Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Early Mornings, Late Nights, Busy Weekends, Messy Kitchens

Endeavoring to grow your own food, and put it up for the winter, is a pretty big commitment. I remember with fondness, the July heat wave which got me out of bed half an hour early (I am NOT a morning person) each day to water the garden for several weeks in a row. Now it is the late nights. It happens several times a week. You get home from a long day work and running some errands, sort the mail, grab a glass of wine, and head out the garden by six o'clock to pick some beans for supper. As you are picking beans, you realise there are more here than "just for supper". Five minutes turns into twenty. You go to the garden shed for another container.

Looks like another tomato evening. It was bound to happen sooner or later. If you get dinner started first, you calculate that you can get the tomatoes washed and cored and in the oven by 7. That means they will be done by 9:30, and with luck, you can grind them and simmer them down by 10:30 or so and have that last pot washed and put away before 11 pm.

Some nights you are faced with the biggest, heaviest, ugliest hod full of slicing tomatoes that have to be gotten rid of.

They still look kinda pretty all chunked up and ready to roast. But, by the time the movie or TV shows run out, you still have some pretty runny tomato sauce and you're just not interested in monitoring a pot of sauce until the wee hours of morning. This is one of the hazards of growing too many slicing tomatoes. So I tasted this runny sauce and I said to myself, "Self, what you have here is not tomato sauce. It's tomato soup."

And pretty good tomato soup at that. In fact, what this tomato base is begging to be is Minstrone Soup. Maybe tomorrow.

Another fact of heirloom gardening tomato season is the seed saving. Soon, my kitchen counter is full of juice glasses full of seed gel. There are even some on my window sill at work. I wonder what the cleaning crew thinks is in them? The gel must be allowed to mold to separate the seeds from the goo. It's not an attractive process. It breeds fruit flies. WHERE do they come form? It's NOT something you want to spill on your counter. Trust me. When disturbed it can stink to high heaven.

When the mold experiment has successfully concluded, rinse the seeds until all you're left with is seeds, and dump them through a tea strainer.

Arrange them on wax paper or paper plates to dry over night and put them in an envelope, or one of those minuscule zip lok bags that the extra buttons for your shirt came in. The paper plates are nice because you can write on them what variety you're drying.

The larger weekend projects continue. The potatoes are dug and the bed mulched and tilled for next year.

All the onions have been pulled, dried and braided for storage.

The potatoes are washed, dried in the wind, and stored in the basement.

But there are still potatoes in our future. This is what's left of the Great Potato Pot Experiment. There is only one plant in this pot, although I started with 6. I also started with two pots. The main lesson I learned with the Great Potato Pot Experiment is DON'T WATER THEM. They will do just fine on rain water alone, and will be quite happy waiting three weeks for rain. The one day I watered them I killed all but this plant.

And the bush beans are beautiful. The first planting was so discouraging due to the hot dry weather in July. The plants, beaten down by cycles of wilting and watering, allowed the bean tips to touch the ground. The yield was very poor, with small beans that were all curled from being stubbed against the ground. The plants looked anemic and miserable and I happily pulled them out way before their time and started lettuce in their place. The lettuce is shown in the potato drying photo. It will soon be ready to pick lightly, although you will notice, that after 4 months of gardening I didn't have the patience to plant the seeds in any sort of order. I just scratched up the soil, strewed them around and watered them in. I kept filling in the bare spots with the remaining seeds and now I have a pretty even crop coming up in various stages.

I have to say it... I'm looking forward to fall with it's mums and pumkins. There will be plenty of food and hibernation can begin.

1 comment:

  1. And way down here in Dixie we're dreaming of the same thing, albeit for different reasons! The last two groups of horses are scheduled to move to the new place next week and I am SO ready for it to be over with.