Whew, where to begin… Ah, yes!
Peas and Quiet
Saturday began with an early morning harvesting more peas. Nice and cool with birds chirping and frisky squirrels chasing each other high up in the hardwoods.
Earlier in the spring, when the peas started to come in and flower, they were so tall and the blossoms so pretty. We went on vacation and my brother helped with the watering while away. When we returned, all the peas were flopped over. I had trellised them a bit with bamboo and netting, and with some tree clippings, and I know can do a better job in the fall, but I was a little alarmed – are the vines broken? Are they going to die? After some reading, I learned that this is normal. After picking, it is obvious why they flop – those peas are heavy! Pictured above are Green Arrow variety of garden pea. I like them because they are long and hold a lot of peas. In the fall, I am going to try Little Marvel, which I have read are a little shorter and abundant. More abundant than Green Arrow? Not sure, but I want to evaluate them.
Ripping Out the Bolts and Composting Them!
Several spots in the garden needed cleaning up. It was mostly lettuce and greens that had bolted, but one bed was an exquisite collection of useless weeds, a monument to procrastination. All of these I ripped out and threw in our compost bin. I built these out of concrete blocks because…well, because I wanted to. I have seen other plans and pictures of wooden ones, or pallets put together… I just liked this idea. I think it will last. I left gaps between them to allow for circulation.
So, in went the weeds, lettuce, and other kitchen scraps, and on top of that goes a layer of straw. Eliot Coleman in his book “Four Season Harvest” says to do it this way (I am sure he says it other books as well): one layer of green (grass, weeds, banana peels, etc), one layer of “brown” such as straw. Each layer should be about 3 inches, and having this combination facilitates all the types of bacteria need to decompose this mess into beautiful new organic matter for the garden. I also keep it wet!
I have two bins like this built. This one is now full (lots went into it Saturday), and I have one more that is about half full. The plan is to have four of them, all in different stages of decomposition. I am not exactly sure when this bin will be ready… maybe the fall?
Carrots (and a few other roots…)
I tried carrots last fall, and I planted too late. They were pitiful, small, not very tasty. Ok, they tasted like carrots, but I was not happy nor satisfied. Sometimes I hear people say “I don’t have much luck with such and such”, so I thought that about carrots. I don’t like not being able to do something, so I am determined to grow carrots, and so here are some that I pulled Saturday. There is actually a thin parsnip in there, and a beet. The carrots are tendersweet and cosmic purple. They are still small, and I will try again end of June.
One problem I have is journaling (hence, this blog). I think I sowed these beginning of April, but it may have been later. Harvest for carrots is 75-80 days, so if I would just keep a good journal, I would know exactly when to expect to harvest. It is common sense, but I tend to both take on too much and get lazy on things I don’t consider important. Like pruning suckers on tomatoes – last year I was lazy, this year I am vigilant because I understand the importance. I am seeing the same need with journaling.
Preserving Tomatoes and Potatoes
Speaking of taking on too much…. when you go to the farmers market to check out produce, and you come across a deal to buy four boxes of canning tomatoes for $25, it is just too good to pass up. But it also means a rather intense amount of work to preserve the tomatoes before they go bad. A friend taught us to can a few years ago and we are grateful. It is easy, but can be long and tiring. No, it is always long and tiring, but well worth they effort. Long and tiring for my awesome wife, who did most of the work. Four boxes yielded 44 quarts of chopped tomatoes and will go into sauces, sautes, and soups in the next year.
Also, when the same vendor will sell you two boxes of potatoes for $10 (not each, but total – probably 80-100 pounds), you just can’t say no. Well, maybe you can, but I can’t, especially since we just purchased a new dehydrator. These potatoes are from last fall, but they are still firm. The plan is to cube them and dehydrate for storage. I became interested in dehydration because it supposed to preserve more of the food nutrients – 3-5% loss versus 20-60% with canning or freezing. And be simple! So far we have processed peas, celery and strawberries. And it is simple! I can also use our vacuum sealer to store the food in mason jars with a small packet of oxygen absorbent and it will keep for 5+ years.
So with the potatoes, the plan is to preserve them for soups and hashes… there will be a learning curve as to what we will choose to eat them in, but really, we should be able to use them where ever we eat potatoes. We purchased this Dehydrator Guide and Cookbook, and it has the dehydration techniques and a lot of different recipes. I would like to do the same with the summer squash we are getting, tomatoes, corn, beans. We still need to evaluate the taste of the peas, but if they are good, we are going to look for good deals at the farmer’s market as well.