Tubers Out of the Dirt

I have started pulling tubers. Let me say that again. I have started digging up root vegetables. I made some roasted potatoes from the first batch and they were so good I made another last night. Carrots are ready now as well. These are some good ones–a variety of colors and flavors. I should have a good volume of food with these crops before all is said and done.

The first potatoes I pulled up were German Butterball. These were from tubers I had saved from last summer. I hadn’t meant to save them, exactly. I had stored them to eat and then missed some at the end of the bin. They sat until spring, when they were sprouting like crazy. I had some extra space in the garden and so I popped them into the dirt. I am glad I did. They are a, duh, buttery variety, and white. I also have pulled some others–purple and pink. I love that. Who wants only white potatoes when you can have purple and pink? Several of these colorful plants never took so the extra white potatoes were especially welcome.

Check Out Those Colors

I have purple carrots as well, along with yellow and the standard orange. Our soil is mostly clay–although I did add a good deal of compost this spring–so sometimes the carrots get stunted. I pulled three is a row that were stubby. One of them looked like some kind of alien landing craft. Maybe my garden, which is a circle rather than your typical rectangle, was an inviting locale for an extraterrestrial vehicle. Perhaps my carrots are actually buried spaceships? You be they judge.

Odd Shaped Tuber or Visitor from Space?

 

Thinking About Spring Already

Leafing Through the Catalogs and Guides

OK I know, we just got our first winter snowfall to speak of and I am thinking about spring already. But the time has come. I mean, it is January 17th. Last year I busted out my seeds and seed catalogs a week earlier. I pulled the bin of seeds from last year and years before that, spread out the seed catalogs and started doing some planing. I got interrupted several times so it took me most of the day, but I I figured what I need to order for our 2012 garden.

I have plenty of seeds, but I can’t use them all. The Danvers carrots from 2007 are just not reliable. Some might sprout but most likely will not. Lettuce seeds from last year? Might be good, might not. Pumpkins seeds on the other hand, saved even from 2007, will probably be OK. The big ones last longer. I had to determine what I want to plant, then go through my inventory, then decide where to purchase seeds I don’t have but want.

Mostly I plan to order seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. They are fairly local, so if they can make it grow, I probably can as well. I will also order some from Seed Savers Exchange. I love the work they do and they always have something new and different. I prefer to plant open pollinated varieties rather than hybrids, so it is fun to try something new each time. Potatoes, especially, are fun ones for me when it comes to experimenting. They are pretty easy to grow, and any variety will taste good one way or another, so why not try the pink ones? Of course, I have tried some varieties of vegetables that were not the greatest–red zebra tomatoes looked great but just didn’t taste as zowie as I wanted them to taste, and some carrots are so not as sweet as others–but mostly you can’t go wrong with food you grow yourself.

I had hoped to order seeds today but that will have to wait until later in the week. I had way too much playing outside with my daughter to do. The kids were outside a ton yesterday and today, despite the frigid temperatures (yesterday never got above 7 degrees and today the wind chill was below zero in the afternoon). I was proud of them. I didn’t want to be left out. And I do have time. I will likely plant some seeds indoors in March, which isn’t that far away, but I don’t need to order anything two-day shipping at this point. But still, it is hard to resist thinking about summer when the temperature is in the single digits and the wood stove is eating up logs.

So here’s to seed catalogs and the companies who print them! Thanks for bringing me a little summer today.

Blood and Urine

I ran a bunch of errands this afternoon. I finally picked the screws for my sander. I had lost one screw and had to special order a set. I could only get them from one place–Burlington Tool Repair in Essex (not sure why Burlington Tool Supply is in Essex)–so I drove up there and paid $1.82 to get the tool running again. It was cheaper than a new sander. Even on Craig’s List.

I also stopped at Gardner’s Supply and picked up some Liquid Fence to spray on my garden. The stuff is supposed to keep away critters of the mammalian variety who find things like lettuce and cilantro to their liking. Just for the record, this product stinks. I mean it literally stinks. It contains urea from predators, like coyote, that is supposed to scare away the thieving rascals. Once it dries, so the directions tell me, I won’t smell it but the bunnies will.

I had to wash my hands twice and I made sure to store it in the basement, where it is cool, and not in the garage that got to over 100 degrees this afternoon.

Our lettuce is getting nibbled to nubs and one bed of carrots is pretty much toast, so I hope it works. Ah, the adventure of gardening. Those long-eared little hoppers have me spraying canine whiz next to my lettuce. I sound desperate, eh? I want my lettuce.

Damn bunnies.

Learning Personal Finance

We went to the farmer’s market in Hinesburg yesterday. I emptied my wallet. I didn’t even get all I could have gotten, but our bag was full and the kids were antsy. Next time I’ll bring two bags. And make the kids carry one.

This market was great. I arrived with my two children right when it opened, at 9:00. It was held in the Hinesburg Town Hall. There is a summer farmers market weekly but once the fall hits it whittles down to once per month. We missed the one in October so I was eager to be there for this one.

I purchased leeks, onions, potatoes, garlic, spinach and other stuff. I was happy enough. I was looking for food. My daughter, however, was looking to spend some money.

I had told her I would give her some money so she could buy some things herself. The space is small and I figured it wouldn’t be crowded first thing. So I gave her five bucks and told her she buy whatever she wanted. We did a lap to start us off, to see who was there selling what. We tasted a purple carrot and looped back around. At the first vendor she bought a delicata squash, a tiny one, but cute and just right for her. A couple of tables down she bought some popcorn. It was purple, still on the cob but dried, four ears for a dollar. She bought four. Then she bought some of those purple carrots. She considered a stone charm, but it was five dollars and she didn’t want to blow it all in one shot.

This was great for both of us. She felt a sense of responsibility and I felt safe with her learning some lessons in how to spend money. I really don’t think I could have said no to anything there she may have said she wanted to buy. It was a farmers market.  She wants to buy carrots and mini squash? I’m good with that. She wants to but some jewelry made by someone here in town?  I’m good with that.  She wants to buy honey, jam, hand spun yarn, fresh bread, eggs? How can I say no? It was ideal.

She is now the eager one, asking when the next market will be. There is one every Saturday somewhere around here. The next one is in Burlington, then Winooski, Shelburne, and back in Hinesburg again. And there are  others well into the winter. My daughter would gets the shakes if she saw all the vendors in Burlington compared to little old Hinesburg. I’m thinking we may have to take advantage of that. I can give up five bucks for this endeavor for several weekends if she is still into it. I have been wanting to go to these this fall and winter anyway. Fresh local food this late in the year? I can go out of my way for that.

The eggs we bought yesterday and way good, and I turned cauliflower, spinach, garlic and leeks into a fine dinner tonight. And the popcorn? Pops white, tastes great. And that was just one ear. That popcorn may have been the best deal of the lot.

Twenty Five Carrots

I pulled the last of the carrots yesterday, the last thing to come out of the ground for the season. There were 25 carrots of three varieties. My wife went for a run with a friend and when they returned they had a tasting of all three.  One was sweet, another was really sweet, and a third was almost bitter.  The third one was one I got because it would supposedly mature quickly and last. That it did, but it isn’t know for flavor, apparently. The variety is actually typical in supermarkets. I guess that explains it.

Another friend called later in the morning.  He had baked a whole pile of pumpkin bread and wanted to bring some over on his way to the market.  He was planning to make a stew and was all out of one ingredient–carrots. So we made a trade–a handful of carrots for some fresh warm sweet bread.  He also took the taste test and found the results as the rest of us had.  My daughter also agreed–I trust any kid who tells me a carrot tastes sweet, even if she did have a fever.

The carrots that did not get consumed in the taste test or get shipped to be chopped into stew or get saved to eat raw met a different fate.  I peeled them, cubed them, steamed them, blanched them, and froze them. I was planning to make carrot soup but we still have pumpkin soup left over from a couple days ago.  I can still make soup with the frozen carrots but now I have no rush.  i froze twelve cups of carrots, which seems like a fair amount, although I am sure they won’t last all that long.

I still need to tuck that garden bed in for the winter, now that it contains no more root crops. I edged it and turned it and figured I could just get to it another time.  I forgot about frost.  That still happens I guess. It makes the ground cold and eventually the ground will get all hard and frozen. I need to keep that in mind and get the garden set for the winter.  I have made my leisure. I need to cut that out. At least I have something to show for some of the work.

 

Carrots on Cutting Board

On the Chopping Block

Carrot Cubes

Cubes

Carrots in Colandar

Look at These Orange Puppies

 

 

Pumpkins Up, Frost on the Way

The kids planted pumpkins in their corner of the garden.  A couple of days ago they busted through the soil.  We were close to a frost last night.  My daughter covered the tender sprouts with plastic potting buckets.  She uncovered them this morning on the way to the bus.  While temperatures stayed above 32 degrees last night, tonight it looks like frost for real.  We have a freeze warning in effect since our average last frost date has passed.

I figure we are safe from frost around Memorial Day.  Apparently our average date for that is sooner.  Planting things like pumpkins this early is a risk.  It means remembering to cover young plants.  The only other plants coming up at the moment are peas and carrots.  I’m not worried about them.  The rest of the vegetables are still inside, or I planted them two days ago.  They are safe.

My daughter covered the pumpkins again tonight.  She and her brother will get some early squash out of those plants.  Later this week the weather should turn.  We might have temperatures in the 80’s.  That ought to get the cucumbers considering leaving the womb.  Hopefully they won’t have to worry about frost.

I planted a few things this past weekend–cucumbers, pumpkins, butternut squash, lettuce, summer squash–and I wanted to plant more.  The freeze warning for last night kept my ambitions in check.  Next weekend I will get on it.  That will be Memorial Day weekend.  I want to plant corn and basil but the soil just isn’t warm enough.  That will have to wait until June.

We also cleared a spot for an herb garden.  We cut down an evergreen shrub (I never learned what kind it was) that was just about dead from a fungus.  I want to plant rosemary and sage and thyme and chives.  And perhaps some other stuff.  I can’t wait to get things in the ground.  But I can’t do it all at once anyway.  Not enough time and all that.

So the pumpkins are safe, as are the herbs plants I never purchased.  I will go on a planting spree later this week.  Later this summer I want to be able to paraphrase the LoraxAnd then Oh Baby Oh how my garden did grow.  Of course, I will say it anyway, but it sure would be nice to be able to mean.

Peas and Cookies

Trellis for Peas Woven from Saplings

Trellis for Peas Woven from Saplings

I have been jonesing for cookies or pudding or ice cream or some sweet thing. I was going to make some pudding, whip up some cream to plop on top. But my wife made cookies. A local teenager is going to watch my daughter after school so I can go to a meeting tomorrow afternoon. So my co-parent whipped up some chocolate chippers. I went with those.

Also, I spent this weekend in the garden. I dug and prepped and then planted. I can’t say I planted because my children were right there with me. I set aside a chunk of the garden just for them this year. They planted peas, carrots and (early) pumpkins. I hope the pumpkins do OK given that it is so early, but we can always replant them. In the larger garden I planted peas and carrots.

That is the game we often play in the winter when we are waiting at the end of the driveway for the school bus–Peas and Carrots. We jump up and down and someone shouts out a number and you have to get in a group with exactly that many people. It has limited usefulness as a game when there are only four or three or even two of us, but it keeps us warm. Anyway, we kept singing the little ditty as wel planted–“Peas and Carrots, Peas and Carrots, Peas and Carrots.” We had a good time.

I ate one cookie but I could use another. Tomorrow I have a busy day. I get my daughter on the bus, drive my son to school, go to Burlington to work with three groups of students in a row, head to the office to get as many tasks done as I can, drive to Milton for a faculty meeting at the high school, head home to meet my daughter at the house of the aformentioned teenager, drive with her to get my son, get home for dinner, then head up the road for T-Ball practice. Then home in time for bed.

Knowing that the garden is doing its silent job of growing will help me mentally once the day begins. And that extra cookie will come in hand, too.