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Posts Tagged ‘harvest’

Back in the 2011 garden, we bought a few packets of soup-type beans, and planted a few experimental rows.  Then, things got hectic, and we just pulled the plants the night before the first frost, roots and all, and hung them upside down in the pantry to dry out and await shelling.  Of course, the busyness never ended, and the beans did not get shelled.  Until the last couple of days, when I finally decided to clean and organize the pantry!  So, here it is:  an extremely belated report on the dry beans from the 2011 garden (with pictures):

 

 

We planted four types of dry beans, plus chick peas.  The chick peas were a total bust; they had developed decent-sized pods, but the peas themselves did not fill out at all, and were just teeny lumps inside those huge pods.  It might have just been a bad year, or we may have gotten a variety that needs a longer season than we have; however, I am pretty sure that there are farmers in Saskatchewan growing chickpeas, so we’ll probably give them another try, eventually.

 

The Papa de Rola were probably the prettiest bean, but were unfortunately the lowest-yielding:

 

 

 

The red kidney beans did okay, but again, not a spectacular yield:

 

 

The Jacob’s Cattle beans are also gorgeous, but again not all that high-yielding:

 

 

 

The highest yield was from the Pinto beans:

 

 

It took me maybe an hour and a half (interrupted by a screaming child on two occasions, so I am not certain of the exact amount of time) to shell all of these beans.  A fair bit of work, but not bad for several meals’ worth of beans.  I started out being kind of disappointed at how few beans there were, but then I thought about it for a bit – we planted a standard sized seed packet of each type (so basically a small handful of each), then did not water the beans at all, and hardly weeded them, either.  They probably would have all had much better yields had we taken proper care of them.  Although they take up a fair bit of garden real estate (we made a row per packet, and each row was probably 25-30′ long), we have the space to grow these, and they increase the fertility of the garden, being a nitrogen-fixing legume.  Also, the goats love to eat the leftover plant parts, even dried!  I am plotting to grow maybe two or three times as many rows next summer (or maybe even more!), and will trial some other varieties, to see what we like best – I would like to have some sort of black bean in the garden, too.  Like most of the other garden stuff, it takes a surprising amount of work to grow your own, and it shocks me all over again at how cheap grocery-store food is.  However, considering they taste great, go in about half our recipes, and keep more or less forever, dry beans will stay on our growing list.

 

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I am not detailing the harvest from the acreage, this year.  We were gone when we should have been planting (due to the birth of Baby M), and gone when we should have been harvesting (due to my sister’s wedding), so our garden did not amount to all that much.  We have half a small rubbermaid container of carrots, about as many beets, and perhaps twice as many potatoes.  We managed to put away some peas, and a fair bit of fruit, but I have not done any canning at all.  I bought my pumpkins from the farmer’s market, and was given a bunch of squash by neighbours.  Mom is bringing us a few things from her own garden surplus, and Hubby’s mom did the same earlier in the year, so it’s not like we’ll starve (fat chance) or be reduced to *gasp* buying carrots or anything.   Our onions did really well, though, and we got a decent harvest of tomatoes.  Sort of.

 

We harvested the tomatoes on Sept 8th, by pulling the plants by the roots, then storing them on the basement floor to ripen while we were gone to my sister’s wedding in Alaska. We did not do anything more with them until approximately 3 weeks later.

 

Not sure of the exact harvest weight, but a significant percentage (maybe close to half) had gone bad in the 3 weeks they were on the floor. They probably should have been hung up, as the side of each plant not touching the floor had significantly fewer rotten ones. Also, Hubby did not realize that the Black Krim toms were supposed to look like that, and he disposed of several which were probably fine. Similarly, he did not realize about the Green Zebras staying green, so we failed to pick numerous ripe tomatoes on time before they rotted. Note to self: let Hubby know when you’re planting unusual varieties that may perform differently from usual expectations.

 

Hubby is eating the cherry tomatoes as they come ripe, and quite enjoying them.

 

I cut up a roasting pan full (and I mean overflowing full) of ripe tomatoes, and roasted them at 250-275 for about 15 hours over two days. I was scared to leave them unsupervised overnight, but actually I could have done so without worries, early in the process – they don’t seem to need a lot of stirring until after they have reduced by about 30-40%. Next time, I’d chop them in the afternoon, and throw them in the oven in the evening to cook overnight and all the next day. Then I’d process them the next afternoon / evening.

 

I processed the roasted tomatoes after they had reduced to less than 50% of their original volume, and started to get a bit browned . Processing involved throwing the pulpy mess into the food sieve and mashing through until all the pulp was separated from the skins and seeds. That took maybe 15 minutes. This year, I then packaged it in ziplocs and threw it in the freezer; it could also easily be canned. I just did not have enough to bother with running the canner. I got 5 cups of tomato sauce that was about halfway between the consistency of commercial tomato sauce and commercial tomato paste – quite thick. I packaged it in 1-cup containers, as I think I will likely thin it down with water for most recipes. The flavor is very intense.

 

This was SOOOO much easier than peeling, seeding, chopping, and boiling (especially with trying not to burn) like we did back in 2009; I could actually see trying to process multiple bushels this way, especially if you had enough deep pans, like roasters and cake pans. It would be most efficient to fill the oven with as many pans as would fit, I think, and you still wouldn’t be left with an overwhelming amount to process in the end. In fact, you would need several deep roasters going just to get a canner load worth of finished sauce.

 

This used up about 40% of our tomatoes (and all of the ripe ones, except cherry toms for Hubby). If the rest ripen in large enough batches, they will receive the same treatment.

 

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So, the garden is finally winding down.  We made a ton of mistakes, but we’ve still got a pantry and a root cellar that are full to bursting, so, overall, I’d call the garden a success.  Having said that, I don’t know if we can even really take credit, since we had near-perfect weather for growing – lots of rain (for our area, at least) and good heat.

Our corn was planted too late, and did not mature before first frost.  We got a few cobs, but most of it was pulled from the roots and fed to the goats.  They really loved the treat, though!

The peas never really had a flush of pods that was big enough for serious processing.  In all, we ate peas with almost every meal for a couple of weeks, and put a few cups in the freezer, but that was all.  I was disappointed that we did not get more for the freezer, but we sure enjoyed them fresh.

 

We got one lonely cucumber:

 

 

The peppers were hardly worth planting, and we only got a few immature peppers out of several dozen plants.

The beans were a smashing success, with over 40 cups blanched and frozen, plus tons for shelling over the winter.

The tomatoes bore lots – in all we picked 8 two-gallon buckets, though the majority were green and will need to be ripened inside.  They sure make nice salsa, though!

 

 

Squash was pretty good overall, with the butternuts we planted having withered and disappeared, but the pumpkins and spaghetti squash more than making up for it, and giving us over 50 full-size squashes, plus a bunch of smaller ones.  I like picking the squash – it’s like an over-sized Easter egg hunt!  Here is the first wheelbarrow full:

 

 

The real winners, though, were the root veggies.  We got over 30 pounds of beets, and around 80 pounds of onions.  I don’t quite know what we’ll do with over a hundred pounds of carrots, though I’m sure we’ll share with the goats.  Turnips and rutabagas yielded very well, but were more than 50 percent wormy, so we got around 60 pounds of useable roots for our cellar.  The rest will likely be fed to the chickens and goats over time.  A local market gardener told us that, with all the canola around, there were too many pests for turnips or rutabagas to do well, and not to feel too bad if we managed to get any edible crop at all!

 

 

We will have lots and lots of potatoes, as well.

We seriously over-planted, expecting to lose a lot of the garden to pests or drought, but then nature turned around and handed us a great year for growing.  I’m just glad we’ve got a big root cellar…now to figure out how to eat all this stuff…

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Well, the harvest continues.  The forecast hard frost did come last night, but we did manage to get most stuff out in time.  We picked 2 wheelbarrow loads of winter squash, now curing on the livingroom floor, 5 two-gallon buckets of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness, now ripening in buckets on the kitchen table, about a million bean plants, now hanging to dry in the barn, and a bunch of half-cobs of corn – not quite mature, but big enough to think about trying to do something with, that are currently in the fridge.  The everbearing strawberries decided to give one last big push, and our crabapple tree had lots of little apples within easy reach, so I whipped up a batch of crabapple-strawberry jam in there, too.  Next, we’ll dig the root veggies, though probably not for a couple of weeks yet, as the weather is supposed to turn warm again for awhile.  Meanwhile, I found a lady selling local apples – some looked like the ones we got off our tree in Alberta, even –  so I plan to get some to make applesauce.  We’re also still waiting for the pears to go on sale, as they were a big hit last year – there is still some canning to be done.

 

Over the course of the gardening season, I kept a running list of what worked and what did not.  While I expect I will still have a few things to add as we bring in the rest of the root veggies, I thought I would share what I’ve learned so far:

 

Start the seeds in larger (4′) pots, so they don’t get so rootbound. Watch about starting squash early – they grow quick.

 

Need to stay on top of recording plant varieties (what went where), especially with vines (melons, cukes, squash), peppers, and tomatoes, where we plant fewer things of more varieties, and might like to know, for instance, which peppers are sweet, and which hot. We did pretty good on the recording for the row crops. Maybe a bigger garden map would help, or sectioned map. A looselseaf page is not nearly big enough.

 

Rows need to be well-spaced to allow weeding and picking comfortably without crushing nearby plants.

 

Need to plan better so that the longest season crops (corn, squash, melons, parsnips, mangels) are planted first, rather than the beans and beets, which can wait.

 

Best to plant the salad type early crops (radishes, spinach, lettuce, etc) up close to the house, where we will remember them. Planting tomatoes and peppers early near the house was a good idea – we could cover them for frosts and get an earlier harvest.

 

Stake the effing tomatoes early.

 

Need to plant rows of herbs in the garden itself – especially basil, parsley, dill, and oregano, as we could use a lot more than our couple of plants will yield.

 

Trellis the peas and consider planting pole beans, just for ease of picking.

 

Could have planted some rows (maybe 2 or 3) close together, then a large space for walking / weeding – this would work well with onions, carrots, beets, spinach, maybe turnips.

 

Beets really, REALLY need to be kept clear of weeds, including mangel beets. Beans, peas, potatoes, onions, corn, sunflowers, and squash do not seem to be so bothered, but weeds really seem to rapidly choke out the beets.

 

Beets don’t like frost. Pull them before the first hard frost.

 

There you have it…more to follow, I am sure!

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Just the Beginning…

Well, all of the onions are in, and finishing out their curing time on a sheet on the living room floor.  We planted 400 sets, and although we ate a bunch over the summer, it looks like less than I expected, somehow.

 

Maybe a tenth of the sunflowers are in, hanging in the back porch, or stacked in baskets to dry.  Planting two rows (of around 90 feet each) was a little on the enthusiastic side.  The birds are helping us with the harvest, though, and there are plenty of flowers that will not form seeds, or not many seeds, before the first frost, which could come any day now.  I don’t really intend to bother pulling the seeds out of all the flowers – I will just toss the dried flower heads into the chicken coop for an occasional winter treat.

 

Tomatoes are piling up, but there’s not quite enough for a big batch of salsa, just yet.  Hubby has been eating one or two (or three or four) of the little ones with supper most days, but he can’t keep up.  And that’s just the eating tomatoes.  The paste tomatoes are just starting to turn, and will hopefully beat the frost, though if the weather stays nice, we’ll cover them and extend the season as long as we can.

 

In the end, we picked maybe 5 gallons of chokecherries, and made a bunch of jelly and syrup, as well as a batch of wine.  There are still some of the late berries coming ripe, but I’m not sure if they’re worth the bother with all the rest of the garden to do.

 

I’ve been trying to keep up with big grocery store produce sales, as well as local produce that we weren’t able to grow ourselves this year.  I’ve put up 20 pounds of peaches, 20 pounds of nectarines, 40 pounds of mangoes, 10 pounds of strawberries, 20 pounds of blueberries, maybe the same of raspberries, saskatoon berries (no idea how many – whatever we picked), plus tons of peas and beans from the garden, celery and  peppers that were on sale (frozen for cooking and salsa making later), and 72 cobs of corn we bought from a local fella last week.  I’ve blanched and chopped and hulled and frozen, jammed, jellied, dehydrated, and pickled my butt off.   The shelves in my canning pantry are groaning, and I’m not sure if we could fit another single cob of corn in the freezer.  I’m waiting for the pears to go on sale, though, as we canned up 3 cases last year, and there is one (!) lonely jar of pears left on the counter, waiting to be dessert on a hot day sometime this week…

 

The garden is mostly still going, and we’re facing a grueling marathon sometime soon…when the frost comes.  We’ve got tons of potatoes, turnips, carrots, pumpkins, squash, beets, and shelling beans that we are leaving till the last possible minute, since the cold room is not the slightest bit cold – it’s been 30+ degrees for the last few days, and will continue like that for at least a week.   We’ve also got corn in the garden that may yet make it to maturity, and the rest of the sunflowers, too.  I’m also eyeing up the little crab apples on the tree out back of the house – they’re terribly sour, but I’m wondering if enough sugar would make them into a palatable apple sauce.   I already sorely miss my apple trees back in Alberta!

 

Then there’s the buck yard to finish, and we need to do a few repairs to the barn before the snow flies.  We’ve got a big order of square hay bales coming someday soon that will need to be stacked in the barn, and we’ve been trying to clear a big enough area for that.  We need to find another freezer, as the chickens will need butchering in the next few weeks, as well.   Hubby’s been trying to dig me some beds for next spring’s herbs and strawberries, as I lost a bunch of my plant starts this spring and summer for lack of places to plant them.   If we can find time, I want to spread the old goat bedding on the garden for the winter, to till in in the spring.   That will be a lot of wheelbarrow loads, though!

 

So, anyways, things are getting just a tad busy around here, and I expect posting will be a little erratic for the next month or so…something tells me we’ll be heaving one big sigh of relief when the snow flies…

 

 

 

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The Good:

There were some peas in the garden at just the perfect stage of ripeness.  Not enough for much more than snacking…yet…but boy, were they tasty.  I went out to supervise Hubby weeding – you know, keep him company for awhile, and ooh and aah over the progress he had made, which was pretty significant.  Overall this summer, the weeds have been winning most of the time, but when we bushwack our way back down to dirt in any given row, we keep discovering that the vegetables are still there, and doing fine.  After getting through the weeds, Hubby thinned the beets, and the bundle of greens was big enough to be a side dish for a meal.  While we were at it, we dug up a couple of potato plants, just to see what was under there, and were pleased to find big healthy potatoes, ready to be cooked up into lunch.  I pulled up a couple of immature onions, and went inside to make something to eat…

Recipe:  Creamy Dilled Potatoes

12 small potatoes (or 3 or 4 big ones), cut into bite-sized chunks

2 immature garden onions (or 1/2 of a regular white onion, or a good handful of green onions)

a little butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp dried dill

salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in a little salted water water until tender.  While the potatoes are cooking, chop the white part of the onion and fry in butter until just translucent.  Chop the green part of the onion and add that, too, once the white is mostly cooked.   add the milk and heavy cream (or just add a cup of light cream – we happened to have heavy cream around, about to go off, and I did not want to waste it), and the dill, salt, and pepper.  When to potatoes are done cooking, drain the water, then put them back in the pot and add the cream sauce.  Simmer briefly and serve.  We had ours with steamed beet greens with a bit of butter and lemon.  This is very rich, and would probably be best as a side dish with a lighter meal like grilled chicken and steamed veg, but we liked it just fine as the main course, too!

The Bad:

Last weekend, Hubby found one of the chickens in the coop, laying on her side.  She was not in any distress, but seemed to be unable to get up.  We put her in a box with a bit of straw for bedding, and brought her into the porch.  She ate and drank happily enough, and seemed fine, except for an inability to stand.  After five days, she was no better at all, and seemed weaker and in some discomfort from laying on her side all the time – some of her feathers were getting loose, and she just did not look well at all.

I told Hubby that I would not participate in anything that involved blood until after my morning coffee, so he sharpened the axe and took the chicken out to the woods at 7am and dealt with it by himself.  She has joined the chicks in the little cemetery in the woods, as we don’t know what sort of bug made her paralyzed like that, and didn’t really want to eat sick chicken.   Hubby said the experience was “gruesome”, but he thinks slaughter time will go fine.  I am proud of him – he has never killed anything bigger than a mosquito before, but he was able to do the humane thing, and made a clean kill.

The Dessert:

Last week, I was experimenting with making candied peel, and tried making candied ginger while I was at it.  A few years ago, Mom had this lovely box of chocolates that had candied ginger in the centres, and taste-testing my home-made candied ginger reminded me of that for some reason.  I had a chunk of Bernard Callebeaut dark chocolate in the pantry, bought for some long-forgotten recipe that I failed to get around to, so I broke out the candy molds and the double boiler.  I made half with the candied ginger, but Hubby is not a big ginger guy, so at his request, I filled the other half with dollops of saskatoon berry jam that I made earlier this week.  Both types were fantastic, but they look exactly the same, so we have to be careful which end of the mold each chocolate comes from, lest Hubby get a nasty surprise!

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