It's no surprise we've been tardy with our blog updates. We're finding summertime involves tending the farm from morning to night- often closing up the chicken coop and turning off the irrigation with flashlight in hand. Not much energy left to write after the sun goes down... what we wouldn't give for one of those long rainy days that allows a farmer to tend to neglected indoor activities. Oh well, we'll get plenty of those when winter comes, so now it's back out to enjoy the bounty of the land- bushels and pecks of it!
Our first warm season harvest included Walla Walla yellow onions, three varieties of beets, and 25 pounds of sweet carrots.After we ate our fill, we "put up" the rest as pickled beets and frozen cut carrots. The Carillon and Soldier beets were a stunning crimson color after blanching, slipping off the skins, and packing them tightly in jars with brine. And this year's carrots were so much longer and sweeter than last's- definitely the reward of all our early season soil improvements (see our soil blog). We had great success with the Nelson, Napoli and Touchon varieties- bright orange, long and really sweet even after the weather got so hot.
While the first root crops were a big success, we lost all our pickling cucumber plants to the dreaded cucumber beetle. Our beautiful seedlings had begun climbing the picket fence when the top leaves started wilting, turned brown and whole plants shriveled to the ground. These little shiny, striped pests lay eggs in spring that hatch and attack the roots and stems- cutting off the life of the stalk at the base. They've taken all our heirloom melon plants too. We're hoping several sprayings of organic insecticide oil will hold off any more damage. And next year... after some research and planning this winter... we'll cut them off at the pass!
Our spirits were lifted with more treasures in the ground- we harvested 65 heads of German Extra-Hardy (hard neck) garlic out of the hundred planted last fall. They've been drying in the workshop for 3 weeks and are ready to be added to batches of homemade tomato sauce. The workshop is now renamed Papa Rico's garlic hut! A place that once smelled of sawdust, now makes you think of a fine Italian dish :-)
Green beans are coming in like crazy- Slenderette, Parisian, Fin de Bagnol- gourmet beans that need to be picked while small and slender. Regular harvesting is helping to keep our yields up... but it sure makes for a lot of work- reaping what you sow! Pole beans ripened most recently- they are our favorite! Flat and long and tender we blanched and packed up bags of them for next Thanksgiving dinner. And the Edamame just decided, overnight, that it was ready! Jenny lugged in a full bucket this week. We blanched and froze lots of small bags of it for cold weather snacking. We were smarter and planted edamame in succession (every 2-4 weeks) so we'll have harvests over a longer time period.
The most exciting crop for Tim was picking the first ears of corn. We planted two varieties- Silver Queen and an early one called Spring Treat. The first cobs were so sweet we ate them raw in the garden. Best corn we've ever tasted! As you can imagine, it's been a staple for lunch and dinner the past few weeks. We'll try our hand at freezing some for a summer-fresh lunch in January. This was our first experience growing corn even though people warned us it took a lot of tending. There is just something about corn in the garden that makes it feel like a real farm. Next year, we'll do successive plantings so we can enjoy a longer season of harvest- not just boom and bust .
It seems everyday we're toting a basket or hat-full of something from the vine- squash, eggplant, cherry tomatoes (red and gold), and five kinds of peppers. Somethings always stir-frying or blanching or getting chopped in the kitchen. And bless that Kale and Swiss Chard...leftovers from the early salad garden that just keep on giving!
It's August and just when we feel we've hit our stride with a routine that works so we might be able to catch our breath a bit... we remember what's coming- the Tsunami of Tomatoes that will hit during the next 3-5 weeks. Sure, we've been picking some heirloom slicing tomatoes each day but we know what's coming - we doubled the number of plants for saucing tomatoes and those Amish Paste and San Marzano tomatoes are prolific! Soon we'll be up to our elbows in Kingsolver tomato sauce. We emptied the last jar of it over 3 months ago and don't want that to happen next year. With cinnamon, nutmeg and honey, Barbara Kingsolver's "Secret Family Recipe" from her book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral is the best ever.
Every day we are amazed, grateful and full-body tired from this season of harvesting. Each time we pull a heavy, plump fruit from the vine, we shake our heads remembering how this all started on a patch of soggy, neglected land with tiny seeds and a lot of enthusiasm. And just when I wonder how we'll ever want to do all this work again next year, I hear myself whispering "hmmm, next year I want to try....". And I know that, by the light of the fire this January after a good night's rest, we'll be turning down pages of the seed catalogs again, ... sore backs and sunburn just a distant memory.