We woke to fog this morning. The kind of thick fog that makes it feel as if the whole world you live in is entirely present. Like there's nothing else beyond... There were blue skies past the fog, but it kind of felt like a snowglobe. I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I know that I am grateful for my wonderful partner, my family and my friends. I am grateful to live in such a beautiful place and glad I get to share it with you all. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, spent with loved ones lingering over good, real food. Hopefully locally-grown...
For me, Thanksgiving isn't really about the big turkey and trimmings meal, it's about friends and family getting together and sharing their lives. Telling stories, laughing, remembering. It's the first day of the holiday season, which for me isn't about shopping, but about being with loved ones, about special treats, cocktail toasts, and remembering good times and making new memories... I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Friday, November 16, 2012
|Yellow Taxi. This year's star tomato.|
|A Perfect Heirloom.|
|Bowls of Principe Borghese Tomatoes|
By far, the variety that did the best this year was Yellow Taxi. The fruits were generally about the size of a plum, bright yellow, and sweet. The beauty of them was they had very little acidity, which meant they didn't make my tummy hurt when I ate too many. And I ate a lot of them. I had about a dozen, maybe twenty, plants, and they were the first to produce and at frost time, were still laden with ripening fruit. I think they will become a standard of my garden.
Persimmon Orange and Woodles Orange were the two orange varieties I planted. The Persimmon were slightly larger (at the size of a big apple) than the Woodles (plum-sized), but both were equally meaty, firm, and with low acidity. I probably won't grow both at the same time, but both will be grown again in the future. White Queen amazed us at Three Persimmons Farm. Huge translucent beauties with slightly pink centers, these tomatoes were delicate if left too long on the vine, but otherwise, meaty, sweet and completely acid-free. They were made for eating whole, slightly chilled... Truly an amazing experience was that first bight of the White Queen. Last year, we were blown away by our friend's Black Krim tomatoes. These nearly-black, large tomatoes exploded with flavor. This year, I suspect they competed with the Black Cherokee for space in the garden and on our table. Both were similar, both delicious. I think I only need to grow one or the other. I grew Green Sausage tomatoes this year, excited at the thought of sausage-shaped green tomatoes. I imagined them surprisingly sweet and a delight on the table. Instead, I never knew when they were ripe until it was too late. They were my biggest disappointment. The favorite tomato I grew last year was Matt's Wild Cherry. They were my best seller at the market, too... Tiny little mouth-punches of tomato. Many of them grew as volunteers in the garden this year, and I planted two rows of them. And they were every bit as delicious as they were last year. The plants are fun because they don't need staking, but instead sprawl out in every direction, climbing and clambering over anything nearby. And they are freeking prolific. In fact, the dogs are still eating slightly freeze-burned wild cherries now. But, as my dad can attest to, they are not pleasant to pick. They are low to the ground, and because there are so many, if you have any desire to finish a job, it's nearly a Sisyphean effort to pick them all. Once they're picked, though, and on your salad (or just in a bowl being eaten by hand) all the work is forgotten.
Another surprise tomato this year was the Principe Borghese tomato. According to the seed catalog, this is the main variety used for drying in Italy. I didn't dry any, but my gosh, these were wonderful. The plants are short and sturdy, and needed staking (although they supposedly don't). But they were really prolific, covered all season long with evenly-sized kumquat-sized perfectly firm fruit. These little babies were meaty and great in sauces, in salads, roasted... and then I froze about thirty pounds of them for use this winter. A real joy that I will definitely grow again.
I also grew a few other varities.. Italian Heirloom, Red Roma, and perhaps a few others... They didn't make much of an impression.. but were happily eaten all late-summer and autumn long. Late September, early October was the best time for tomatoes this year... and they were a joy to pick. Cool evenings, the vines covered in nasturtium flowers, marigolds nearby, the wonderful citric scent of the tomato leaves, the dogs next to me eating as many tomatoes as they could... those were the days!
I walked the dogs through the garden this morning. It was covered in thick frost and veiled with misty fog as the sun slanted through the woods. As the dogs scrambled to eat some of the leftover frozen fruit, I imagined it next summer... alive and growing again with the promise of an excess of tomatoes. I am truly addicted to the garden, and that makes me very happy.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
|Paprika slowly ripening.|
So that's what's going on outside in the garden. Indoors, I am nearly finished processing the bounty from the garden. I froze ten pounds of peppers the other day (Jalapeno & Maule's Red Hot) and have frozen at least ten pounds of little roma tomatoes. Last night I dried the last of the mint... in the microwave. I had read that it was an effective way to dry herbs, and since my dehydrator broke over the winter, I figured it was worth a shot. And I am very impressed with the results: I placed the leaves in between two paper towels and microwaved on high for 2 minutes. The result: vibrantly green, perfectly dry herbs. I think I may have a new method of saving the herbs from my garden! Two weeks ago, a friend came by and we spent a gorgeous (and windy) afternoon canning. Cherry Tomatoes, nearly ten pints of roasted salsa with Tomatoes, Onions, Tomatillos, assorted Peppers, and Cilantro. Only the cilantro wasn't from the garden, unfortunately. We also made two quarts of Ratatouille with peppers, eggplants and tomatoes from the garden. And about five pints of pickled pepperoncini I grew... All told, we had almost 25 pints of canned deliciousness for about six hours of work... not too bad.
|Cosmos and marigolds still blooming!|
Monday, October 1, 2012
|From top left: Lemon balm, Basil Osmin, Purple Basil, Variegated Sage, Lettuce Leaf Basil, Chocolate Mint, Lemon Basil, Mint.|
|The infusions infusing.|
Friday, September 28, 2012
These are some several-day-old zinnias. I brought them in to the office for my coworker, hoping they would brighten her day. (They did!) I love zinnias. I love how they look like fireworks, frozen nearby. I love their multitude of colors and surprising shapes. I love how long they last, cut; that the more I cut them, the more they grow outside. Last year they kept flowering way past the first frosts, until they were perfectly frozen by the big hard freeze in early November. The garden is full of zinnias, cosmos and marigolds. My herb garden is full of four o'clocks and there are sunflowers in front of the barn. I think growing flowers among veggies is so important. Not only does it create food and living space for good things like bees, birds and butterflies, but they provide a welcome break in their riots of color.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
|The first eggplants... Listada di Giada|
|This was a 42 pound harvest...|
Last week the farmers around the farm harvested their commodity corn. It had all turned black, with small ears of corn that didn't look entirely formed. Really,it looked sad, and I wasn't too sad to see it go. In its wake, our horizon is deeper, we can see the deer in the fields and beautiful return of murders of crows and flocks of blackbirds. In some ways, I am surprised it is already harvest time. I feel as if I just finished planting (I was still planting in July!) and am only now able to walk around the garden and marvel at the beauty of the okra flowers, or the ways cabbage flower (which means I missed harvesting some of them!) and already now I'm talking of frosts and rushing around picking up persimmons before the dogs eat them all. How quick it all flies...
|In between my rows of okra, a combine harvests the commodity corn across the street.|
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
|My new, antique cultivator.|
|The cultivator in action...|
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Even as planting in the garden continues, some things are ready to harvest. This morning I pulled out two gorgeous radishes... One a new variety for me, Cincinnati Market (the long red one) & the other an Easter Egg radish, from seed in saved from last year... I must say that the quality of the garden's soil is much-improved over last year, which is showing up in the higher quality of produce coming out of the garden. Bon appetit!
Sunday, May 20, 2012
|A little, dazed, & confused opossum.|
|The garden this afternoon.|
Although I won't be at the Farmers' Market regularly, I still plan on selling via subscription, and then canning and freezing as much as possible. Life here on the farm has been going great... Our landlord bush-hogged a path to the pond, and afterward, I saw the opossum above... he was dazed and confused. (As I took the picture, a snake slithered over my sandals.) I've also seen the mink that lives in the barn, a skunk hanging out in the garden (Rich says he could smell the skunk last night, but I slept through that...), as well as a few wild turkeys in the corn field across the road. As I type, a lazy mist is rising from the garden and the corn fields around the house and another thunderstorm is slowly lumbering its way toward us. It's the end of another great weekend here in Hutton!
Monday, April 30, 2012
Over the past few days, we've had so many thunderstorms. Friday into Friday night, they seemed to roll in, one after the other: lighting, thunder, rain & repeat. We went to bed last night, knowing a complex of storms was working its leisurely way northeast. The lightning woke me up around 4:30. The thunder woke the dogs up a bit later. Judging by the frequency of lightning lighting up the room, I was waiting for the weather radio to go off. But, as dawn broke, the storm seemed to lose its umph, and I got out of bed to a lovely, steady rain. In fact, we haven't had any severe weather in a good bit. I know eventually we'll get some storms that verge on the scary. And, since I've become a trained weather spotter, I haven't been able to use my training. But that is something to be glad about. Anyway, here are some pictures of a storm building just north of the barn this afternoon, as I walked the dogs around, drinking a lovely apple vodka cocktail!
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Rushing home from work to try and get in as much work in the Seed Room as possible before leaving for "Godspell"rehearsal, I walked into the positively steamingly hot seed room to find a veritable garden growing. Sometimes it seems like I should plant more, but then I look around me... Hundreds of tomatoes and peppers. 40 eggplant. At least 40 celery. 25 cabbages. Basil, oregano, lovage, anise hyssop, one onion all growing on the shelves Rich built. Outside in the garden proper, after several inches of rain over the weekend, the green is creeping over the tilled soil. Soon I'll be back out in the garden... But not on the same schedule as I'd planned for the season. I started a new job at the local university's HR department for the summer... An exciting prospect to do some rewarding work outside of the garden, and limiting the hours available to till and toil is providing a focus I think I lacked last summer. As I type this, the cast and band prepares for rehearsal. I'd love for everyone to see the Charleston Community Thrust Theatre's production of "Godspell"this weekend... And eat some of my fresh veggies...
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
|Just as sunset began this evening.|
|The garden... it looks drier than it is.|
The seedlings growing in the garage are all doing very well. In fact, I think they've all grown about an inch just today! I'm out of room for more flats, but need to get more started over the next few days... I still haven't started all the varieties of peppers and tomatoes I'm growing. I'm close to being finished, but not quite. (That last sentence is a lot like saying "I'm close to being crazy, but just haven't realized it yet.")
The garden looks very dry. I watered it this morning, and realized it's just the clay soil that makes it seem so dry. Underneath, it's pretty good still, and by the end of the day, a lot more peas and lettuce and radish had poked through the soil. I put in another row of seeds this afternoon. Peas, lettuces, radishes, carrots. Two of the four varieties of radish I planted are from seed I saved from last year. They were very delicious types: French Breakfast and Easter Egg... you'll have to try them sometime. While I was puttering in the garden today, the neighbor across the road was planting their corn. Three tractors working for hours. I worked for hours too, and got one whole row planted, on my hands and knees... But I know everything I harvest from my garden is going to be Delicious. Capital D Delicious.
And with that, I shall go. Time to put away the dog treats I made this evening, and then time to start dinner for us...
Friday, April 6, 2012
|The garden getting tilled.|
|The garden this evening.|
Well, this week, I finally did some planting directly in the garden. Tuesday was gorgeous, and I went out into the sunny day and started working the soil. It felt fantastic. (Working in the garden again, and the soil.) My neighbor, Frank, did a wonderful job tilling the garden this year. The soil is deeply tilled, and feels alive in your hands. I've put in three rows, each about 42 feet long and about two feet wide. Two of them are planted with a variety of peas, radishes and greens. One row of peas are standard shelling peas, and the other a variety called Desiree Dwarf Blauwschokker. They're supposed to have "stunning violet-blue pods produced on lovely little bush plants that do not require staking" according to the Baker Creek seed catalog. The peas were violet colored!
Radishes I planted are long red ones called Cincinnati Market, Round Black and White. As for greens, I've planted red romaine, crisp mint lettuce, arugula, and mustard greens. I've got more varieties of everything to go in once the ground is dry enough to work... We got about an inch and a half of rain mid-week, so am currently waiting for it to all soak in.
|The first peas are up! (& a crawdad has made a home among the radishes!|
|Tomatoes, eggplants & spinach.|
Friday, March 30, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Am I ever glad I didn't plant yesterday! Late in the afternoon, as I was bringing in the laundry from the line and gathering lemon balm leaves for a little cocktail hour with friends (lemon balm gin martinis... Delicious!), my neighbor pulled into the garden to do some more tilling. He doubled the size of the garden now ready for planting to about 84' by 42'. Next project: getting peas in the ground!
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
|The garden as of today.|
|The plants of the garden as of today.|
On St. Patrick's Day, our neighbor, Frank, mowed the garden. Rich saw him driving down the driveway in his mower, then veer toward the garden. I chatted with him for a bit, and thanked him for helping out. About an hour later, I look outside to see the same neighbor plowing the field. He tilled up a fairly large portion of the garden, almost exactly 25' by 40'. And although it looks very small compared to the rest of the garden, it's honestly about how much space I actually used last year. I don't know if he's coming back to plow any more... but don't think so. My plan is to plant that space, and then till more with the help of my friends Sherry & Andrea, who have a much grander farm than mine just a mile west of here. But it's been exciting to march the dogs out near the tilled soil and imagine working it... I'm ready! If only the weather will truly cooperate. I must say that this late winter summer snap had me ready to plant... but I keep waiting for winter's last hurrah...
|Dandelions... I think they're beautiful.|
|The lilacs are blooming!|
|The pear tree is blooming!|
This warm weather, these blooming plants, the returning creatures have me most generally happy. I've been wanting to hang out with friends, cook together, throw some bags and drink some summery cocktails. Of course, since it's not summer, and I now work nights, this has not come to pass in the way I hope... but soon.
The garden is coming together... growing steadily in the garage, while the soil readies itself to welcome the plants... There are returning plants from last year: mint, lemon balm, parsley, cilantro, tansy, borage and hollyhocks. Leeks and garlic I planted late last summer are rising steadily in the raised beds. I've already picked some mint and dried some chives I picked this week... spring is definitely here! And now the work begins.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
The wild garlic patch in the garden is up. I noticed it yesterday while walking the edge of the garden. This is a plant I didn't know about until I moved here. I've been treating it like scallions; picking some now and again. They taste just like garlic, and are excellent in scrambled eggs, salads, or sauces. I've noticed a lot more this year than I did last. I'm not sure if that's due to the mild winter or my now knowing how delicious they are, and now seeing them more readily... Whatever the reason, for me they are harbingers of the arrival of spring!
Friday, March 2, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
|The house from the front yard at 6:45 this evening.|
Well, we don't really have a curb. But there's a spot at the end of the gravel driveway, just past the culvert, next to the road, where we leave our trash and recycling cans to get picked up. I walked out there without a flashlight, although it was 6:30 and already dark. Stepping out into the blustery, rainy, and still rather warm evening, I was surprised by how dark it was. In the distance, to the south, I could see the lights of the towns of Casey and Greenup reflected in the clouds above. Otherwise, nothing but blackness. Perhaps my eyes hadn't adjusted to the dark, having just stepped out of the fairly bright (and full of music from the record player) kitchen, but it was dark. I stumbled a bit walking down the driveway pulling the trash can along behind me, but that may have been my own clumsiness. By now I know the slight westward curve of the driveway, and can feel it with my feet. But still, without stars, it is dark here. I've often mentioned the stars, and how amazing they are here in the country. But I don't think I've really talked about the dark. And how thorough it is here. It's something rather unnerving, really. As a guy who grew up in cities, I never really knew what dark was. When we first arrived, we were amazed -- nearly blown over -- by the stars. But it's on cloudy and windy nights like tonight that I know what night is. When I turned around, I could see the lights from the house. In real life, they appear much brighter than my camera was able to capture. The house looks warm, and festive, even though beyond the lights, no sound other than the howling wind and the mad windchimes could be heard. And over the house's shoulder, the lights of Charleston, glowing in the sky. So tonight, it's dark.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
|Kerouac & Happy frolicking in the snow.|
|Okra & Cosmos in the snow.|
|The fog came in waves across the empty fields.|
I've been reading a book called "Growing a Farmer" by Kurt Timmermeister. He's a man who owned and operated restaurants for many years in Seattle before becoming a farmer full time. He has a small dairy and makes and sells his cheeses. He also raises hogs and chickens for food, and keeps a garden as well. While I do imagine making my own cheeses some day, the aspect of his life that really excites me are the weekly dinners he offers on his farm. Every Sunday (I'm not sure if it's just during the growing season or not), he opens up his kitchen for a meal made entirely from food from his farm: honey, meat, dairy and vegetables. This is something I've talked about with friends, and if it's possible to do, would be something I would love taking on sometime. One of the great things I am being reminded about in this book is that the transition to farming is not done overnight. It took him ten years from the time when he bought the run-down farm on Vashon Island, working on the farm on his rare days off from his restaurant until the time he was able to make a living from his land.
|If you look closely in the shade, you can see it's frosty.|
As I said, in some ways, I don't know how the week disappeared. Weather-wise, it was a week all over the place. It snowed, it rained, it thundered, we had fog and some of the fog froze to the ground. It was warm and it was cold. The crocus are still blooming, and have been joined by even more of their yellow friends. The birds have been particularly enjoyable this week. Flocks of crows in the empty corn fields, cardinals and finches and woodpeckers at the bird feeder. The ominous shadow of a buzzard over the house...
Hopefully a week won't pass until my next post. And hopefully I'll have made progress toward getting ready for this year's garden.