Wednesday, September 28, 2011

That lil old pea picker

Legacy peas
     This time of year harvest is in full swing.  Today I picked the final planting of shell peas for the year (Legacy variety).  Shell peas are one of my two favorite vegetables.  It does take a long time to shell them.  It took a bit over an hour today.  I usually sit in front of the television and shell as I watch something we have recorded so I feel productive while watching tv. (Today I watched a dvr recording of Terra Nova where gardening was definitely looked down on.  I suppose the challenges of the garden don't make for quite as gripping a tv show as being a cop).
Shelled peas

After the shells were removed, we blanched the peas for two minutes in boiling water, and then froze the peas on trays.  We will put them in vacuum sealed bags tomorrow, label them, and return them to the freezer.  While I don't think freezing peas is really an economical thing to do, I enjoy the process of picking, eating them while picking, shelling, and freezing them.  My little dog loves fresh peas too, and waits for me to give her some of the peas while I'm shelling them.
     Finally today I did another round of bean picking and processing.  I had four different varieties of beans to pick today, and then processed them by snapping off their ends.  They will spend the night in the refrigerator, and then get blanched and frozen tomorrow.
green beans

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Picking beans, freezing beans

I picked beans today.  It was the first pick of the final round of beans in my garden.  This final planting did pretty well, and while I expect to pick again in about a week, I'm happy with getting some beans to freeze this year for winter consumption.
Bush soleil french/filet bean
Soleil and Blue Lake bush beans

The two varieties I picked today were the yellow bean Soleil, and the green bean Blue Lake.  Both were bush types, which means they grow about 2 1/2 feet tall.
After picking them they require some processing before freezing. I prepare them by taking off both ends of the bean, and then prepare a boiling water bath for them.  I blanch the beans (put them in the boiling water) for two minutes, take them out of the water and place them on a plastic tray, and then put the tray in the freezer for several hours until the beans are frozen.  Then I put them in plastic bags and use my FoodSaver vacuum packer to pull the air out of the bags and heat seal them.  I then label them with the date, and return the bags to the freezer for winter use.  Here are photos of the process.
Boiling water bath
Beans being blanched

Tray for freezing

Packaging with the FoodSaver vacuum packer

Ready to freeze again

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tomato juice, tomato sauce

Most years right around this time we have a surfeit of tomatoes (an excess).  This year I have made several batches of sauce and frozen them for winter, and today I made plain old tomato juice and walked around my neighborhood and gave it to my neighbors.  It is pretty easy to make with the tomato press we have.  The simple screw type mechanism feeds the crushed tomatoes through a metal screen and separates the juice from the skins and seeds.  I added just a little bit of salt to the mix, put the juice in pint jars, and got to visit with my neighbors, and rave about the juice as "the essence of Big Lagoon." I made sure they understood that this was unprocessed juice and needed to be consumed quickly.  My neighbors were amused, but within an hour I received phone calls telling me how good the juice was.
tomato juice
tomato juice bottled

We grew some nice Roma tomatoes this year.  It is a paste variety which is not as watery as many tomatoes, and is good for sauce.  I made the sauce by cutting the tomatoes in half, adding a chopped onion, and quite a bit of fresh basil leaves, some good organic Napa Valley olive oil, some salt, and just a sprinkle of sugar.  I cooked this down for an hour or so, then put it through the tomato press as with the juice, and had a nice batch of sauce after cooking it down some more.
Roma tomatoes

tomato sauce cooking

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Picking tomatoes, giving away produce, seed planting

My main object in the garden today was to pick tomatoes.  I grow them in two small greenhouses.  One of the greenhouses houses our hydroponic setup which had 6 tomato plants in it and two in regular large pots.  The other "hothouse" is made of recycled windows given to us by our neighbors, and houses 10 tomato plants.  (Click on these early spring photos to enlarge them.)
It was time to pick today.  I ended up with loads of tomatoes so I decided to distribute them to the neighbors.  That was fun.  I still have loads and I think I'll be making juice and sauce out of them tomorrow.
The other project I did today was to plant another round of lettuce seeds in six packs in the greenhouse.  I have two heat mats on shelving we constructed out of used lumber and recycled refrigerator shelves.  This provides a great seed starting mechanism.  So I did plant small quantities of Grand Rapids leaf, Raptor romaine, Black Seeded Simpson leaf, Petite Rouge romaine, Red Sails leaf, and Prizehead leaf lettuces, as well as one of my favorite greens, Tah Tsai.

I also froze the beans I picked the other day after blanching them in boiling water for two minutes.  It is great to have frozen beans in winter.  I think I'm washing house windows tomorrow so I'll post again in a few days.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How bout them onions, and planting late

I picked onions today as one of my first garden tasks of the day.  We don't usually plant many, but did end up with a nice crop of red onions this year.  Here is the photo after I pulled them.
I planted some flowers in the new glazed pot I wrote about yesterday, and then proceeded to try planting the way overgrown seedlings we have ignored for too long.  I'm usually the vegetable gardener in the family and my wife tends to handle the flowers, but she has been gone for several weeks helping her mom, and I had to get the overgrown (and oversown) plants into the ground.  Here is a picture of the 6 packs before planting (with my dog Cinnamon in the background), and then a shot of the area near the dog run that I started planting in today.  More planting to be done tomorrow!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Having fun, planting garlic, new pots and old

     Fun day in the garden today because I got to do some of my favorite things like harvest fall crops (cauliflower and beans), pull up plants, fertilize and rototill to prepare for a cover crop, plant the garlic, and refresh pots.
Cauliflower seems to grow best here in the fall.  I have several rounds of cauliflower coming on right now, but I did get to harvest some today, and to harvest three types of green beans.  Here is a photo (click on it to enlarge it if you want to).
I also got to plant next years garlic.  This year I'm trying something new with the garlic.  There are two types of garlic - soft neck and hard neck.  Usually we plant soft neck garlic because it is easier to braid.  But this year I saw a video put out by Peaceful Valley farm supply.  You can see it at  I got convinced to try both soft and hard neck garlics this year.  Their informative pamphlet suggested soaking the cloves to be planted in liquid fertilizer (I use Maxsea - a seaweed based fertilizer developed in Southern Humboldt by John Dimmick).  You can see a picture of the broken up cloves floating in the water and fertilizer.  I then planted the garlic in a bed I had tilled this morning.  It looked like this during the planting:
I covered the cloves and watered them in.  I have to get some mulch for them soon.  Garlic harvest will happen next June or July if all goes well.
     I bought a new pot a few days ago.  I've always liked glazed pots, but usually don't purchase them because of the price.  I had a $50 coupon for Ace Hardware, so I decided to splurge on the pot.  I wanted a pretty pot on the walkway when my mom comes to live with us.  I got to fill it with potting soil today.
Nearby sits an ancient pot that was my grandfather's (my mom's dad).  I'm hoping she will recognize it when she arrives.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Garden harvest today - peas, beans, cauliflower, zucchini

On June 16 I planted a small bed of Legacy shelling peas.  I picked the last of them today and pulled the plants and stakes I used to hold them up.  Bush peas seem to need staking to keep their 2 1/2 feet height off the ground which produces less snail and slug damage, and cleaner, less fungus affected peas.  Legacy performed well this year in the different micro-climates of my yard.  While Knight continues to be my favorite shelling pea, Legacy also does well here.  I have one more batch of Legacy peas getting ready which should be ripe for picking in two weeks or so.
Here is a picture of the days harvest of Legacy peas, Dragon Tongue beans, yellow and green zucchinis, and the smallest of the ready cauliflowers.
The next photos (taken a few days ago) show the not quite ready Legacy's growing.  (Click on them to expand).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spreading the love - compost

Here in Big Lagoon the soil we have is sand, part of an old upraised beach along the coast of the Pacific.  We have been amending the soil in the garden beds for 11 years now, and each year I try to add more organic matter to the soil.  Today I loaded a batch of compost from the Compostumbler and spread it on one of the vegetable beds (where the beans I wrote about had been growing).  Here is what it looked like.

I'm not sure whether I will cover crop this section of the garden this year or not, or just wait until spring to till this soil again.  The compost is made of grass clippings, sawdust, spent coffee grounds (given away by Starbucks), and small amounts of blood meal, bone meal, and greensand.

Here is one shot of a new bed primarily of dahlias. (Click on the pic to enlarge).
Here is a Queen Cox apple that is almost ready to pick!  I love their flavor.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bean harvest

It was final bean harvest day for the green beans, yellow beans, and dragon tongue beans in the main garden today.  We like to eat the multi-colored dragon tongue beans "green".  They can be left to develop larger seeds, but I like them quite young.  After picking I get them ready to freeze by taking off the ends of each bean, putting them in boiling water for 2 minutes to blanch them, then immediately freeze them on trays.  When they are frozen, I package them with my home vacuum sealing Foodsaver, and save them for winter eating.
Below are pictures of the bean plants as I picked the beans, and the harvest from three types of beans.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Back to the garden"

It has been a long 2 months of ignoring my garden in order to do work on my house.  We pressure washed the house, painted the trim, stained the windows and decks, and then sprayed shingle oil on the house whose walls are covered by cedar shingles.  Since it is a 2 story house on a slope there were plenty of hair raising ladder climbs on a 28 foot extension ladder.  I am so glad it is done!
So today I got back to work in the garden.  I harvested the carrot crop planted March 1, and I'm about to plant some fall growing vegetables.  Here is a photo of the carrot harvest taken just after I washed off the carrots at our outdoor sink.  These are the variety "Danvers Half-Long".  The sand here in Big Lagoon is great for potatoes and carrots.
carrot harvest