs and the new fence we reached a mutual agreement to avoid each other for the rest of the summer. I smelled him a few times at night but never met him in person (Thank God).

The weather was for the most part cooperative but you can always use more rainfall with any garden. After a slow start things picked up rather well making the garden fairly productive. Was it the best ever? No.  It was just an average year due mostly to the skunk.

These pictures were taken this morning and as you can see most of the plants have been harvested and removed. All of the herbs we need for the winter have also been harvested, dried, and stored. Beginning next week I’ll begin  removing the garden fabric and composting all of the frames. Then it will be tilled under and left to sit for the winter to be ready for planting in June.

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Here’s the final tally for the garden and all of our efforts for 2015.  The pantry has been restocked with just about everything we need for winter.  My one last contribution will be a large pot of my favorite chicken soup which will supply us with at least ten to twelve hardy meals during the winter.

41 Pints of canned habanero hot B & B pickles
13 Pints of Habanero Dill Pickles
  3 Pints of tripleberry jam
  8 Pints of strawberry/rhubarb jam
  3 Pints of strawberry jam
  8 Pints of blueberry jam
  2 Pints of jalapeño/rhubarb jelly
13 Quarts of Four Bean/Corn chili
14 Quarts of Black Bean/Corn salsa
2 Quad Berry/Rhubarb Tarts
15 Lbs Rhubarb
5 Loaves of Chocolate/Zucchini Bread
4 Loaves of Spice/Zucchini Bread
9 Lbs of Fresh Pea Pods
16 Lbs of Cherry Tomatoes
15 Lbs of Jalapeño Peppers
7 Lbs of Assorted Hot Peppers
20 Lbs of Fresh Zucchini
13 Lbs of Assorted Lettuces
2 Lbs of dried onion chives
1 Lb dried habanero peppers 
1 Lb dried garlic chives
4 Lbs of dried and assorted mints
2 Lbs of dried oregano
1 Lb of dried parsley

This just goes to show how easy it is to supplement your food supply from a medium sized garden and a few cheap purchases from local farmers. All in all not a terrible year but next year will hopefully be even better.

08-16-2015 Journal–Fall is in the Air!   Leave a comment

It’s beginning to feel like Fall already and I’m certainly not happy about that.  We’re just a couple of weeks from Labor Day and then it’s all downhill from there. Most of the smaller nurseries are already closing down except for veggies being shipped to the local grocery stores. 

One telltale sound  indicating Fall here in Maine is the sound of tractors pulling hay wagons down the road past our house.  It’s a distinctive sound which has been steadily increasing in recent weeks.  This is a common place scene in this area these days:

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The large  bales of hay covered in plastic will be appearing by the hundreds almost everywhere over the next month in preparation for Winter.  It appears to have been a great summer for hay production which should keep the animals happy and healthy until Spring.

We’ve been tending our garden more often of late because the veggies are ripening rapidly.  There are a few things every day that require picking as you can see:

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These items went from that basket directly to our table for dinner. The three white turnip looking items are kohlrabi’s. As I’ve mentioned in the past these vegetables aren’t available in stores very often.  Most people have never tasted them or even heard of them.  These were picked while they were still young and tender.  The larger they grow the harder they become to peel and eat.  As you can see by the photo, they grow fairly large but this is the best size for harvesting:

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This kohlrabi was immediately peeled, sliced, diced, and added to our salad for dinner.  They have a wonderfully mild flavor reminiscent of white radishes and are absolutely delicious.  I’ll be sure to return them to the list of plantings for the 2016 garden.

08-01-2015 Journal–A Beautiful Garden Dinner!   Leave a comment

I’m asked one question more than any other, “Why do you work so hard to have a garden?”.  It’s not a simple answer but I’ll try to explain as best I can. For me gardening gets me out of the house, allows me the freedom to work hard, sweat a little, get dirty, and remember my later father in his garden. Having a healthy and happy herb garden accomplishes the same things except it was my mother’s favorite thing to do.  She taught me almost everything I know about herbs and growing them. 

Gardening is hard work with preparing the soil, planting the plants, fighting off bugs, other critters, and dealing with good old Mother Nature.  After all of the hard work she can easily ruin your garden with one severe storm.  It helps me appreciate the good things the garden provides and this week it begins. The plants are producing and the harvesting can begin albeit in a limited amount.

The cherry tomatoes are beginning to ripen and we’ll be enjoying hundreds of them over the next couple of months.

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Eating healthier has been our mantra for the last few years and the garden makes that so much easier to do.  Tonight’s dinner will be supplied totally by the garden except for the chicken breasts.  I just harvested this kohlrabi which is the size of a large softball.  Many people aren’t familiar with  them but they are similar in taste and texture to a radish.

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This was was peeled and diced and set aside.  It was firm and tender and I was forced to eat some immediately with a little salt. The following items along with the diced kohlrabi were used to prepare a delicious collection of flavors, wrapped in aluminum foil, and slowly warmed over the grill while the chicken breasts were cooking.

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Fresh Chives & Parsley

Fresh Green & Purple Basil

Diced Kohlrabi

Cherry Tomatoes

Fresh Pea  Pods

Radishes

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The finished product was plated and served on the deck with a pretty decent Chardonnay.  This is the type of meal we eat for most of the Summer and Fall.  Our hard work gives us fresh food, delicious, organic,  and priced just right.

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As the production increases the meals will become even more interesting.  We’ve started canning and freezing a number of items for use this Winter already, with more to come.

The saddest thing about having a garden is to see it end every Fall.  You can be sure our freezers will be filled, our herbs dried, and our pantry shelves filled with new canned goods. We’ll be eating healthy all Winter.

07-11-2015 Journal – Garden Update!   Leave a comment

With warm weather finally arriving the garden is almost out of control.  Many of the plants that were previously damaged by my marauding skunk have recovered. Almost every pepper plant of which there are many are now blooming and others already have jalapeños that are ready to be harvested.

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The newly installed fence has completely stopped all of our little woodland friends from nosing around at night but there are indications that one of them has been testing the fence, trying to find a way in.  I could see tracks in the dew on the grass where the skunk has completely circled the garden checking every inch of the fence.  If he keeps this nonsense up I may be forced to remove him permanently.  I was hoping I could avoid bloodshed but maybe not.

The better-half’s flower gardens are in a constant state of color and are looking gorgeous.  She has such a large variety of flowers that there always seems to be something blooming somewhere on the property.

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After a two year wait I’ve begun to harvest my rhubarb.  During the better-half’s jam making frenzy last week it was used for the first time to make strawberry/rhubarb jam.  I had some of the finished product for breakfast yesterday and it was well worth waiting for.  It’s amazing that such an ugly plant can taste so damn good.

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Last evening we had guests for dinner which I prepared on the grill. The better-half’s dessert was a rhubarb/strawberry/blackberry/blueberry crisp.  It was even more delicious than it sounds. A nice big piece of that crisp with a huge dollop of Kool-Whip.  It just doesn’t get much better than that.

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At the rate the garden is growing we’ll soon be very busy with pickle making and canning.  Without a doubt this will be a year where everything exceeds all of our expectations.