Last year the weather was so beautiful. I spent some time in the late morning sitting outside on the garden bench enjoying wine. Then I clipped some fresh herbs to season my turkey. We ate vegetables from our garden. This year we have a foot of snow. Both of us are recovering from flu. And in a minute we have to pull ourselves together and go to our favorite restaurant for Thanksgiving Dinner. What a difference a year makes.
But we are still thankful. We're thankful the power came back on last night. We're thankful for a great apple harvest. We are still enjoying applesauce made from our apples, and we have cider in the freezer. More about the apple orchard later. I hope you all have something to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving.
Fall is in full swing, but the garden is still producing.
The black beans are beginning to fade, and I am anxiously awaiting their harvest so we can get them stored and the bed put up for the winter.
This bed did double duty this year. The beans were planted when the peas came out.
The pods are just now beginning to turn papery. If you pick them too soon, they aren't black yet. I've shelled about 2 quarts so far, which is more than my harvest last year already. I've probably picked less than 20% of the pods.
Bush beans and leaf lettuce will keep going until a killing freeze does them in. We began having frosty mornings in September, but have not had a killing frost yet.
How long does one wait for a cherry tomato? My cherry tomato plant died this year. I only got about half a dozen ripe tomatoes. But when I pulled out the onions in July, there were two tiny volunteers from last year's plant. I transplanted them and here they are on August 8th, about the size of May nursery transplants.
I had to wait until September for my cherry tomatoes. The anticipation makes them taste even better!
I had quite a few nice bell peppers. I made fresh Salsa once, but what I really want them for is my Black Bean Stoup. I chopped them up, froze them on a tray, and then transferred them to bags. I'll have colorful peppers to add to recipes all winter.
And here is what you call "too many apples" My mother took this photo one day while out driving around. Now that's an apple harvest not to be ignored. You have to find a use for those babies or mow around them! Whew! I'm glad that's not in my yard.
Yesterday Mom and I went to the Apple Orchard to pick some apples. There are bushels of wind fall apples. Because the trees are standard size, the remaining apples at the tops of the trees are virtually unreachable, even with a very long apple picker. (frustrating!) You would need the added advantage of a tractor bucket to reach most of them and we didn't have one. So, we went to the back of the orchard and worked our way forward, sorting through the ground apples and picking up the unblemished ones. You can still get too many apples this way. In the end, I had to just walk away toting my 5 gallon pail, and leaving bushels behind for another day.
Each time I would find a large, perfect looking apple, which when lifted proved to have too much damage, I would take a couple of bites just to console myself. As I bit into one under one of the largest, healthiest trees, my mind suddenly went down a familiar path... hard crunch> sweet then tart> grainy texture> and then the unique, subtle, sub-acidic finish...
I looked around orienting myself in the orchard. "Mom, taste this apple". I handed it to her as I picked up another noting it's physical characteristics. "This is a Northern Spy right?" Mom agreed, yes.
"I think that's my apple. In fact, I'm almost certain"
The Northern Spy is a late apple discovered in the finger lakes region of NY in the early 1800s.
Skin color is a green ground, flushed with red stripes where not shaded, and it produces fairly late in the season. It is a hard apple with a more tart taste. Excellent for storage and often used for cooking, and is one of the most sought after pie apples. It is also noted for it's high Vitamin C content and for being the apple with one of the highest anti-oxidant levels. Awesome!
Ripens Late Sept-Early Oct R
Green background R
Red Stripes R
My mother asked for comparison photos so she could see just how big these apples were. Remember there were only three on my little sapling this year out of the six that pollinated, and all three were huge. Here it is next to a nice sized Cortland from my orchard.
It also weighs in at a hefty 12.2 ounces. I did a quick study of my other old heirloom windfall apples and they range from about 5.5 oz to 7 or 8 for an extra large specimen.
So, in conclusion, I am much more inclined to believe that this is a Northern Spy than a Red Astrachan. All the characteristics point in that direction, as well as the comparison taste test. Am I happy? You bet. This is a great apple to have growing in the backyard. I look forward to many harvests and many pies!
The apples grown from the tree, which I sent away to be grafted in 2009, which I hand pollinated, and waited for Four and a Half Year to sample, are finally ripe for the picking. Today when I went out to check, one of the apples was lying on the ground undamaged and unmolested. I picked the other remaining apple.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that a bird had bit into the third one. I picked that and found it to be not quite ripe. I ate it anyway. I was determined to let the last two ripen all the way.
So the question is: Is it or Is it Not? An Astrachan that is.
Had I believed my elderly neighbor, and trusted that we were speaking of the same tree, and that she had good information to begin with, I would have simply ordered an Astrachan sapling and planted it. But my faith wavered and instead, I took a graft from the tree and sent it to Big Horse Creek for grafting. That was in March 2009 and November 2009 they sent back two grafted saplings.
So let's examine the facts. The Red Astrachan is a Russian variety described as such "Fruit medium sized and distinctly lobed in appearance. The thin, pale yellow skin in nearly covered with bright red and crimson splashes and stripes. White flesh is often tinged with red streaks and is coarse, crisp, moderately juicy and briskly subacid in flavor. Ripens late June to early July, depending on location." Well, maybe and maybe not. It looks close enough to some of the pictures I'm finding on the web.
But, here is how I would describe this apple. "Fruit medium sizedVery Large and distinctly lobed in appearance. The thin, pale yellow skin in nearly covered with bright red and crimson splashes and stripes (agreed). White flesh is often tinged with red streaks and is coarse, crisp, moderately juicy and briskly subacid in flavor (agreed). Ripens late June to early July, depending on location . Late September" I've also seen estimates for August, but this is NOT an early variety. Even the original tree. Tim would climb it to get the few apples from it in late Sept/early October when we were picking our Cortlands. But I have no clear memory and no photos of those apple's appearance.
Now, the Very Large could be explained by the fact that only three apples grew on this tree. Selective pruning of fruit does promote larger fruit. However, no one is ever going to tell me that this is an early apple.
Does it matter if I know what variety it is? Sort of. But most importantly, it is an apple that appeals to Tim and I. We both like hard apples, and we both agree that these have a good taste. Secondly, it is a child of the last of those old trees which made up the orchard that his grandparents and father picked from all those decades ago. Maybe in my apple eating this fall I will find a variety to compare it to, and thereby narrow it down. If not, we'll think of a name for it. Until then, it is simply "our apple".
Now, the next question: will the other tree produce the same apple? It did not bear fruit this year. I sent 3 or 4 scions taken from different parts of the tree. I don't know if these two trees came from the same scion. And I don't know if the original tree had a graft or not. So they could, conceivably, be entirely different apples. The mystery continues....
This is the end of the fourth season with the raised beds, and they have required virtually no maintenance. But the gravel has settled and migrated leaving areas where the stabilization mat is showing through. So today was gravel renewal day. It sounded like a big job, but with three people it was done in a jiffy.
The gate was designed to be juuuust wide enough to drive the small tractor through.
Mike and I used shovels to direct the gravel into each wheelbarrow as Tim dumped the loader.
Then we wheeled it down each path dumping as we backed out, concentrating on low areas.
This summer, our Aunt came up to visit from South Carolina and she always brings peaches. This year she also brought a jar of Peach Pepper Jelly she had picked up at a fruit stand. Oh My but that is yummy over cream cheese! I've had the leftovers in the fridge and now and then I dip a spoon in for just a little taste. Peach is my favorite flavor and this stuff has a wonderful bite.
I like it so much I was looking on Pinterest for a recipe for when I run out and I stumbled on this idea. Use the peach pepper jelly as a dressing for fried green tomatoes. I know what I'll be trying this weekend. I can already feel the heartburn!
Now and then I get tired of one of my old stand bys and go looking for new untried varieties. This is true of vegetables, perennials and annuals. A year ago we took a long weekend trip to Cooperstown NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Farmer’s Museum. At the Farmer’s Museum, along the walk to the parking lot they had whiskey barrels full of gorgeous plants with deep green foliage and flowers that were budding out yellow and deepening through orange to red.
I’m a sucker for this hot color range and use it to dress up the vegetable garden and surrounding area usually choosing Marigolds, Zinnias or Nasturtium. But I didn’t recognize this plant. It sort of reminded me of Verbena or a Viburnum shrub. I didn’t remember ever having seen it in a local nursery. I didn’t even know if it was annual or perennial.
Not to worry, I thought, when the spring catalogs arrive I’ll probably be able to pick it out. Sure enough I did. It was the annual Lantana. And not surprisingly, it is related to both Verbena and Viburnum.
The annual Lantana is actually a tender perennial. In an annual application it is very tough and hardy. It is said that it thrives on heat and neglect.
Perfect! That’s just what I needed for my own whiskey barrels and pots which are in full sun and which I seldom bother to water or fertilize. I have a long list of annuals that have failed in these tough spots including Portulaca, Calibrocha, Wave Petunias and Nasturtium, and I’m getting tired of replacing them halfway through the season. Since I’d never noticed it locally, I asked my friend Sandy if she carried Lantana in her nursery, and she said she would have some. I also found a second local source on my greenhouse prowls.
There are many color pallets to choose from. The ones I had to choose from were Red, Cherry, Pink, Yellow and White. It also comes in Rose, Peach, Orange and probably a few more. If you can’t find it locally, several mail order nurseries will ship it. Red was my choice although the Cherry was very close. I bought a white one for a hard to fill spot in our front landscape.
Then I found them in hanging baskets at a local grocery which fit beautifully in one of my old chair pot stands.
A month or so after first planting my furthest afield whiskey barrel, I pulled out some tired and unhappy Nasturtium in the wash basin planter and put some small Lantana in there.
They quickly filled out and as a bonus, when the seed heads mature, they are a lovely blue. Who knew?
Ripening Seed Pods
The season is almost over and I have a new standby for container plantings. Butterflies and Hummingbirds are attracted to it. It is true that the plant loves hot spots and is not insulted if you forget to water it although the overcrowded commercially potted hanging basket did require regular attention. I’ll plant just one plant in a pot there next year which should make it as low maintenance as the rest.
I like Lantana just as much as I thought I would. It's here to stay.