Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This week in the garden I'm adding a top layer of leaves to cover the bare soil. This will help prevent soil erosion and redeposit nutrients back into the soil as they decompose. It should also help cut down on the amount of weeds that might take over in early spring.

All of our foundations vents have been closed, protective covers have been placed over the outside hose bibs, and all of our sprinkler lines have been drained to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting this winter. My geraniums have been trimmed, re-potted and stored away. We have decorated the yard and front entrance with groupings of corn stalks, mums, pumpkins and a few scary spiders. The front windows have construction paper cutouts of bats and pumpkins that were made years ago from the wee hands of my children.

My only chores left before winter: put up electric heating elements in the gutters to melt ice, do some more raking and burning of yard debris, and spray the fruit trees with a home made oil soap.

With all of the grandiose of spring and summer, autumn puts to rest the labor of my hands; in the coming months, there should be time to plan and map out the garden for next spring.

Happy autumn!

Photo art: Summer is but a faded memory ... by Mrs. Mac 6/08

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My friend, Pat, in Michigan said to wrap my ever so green tomatoes in newspaper to store away in the basement for a little while. Well, that method has worked beautifully for ripening them. I was able to use about six pounds of the ruby jewels to make a fresh-frozen salsa. Six pints of the delicious sauce awaits our enjoyment during the long winter months. To make it I followed Mrs. Darlings recipe below, omitting the cumin and using a jalepeno minus the seeds instead of the chili pepper. It's not too hot nor too mild. As Goldilocks would say, 'It's just right." I hope you will try it. We still have at least seven or eight pounds of tomatoes left in various stages of ripeness. Perhaps I'll make more freezer salsa next week.

I have to run to the store to purchase some tortilla chips. You can just imaging how hard it is to have this wonderful salsa and no chips :) Enjoy your day.

For salsa recipe, visit Dishpan Dribble's canning page here and scroll down to September 30, 2008 (I couldn't get a direct link to this one recipe ;)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Can, can: No not the dance ;) Being a person of frugal ways, I'm always on the lookout at the local thrift stores for canning equipment. My latest quest has been to find a large pot with a lift out basket that I can cook a huge amount of fresh green beans in all at once. This past summer when putting up the beans, I really could have used such an extra pot. It's necessary to have everything in order before you begin the process. Having to cook two batches of beans in a not big enough pot is a waste of time and heating fuel. When I shop at the second hand stores, I usually can zero in on exactly what I'm looking for and be in and out of the shops in a flash. Tuesday was a good find day. Here is the pot I purchased, including the basket, for $2.00. This could be some type of a fry basket/pan that has barely been used. It should work fine. Next quest, a kitchen scale for weighing produce.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just because winter is approaching, you can still be an 'active' gardener. Well, perhaps not in the great outdoors, but how about in your minds eye as you envision what next year will hold in store for your garden plans. I placed a link in the sidebar to the Original Farmer's Almanac. This is a great on-line website that is free to use. You can easily become a registered user and customize some of the weather data for your specific zip code. Go ahead and check it out. Gardening that starts out small and grows a bit each year is a sure bet for success. I've already begun to fine tune what I'd like to plant for next year. Things such as winter squash, and some of the root vegetables that can take a bit of frost: parsnips, turnips ... even rutabagas. I'm even planning on perhaps a cold frame to extend the growing season for lettuce. The thought of buying a grow light has even crossed my mind. Lettuce is one of the prides of the garden and to go all winter relying on store bought ... well, let's just say I think I'll pass on salads for a while. Being spoiled with a bumper crop this year has ruined imported greens for sure! How easy would it be to have a small batch growing under a grow light ... or in a cold frame. This is something worth looking into. But, I'll take it slow. I don't like to buy equipment that might just sit idle after the novelty wears off.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

It's not for lack of trying ... but my crop of tomatoes just didn't have the right mix of sunny days, summer heat, and a long enough growing season this year. Just last week our temps were in the 80's (F) and my hopes were high that the tomatoes would all ripen at once. As you can see, just a few took the time to ripen. Not sure if the majority of green ones will do much ... any ideas on aiding the ripening process once picked?

Weekend outlook: We could have a little snow ... but I'm not counting on it.

It's the end of the season this year for our veggie garden. Yesterday I made one last sweep of the produce, took down the deer fencing and heaped loads of clippings onto the compost pile. There were five gallon Ziploc bags full of different lettuce varieties, baby carrots, baby yellow neck squash, cucumbers, and loads of zucchini and basil. Today I'll make a few transplants of thyme into pots to bring in for the winter and snip the rest to dry. With all of the basil, I was able to make a few half-pints of pesto to freeze; summertime flavor to savor when the snow falls.

Being my first year to plant a veggie garden, next year I'll know not to plant as much zucchini ... it is prolific and takes up way too much space. Sow the seeds in early June, leaving a few empty rows to accommodate some later plantings. Use some type of either black plastic mulch around the base of the tomato plants ... or some type of water bag sleeves that radiate heat that my neighbor used. Soon I'll post a picture of my green tomatoes.

The best part of having a garden: Fresh food, fresh air, sunshine, working with my hands, getting dirty, tired sore muscles, eating food without pesticides grown about as local as you can get.