Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas break 2017

A patch of celery flopped over in the frost
Poor frosty celery--it perked up the next day with the thaw
After a productive gardening year, I'm taking my break with pride this Christmas.  I easily met my target of five months without buying vegetables, providing my family with plenty of good variety from the garden the entire time.  I've broken last year's record for food produced too;  I'll post the full year's total next month.

I can hardly believe it's that time again.  I'll be taking the rest of December off blogging:  and gardening too, no doubt--it's cold!  I'll be back here on 2 January, 2018, with the food totals for December but unlike this time last year, there are already a few things on the vegetable tally.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The end of the line for celery?

After some hard frosts and a light dusting of snow, my celery looked pretty sad yesterday:  all wilted and limp.  I went to take a photo, but had to charge batteries first, and they only finished after dark (the sun sets around 3.45 PM now).  I'm sure you can imagine how they looked, all slumped in the snow.

I dug up half of them and asked the husband to trim and wash them while I emptied the contents of the chicken house.  I thought I gave him the easy job, but as it turned out, I finished way before he did!  But the happy result is that we have a drawer in the fridge filled to the brim with celery, which will probably last for the rest of the month if it doesn't go moldy before we can use it all.  It's a lot of celery.

I left the other half in the ground because a) I knew we didn't have room to keep it in the fridge, and b) I'm hoping it can perk up again once it thaws out.  But if it doesn't make it after all, it still gave us a good run;  we've been eating celery regularly since October, and it's been a relatively easy and trouble-free vegetable to grow.  I'll definitely grow it again in 2018.

I spread that chicken manure on the old Roots bed, where the celery was.  Next year it should be the Potatoes bed according to the rotation specified in The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, but as I'm not doing a dedicated potato bed in 2018, it'll be the Misc bed, with a corner of it the Holding bed.

Friday, December 8, 2017

How I dry greens for winter use

I use:
  • A sewing needle threaded with a long piece of sewing thread.
  • Two nails about a meter apart in my kitchen wall, close to the ceiling, but far from the stove or other direct heat source.
A handful of nasturtium leaves
Take some fresh greens
Take a handful of greens, trimmed of their stems (and mid-ribs, such as on chard leaves) and stack them together.  I have some nasturtium greens here.
A needle poking into a handful of nasturtium leaves
Pierce with a threaded needle
 With the threaded sewing needle, carefully pierce through the center of the stack.
A needle poking out of the other side of a handful of nasturtium leaves
Right through the center
 Pull the needle through the stack and along the thread.  Continue doing this with all the leaves.
Nasturtium leaves on a string
Keep going
Carefully spread out the leaves on the thread, making sure not to tear them off accidently.
Wrapping the thread around a nail on the wall
Don't let it slip off
When all the greens are threaded, wind the ends of the thread around each nail to secure.  I even leave the needle on the end of the thread so I can reuse it for the next lot once these ones are dry.
A garland of nasturtium leaves hanging on a wall
Very decorative--the curtain hides our fuse box
Let dry fully (it takes two weeks in cool weather, but less than a week in the warmth), then slide the leaves off the thread into a labeled container:  I use a clean glass jar, but ziploc bags also work fine.  I try to crumble the leaves a little as I put them in the jar, but it's not necessary.

To use:  add to soups, sauces and stews as normal, allowing for a little extra cooking time so that the greens may rehydrate.  In my experience, chard and nasturtium greens each taste the same whether fresh or from dried.  Further experiments are needed for other greens in the future, such as young kale and sorrel.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

November 2017 garden notes

Three cauliflower seedlings growing in a container, surrounded by crushed eggshells
Cauliflowers for next summer with self-watering jug, Nov 2017

Roots

Still beets in the ground, but mostly just leaf, no real root.  None harvested in November.

Been eating plenty of celery throughout the month of November, though it started looking a little sad by the end of the month:  frost maybe?

Winter grazing rye sown earlier was scratched up by escaped chickens.

No sign of garlic and shallot bulbs sprouting yet.

Peas and beans

Pulled out runner beans and hung up the vines in the garage, to finish ripening/drying the pods.

Broad beans planted out at the beginning of the month and starting to sprout by the end.

Brassicas

Brussels sprouts small and purple sprouting broccoli big, but none harvested in November.

Kale and spring cabbages in the ground had some damage by escaped chickens;  cabbages in the cold frame looking big and lush, starting to form heads.  Cauliflower in planters also had some damage, but still growing well in the cold frame.  None of these harvested.

Also a little chicken damage to winter cabbages.  Picked a few outer leaves this month.

Harvested two rutabagas/swedes and two turnips, all small but tasty.  None left worth eating.

Miscellaneous

Harvested the last few tomatillos in November.  Harvested four more pumpkins, with two still left on the vine at the end of the month (they are close to the house and fairly protected from frost).

Leeks growing slowly still.  None harvested.

Picked a small amount of miners and lambs lettuces this month and three heads of forced chicory for a salad.  Trying to force one more crop from the chicory for December.

Potatoes

Ate most of the potatoes in storage, but still a few left at the end of November.  Although we had a good harvest this year (and they made up the bulk of garden veg for this month), I probably won't dedicate a full bed to them next year.

Fruit

Picked a few yellow raspberries this month.  Mulched all soft fruit with used chicken bedding (straw and manure) and/or fallen leaves.

Perennials and herbs

Mulched artichoke, asparagus and rhubarb with chicken bedding.

Still a little growth on chives and thyme this month, but everything else finished/gone dormant.

Friday, December 1, 2017

November 2017 Food Totals

Close up of a pear growing amongst leaves
Williams pear, Nov 2017
Vegetables:

282 oz potatoes
34.5 oz celery
23 oz chard
10 oz tomatillos
12.5 oz bean sprouts
1 oz onion
2.5 oz chicory heads
1 oz salad greens (miners and lambs lettuces, arugula)
10 oz rutabaga (swede) and greens
10.5 oz cabbage
1.5 oz turnip

3 pumpkins (small)

Does not include fresh herbs which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz, or the above 3 pumpkins which were unweighed. 

Total: 388.5 oz, or just over 24 lb

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 

Fruit:

5 yellow raspberries

Eggs:

Total: 65 eggs from 10 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total)

Preserves:

1/3 of a large jar dried chard leaves
1/3 of a large jar dried nasturtium leaves
5 large jars and 2 medium jars green tomato salsa (tomatoes and garlic from my garden, peppers and onions bought)

Homebrew:  

Cider still fermenting
No new homebrew begun

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

We are what we eat: sprouts

Mung bean sprouts, November 2017
With an old pickle jar, and using a piece of muslin and a rubber band, I've made my own sprouting jar.  I first sprouted some old, excess seed from my seed collection:  some arugula and random brassica (I think it might have been broccoli) which I'd grown and harvested myself.  Not all of it sprouted--age, I suspect--but what did was very tasty, very zingy.  I pretty much ate it all straight from the jar. 

I later branched out into pumpkin seed (from my own grown pumpkin), but ended up giving it to the chickens.  It didn't sprout very well, but they enjoyed the soaked, partially sprouted seeds.  Incidently, I bought my chickens some scratch grains with the intention of soaking/sprouting them too, but haven't got around to it yet.

Above are mung bean sprouts, the seeds of which I bought on special.  Though they've been taking about 10-14 days to grow big enough for my liking, they're very tasty both raw and cooked.  In fact, if I see them on special again I'll definitely buy extra.  I was surprised at how much bulk they produce from each little seed.

Sprouts have been an easy, trouble-free way to get greens in winter.  I'm sure I've got some more excess seed in my stash--maybe I'll see if I can try sprouting chard and kale.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving from the garden, 2017

A peeled, halved pumpkin on a chopping board
Preparing a garden pumpkin, November 2017
We hosted Thanksgiving here this year, with ourselves and another family, a total of four adults and three children.  It was my turn to cook the turkey, so our guests brought the vegetables;  I made a big batch of mashed garden potatoes as part of my contribution.

I also made a pumpkin pie using our own chicken's eggs, though not with the above pictured pumpkin (it went into a lovely pork and vegetable stew).  As mentioned previously, I was a bit disappointed in my pumpkins this year--late forming and small;  at least the flavor was good. 

Additionally there was a selection of our homebrew on offer:  last year's rhubarb wine and the two year old elderberry wine (though that vintage has been hit and miss--the bottle we opened ended up being a little too rough for drinking though fine for cooking).  It made for a very happy Thanksgiving!

About the festive bird:  while I bought one this year, I'm hoping that in years to come we can raise our own bird.  At the moment we have two big, meaty cockerels out back--both of which look like good eating!  But they are hopefully going to be breeding stock, as part of our goal in a self-sustaining flock, so we're not eating them just yet.  Perhaps next year we'll have half a dozen fat cockerels ready for eating.

It was a lovely meal, and I'm glad I could serve food from my own garden.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Let the vegetable challenge end, 2017

Two yellow raspberries growing on a cane
Yellow raspberries, November 2017
We officially stopped buying vegetables on the 20th of June, 2017.  The five month challenge to not buy any veg is now over;  we can buy veg again. 

How did I do this year?  Pretty well I think;  last year I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel for the last few weeks--that challenge was for four months and finished at the end of October 2016.  This time I felt like we had plenty of variety right up till the end, and I could probably make things last another few weeks quite comfortably.  I have been supplementing our diet this month with salad fruits, as allowed in the challenge rules, but we've eaten at least two things from the garden every single day, whether fresh or preserved.

However, the husband wants carrots and onions (he's been a whole month without!), so they're on the shopping list again.  I'm going to buy extra onions and peppers next shopping trip and make green tomato salsa with the two bags I have waiting in the freezer.  Still, I ancipate we'll continue eating from the garden--both fresh and preserved--through the end of the year and into 2018.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Strip grazing with chickens

A chicken on a frosty lawn
Strawberry inspecting the frost, Nov 2017
For a month or more, I've been using the chicken mower, aka chicken tractor, to strip graze my lawn.  It started out as a way to concentrate the chickens efforts on actually eating grass, rather than just snacking around the perimeter of a large section of grass and pooing on the rest.  And also because we have not one but two escape artists--who see the fence more as a stepping stone than a barrier. 

As you can see from the photo, I've enclosed their section of the lawn fully using chicken wire and a selection of poles;  they have a strip about 2 feet wide by around 12 feet long (ish).  I move this piece of chicken wire across the lawn every two days:  it's attached to their permanent run at the back of the garden.  They've already made two passes from one end of the lawn to the other, and will possibly be able to make one more this winter, depending on the state of the grass by the time they finish their current pass.

Those two escape artists still manage to jump out most days though.  I can't think of any cruelty-free methods* to stop them;  they're the two best egg layers--actually pretty much the only layers at the moment--so I can't even justify making chicken stew...

*I was thinking maybe a reversible one-winged chicken strait jacket;  one wing gets pinned down, but it can be swapped over so she can still stretch and groom each wing.  Probably not RSPCA approved though.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

First frost, 2017


Frosty leaves on the ground
Touch of frost, Nov 2017
Not truly the first frost of the year, but first frost of the season.  We've had a couple of light frosts, starting last week, though to be honest, it hasn't changed much out in the garden.  The veg beds weren't touched, except the outermost chard plants--and they can tolerate some frost.

The pumpkins* in the perennial section were lightly affected, so I picked the remaining two, both partially orange.  The other three pumpkins growing close to the house weren't affected at all;  they're all still on their vines, ripening slowly. 
A partially orange pumpkin, ripening on a brick wall
Medium pumpkin (now eaten), Nov 2017

Though we sometimes get our first frost in November, it can sometimes hold off until up to January.  Garden-wise, I'm hoping for some good extended frosts this winter in order to kill slugs and other creepy crawlies.  Though on the other hand, I like it a little warmer so as to save on heating (cheapskate).

*As an aside, I'm not entirely pleased with the pumpkins' performance this year.  True, there are seven of them altogether--a massive increase from my previous record (two)--however all but one were late forming and fairly small, and the one early one is a probable zuccini cross (and pretty small too).  I guess if any of them have exceptional flavor I'll save seeds--otherwise, I'll try a new variety next year.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Greenery in the old chicken yard

A garden bed, growing various green manure plants
Green manure growing in last year's chicken yard, Oct 2017
In May, the last time I updated about the old chicken yard it was full of mustard;  I let the chickens mow it down for me then before it flowered, so it wouldn't cross with my kale.  I had originally seeded this section with a winter green manure mix including mustard, rye, and red clover.  The rye and clover eventually germinated once the mustard finished, and I later sowed some alfalfa (lucerne).

Since that last planned incursion in May, chickens have been strictly forbidden from this section, and the green manure--plus some weeds--have grown strongly and covered most of the bare soil.  I'm pleased about the alfalfa in particular;  as a perennial, I hope they establish well enough to allow periodic chicken grazing, without reverting back to the scorched earth it was.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

October 2017 garden notes

A runner bean vine growing against a wooden fence
A few last runner beans, October 2017
Roots

We finished the last of the carrots in October.  Still a few beets growing but I don't have high hopes for them.  Picked plenty of celery, and lots more to come for November.  Harvested a few spring onions (grown in a pot).  Resowed Roots bed with winter grazing rye seed (green manure), but none sprouted yet.

In 2018's Roots bed (2017's Misc bed), planted out 99 garlic cloves (all own grown garlic), and 35 shallot bulbs (7 from own grown, the rest bought).

Peas and Beans

Harvested a few runner beans in October, but finished them by the end of the month.  Left some growing for seed.  Put broad beans in a plastic bag to sprout, for planting out in early November (will plant out in 2018's Peas and Beans bed, which is 2017's Potatoes bed). 

Brassicas

Brussels sprouts staked up, and growing new leaves and sprouts, after earlier caterpillar damage;  none harvested yet and plants still small.  Purple sprouting broccoli growing very tall and sturdy.

Planted out four kale seedlings, and two looked still alive at the end of the month.  Harvested a very little off two older plants.  Winter cabbages growing strongly, but none formed heads yet.

Transplanted about ten spring cabbages into 2018's Brassicas bed (same as 2018's Peas and Beans), some of which were damaged by marauding chickens, but all still growing.  Transplanted summer cauliflower seedlings into cold frame with the remaining spring cabbages, and a few cauliflowers into planters next to the cold frame.

Gave up pak choi in planter:  slugs.  A few turnips forming roots in October, but none harvested;  same for rutabagas.  Harvested the last two (small) heads of summer cabbage.  Harvested a little bit of self-sown mizuna, and more are growing.

Miscellaneous

Harvested another few handfuls of tomatillos in October.  Plants still standing at the end of the month, with at least one more handful of fruits on them.  Tomatoes finished by the end of the month:  cherry tomatoes finally all succumbed to blight, but not without ripening a few last fruits.

Picked the last two squashes at the end of the month.  One small, one medium;  then pulled up the vines for composting.  Picked one orange-ish pumpkin (actually, the chickens did);  the rest were all still maturing on the vine at the end of the month:  one medium, four small (though the small pumpkins are about the same size or bigger than the medium squash).

Picked the very last of the zuccini at the end of October (four very small fruits), then pulled up the plants.  Picked the remaining sweetcorn ears, and also cleared away the plants.

Leeks still growing (including a couple recently discovered ones), none harvested this month.  Picked a couple radishes, the last of the leaf lettuce, and started on the arugula and miners lettuce.  Still harvesting chard once or twice a week throughout the month.  Only a couple winter lettuces still growing:  slugs AND chickens...

Potatoes

Both remaining beds dug up and stored:  one batch in a paper feed sack in the garage, the other in a plastic tray in the kitchen cupboard.  More bug damage in the potatoes from the main bed than in the shadier bed near the chickens, but a similar amount of scab.  Eating potatoes all throughout the month of October.

Fruit

Picked all the almonds this month (saving them for our Christmas stollen bread).  Picked all three Williams pears at the end of the month to ripen indoors.  Picked one alpine strawberry.  Still have fruit formed on the raspberries, but none ripened yet.

Moved some strawberries and runners to a new bed in the Perennials section.

Perennials and herbs

Artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, and sorrel still alive, but all dying back except the sorrel.  None harvested.

Rosemary looks dead, but will leave it for now, in the hopes it regrows.  Still harvesting a little thyme, chives, basil and dill in October.  Picked a few leaves of mint and parsley for eating fresh.

Friday, November 3, 2017

October 2017 Food Totals

Close up of a rutabaga root growing
Rutabaga/swede, October 2017
Vegetables:

33.5 oz runner beans
20.5 oz carrots
6 oz onions
28.5 oz tomatoes (ripe)
139 oz potatoes
46.5 oz zuccini
48.5 oz celery
5.5 oz kale
5 oz beets
5.5 oz tomatillos
42.5 oz chard
2 oz mizuna
3 oz radish
1 oz spring onion
3 oz nasturtium leaves
9 oz cabbage
3.5 oz chicory leaves
4 oz salad greens (miners lettuce, leaf lettuce, arugula)

Does not include fresh herbs (thyme, dill, chives, basil, parsley) which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.  Does not include the following which were unweighed:

2 winter squash (1 medium, 1 small)
1 small pumpkin
13 ears sweet corn (9 medium, 4 very small)
Total: 403.5 oz, or just over 25 lbs

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 

Fruit: 

1 alpine strawberry
3 Williams pears
38 almonds

Eggs:

Total:  93 eggs from 10 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total), 1 bag mixed corn (20kg)

Preserves:

1 large jar dried chard leaves
1 large jar dried celery leaves
1 large jar dried nasturtium leaves

Homebrew:  

Elderberry/blackberry wine bottled up (tastes like sweet sherry). 
Cider still fermenting. 
Cider vinegar finished fermenting, and some bottled up (ran out of bottles, however--still two plastic ice cream tubs full).

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Comparing seed-grown and self-divided leeks

A few small leeks growing through a wire tray in a garden bed
My poor leeks, with a wire tray to ward off chickens (not very successfully)
I've grown leeks for a couple years now, and while we really like to eat them, I've not been particularly successful at it.  I learned that leeks will divide into new plants like garlic bulbs if allowed, and I tried it this year--as well as growing some new from seed.

I let a few of last year's leeks remain and go to seed this past summer, and while the parent plants have died back, there are a few strong little leeks growing up from them.  One of these is pictured above:  the largest leek cluster above.  The rest are all from seed in that picture, although they all had a setback from rampaging chickens.  However, the difference is clear:  the self-divided leeks are much bigger and sturdier than transplants from seed, and I have a few others not pictured (including a few I hadn't noticed until last week) which are as big or bigger. 

It's not enough leeks for the likes of us, but after comparison, I think I may try and establish a permanent leek bed in the perennials section, rather than rotate them as annuals through the main beds.  If so, I may not harvest any this winter, but save them to transplant in spring;  if it means a perennial supply of nice big leeks, I'm willing to forgo a (meager) harvest this once.

Friday, October 27, 2017

So much celery!

A patch of celery plants growing in a garden bed
Celery, October 2017
Pickings are getting thinner and thinner...to complete my full five months of not buying veg (less than a month to go now), I've said to the husband that we'll be eating a lot of celery until then.  Probably past then, too--potatoes and celery are what we still have plenty of.  The only problem is the husband doesn't really eat potatoes because they're bad for his blood sugar levels (he's diabetic).  So the seven year old and I have been filling up on them while he's been choking down the celery.

Actually it's quite tasty, variety Giant Soup Red (I think).  It really is giant!  Some of the stalks have been burrowed into by bugs--I think maybe the slugs have put holes in them, but have found both woodlice and earwigs inside:  not what you want to discover in your soup.  Ants on a Log?  No thanks.  We're still eating at, after it's been thoroughly soaked and washed--I split it down the middle and scrub it with a brush.

I think technically they should be blanched, and I did get the husband to pile up soil to about a third of their height, but these plants are huge:  just about waist high, and they were planted into a trench about 20 cm deep.  I can't imagine being able to fully blanch these, at least not with soil. 

Back in May, when I planted them out, I put about 18 in a grid shape, but the remaining 18 or so got planted without spacing out--just in a big mat, the same as they were growing in the tray.  It's these I'm picking first, stalk by stalk, rather than full heads.  I'm saving the bigger ones (though not bigger by much, to be honest) till these ones are finished.  I've been cooking them as a main ingredient in stews, and also braised in broth as a side dish;  the flavor is excellent, and not too strong.  I'm also drying the leaves and will make a batch of celery salt once I have a good bunch of them.

Incidently, there's a very productive dahlia growing right in front of the celery patch;  I thought I'd dug it out last autumn, but it's still there, and throwing out dozens of purple and white heads still, even at the end of October.  I guess it's benefited from the extra chicken manure I laid down for the celery.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Winter brassicas, 2017-2018

A garden bed with young broccoli and cabbage plants growing
Brassicas bed, October 2017
Now that all this year's peas and beans are finished--though the runner beans are still ripening a few pods for seed--I've moved the brassicas from the holding bed into their places, ready for winter.  Currently I have Savoy cabbages, Brussels sprouts (kind of sad from earlier caterpillar damage) and flat leaf kale;  and for later in spring:  purple sprouting broccoli and sweetheart cabbages.

The purple sprouting broccoli look healthy and big, and are wedged between an aluminum head and foot board from an old bed frame our neighbor got rid of.  They make a great plant support, and go well with our garden aesthetic (junkyard chic). 

The Brussels sprouts are staked up individually, though I'm sad to say the majority of them are less than 30 cm (1') tall.  At least they all have little sprouts forming, but it'll probably be a similar harvest to last year:  one meal.  I may try a different variety next year;  this variety (I think it's Seven Hills) seemed to be a slug and caterpillar magnet--three years running.

As far as kale goes, I have two mature plants and four smaller ones;  the older plants got hit hard by caterpillars, but have rallied somewhat and now have some good growth.  I'll most likely let them all (young and old) stand and hopefully harvest again in spring.

The Savoy cabbages are looking strong, and although I knew I should have spaced them at least 60 cm (2') apart, they are crammed in at around 45 cm--some even closer.  Hence some are bigger than others.  Oh well, more are big than small at least!  The sweetheart cabbages are new to me;  half are in the ground and half are in the cold frame, but all are pretty big and leafy, considering.  I look forward to some good growth on them.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Container gardening in autumn and winter

Many young cabbages growing in a cold frame
Spring cabbages in cold frame, Oct 2017
My classy cold frame (the base is a stripped down old sofa seat and the cover is a glass shower door) is currently filled with some very happy spring cabbages, some small cauliflowers for next summer, and self-sown miners lettuce.  It's got a few random calendula too.  I moved out half the cabbages in the photo above into the main beds now that all the potatoes are dug up (this year's Potatoes bed will be next year's Peas/Beans/Brassicas), in order to fit the cauliflower seedlings.  This past summer we had a couple really nice cauliflowers, grown over winter in the cold frame and planted out in spring;  I hope I can do it again this time.

I'm happy about the self-seeded miners lettuce too:  something keeps eating my pak choi and iceberg lettuce seedlings in other containers.  At least we should have some sort of fresh salad leaves, even if they are tiny!  I have a hard time keeping lettuces alive in general, though I had better success this year than previous ones.  There's also some self-seeded lambs lettuce in another container, which I'm looking forward to;  this self-sowing business is great!  Other self-seeders:  mizuna and chard.  Free food!
Close up of chicory heads, growing in a planter
18 month old chicory, Oct 2017
Speaking of containers, I've also got some chicory plants, sown spring 2016, finally ready to try forcing.  The instructions on the seed packet said to sow them in a seed bed in spring, dig them up in autumn to pot up and force over winter--it did not work out like that at all!  None of the in-ground sown seeds came up (slugs, I suspect), and I made another sowing directly in a planter, which all had grown about two inches tall by autumn.  Needless to say, they did not get forced.  But after more than a year, I hope they'll be good for it now;  I've never tried it before.  If they all successfully grow nice chicons, they should be good for about two meals, sigh.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

List of vegetables still to eat

A variety of prepared vegetables on a kitchen counter
Preparing vegetables for curry, October 2017
I've still got one more month of my No-Buy Vegetable Goal*.  Fresh veg from the garden is getting a little slim;  I have therefore compiled:

A Possibly Incomplete, Probably Inaccurate List of All Vegetables on the Property, Both Present and Projected

Now Stored Future
  • 5 winter squashes
  • 15 lbs potatoes
  • 5 onions
  • Lots of garlic!
  • 15 chard plants
  • 1 handful runner beans
  • 25 celery plants
  • 6 spring onions
  • 5 small zuccini
  • 2 handfuls carrots
  • 1 handful nasturtium leaves
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 handful arugula
  • 1 handful sweetcorn
  • 2 medium jars sauerkraut
  • 4 small jars pickled zuccini
  • 1 small bag dried peas
  • 1 small bag frozen broad beans
  • 1 small bag frozen runner beans
  • 1.5 medium jars pickled rhubarb
  • 1/4 large jar dried chard
  • 1/4 large jar dried nettles
  • 2 winter squashes
  • 4 chicory plants
  • 2 kale plants
  • 1 handful tomatillos
  • 2-4 rutabagas (swedes)
  • 2-4 turnips
  • Many miner's lettuce plants
  • 1 planter of lamb's lettuce
  • 1 tray of iceberg lettuce
  • 2 small summer cabbage
  • 1 medium pumpkin
  • 4 small pumpkins
  • 1 handful beets
  • 8 sorrel plants (small)

Interpreting the above chart, I estimate we should have a month's worth of vegetables left.  I didn't list every vegetable still growing in the garden, as some (namely the winter brassicas and leeks) are almost definitely not going to be ready before the end of the challenge (20th November).  Some of the items listed under Future may not be ready by then either...

*Note:  as per the rules, we can still buy "salad" fruits.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Squashes and pumpkins, hooray!

Five small orange squashes on a kitchen table
Garden squashes and roses, 2017
 When I picked my green tomatoes because of blight, I also picked my orange squashes.  I was worried that the warm, damp conditions might make them go moldy on the vine (it's happened to me before).  I know squashes don't get actual blight--but I was ready to pick them in any case, as the leaves have been gradually dying.

I let them dry off in the sun on my patio bench for a day, then brought them indoors to store in the (warm) kitchen.  There they'll stay until we start to get low on more perishable garden produce--probably around the next few weeks, I should think.  Because temperatures are still mild, the garden's still producing a modest harvest every day, be it chard, carrots, runner beans, etc.  The squashes can store till these veg are over.
A round, yellow squash ripening on a small brick in a garden bed
Left on the vine for now
There are still two squashes that I know of, not fully orange yet, but nearly there;  they're on the vine still.  Seven squashes from about as many plants--not bad.  Certainly my biggest squash harvest to date;  my previous record was two.
Close up of an elongated pumpkin, growing in a container
It's nearly there!
As for pumpkins, they're all still on the vine, and only this one is going orange.  I think there are about four small ones, still resolutely green.  I guess they have time to ripen, but only if they're quick!  One--small cantaloupe size--seems to have stopped growing now, so I hope it's actually working its magic.
Close up of a patty pan squash
Summer squash, at last!
And finally I've got some of these patty pan squashes formed.  They were sown, sprouted, and planted out at the same time as all my other curcubits (zuccini, squash, pumpkin and cucumber), but only just began producing in the last week of September--I really don't know why they're so late--maybe the location?  They're in the perennials section not in the main veg beds, but conditions are pretty similar.  I've picked most of them small (golf ball size), but this one is about the same size as the winter squashes above:  between a large grapefruit and a small cantaloupe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Potato harvest, 2017

About 40 large potatoes, curing in the sunlight on a patio
Harvest from one Potato bed 2017
 I (well, mostly the husband) planted three beds of potatoes in spring this year.  One was in the main vegetable patch (pictured below), and the other two were in other, shadier parts of the garden.  The first batch in a lightly shaded place was harvested in early September and lasted us the whole month.
All dug up (cabbages in holding bed in foreground)
I dug up the second (main veg patch) bed last week on a nice sunny, breezy day.  I brushed off excess mud from the potatoes, let them dry on my patio for around 24 hours, and have now stored them in an old paper feed sack in my garage.  I expect them to last the whole month of October. 

Unlike the first batch, this second batch has some evidence of bug damage;  potato eelworm maybe?  But the damage is pretty mild, and there were only about five tubers I had to discard, out of about 50.

There's still one batch to dig up.  As mentioned in a previous post, I suspected blight at the end of September, so cut off all the leaves;  I also let the chickens onto that bed to help tidy it up for a few days.  I'll dig them up in a day or two.  I'm curious as to how this harvest compares to the other two:  it's the shadiest bed, but had loads of chicken manure on it the winter before;  the plants eventually grew about as tall as me--and I'm 172 cm!

Friday, October 6, 2017

September 2017 garden notes

Sweet corn plants growing next to a runner bean trellis with squash plants below
Three sisters: runner beans on trellis (far left), sweet corn, squash;  September 2017
Roots

Just celery and beets left in Roots bed, with a pot of spring onions and some carrots still in their planters.  I picked a few celery stalks and beets here and there, but mainly just harvested carrots from this section in September.  Green manure seeds broadcast in August still not made an appearance (should probably resow).

Peas and beans

Lots of runner beans at the beginning of the month, but slowed down by the end.  Letting a few grow on for seed.

Brassicas

Caterpillars mostly gone from brassicas by the end of the month.  We were still squishing a few at the beginning of the month.

Transplanted Brussels sprouts from the holding bed, to where the French beans had been.  Forming some small sprouts, but leaves still pretty holey from earlier caterpillar damage.  Purple sprouting broccoli growing nicely, and I staked it up.

Harvested a little bit of kale;  seems to be just one plant growing now after caterpillars.  Kale seedlings potted up, to hopefully be transplanted out soon. 

Planted spring cabbage in cold frame;  a few plants might go into next year's Brassicas bed (this year's Potatoes bed) in October.  Sowed cauliflower for next summer, which has now sprouted.  Pak choi in planter growing slowly--someone has been nibbling it.  I'm beginning to think it's not worthwhile to grow, as it always gets munched no matter where I plant it.

Turnips still very small, and nearly all leaf--a few have very thin purple roots forming.  About four rutabagas around 3-4 cm in diameter (pretty small still).  The last two summer cabbages still forming (small) heads.

Miscellaneous

Harvested a few handfuls of tomatillos:  tasty cooked in curry and stew. 

Regular tomato plants started showing signs of blight, so picked all the green fruits, chopped them, and froze for making green salsa later.  Put the plants in the council compost bin, which they collect every two weeks.  One plant left, in a planter;  its (sparse) fruit is beginning to go orange.  Only harvested 2 ripe tomatoes in total.

Harvested more cherry tomatoes in September.  A few cherry tomato plants also look a bit diseased, but still producing ripe fruits;  I've been picking off diseased leaves/fruits.  As we've already had a good amount off these, it's not a big deal if they die of blight, unlike the regular tomatoes which we still had yet to harvest.

Picked five squashes for winter storage;  I left a couple yellow/immature ones on the vine to (hopefully) ripen in October.  One pumpkin mostly orange, a couple other small ones growing but still green--none picked yet. 

Zuccini productive until about the middle of September, then pretty much finished by the end.  Four plants (out of seven) finally started producing female flowers in the last week of September.  Picked them just after flowering--too late in the season to really grow, but tasty anyway.

Sweet corn ears growing fatter but none harvested yet.  Plants got battered by winds, but still growing.  Leeks growing slowly;  about 8-10 left, after chicken damage.  One chicken seemed to have a vendetta against them;  she jumped the fence every day for about two weeks and scratched at them, even with wire mesh on top to protect them.

Radishes mostly finished by the end of the month.  Chard slowing down, but still being harvested throughout the month.  Winter lettuce very small but growing slowly.  Arugula and miners and lambs lettuce seedlings sprouted in cold frame and planters (self-seeded), started picking miners lettuce at the very end of the month.

Potatoes

One bed (in the perennials section) dug up at the beginning of September;  we only finished eating them by the end of the month.  The other two beds (one in and the other out of the main veg bed) had stems cut off and disposed of a few weeks into September, because blight was suspected.  Those tubers are still in the ground, to dig up in October.

I collected a handful of potato fruits to try planting next spring.

Fruit

About five more alpine strawberries harvested this month, and one last blueberry.  Autumn raspberries forming but none ripened yet.

Harvested the rest of the plums and the last Sparta apple.  Harvested four more figs.  Williams pears and almonds still maturing.

Perennials and herbs

Artichokes still sturdy but not really grown much in September.  New asparagus plants still alive, still little and spindly.  Sorrel and rhubarb both alive but very small.

Cut back thyme, lemon balm, and rosemary;  rosemary had more die-back this month and looks very sad now--hope it survives.  Harvested dill seeds for culinary use, but will save some for sowing next spring.  Chives, mint, and tarragon still producing.  Mint, basil, parsley, dill (leaf) and summer savory produced a very small amount.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

September 2017 Food Totals

Purple plums hanging on a branch
Plums, September 2017
Vegetables:

94 oz zuccini
67.5 oz runner beans
49.5 oz tomatoes (ripe)
14.5 oz onions
155 oz potatoes
37.5 oz carrots
118 oz chard
1 oz shallot
5.5 oz celery
4 oz beets
5.5 oz lettuce
1 oz radishes
1.5 oz mizuna
2.5 oz kale
9 oz tomatillos
137 oz tomatoes (green)
1 oz salad greens (leaf lettuce, baby chard, miners lettuce)

5 squashes (unweighed)

Does not include fresh herbs (thyme, dill, tarragon, chives, basil) which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.

Total:  690 oz, or approximately 43 lb

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 

Fruit: 

1 blueberry
1 Sparta apple
5 alpine strawberries
16 plums
4 figs

Eggs:

Total:  107 eggs from 10 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total)

Preserves:

1 medium bottle thyme vinegar
8 medium jars and 1 large jar unsweetened applesauce, from wild harvested apples
5 small jars apple jelly (more like thick apple syrup, actually)

Homebrew:  

Elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting. 8 L of cider begun (from wild harvested apples).  2 L cider vinegar begun (from leftover cider pulp).  Earlier batches of cider and cider vinegar still fermenting.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Pumpkins, 2017

Close up of an elongated green pumpkin, growing in a planter
A pumpkin?  September 2017
My pumpkins (and squash too) were grown from my own collected seed this year.  Last year I managed to harvest two smallish pumpkins from my garden, and I saved seed from both:  the first pumpkin became a pie for Thanksgiving, and the second was baked some time after;  the second wasn't very tasty at all--I don't know if it was due to the length of storage (a couple months), or the pumpkin itself.  I still have its seeds, but we should probably just eat those too, and not keep for planting.

Still, one of this year's plants has been growing a very interesting looking pumpkin, pictured above.  It's kind of the shape of a zuccini--perhaps it's a zuccini-pumpkin cross?  By now it's even more orange, and is destined to be our Halloween jack o'lantern.  I like to carve our pumpkin on Halloween day and then bake and puree it the next--I freeze the puree for pie later on.
An immature green pumpkin, growing next to a lawn
Just a small one, September 2017
I have around six pumpkin vines in total--some in the ground and some in planters--and as mentioned previously, most of them are all leaf and no fruit.  A couple small fruits formed this month;  I don't really have high hopes for them.  It's just a bit too late, although perhaps this one above may have time;  it's around softball size now, but still completely green.  Though it's normal pumpkin shape, we may end up eating it (and its other, smaller compatriots) fresh like zuccini if it doesn't ripen fully.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

By-products of cider making, 2017

Apple pulp into vinegar, September 2017
I've been determined to use all five of my demi-johns for cider this year.  Last year we only managed a paltry one!  Let's be honest, 4 L of cider is not enough to last us a whole year until the next apple season:  we need a full 20 L.

This year, instead of composting all that leftover apple pulp from juicing, I've been experimenting with it.  For the first batch of two demi-johns, I collected around 8 L of pulp into some plastic ice cream tubs from my work, in order to make apple cider vinegar.  I filled the tubs with water and covered them with a cloth and left them on my counter.

Every day I gave them a stir and re-covered them.  After about a week, they were really bubbly!  They bubbled and fizzed for another two weeks or so;  once they stopped, I noticed the pulp had sunk to the bottom (it had floated on top until then).  At this point I strained it out through a cheesecloth overnight, making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible the next morning.  I tasted the pulp to make sure--and it was indeed flavorless now:  time to compost it.

I was surprised at how much liquid there was after all the pulp was gone--about 7 L.  The liquid was alcoholic at this point, but as I wanted vinegar, I kept it loosely covered, and continued to stir it every day, and tasting the spoon after.  It's getting there!

I got around 7 L apple pulp from the second batch, and it all went into the slow cooker, topped up with water.  My slow cooker is I think technically 6.5 L, and it was filled to the absolute top--I couldn't fit in much water.  I cooked it on low for several hours, stirring a couple times, then pushed the cooked pulp through my food mill to strain out any seeds.  I bottled it up while hot and processed it in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes, as plain unsweetened apple sauce.  It turned out very thick and smooth, and will be useful for apple crumble and other winter desserts.

To use up the pulp from the third batch (another single demi-john) I'm attempting apple jelly today.  Yesterday I cooked the pulp with water in my slow cooker until the chunky bits were soft (took about two hours).  I had to do it in two batches, as the full amount wouldn't fit all at once.  I drained the first batch through a cheesecloth-lined colander while the second batch cooked, then drained the rest overnight.  Today I'll cook it with sugar and hopefully bottle it and process it like the applesauce.  I've never made jelly before, so here's hoping for a success;  if it's not, I'm not too worried:  cider's the important thing after all.

That's four demi-johns of cider, and no more apples.  Maybe we need to make one more foray into the hedgerows and fill up the last one.  And the pulp?  Probably compost for that one...

Friday, September 22, 2017

Garden Objective: flower arrangements

A green ceramic jug filled with flowers on a kitchen counter
September 2017:  dahlia, cosmo, hydrangea, sunflower, goldenrod
According to The Plan, one of my garden objectives is to provide materials for crafts including flowers for arrangements.  I'm lucky that my garden was already well stocked with many flowering plants by the time I moved in thirteen years ago.  In particular, there are lots of roses planted by the previous owner;  the husband says she worked at a rose wholesaler.
June 2009:  rose, hydrangea, campanula, fern
Over the years, I have made many flower arrangements from my garden.  I not only have a lot of perennials, but I usually sow several varieties of annual flowers, which vary from year to year.  This year it was nicotiana, snapdragons, lobelia, cosmos, strawflowers, and French marigolds (which the slugs ate entirely--they ate all but two strawflowers too).
August 2008: Lily, crocosmia, laurel leaf
Additionally, I have a few annual and biennial flowers which self-seed readily such as nasturtium, feverfew, honesty, and poppies.  And sometimes I receive seedlings from a friend;  this year I was given sunflowers, sweet peas, and borage. 
June 2013: daisy, roses, honesty seed heads
I still continue to add flowers to my garden, though to be honest, there's not a lot of room left now;  most of my space is already growing something beautiful or useful (usually both).  No doubt I'll be able to fit in a few more things though, to add more color and beauty to my garden and house.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cooking from the garden: vegetable soup

A slow cooker with mixed vegetable soup
Vegetable soup, September 2017
For the past several weeks, our main meal has been a variation on the photo above:  garden vegetable soup/stew.  The above has carrots, onions, garlic, celery, potatoes, runner beans and zuccini.  I chuck in a little bit of meat (pork is a favorite), some herbs, plus a tub of homemade chicken stock from the freezer and maybe a dash of vinegar or cider--also homemade. 

The slow cooker is great in summer:  I can make a hot meal without heating up the house.  And it's much cheaper to run than the gas oven;  I've been making most of our meals in it.  It's really easy to do, if I schedule for it.

After I take the seven year old to school I do my daily walk around the garden;  after watering the pots, I usually pick anything that's ready.  After I've collected everything for our dinner, I bring them in and wash (root vegetables) or soak (leafy veg) them.  Some things, like runner beans or zuccini, generally don't need a wash.  Next, I trim/peel them if needed, weigh and record them, then prepare them for cooking. 

For the most part, I just chop everything up the same size and throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker together, on the low setting.  If using a mixture of hard and soft veg (for instance carrots, potatoes and chard), I'll leave out the soft vegetables until about an hour before dinner time (chard stems can go in at the beginning, however).  I usually add fresh herbs near the end of cooking too:  maybe 15-30 minutes before serving.

Does it get old eating vegetable soup five nights a week?  Well, it's so tasty I don't think so, and no one else has complained (yet).  I try to vary the spices and seasonings, and at the moment, we have enough variety of veg so that it isn't the same ingredients every single day.  Maybe if we ate it five nights a week for the next year...

Friday, September 15, 2017

The fig tree


A small Brown Turkey fig tree, with several immature figs
Little fig tree, September 2017
My lovely little Brown Turkey fig tree was bought as a tiny cutting.  I don't remember how much I paid for it:  less than £5, I think.  It lived in a pot for a year, then the following spring the husband dug a deep hole next to the patio, lined it on four sides with large paving stones, chucked some broken bricks then a layer of small diameter wood in the bottom, and planted it. 

The first year in the ground (two years ago), it produced two figs.  They were glorious (just ask the rats, who nibbled on them first).  Last year it grew figs, but none ripened.  It was still a small tree--just over knee height with about six leaves.  This year we've had five beautiful figs.  There are still several on the tree which may or may not have time to ripen.
Close up of a Brown Turkey fig, held in a hand
Ripe fig, September 2017
The tree now stands just over waist height.  I'll give it a little pruning over winter after it's dormant, as I only want it to grow against the fence, espalier style;  I'm not growing a true espalier, but most of my fruit trees are growing against a fence or wall, with other things growing underneath.  In the fig's case, it's the main vegetable beds (holding bed this year).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

State of the flock, September 2017

Five black chickens preening on a garden bed
Cookie (far right) and her nearly grown up children
Our current flock total is now at 14, after two more deaths;  one of this season's chicks died from sour/impacted crop.  We tried to treat it, but couldn't save it;  Cookie (their adopted mother) also had this problem when she was a little chick and luckily recovered, though she's never forgiven us for what we did to save her (lots of crop massages and force feeding of probiotics).

The remaining four new season chicks are now huge--taller/wider than our biggest grown up hens, though not yet as heavy.  Cookie can still tell them off, even though they're twice as tall as she is.  I can say for certain that one is a cockerel, but I don't think the others are.  Maybe.  All their combs and wattles are very similar, and the one definite cockerel is technically a different breed (he's an Orpington and the others are Australorps);  he's the one in the foreground in the above photo.

We bought another six eggs for Cookie to sit on--she became broody again in late July/early August--but she ended up abandoning them after two weeks;  we later discovered there was a bad mite infestation in her little hutch.  We've dusted it with diatomaceous earth (DE) and will make sure it's mite-free before it's used again. 

We haven't had any eggs off our new season pullets yet;  thankfully no one's tried crowing yet either.  They're about four months old now, and I expect them to be ready to lay between now and November;  although it being later in the year, they may not start until spring.  That is, if they are pullets!

At the moment we're getting around 3-5 eggs per day (from 10 adults), and two hens are desperate to jump over the fence every day to lay in secret locations.  At least the rest of the flock aren't slim lightweight birds like these two--I think I need to attach weights to their little ankles.

We're hoping to keep our new cockerel for at least one breeding season;  if he's aggressive he'll be dinner, but if he's gentle like Tiny rooster was, he might get to stick around for a while. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Too much food!?

Close up of a ripening Hokkaido squash in a garden bed
Squash ripening, August 2017
Above is my squash pictured back in July, now turned a lovely orange.  It has several compatriots, and some vines are desperately trying to squeeze out a few more fruits before the season ends--a bit optimistically, I think. 

Right now we are slightly overwhelmed by food from the garden (with the exception of eggs, which have really slowed down).  Of some things, there are currently too much to keep up with every day, including zuccini, runner beans, and chard.  Good old chard:  it's the gift that keeps on giving;  not only was the majority of it self-seeded, it's been going since spring.  However even smaller harvests--like the French beans and lettuce--have been hard to keep a handle on, with everything coming in all at once.  I mean, most days I've had to pick a handful of about five different things before they get too big and tough;  there's a limit to how many vegetables three people can cram down in a day.

For the last several weeks we haven't even bought any salad fruits (peppers, avocados, etc, which are allowed under "no bought veg" rule) to pad out our meals.  And we even fed houseguests for two weeks!  In fact, we were struggling to keep up with fruit for a little while, with apples, figs, and plums all coming ripe around the same time.  The only fruits we've bought at the shop have been bananas and melon--and we've been neglecting them in favor of our own fruit.

I admit, I've taken the easiest route to preserve and chucked some stuff in the freezer.  I'll probably serve them in October/November, to keep up my pledge of not buying veg.  I don't want to have a freezer full of veg, as I've mentioned previously, because it's only a small freezer and I prefer to fill it with frozen milk and meat bought on special--in other words, expensive stuff.  This extra veg in the fridge is only for the short term.

In my gardening manual, The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, the author notes that late summer brings out "an embarras de richesses";  I'm glad to have this kind of embarrassment, as well as this kind of riches!  No doubt I'll be missing this explosion of fresh food by the end of the month;  but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

August 2017 garden notes

A garden bed with various vegetables, including chard and celery, with a lawn behind
Volunteer chard and thyme in front, celery behind
Roots

Finished harvesting all the shallots in this bed, and harvested all the onions;  most onions pretty small, but a few lovely big ones.

Still eating a few beets and more carrots through August.  Celery very big!

I broadcast some green manure seeds over this bed, particularly where the shallots and onions were, but also in bare spots among the beets.  None sprouted yet this month.

Peas and beans

I harvested the second batch of maincrop peas in August;  I let them dry on the vine for winter storage.  Finally began harvesting runner beans.  Started and finished the French beans;  we really liked those French beans on dwarf plants:  very productive for such little plants.  I will have to remember to plant them at the edge of the bed next year instead of the middle, for easier harvest. 

Brassicas

I was out most days to pick off and squish caterpillars.  The seven year old and husband have helped a little.

I pulled up the summer broccoli (it was a disappointing harvest and by August was only feeding the caterpillars), and the last summer cauliflower (caterpillars had eaten its tiny newly forming head).

Harvested the remaining mature Savoy cabbages in August.  New season ones growing well, with only a bit of caterpillar damage.  Harvested a little bit of new season kale and two nice sized summer cabbages;  two or three summer cabbages left, but only just starting to form heads.

Rutabagas and turnips growing slowly;  rutabagas seem to have some root formation, turnips not so much.  Brussels sprouts in holding bed still growing nicely but with very holey leaves.

Sowed spring cabbage and winter kale in trays, sowed pak choi in a cleared carrot planter, all of which have sprouted.

Miscellaneous

Cucumber plants succumbed to disease, after a small harvest.  I left a couple fruits on the vine to hopefully save for seed.

Begun harvesting cherry tomatoes in August, but regular tomatoes still far behind:  none of the plants had formed four full trusses yet.  Tomatillos growing well, and covered in little papery husks;  they seem to have shaken off whatever ailed them last month.  None harvested yet;  not sure if they'll have time to ripen?  Never grown them before.

There are at least six small squashes formed, some going orange (I believe they are red kuri/Hokkaido type), and the vines are still attempting to make a few more.  I put a tile or stone under each fruit, to keep it off the ground (attempting to prevent them going moldy).  None harvested yet.

Only one pumpkin formed that I have seen.  Vines vigorous and putting out lots of female flowers, but don't seem to be pollinated.  One zuccini plant producing modest amounts of fruits, the others are behaving like the pumpkins:  all leaf and no fruit.

Sweet corn only just beginning to form little ears at the end of August.  Leeks still small and been damaged by marauding chickens--I put a wire rack on top of them to try and mitigate any further damage.  Still eating and sowing radishes.

Chard still producing well, but affected a little by powdery mildew.  Older lettuces (cut and come again) producing modestly, new ones growing well.  I sowed some winter lettuce seed near the end of the month but none up yet.

Potatoes

Some plants have now grown to shoulder height.  We harvested a few plants in August, to eat with guests.

Fruit

Still harvesting a couple alpine strawberries per week, but nearly finished by the end of the month.  Maincrop strawberries sending out plenty of runners, but not transplanted any yet.

Autumn fruiting raspberry bush just starting to form flower buds at the end of the month.  Bought a new whitecurrant bush and planted it out.

Started picking plums in August:  pretty purple color and very tasty.  Picked both Laxton Fortune apples.  Picked one (of two) Sparta apple, and two lovely figs.

Almonds and Williams pears still maturing.

Perennials and herbs

Artichokes still strong but not put out much new growth this month.  Asparagus from seed has some new growth, but still very small and spindly.  Weeded and mulched its bed.

Sorrel regrowing from its chicken harvest (they ate it right to the ground).  One rhubarb plant seems to have two very small leaves on it;  the other is completely dead.

Lots and lots of thyme growth this month.  Rosemary still alive, but looking a bit sad still.  Mint, tarragon, chives looking well;  dill, basil, parsley small but growing.  Summer savory flowering.

Friday, September 1, 2017

August 2017 Food Totals

Williams pear, small but growing
Vegetables:

48 oz carrots
169.5 oz cabbage
2 oz cucumber
122.5 oz chard
89 oz potatoes
32 oz French beans
66 oz zuccini
5.5 oz radishes
51.5 oz runner beans
1.5 oz broccoli
2 oz celery
4 oz shallots
2 oz kale
14 oz onions
15.5 oz beets
3.5 oz mixed herbs (chives, thyme, tarragon, summer savory, etc)
20.5 oz tomatoes
3 oz lettuce
6.5 oz peas (dried weight)

Does not include fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, dill, tarragon, chives, summer savory) which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.

Total:  659.5 oz or approximately 41 lb

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc. 

Fruit: 

3.5 oz blackberries (from volunteers, aka weeds)
2 Laxton Fortune apples
1 Sparta apple
2 figs
12 plums

Eggs:

Total:  111 eggs from 10 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bags layers pellets (40kg total)

Preserves:
3 medium jars pickled zuccini spears (zuccini from friend's garden, dill and garlic from my own garden)
1 medium bottle tarragon vinegar
1 small jar salted mixed herbs
4 large jars sauerkraut
1 large jar fermented French beans
1 small bag dried peas (6.5 oz)

Homebrew:  

Rhubarb wine and cider bottled up.  Elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting.  2 new demijohns (8 L total) of cider begun brewing, from wild harvested apples.  Approximately 8 L of apple cider vinegar begun, using leftover pulp from cider.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Preserving for winter, 2017

A collection of different jars filled with various preserves
A bit of this and that, Aug 2017
From left to right above:  mixed fruit vinegar (elderberry, apple, pear), a small jar of mixed salted herbs, a large jar of sauerkraut (plastic bag on top is filled with water and acts as a weight), garlic and dill pickled French beans.

I'm doing my best to put some food by for winter use.  Most of my veg this summer has been harvested under the "little and often" principle, but occasionally there's too much to eat all at once, like the three Savoy Cabbages Gruff (little one, medium one, giant troll-busting one);  the excess of these became several jars of sauerkraut.

A few things I've grown particularly for winter storage/use:  squash and pumpkins--though the pumpkins are all leaf and no fruit yet--potatoes, and maincrop peas (dried).  I really need more peas next year though--I got about a cupful this year.

I've got a few jars of pickled zuccini spears;  I didn't much care for the ones I made last year, but I've gone for a milder vinegar and just garlic and dill for flavoring;  I couldn't get hold of any dill last year, but managed to grow some in a pot this year.  Hopefully they'll be better tasting, but I won't crack them open until the growing season's done. 

I've done some salted mixed herbs, which are simply finely minced fresh herbs layered with a lot of salt, and also a few jars of herb vinegars.  I normally try to make at least one jar of English mint sauce which for us is just chopped mint leaves in malt vinegar;  we not only eat it on lamb but use it as an easy base for salad dressings.  I had a light bulb moment about that--why not use my other favorite salad dressing herb in vinegar:  tarragon.  I look forward to having it in winter, when the plant has died back.  I hope to make another jar or two before this happens.