"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Harvesting Green Tomatoes, Peppers, Corn, and Squash

The vast majority of this year's tomatoes stubbornly refused to ripen on the vine. I coaxed and pleaded with them, all to no avail. Their fate was set in stone when spring declined her initial invitation and showed up late for the party. If I could have tossed a lasso around the sun and pulled it closer to our garden perhaps that would have helped...but alas I have no such magic.

So, with the rainy cool weather pushing the last of summer aside we made the decision to pick all but our cherry tomatoes rather than risk the possibility of dampness or even frost stealing away our crop in the next couple of days. Most, if not all, of these tomatoes were fully formed and should slowly ripen inside over the next few weeks. We've had to pick our tomatoes green many times in years past but never this many. I am happy though as I was somewhat concerned for a while that we would not even see the fruits fully develop this year.

All the tomatoes were removed from the buckets, wiped clean of water (we picked them in the rain) and placed in cardboard boxes on our porch. We will bring them into the house a few boxes at a time to help speed up the ripening process and slowly convert them into salsa, sauce, and such.

I believe this box contains a few German Strawberry, Kellog's Breakfast, and (hybrid) Margherita's. They all have such a pretty green hue to them don't you think.:)

Yesterday I picked sweet (green) peppers from all but the potted pepper plants which were brought back into the greenhouse, I am hoping that they will ripen up a bit more. We will probably pull the remaining hot pepper plants and hang them upside down, this often helps them to finish ripening and hopefully "heat" up a bit as most are lacking in that department.

My hots aren't hot and the Paprika has no color.:(

While our popping corn is still outside trying to finish forming we were able to harvest our Painted Mountain and Blue Jade corn. We didn't spare much space for corn in the garden this year as there is still an abundance left over from the previous season. Once the kernels have shriveled enough to be removed from the cob they will be put on a screen in front of our wood or pellet stove to finish hardening because they have a propensity to become moldy if they are not cured properly in a warm dry environment. We do the same with our sunflower seeds. All of our corn is dried, stored in gallon jars, and will be ground into cornmeal as needed.

I love the color variance that we get with these varieties of corn.

And then there is the squash. A dismal harvest, perhaps our worst ever. I left many squashes outside on the vine to finish growing but with this cold rainy weather I hold little hope for them unless a couple more weeks of warm dry weather shows itself. Thank goodness for large hubbards, sugar pie pumkins, and gold nuggets. All three of which struggled mightily but at least gave us a few mature specimens to be used sparingly throughout the winter.

Normally at this time of year the vines have begun to die back and the rind has hardened to the point that it can no longer be easily pierced by a thumbnail. I leave a couple inches of stem on the squash as they perspire through their stems, any without may begin to rot. Those that lack stems or have soft spots are always used first and are usually the ones we steam and freeze to be used as soup or in mashed squash dishes. Unblemished squash is allowed to cure on our porch for a couple weeks or until the temperature drops below 50° at which point it is brought inside and kept cool and dry, right around 50-65°

All of that said, I am very excited to harvest our root veggies as I think they will be our summer's shining star. We hope to begin harvesting beets, carrots, potatoes, and parsnips as soon as we are afforded a couple of dry days in which to work.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Onion Harvest

Spring came, summer went, fall and winter are quickly approaching. The change in seasons finds us scurrying to procure all that we can from the gardens. Timing is key. If we wait too long the cold and wet will take its toll, too soon and the produce will not store well.

Recently we pulled most of our storage onions as a few days of wet weather is soon to be upon us and with the cooler nights I don't want them to succumb to rot. They were close to being ready, not as close as I would have liked under better conditions but they should cure up good enough nonetheless. While not as big as they could have been given a longer gardening year they were not too bad, not bad at all. I planted Borettana, Juane Paille de Vertus, and my favorite Yellow of Parma. All of the mentioned varieties grow well from seed and store for a long time for us...although I did struggle to get our Borettana's to germinate properly this spring. Anyway, once pulled I laid the onions out on our porch -

and patio to finish drying before removing the stalks about an inch from the bulb.
In a normal year I would have waited to pull these Yellow of Parma↓ until after the green stalks had withered away and then laid them out on the porch to cure for a few weeks before putting them in airy baskets for storage in a cool dry area...our basement works good for this.

We also had a fairly good garlic harvest this season. Again, the cloves were a bit on the small side but numerous...bring forth the fidlyness.:) I had to replace quite a few this spring because they had rotted in the ground over winter as we had almost no snow for protection...a first for us, we normally have plenty of snow cover. The spring planted replacements were just as large as those garlics planted the previous fall so, in the end, other than the wasted garlic, it really made no difference.

These garlics are for eating and the ones with tags on them in the second picture will be replanted for next years crop ~ and so continues the cycle...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

An Apple A Day

Yellow Transparent ↑ “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~ Martin Luther

Well it has been a long time coming but after planting some of our first 3-4 year old semi-dwarf apple trees a few years back we are just now finally reaping the rewards of our first real apple harvest. It will be so nice to use some of our very own apples rather than having to rely on foraging the wild forgotten orchards for them...although we will be doing that again this year too.

We started planting apple trees in 2007 and every year thereafter have added more trees to our collection, all told we now have 18 different varieties of the semi dwarf, of which four produced fruits for us this year, and many other standard varieties that I have grown from seed.

If I could go back in time the very first thing I would do before even thinking of starting any type of garden is to first focus on the planting of fruit & nut trees and berry bushes as many of them take so very long to begin producing.

Akane - An excellent tart flavored dessert and juice apple that is supposed to store well.

Spitzenburg (I think, we might have mixed this one up with our Wagener apple?) - Very sweet, and a good eating apple. Some of these were falling off the tree ripe so we picked a few ripe and unripe ones and I canned up some deliciously tart apple sauce...and Mrs. H baked a few turnovers of course.:)

Someday, as and old man, perhaps good fortune will find me sitting under one of these same trees drinking a pint of hard cider and fondly reminiscing about the adventures of my youth.:)
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