Not Spring Yet

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Lake Champlain at Shelburne Bay–ice as far as one can see

Lake Champlain froze over this year, as it did last year. It is not common that it freezes over two years in a row. It has been a cold winter. Last week we had several days of warmer weather. Temperatures got into the forties. Lots of snow melted. As I write this the temperature is 28 degrees and it is snowing like nuts with a howling wind. It isn’t spring yet.

I did get some time outside when the air was warmer. I always find the transition from season to season remarkable. This week I was amazed at the melting of so much snow. Today I have been amazed at just how wintry it is. I went for a run this afternoon. The wind whipped the falling snow into my face. It hurt. The storm seemed to be telling me to stay inside. I wasn’t out long.

Spring will come soon. I am still waiting for the return of Red Winged Blackbirds. Forget American Robins, some of whom stick around all winter. Red Winged Blackbirds are the real harbingers of spring. Once they arrive, Woodcocks and Song Sparrows, maple leaves and tulips, are not far behind. As of yesterday, the garden beds were just starting to emerge from the snow. Today they are covered again. I planted onion seeds in pots yesterday. They sit inside on the windowsill. By the time they are ready to transplant, this snow, like the snow that left us last week, will be clouds.

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LaPlatte River, March 3rd 2015; note the tracks on the snow on the ice

LaPlatte River, March 14 2015

Same view of the LaPlatte River, March 14 2015

Garlic Pulled

Garlic Drying in the Sun

Yesterday I pulled the garlic. I should have pulled it sooner but we were away and it just didn’t happen. I planted two varieties in the fall and one of them was way ready to yank from the dirt. It was so ready that a few of them broke at the stem. This was the Purple Bogatyr, a purple tinged, smaller variety. The other is much larger and, because I let it go so long, the bulbs are huge. I have 25 bulbs drying in the sun right now and I pulled a couple earlier as well. For the first time a couple died in the spring–not sure why.

I plan to crank out some pesto in the next couple of days, along with some pico de gallo. Hopefully this garlic will last a while–not all year I am sure but a perhaps through the fall. We do eat a lot of garlic. Next up: onions. They are looking good and the tops are starting to fall over. Pretty soon I will pull them as well.

More Produce

Pumpkin Crop, and Other Stuff

I finally picked our pumpkins today. I harvested our entire crop, seen above with a few other items I sliced off the vine this afternoon. So we have a whopping three pumpkins for pie, soup, what have you. That ain’t much. In past years we have gotten more pumpkins than we can eat, freezing most of them for use over the winter. We did get a few, indeed, but we’re not talking a bumper crop here.

We are still picking cucumbers. The cherry tomatoes are falling off the vine. I might pick a bunch of them and dry them. The second melon from our garden is pictured above as well. Hopefully it will be as good as the first. That first one was tasty when we busted it open and even tastier after the second half of it cooled in the refrigerator. We should be able to pick a few more of those.

Next up–onions, already drying out of the ground. Good food. We have much more to still harvest. The rain we will get over the next couple of days will help with that. It should drop below 90 degrees by Saturday. That might help as well.

Potato Harvest

The kids and I dug up all our potatoes the day before yesterday. It was like digging for buried treasure. They had as much of a blast as I did. Turn the soil and find some food.

There's One

I wish I had a scale. I have thought maybe 149 times that I could use one, but I have not taken the effort to get one. I planted five pounds of seed potatoes and all told, with the potatoes we already pulled from the dirt earlier this summer, we harvested 40-50 pounds of potatoes. That is a guess, of course, but probably close.  That paid off.

First into the Basket

We have two varieties–one purple and one white. Right after we dug them up we boiled some of the white one and ate them with salt and butter, along with the corn we bought. A simple and fine dinner.

Bucket of Potatoes

I plan to store a bunch of them so we can be eating potatoes at least into the fall. Hopefully I can make them last. I still need to pull the onions. They won’t keep as long but they will last for a couple of months. And I need to make pesto. And those melons are looking close to ripe. And pumpkins. We’ve got lots of food these days.

Garden Chores

I got out to the garden today (too rainy to paint, although I did bust out the pressure washer to clean the porch deck) and took care of some business. First check out this bounty I picked, including tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and onions:

Basket o' Tastiness

The popcorn is growing well, with tendrils melon plants creeping up the stalks:

Happy Corn Plants

And speaking of melons, I just may be successful this year. I don’t want to speak before I actually pick and eat a ripe melon, but we are close. I saved seeds from a chanterais we got from our farm share last summer. They started off well, they blossomed and a couple of fruits started growing. Now, a couple of them are close to ripe, good sized, and healthy. Seeking carefully under the corn plants, I found ten of them in various stages of growth. There are still more blossoms but those late bloomers will likely not make it at this point. If we eat one or two tasty melons I will be a happy camper gardener.

Check Out That Melon, if You Know What I'm Saying

And I did finally pull the garlic. I could have yanked it all sooner, but today was the day I got around to it. I harvested 19 remaining bulbs. I already used one of them to make some pesto–OK, a lot of pesto–and I will need to save maybe five of them to plant this fall for next year, but that leaves 13. Not bad, considering how much I already used.

More Than Ready for Harvest

Drying in the Sun

So it was a good day for fresh food. We ate pesto pasta for dinner with tomatoes, cucumbers on the side. I need to dig up potatoes next. They are ready to make it to the table now as well. Right now I plan to have another slice of zucchini blueberry bread. It is still warm.

Garlic and Onions

This past fall I planted two varieties of garlic. One was ready before the other and that I started using, then pulled and braided so I can use it over time. The other variety has been ready to go for a couple weeks but I have not taken the time to yank it from the dirt and cure it to store it. Every day I think about it and tell myself I will get to it, but so far no dice. Tomorrow I hope to dig it up and start drying it. Seriously. Tomorrow.

I picked my first onions a couple days ago. I planted Cippolini onions–flat and sweet. They are tasty but hoo-ra! Those puppies do a number on the old tear ducts. When I chopped half an onion for my first salsa yesterday, I had to set down my knife. Dicing with eyes closed is hazardous. Luckily it was windy. I opened the window and it was enough to clear the air. I have gotten used to mild onions so I was surprised by this once typical occurrence. I will be ready next time. Seriously.

I need to pull more of those onions. They don’t keep well so I will have to use them fairly soon, but I might have some into the fall. Unless I use a lot of onions, which I tend to do in the fall especially. The bummer is how few onions I will get. I planted 48 small pots in late winter. Most of them sprouted, but I transplanted them too late–so goes my theory. I will have maybe 20 onions if I am lucky. The leeks also didn’t fair as well as I would have liked. Again, I think I planted them too late in the spring. They just wanted to get outdoors earlier. I can’t blame them. Last year I had a forest of leeks and only three onions, so I guess it all balances out.

Tomorrow I need to muck about in the dirt. I made some serious progress on painting the house today so the garden chores got delayed. Tomorrow, however, rain showers are forecast for the whole day. That means other projects might get some attention. I need to sort through our tax returns for the last 15 years. We don’t need to keep all of them, do we?  That task, however, will take a back seat to pulling garlic and maybe to making a batch of pesto. I guess I prefer food over finances.

Close to the End

 

Sauteed onions and peppers

Pizza Topping--Colorful and Tasty

Last night’s dinner was pizza. We topped one of them with peppers and onions. I used the last onion we grew in our garden. I used peppers and another onion from our farm share. We have one more pepper we grew tucked in the refrigerator, one more pepper from the farm, and a couple small onions from the farm. There was a bonus pick up yesterday but I have been sick, so I didn’t get organized enough to put in an order. That is a bummer since having more peppers, onions and some squash at least would be helpful in making this transition to winter. I really want to make sure we preserve more food next year. We have some, but cracking open something I grew over the summer, in the middle of winter, just can’t be beat.  We have a few items left, including sweet pumpkins, but we are close to out for the season. Winter’s farmers markets are near. I need to make sure we get there.

Fall Arrival and Some Harvesting

Yesterday I pulled the few onions we had growing in our garden.  Most of the seedlings didn’t make it but a few managed to grow.  We ate a couple of them not long ago.  They are some strong onions.  Tasty, however.  These will need to dry a little so they can last long enough to use them all.  Too bad rain is in the forecast for the next couple of weeks.

Onions Out of the Dirt

Onions Out of the Dirt

I also picked a bunch of leeks.  I made a big batch of potato leek soup.  We had a slew of potatoes to use up and all those leeks in the ground.  It tasted pretty good last night for dinner with some buttered toast.  It tasted even better for lunch today.

A Fine Row of Fine Leeks

A Fine Row of Fine Leeks

The peppers are almost red as well.  We have been picking them and eating them but they are so much sweeter when they are fully ripe.  Plus the seeds will sprout easier if the peppers are fully ready when they are picked.  And they are beautiful.

Peppers Almost Ripe

Peppers Almost Ripe

The popcorn is still growing, trying to ripen before the cold sets in. Problem is, the cold kind of has set in. It’s not winter yet or anything but it has been in the 40’s in the morning.  I can’t imagine we will get mature ears out of these plants, but who knows?  I’m willing to wait it out.

Popcorn Still Making a Go of It

Popcorn Still Making a Go of It

The blueberries, on the other hand, have long given up the idea of producing fruit.  Their leaves are turning.  They are redder than the peppers.  They too are beautiful.

Fall Has Arrived for Certain

Fall Has Arrived for Certain

Garden Woes

Ready for Planting

Ready for Planting

We started our garden at the house in which we now live in 2007.  That garden was limited.  We dug up some lawn and gathered some compost and got going.  We planted tomatoes and carrots and lettuce, pumpkins and strawberries.  Last year we expanded, adding more compost and digging more beds.  This is year three.  That first summer we had no problems at all.  Everything grew like gangbusters.  Now the troubles have started.

One mistake was getting compost from a new source last year.  It was filled with weeds and contained the larvae of cucumber beetles.  Cucumber beetles eat the roots of young plants and then, after they hatch, eat the leaves of the same plants.  I have had to replant zucchini and yellow squash and cucumbers, and the melons are pretty much bumming.  I have done nothing yet to get rid of them this spring so our problems persist.  I thought turning the soil late in the fall would help.  I turned it all again early in the spring.  No dice with that simple plan.

I planted peas for the first time this year.  They started off well but now the rabbit that hangs out in the woods has discovered the plants.  It keeps whittling them down to nubbins.  The pea plants are no taller than they were six weeks ago.  Then our cuddly friend discovered the carrots and the lettuce.  The little pecker is nibbling down our salads.  And a squirrel is eating our strawberries.  These critters are killing me.

I planted popcorn today.  Last year I had to plant corn three times.  The first time the turkeys ate the sprouts just as they emerged.  Then the crows did the same after I put up a scarecrow (can you say misnomer?).  Finally I hung a string across the bed with old CD’s hanging from it.  Those spinning reflectors kept the birds away.  I hope that this trick will keep them away again.  The popcorn was one of our best crops last year.

At this point the onions, at least the ten out of 26 that survived (no idea what was up with that) are healthy.  The leeks (except for the handful some crazy bird yanked out but left on the soil) are shooting up, and the pumpkins are spreading.  The tomatoes and peppers (planted a few days ago) are still alive but my optimism is wavering.  We will have some food out of this endeavor but not as much as we might.

I’m not all that upset, really.  I am disappointed, of course, but not upset.  This gardening adventure is about persistence over the long term.  I planted red zebra tomatoes the first summer.  They grew well but were not the sweetest.  I may plant them again as sauce tomatoes, or I might consider trying to grow them over a few years to breed sweeter fruit, but I learned that another variety might be better.  I also have not had much luck with melons.  They need warm weather and lots of it.  The beetles snacking on them don’t exactly help.  So melons will require much more trial and error (hopefully with diminishing error).

I have had luck with seeds I saved for peppers and pumpkins.  I will try more of that this year.  I like the idea of keeping the cycle going–planting seeds from plants that grew the previous year, then doing that again.  It is amazing that it works at all.  Plant a few seeds and they grow into plants that provide food?  That is plain old miraculous, really.

So I do what I can to keep things growing.  I weed and water and hang old computer discs.  I need to get on the cucumber beetles.  They haven’t hatched yet, but I know they won’t wait for an invitation to sit down to dinner on my cucumbers.  Their social graces, it seems, are less than refined.

Onions and Leeks on the Rise

Green Inside and Green Outside

Green Inside and Green Outside

Check these babies out.  I planted these almost six weeks ago, leeks on the left, onions on the right.  I got a great yield–all but one cell has sprouts.  I have had to clip them a few times–that smelled good.

Last year I planted leeks because my seed packet of onions only had a few seeds.  They worked so well I decided to plant both this year.  So far I have been pleased.  The onions I did manage to get last year grew well and were tasty.  I look forward to eating them once they mature.  That is a long way off, but I am patient.  Gardening seems to require patience.

As you can see through the window above, things are getting green out there.  I will plant in a couple of weeks.  I still need to edge the garden beds and pluck some weeds, but I will be ready in time.  The sooner I get plants in the ground, the sooner we get to eat fresh vegetables.  Although we had frost the past couple of mornings, summer is just around the corner.

The peppers (from seeds I saved) so far are duds, as are the cherry tomatoes (two years old) but heck, something will grow.  I am so ambitious that I probably have too much to fit in our garden space anyway.  I can hardly wait to get my hands dirty and plant more seeds.  I get giddy just thinking about it.