Practical Gardening

Red Rocket Peppers

Gardening is of light and shade, moisture and soil health, seed genetics and cultivation. It is an endeavor in which we can invest personal effort and a few resources to see practical results.

We garden in complex creation, only partly of our own making. Imbued with elements, animals, insects and microorganisms we don’t fully understand, this year’s garden plots brought new understanding, a bountiful harvest and a busy kitchen.

Gardeners become the verb “to garden,” and if lucky, become inseparable from the process of growing and cooking food. What was once new knowledge becomes embedded in daily actions that appear intuitive. We become the syntax of food production. Words can’t do justice to what gardeners experience and learn over decades. One sees it only in practice.

Pear Harvest 2017

Last night I rushed into the house after work at the home, farm and auto supply store to change clothes, get the ladder, and pick pears before they all drop. We planted the tree at our daughter’s high school graduation party and have had some almost every year since they bore fruit. The season is very short as are our lives. We plan to enjoy the sweetness of fresh pears as long as we can.

Red Delicious apples are not fully ripe. I ate one while rushing around the back yard chasing pears and sunlight. Sugars are beginning to dominate starches and a couple more weeks on the tree will serve them well. After that it will be a mad rush to pick and preserve them. It could be another 1,000 pound harvest.

Second Growth Broccoli

There were beautiful second growth broccoli heads, about eight of them. I broke them off by hand, cut and peeled the stems for work lunch.

There were more Red Rocket peppers. I harvested the reddest ones, leaving many more to ripen. In the kitchen I took the others from the baking sheet in the oven (oven turned off) and carefully spaced them on the five trays of the dehydrator. I’ll dry them until they are ready to grind into red pepper flakes.

Someone brought cucumbers to the orchard on Monday. I took half a dozen (there were an inch thick and 5-6 inches long) and combined them with what was already in the ice box to make a second batch of fermented dill pickles. It takes 10 days if everything goes according to plan. Fingers crossed.

Monday I picked up two crates of tomatoes and two dozen quart Mason jars at Kate’s farm for canning. This is part of our barter arrangement in which she provides tomatoes, I process them, and we split them resulting canned goods. I sorted them Tuesday morning before my shift. Once spread out they filled four and a half crates instead of two.

I made ground tomatoes from the ones with bad spots as a base for pasta sauce. Here’s the process: Wash, trim and quarter the tomatoes then pulse in a blender until the big pieces break down. Put the blended tomato pulp in a juice funnel to separate liquid from the flesh.

After an hour, the split was 50 percent juice to 50 percent flesh. I put the results in jars and stored them in the ice box. I’ll can the juice and make pasta sauce while I work in the kitchen tonight or tomorrow night.

With two paid jobs and diminishing daylight there’s not much gardening time in my schedule. The lawn needs mowing and I plan to plant garlic in a week or two and there’s work to do preparing the soil.

It’s a rush until first frost, after which I may be able to slow down — but I doubt it.

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