Ten pounds!

on Sunday, November 20, 2011

That's what about ten pounds of lettuce mix, herbs, Asian greens, Swiss chard and kale look like all bundled up. Some is for the customers who requested it and some will be part of our Thanksgiving feast!
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Is this going to be our first frost?

on Saturday, October 22, 2011

We're already a couple weeks past the first average frost...
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Packaging can be a lot of work!

on Monday, October 17, 2011

A bunch of different varieties of Asian greens, each labeled so my two Guinea Pig CSA members can report back on what they like and dislike.
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Lettuce cross our fingers!

on Monday, October 10, 2011

This will be the first winter with the raised beds I built inside the greenhouse - I wonder if these lettuce plants will tough it out if I treat them as cut-and-come-again, rather than digging up the whole plant when it's time to harvest?
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All dug up and nowhere to go?

I dug up all my rosemary plants from the plum tree bed this weekend, and potted them up. Some had roots coming off branches that were touching the ground, which meant I got to cut them off and hopefully gain extra plants!

I think I've only ever successfully overwintered a single rosemary plant. I've tried a number of times, but the ones in the greenhouse died this past winter, and the ones I've tried in the basement usually die around February.

I'm going to give it another go this winter. I'll try some in the basement, some in the garage, and maybe even the greenhouse again (this time bundled up?)

Fingers crossed! All suggestions welcome!
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Eat your greens!

Hey CSA customers... Remember I kept teasing that I hoped to provide some extra goodies a little later in the season, even after we'd officially shut down? Weeeell..... How's this looking?

There's a mix of Asian greens and lettuce here, and while it's the most packed bed, there's some additional stuff in a couple other beds as well.

Temps are supposed to start dropping again, plus we're supposed to start getting rain again this week...and that's a combination these particular growies love! So I have a feeling I'll be letting you know there's fresh greens/lettuce for you next week. Cross your fingers!

Check out the wire mesh over top of the bed. That's two of my larger tomato cages uncoiled and just holding on to the wooden frame of the bed. While I figure I'll only have enough bulk to share for a couple weeks, I'll leave smaller, less developed plants in the bed for us, and even if it gets cold or frosty, I can put protective cover over the wire mesh to shelter the growies underneath. Why didn't I try this with the cages before??
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on Sunday, October 9, 2011

This morning this bed was loaded with peppers, eggplants, and marigolds...and after heavily harvesting the sparse amount of veggies left of the plants I cleaned out the whole bed, amended it, leveled it out, and just finished planting 192 "somethings" in it for next year - with fun names like Nordic Hammer and Chinese Pink.

Without cheating and googling those names can you guess what they are?

Another hint: some people just can't get enough. Learning that over the last couple of years, I ordered more than ever before and, oops, they won't all fit in this bed! Good news is I have another, smaller bed I'm willing to sacrifice for a good chunk of the year, so I'll be planting that with the remainder of this crop shortly. And my hopes are to have so much harvested next year to replant from my own *correctly labeled* harvest next year, meaning I shouldn't have to buy them anymore! (there was a slight labeling issue with the crop planted last year, so I didn't know what varieties I had come harvest time this summer!)
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Green goodness

on Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cilantro? Check!
Red onion? Check!
Garlic? Check!

Sigh, if only I could grow my own avocados!
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Almost time to plant garlic

on Sunday, October 2, 2011

And this year I'm so much more prepared! Next spring not only will I NOT be wondering what my different varieties are because I didn't make all-season-tough labels for them, but I will have all the vital info for each variety right there in the garden!
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Got mean yellow jackets?

on Friday, September 23, 2011

Here's how to make them docile. Let them stuff themselves stupid because you got a few days behind on picking the raspberries. At this point you can pick the berries right next to the ones they're eating, and they just ignore you.

Or they fall off the berry they're ruining, and still ignore the fact you just knocked them off because they're in a sugar high.

I think it's like humans eating turkey!

The only problem is that they've trashed a ton of the berries, and now I have to wait for those berries to be eaten or fall off. The next few days could get ugly while we duke it out for the newly ripening berries and then I can keep ahead of the yellow jackets again.
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on Wednesday, September 21, 2011

These were collected from various brassicas (like broccoli and Brussels sprouts) and greens (which, I don't know, might include brassicas).

Yes, they're "cute caterpillars."

Unless you're a gardener, and then they're the larval form of the cabbage white moth. Do you know what that is? It's those pretty white "butterflies" fluttering all around.

They quickly land on a victim plant and drop off a tiiiiiny egg. You can see them if you look close enough. About the size of a period in the newspaper, but creamy yellow.

Once those hatch the tiny caterpillars grow up fast, devouring the leaves of the plants they were born on, and pooping "frass" all over the place.

For some reason, I don't seem to have any predators that like these caterpillars, so I hand pick them and toss them in the pond. You have no idea how satisfying it is to watch a fish jump up and gulp one down!

I have also been treating with a combination of Garden Dust (organic pesticide powder) and diatomacious earth (ground up dead diatoms from the ocean if I remember correctly)... These two powders DO help leave some caterpillar carcasses on the plants, but rain washes the powders away.

The best thing to do, which worked great on the spring broccoli, but I was lazy/crowded for space and didn't do for the late summer planting of broccoli, is to cover the young plants with floating row cover, a sheer fabric that lets through light and water but not insects. Stops the critters from ever getting laid!
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on Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's supposed to drop down to 41 tomorrow night? You can pretty much expect that's going to shut down most of the garden for the season!
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Just peachy!

on Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do these tomatoes look familiar to you guys?

I have to be honest - I didn't take that picture (although I did swipe it!).

That's the Wapsipinicon Peach tomato I provided for a few weeks - I think some of you got more than others, but you all got to try them.  It's the tomato name I could never pronounce, and the tomato you almost didn't get just because I didn't think they were good.  After the tomato plants got blown over (and ripped from the ground) by midsummer storms, these little guys started to appear but didn't look right.  They didn't have the usual "gloss" that you expect on tomatoes, and they were an odd size and not a perfectly round shape.  I seriously thought they were duds on a stressed plant!

Good thing my neighbor said he was going to try one, even though I was saying "no no, don't put that in your mouth - I think they're bad!"  And here The Kitchn blog is spotlighting them as a great tomato experience from this summer!

I'd seen the seeds listed for at least a few years now, but never had the nerve to take up garden space by ordering them.  This year I wanted something new, and ordered them from Totally Tomatoes, where I get a lot of my tomato seeds.  They have a surprisingly fresh and juicy taste to them, and according to Totally Tomatoes, they're "Named after the Wapsipinicon River in northeast Iowa. Heavy yielding."  That "heavy yielding" part would seem true - in a year where some of my plants didn't produce a single fruit that made it all the way through to ripening, this plant was a trooper.

Now that the weather's cooling off, the hours of daylight are shortening, and the annual tomato-plant diseases are wrecking havoc, these Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes are fizzling out.  I doubt we'll have any more to harvest this season.  So what do you think - would they be worth growing again next year!?

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Playing things a little different this time!

on Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hey folks - because things have been so rushed since getting back from Kansas Sunday evening, and because I've been hearing more "I'm really not into such-and-such" comments, I'm doing things a little differently with my portion of your shares this week. As you can see here, there were a lot of super-sized veggies when we got home from Kansas:

Because I was short on time for sorting out individual boxes, I've sort of grouped a bunch of the items together into a pool (cukes, squash, eggplants, okra, large tomatoes, etc), got the grand total, and found that each person can have 14 "things" - that could include "a bundle of yardlong beans" (there's only one), raspberries (yes, it's true! there's three containers!), a large tomato or three small green zebra tomatoes, a cucumber, a squash, etc... It's first come, first serve, so the early bird gets best pick. (As you can see in the picture, there's plenty to choose from)

Each person is also getting a small container of cherry tomatoes (I don't think anyone's passed on those), a mix of herbs, and if interested, sunflowers! (You can pretend you were in Kansas this week as well!)

 Hope to see you out in the parking lot at 9am!
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New tool for the backyard garden

on Thursday, September 1, 2011

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Out on the farm

Visiting family in Kansas.
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Now we're talking!

on Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's like a rainbow of veggies!
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More stuff yet to come?

on Monday, August 15, 2011

While many gardeners are complaining about all the veggies that just aren't doing well this summer, think back to those spring crops we enjoyed... Especially the lettuce.

Now while other spring crops didn't do so great (like there wasn't much spinach this spring, and the pak choi flopped ), we're about to get a second chance with some of the cool weather crops.

I just started seeds for a variety of lettuces, pak choi, and other Asian greens (many that I've never tried before!) this past Thursday, and check it out... They're already sprouting.

They might look awfully crowded in these pots, but most seedlings take transplanting quite well. I'll just wait till these guys get a little more mature, lift them from their pots, tease the roots apart, and tuck them into the raised beds. I'll also be finding some space to direct seed spinach before too long.

Let's hope this fall is better in the garden than spring was!
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First okra bloom?!

It's about time. And a little out of focus.

But it looks like okra might not be too far off, which I'm happy to see. Now not everyone loves okra, but if you've never tried it before I hope you'll at least give it a chance.

One of the best ways to do that is get to your nearest Cracker Barrel restaurant and order up a side of fried okra with your meal. Yuuum!
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Are you getting cucumber fatigue yet?

on Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I tell ya. I've never had as good a cucumber year as this year. I may have many other things I'm griping about in the garden, with all the poor production of tomatoes, squash, etc, but it's definitely the year of the cucumber.

And the heaviest producer of them all? Pearl, the pale yellow-green one in this picture. I think there's only one vine, but wow!

Oh... A warning, if you ever try growing Pearl -it's got the most evil cucumber spines I've ever experienced! Some of them get in the skin, and stay there like a splinter!

I don't know how you guys are feeling, but I think we're starting to feel a little cucumber fatigue here at home. Last year it was the eggplant, okra and peppers that were going strong in my garden, and Mary was providing up to 20 tomatoes a week per person! This year it's the cukes...
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Oh yay...

on Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Even more rain!
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Now isn't that cute!

on Monday, August 8, 2011

Meet piccolo...

The Territorial Seed catalog says "a melt-in-your-mouth marrow squash with a unique new shape. Piccolo will hit the high notes in all your summer meals. The round to oblong fruit has eye-catching, dark and light green striping and creamy colored flesh. At tennis ball size, they look like mini watermelons and are tender and delicious. Healthy, productive plants provide a summer full of delectable harvests."

While it is a cute little guy, I can only hope they'll be as productive as hinted here. Here it is, August 8,and I've only just picked the first one! There's another, smaller fruit on the vine, and hints of more blooms coming so...so we'll see how it goes.
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First BLT of the season

on Sunday, August 7, 2011

There it is! And that Supersteak tomato is a doozy! Now most of the tomatoes aren't absolutely perfectly ripe where they're really juicy, but many of them are just a day or two away from that stage I think. I technically could've had the first BLT two days ago, but alas there was no L to be had! I had a really good bacon, turkey and tomato, but we all know that's just not the same...
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Seven down

on Monday, August 1, 2011

The storm that just blew through dropped .7" of rain and took out these seven tomato plants. My socks are soaked now, but at least I've got the plants and their cages braced upright with posts. Not sure what permanent damage was done to the plants??
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How do you use your cucumbers?

on Sunday, July 31, 2011

Brett likes them peeled (no skins on his cucumber!), sliced into sticks and then eats them plain or maybe with blue cheese dressing to dip.

I like them sliced thin, along with thinly sliced onion (red onion in the picture, but color doesn't really matter to me), and put in a container with a lid that has a good seal. Then I sprinkle them with a pinch of salt, pepper and maybe sugar, and then pour in roughly equal parts of vegetable oil, cider vinegar and water. Seal, shake, and let sit for a little while. I like them best when chilled. For two small or one medium cucumber I use a small to medium onion, and roughly a quarter cup of each of the liquid ingredients. This is to taste, so if you like it more puckery, go heavier on the vinegar.

I find if I use too much oil (compared to the vinegar and water), it can seem a little too oily, especially when cold!

Oh, and I've been known to include some snips of dill if I have it, but I don't usually have it around.

And another great way to eat cucumbers? Slices of pumpernickle, spread with cream cheese, topped with thin slices of cuke, and sprinkled with a little dill (dry or fresh). Soooo good! I've even done this on pumpernickle cut with a bat-shaped cookie cutter for Halloween parties. The near-black bread is great!
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Vampires beware!

Your shares this week will include two smaller heads of garlic.... In previous weeks I think you've each gotten just one head, but it was usually a bit bigger. Now that all the garlic has been harvested (dug up) , cured (set out to dry), had the stalks trimmed off (easier to include in share/store), and had most of the dirt knocked off, I have a better feel for which heads are going to last longer and which are a bit questionable.

Since there are always plenty that a bug got into, or got knicked while being dug up, or have some soft/bad cloves in them, we want to make sure those heads are used up first. So this week each of your shares have two smaller heads of garlic... One that is a bit more picture perfect and should store longer, and the other is a bit iffy... It's the one you'll want to pick over, check the individual cloves, and use it up sooner. Trust me... You'll know if any of the cloves have gone bad... Peeeeuw! ;-)
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Kissy kissy

on Saturday, July 30, 2011

Of the original 7 bunnies there are now only two in the nest. There was a third but it took off into the cabbages, and I thought I found it but about caught a big frog instead. That sucker hopped at least 18" into the air, landing in the pepper bed after I followed it out of the cabbage bed.
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on Sunday, July 24, 2011

The rain has NOT been kind to these tomatoes... The plants are starting to die from the ground up. But as you can see, there's plenty of fruit on the vine. I think we'll be ok, plus these aren't the only tomato plants, and the others are faring much better... Fingers crossed!
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Good morning sunshine

Hmmy, as a "farmer" I'm supposed to ensure this nest of baby bunnies is never a threat to my crops. What should I do??
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Suddenly by surprise!

on Friday, July 1, 2011

The funny thing about some veggie plants is they can be farther along than you realized... even when you stare at them every day! I swear that big one wasn't there earlier this afternoon!
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Are you as happy to see this cucumber as it is to see you?
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We know there are more moles in here somewhere!
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Remember last year's eggplants?

Those of you who were members last year probably remember how we were getting almost overwhelmed with eggplants, especially that long, narrow Japanese varieties. There were weeks where I was picking 75+ fruit!

So far this season the plants themselves haven't really started to take off yet. Because of the cooler spring, they didn't get set out into the ground as early as last year, and they're always slow to take off. Still, I'm pretty confident they'll be settled in soon enough and hopefully start to take off faster than the flea beetles can eat through their leaves.

We had a number of questions on how people prepare the tender-skinned, long, skinny eggplants last year. My usual methods were to either just simmer them with most of the other veggies coming out of the garden in a really chunky, flavorful sauce to serve over pasta (or even eat as a stew), or I'd grill them before adding them to recipes.

Near the end of the season, as everyone was burning out on the eggplant, I actually did an experiment where I washed, cubed, and dehydrated a bunch of the fruits in my dehydrator (along with sweet peppers, hot peppers and squash). (I have the Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator if anyone's curious, and it's great for preserving veggies and herbs from the garden, making dog treats, making apple rings from apple picking in the orchards in the fall, making fruit leather and more!)

I think the dehydrated eggplants have been my favorite - in fact, just this past week I added some dehydrated eggplants to a pot of boiling water at the same time as seashell pasta, and when the pasta was done I drained the whole pot and added the pasta and rehydrated eggplant to a bowl with tomato, cucumber, lemon juice, parsley, mint, olive oil, salt and pepper - it was sort of a twist on tabbouleh (which is what I was really hungry for, but was out of bulgar wheat, and decided, hey, if I was changing it up anyhow, let's add the eggplant!). Turned out GREAT!

Here's a web video showing something else you can make with eggplant - Japanese Eggplant Ratatouille. Looks gooooood!

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Reach for the sky!

on Friday, June 24, 2011

At least that's what it looks like is going on here!

After I worried and griped about how slow the peas were growing this spring, just sitting there at the same height (2"?) for soooo long, you can see here that they REALLY took off! Maybe it's hard to tell from these pictures, but here's the math (these things are taller than me, and I'm not reaching up to harvest peas!). The raised bed containing the peas is 12" tall, but I'd guess the soil filling the bed is probably only 8"-10" deep. The peas are climbing a trellis made of concrete reinforcement mesh - it's the same stuff many home gardeners use to make their tomato cages (as I have). Each square in the mesh is 6" square - so it's real easy to figure out how tall something is growing. In this case, there's 5' of mesh above soil level - and you can see some of those peas tendrils are easily a foot taller than the top of the mesh! Before long I might need a step ladder...

Speaking of peas, here's what's pickin' right now....three varieties, but you can use them interchangeably - you get a mix of peas, and they're great raw or only ever so slightly cooked (if using in soups, just drop them in a couple minutes before it's time to serve up). The first two peas in the picture below are both snow peas, and then the third is a sugar snap. Notice the difference in pod shape/thickness - snow peas are always flat, and sugar snaps look nice and plump. You never want to let these "edible pod" types of peas get too developed, or they get starchy, lose their sweetness, and the plant will stop producing. Basically the plant wants to get seeds out there for reproduction, and we keep picking off the seeds before they're full developed (and and we EAT them)... so the plant keeps making more while it still has the energy.

I hadn't planned on growing snow peas this year because I find they're not as flavorful, but then I came across the green variety on the left, called "Snow Sweet", which was advertised to be the sweetest snow pea ever. Yeah, I don't know about you, but I'm not finding these guys to be very sweet. The plant is interesting though - it's not even two feet tall, is only just starting to produce, and the leaves are the DARKEST green I've ever seen for a pea plant!

The next one over is "Golden Snow Pea", and caught me at a weak moment - I thought it'd be fun for the CSA members to get a yellow snow pea. Gotta say - it's really starting to get prolific, but the flavor's only mediocre.

But perhaps I'm not being fair to the snow peas because the sugar snaps just taste SO much better. That third one in the picture is called "Sugar Anne", and that's the 6+' vines you see in the pictures above. I was really skeptical - another sugar snap variety that was producing earlier (but hasn't gotten more than 3' tall) was really cranking out the peas while "Sugar Anne" just kept getting taller and taller. I knew it was supposed to get tall, but thought maybe we'd see some peas sooner. Suddenly, WHAMMO, now it's cranking out the peas, and I have to pick every couple days! Sugar snaps definitely have a more crisp texture and sweeter taste....while I think snow peas are more attractive than flavorful. What are your thoughts?

And speaking of plants that are producing...I told Mary I'd have to take a picture of the first pepper in my garden to send with you. I was in the garden trying to take a picture that looked good, but the lighting wasn't working with me. Only after I took several pictures did I realize I was seeing not ONE pepper, but several! Sure, they're not big yet....but there's at least three peppers that've formed. (Yes, there's still so few that it's fun to count them....that'll change real soon!) ;-) So if you click on the following picture to view the full-size, you should be able to find at least three peppers and some blooms. I've got onions interplanted with the peppers, so that's what the other things are in the pictures.

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Kale Salad

on Friday, June 17, 2011

Well now here's something really interesting to do with the kale you're getting in your shares - Kale Salad with Apricots, Avocado and Parm.

I gotta say, that's a mighty unusual combination. I have had salad with romaine, dried cranberries, sliced fresh pear and almond slivers with a great dressing - so I suppose it's just a variation on a theme.

This one sure LOOKS good, and I like all the individual components. Be sure to let us know if you try it - or whatever else you're doing with your weekly veggies!

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Will these be your new fava-rite veggie?

on Thursday, June 16, 2011

I've never grown fava beans before... they have a very different growth habit from standard bush beans and runner beans. The flowers are really attractive. Can't wait to try the end result!
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The beginning

Looking forward to tomatoes! Some of the blooms on this supersteak variety are huge. There's even a double, which will probably result in a strangely shaped tomato. It'll still taste great!
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on Friday, June 10, 2011

Here's another picture of the funky garlic scapes starting to form in the garden:

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Garlic scapes | Talli d'aglioImage by Rubber Slippers In Italy via FlickrGarlic scapes are an odd-looking, often bent/curved, growth that comes out of the top of some varieties of garlic, typically those that are considered hardneck varieties. The garlic scape is basically the flower stalk that grows up out of the top of the garlic plant, and each year I've grown garlic it seems the scapes can be sitting there for a short while before you even realized they've formed! I have a feeling they actually grow really fast - which might be why they seem to tender and bendy?

It seems many folks just throw away the scapes after cutting them off to improve the growth of the garlic bulb down in the ground. This is a waste of a perfectly good piece of food you've grown! Garlic scapes have that pungeant scent and flavor that you expect of garlic bulbs, although from what I've read it's implied they're milder. I don't know about that - the garlic scapes I cooked last year were pretty strong!

Here's some sites with suggestions/recipes on how to use your garlic scapes:

Oh, and btw - it's only fair that I warn ya - you're going to want to get something to freshen your breath once we start giving you garlic scapes! ;-)
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