Category Archives: unexpected outcomes

There are always a few surprises

We have always ordered our seeds from Pinetree seeds, in Maine.  We like them because they are a small company and they promote seeds with a good germination rate.  On the few occasions that the seeds do not do well, Pinetree either replaces your seeds or refunds your money. We’ve noticed that when we let them know about a problem, it is probably not limited to us because those types of seeds often disappear from the following year’s catalog.

Last year we ran into our first case of strange vegetables.  We had ordered more of the Mr. Big Pea and decided to try Sugar Snap peas as well.  We very carefully planted the seeds in specific rows, one type at a time.  The plants came up, and we had a mix – some were the Mr. Big Pea (shell peas), others were just Sugar Snap (pea pods.) Literally from one plant to the next they could be different.  We investigated – peas can cross-pollinate.  Lesson learned – we shrugged it off, ate what we liked, and froze the rest (mostly the pea pods.)  I had the thought of using them in a stir fry; I think we still have a few bags, a year later.  Clearly not popular with us.

This year something’s going on with the squash.  We’re growing yellow squash and zucchini; they are in the same area.  One yellow squash plant is producing these:

2014-08-13 19.16.25Now, you would think that it’s a cross-pollination issue, right?  Except that there is a type of squash that looks just like that, called a Zephyr squash.  We know this, because we grew it two years ago.  It was not a particularly disease-resistant plant, so we only grew it that one year.  So it could be cross pollination (both types of plants are in the same area) or it could be a Zephyr squash plant.  Which is essentially a cross-pollinated summer squash/zucchini whose seeds are saved.

Maybe we should start our own seed company with the offspring of all of our mistakes.

The end…..for now

Today I ate the last dozen or so Sungold tomatoes.  I would like to note that it is November, and this is amazing.  I would have documented the occasion, but I was at work and forgot my camera.  The garden kept going all the way through the second-to-last week of October, finally succumbing to a hard frost somewhere over the nights of October 23rd and 24th.  It was a fantastic run.  I can only tally what we canned or froze, but here’s where we stand in our first large-scale effort to preserve our harvest for later use:

  • 22 jars dill pickles
  • 5 jars bread and butter pickles
  • 12 jars sweet banana peppers
  • 4 jars green tomato chutney (hurrah!  A use for unripe green tomatoes at the end of the season!)
  • 56 cups of diced tomatoes
  • 8 bags of beans
  • 1 bag of peas
  • 3 bags of corn
  • 3 bags of peppers (jalapeno & Fooled You)

It was not a stellar year for either the peas or the corn – although we did eat some fresh – but it was an amazing year for tomatoes.  We boiled, peeled, seeded & diced those suckers in 2-cup increments and froze them for use in cooking.  We’ve already used about 9 bags so far, and the taste is so much better than even the canned organic tomatoes I normally buy.  However, all these frozen vegetables take up a bit of room, as you can see:

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There’s no way to really calculate what we harvested and ate fresh – over the long weekend of Columbus Day, J harvested about 15 of our Bride eggplants, fire roasted them, and turned them into eggplant dip.  We ate one container, and froze the other two for future consumption as the recipe calls exclusively for Asian eggplants and we can’t get them around here unless we grow them.  So we’ll defrost that container, maybe for New Year’s, and think longingly of fresh summer vegetables. It’s just about enough time to have forgotten how hot and backbreaking it is to weed in the middle of summer.

Until next year……

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A banner year

So while we’ve had a few problems this year (see also: rabbit in fenced garden, bugs) it’s turning out to be an amazing year:

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We’ve lost a couple of squash plants – due to powdery mold, bugs or both, it’s not clear, but we’ve successfully harvested zucchini pretty consistently since the middle of July.  Of our 6 plants, 3 are producing – all zucchini – and we’re keeping up with consuming what we’re picking.  We’ll stick with the 6 plant plan for next year, because if everything does well we’ll have to give stuff away even at that low number.  We’ve come quite a way from the days of 6 of both types of plants.  Those were some dark times – for us, and the neighbors.

The tomatoes this year are amazing.  Our sungold plants are over 6 feet tall, and so heavy we’ve taken to leaning the cages against the fence and lashing them in place:

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Our peas this year have been somewhat anemic – Mr. Big Pea produced enough peas for a sandwich bag, and the sugar snap lagged further behind that.  Which is interesting, given that we rotated them to a different part of the garden and we used a soil inoculant to help the plants live longer.  Currently they start to die off just as the pods begin to form, so instead of being indeterminant, we get one harvest.  J yanked out all the Mr. Big Pea plants earlier this week and planted a second crop, something we’ve never done before.  We estimate about 7 to 8 weeks before we’re at a huge risk for frost, although the last 2 years we’ve had snow near Halloween, which is about twelve weeks away.  We had the seeds for planting, so we figured we’d give it a shot.  Also planted this weekend – the third crop of lettuce, and more parsley, cilantro and basil. I’ve picked pretty much what we have, so if I want stuff for the fall, I had to replant.  I’m also hoping for enough basil to do a little pesto this year, and freeze it.

We’ve had a lot of rain this summer, punctuated but spells of hot, sunny weather, which has been enormously helpful to the garden, and to our non-farmed yard.  It has never looked this nice this late in the summer since we moved in.  And as I write this, it’s raining again, after a week of sunny 80-something days:

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I’m sure in years to come we will look back on this season fondly.  Except for the peas.  And that rabbit.

The thin line between cute and varmint

Let’s review the definitions of cute vs. varmint, shall we?

Cute – adj. – 1. Delightfully pretty or dainty.  2. Obviously contrived to charm; precious.

Aww, look, a bunny!
Aww, look, a bunny!

Var mint – n. – 1.  an undesirable, usually predatory or verminous animal2. an obnoxious or annoying person.

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That’s right, that’s a photo of a rabbit inside the garden, suddenly turning both of us into Mr. McGregor – right after we got over our astonishment that the cute little bunny rabbit can fit through the fenceThis was a scenario we had not planned for.  The photo was the second time Peter had deigned to enter the garden; late last week when he did it J went in after him, startling him badly as he ran toward the end of the garden, looking for a way out.  J was able to shoo him out the gate, and then thought he fixed the problem by tightening the gate closure at the bottom to keep him from squeezing under it – which was how we thought he was getting in.

Sunday morning I was drinking coffee on the porch, and the rabbit was nonchalantly nibbling clover on the lawn.  “How cute,” I thought.  The rabbit hopped closer to the fence.  “Hey J, come watch how sad this rabbit is going to be when it discovers it can’t get under the gate anymo……….”  Bam!  One minute we’re looking at the bunny on the stepping stone, acting all casual, and the next, Houdini is in the garden.  We did not realize the rabbit could get through the fence until I watched him shove his furry brown hindquarters through an opening 2″ x 3″ in an attempt to evade my amature paparazzi efforts.  For a few moments, we thought he was still going under the gate.  Apparently not.  Also, we might have a boneless rabbit living in our yard.  Go measure that 2″ x 3″ out.  I’ll wait.  Right?  It is most definitely a rabbit, not a chipmunk or something that would logically fit through the fence.

We’re at a bit of a loss about what to do about this, and also what, exactly, Peter is eating in the main garden.  We think the raised bed with the good stuff – carrots and parsnips – is secure enough, but who can be sure anymore?  It’s possible the rabbit is after the straw that we put around the tomatoes, but I would think the fresh clover outside the fence would be more appealing.  Eventually the rabbit will get too big to get through the fence.  Hopefully before it eats anything in the garden.

 

There was a definition of cute I didn’t include up above:

Cute – adj. – 3. clever, shrewd.

Exactly.