Categories
Garden

New Potatoes

New Potatoes

The idea of new potatoes is to harvest them two weeks after the flowers are finished. This is what they look like with thin skins and creamy potato goodness inside.

I boiled a pound for dinner and served with butter, salt and pepper. Keeping it simple with condiment flexibility is a characteristic of our kitchen garden. Diners can take cooked vegetables and finish them how they will.

When I worked at the home, farm and auto supply store I bought seed potatoes as soon as they came in. Planting is within a radius of Good Friday, although not necessarily on the day. I planted early this year. A few years back rodents ate our potatoes in the ground so I moved them to a container. Container growing is working, likely helped by the two stray cats who hang out in our garden.

Our main sources of potatoes are from our garden and a bartered fall share of the community supported agriculture project. When there are potatoes we eat them and seldom buy outside spuds. We follow the season.

The soil in the containers needs recycling for next year. There are too many roots and not enough nutrients. This year the containers were more than half empty when I planted. As the vines grew I added more soil and compost until the container was full. The result was potatoes grew in layers and there were more of them in each container.

The photograph represents the yield from one container, about five pounds. There are four containers this year so they will last until the fall share begins in September. Together they should keep us in potatoes until Thanksgiving after which we’ll wait for more next year.

In addition to boiling potatoes, I’ll roast some with other root vegetables and onions when they are available. We make potato salad, escalloped potatoes, leek and potato soup, parsley potatoes, mashed potatoes, and add them to vegetable soup.

The harvest of new potatoes is another marker in the gardening season. Such markers help us keep our sanity in the chaotic world of the coronavirus.

Categories
Garden Writing

Early Summer

Celery Harvest

When the electrical power went off I located my portable charger and plugged in my phone. The WiFi was dead yet access to the internet is crucial in an emergency.

A neighbor asked if our power was out via text message. I responded, “Yes, do you need cucumbers?” I walked a bag of freshly picked cukes over to the back door of their house where they were preparing the grill for a cook out.

The rural electric cooperative website reported more than 1,600 homes without power. The plotting of outages on their map was based on reports from customers so I phoned in our report. The operator was patient and helpful. All the information she had was on the website except that crews were working on the problem.

Our association has a Facebook page which was more active than normal. The loss of electricity didn’t have any apparent effect on social media. No new information there, just neighbors asking what up?

The duration of the outage was about 90 minutes. Just as power came on the doorbell rang. One of the well volunteers came down from the well house to report the water pressure was going down and soon they would have to turn on the back up generator. He smiled when I told him the electricity was back on. I made a post on our Facebook page pointing out the well volunteers were monitoring the situation.

In a rural subdivision we rely upon each other for information. Mobile phone technology makes our lives better. Glad I adapted back in 2012.

These summer days are gorgeous. Temperatures are rising to about 90 degrees each day with clear, calm skies. Humidity has been high so I get my outdoors work done early after sunrise and spend most of the day indoors. There is plenty of work.

I harvested the rest of the celery yesterday. Most of the harvest gets chopped into bits and frozen for use in soups and stir fries. The flavor of home grown celery is hard to believe, better than any celery grown for commercial sales. Fresh celery lasts a shorter time than store bought. That’s okay. It is worth the 120 day growing season for the flavor.

I sorted and brought the last of the 2019 onions to the kitchen. They need using up. In the meanwhile the portable greenhouse shelves are filled with this year’s crop, drying so they can be trimmed and stored.

Drying Onions
Categories
Garden

Garlic Harvest 2020

Heads of curing garlic, July 2020.

Planted last October, on July 2 it took about an hour to harvest the crop of 50 head of garlic. It was the biggest garlic harvest we’ve had in our home garden.

The variety comes from my friends Susan and Carmen who in succession, over 25 years, have been growing and selecting seed from the annual crop to produce it. Garlic doesn’t take much more effort than proper planting, weeding, harvesting and curing. The genetics and culture of producing it are everything though.

Garlic Patch in Late April 2020

If everything goes well, I plan to keep the best third of the garlic heads to use for seeding next year’s crop. By doing so I’ll continue the process started so long ago on that nearby farm.

Just so you know, our household doesn’t have any problems with vampires.

Categories
Home Life Writing

Snapping Out of Coronavirus Funk

Eventually I will snap out of this coronavirus funk.

For weather and productivity this was the best spring I remember. The garden is doing great and I have time to give it daily attention. Without work commitments each day is mine. I spend more time outside and at the state park. I’ve gotten my bicycle out and ridden for the first time in years. The weather has been drop-dead gorgeous. What is the matter with me?

I live in a broader society that is going to hell in a hand basket.

My response is stay positive, although negativity drags on my spirits. It takes a village to make a life and when we are each isolated because of the coronavirus, it’s tougher to do.

Here are some photos from early summer to cheer us up.

Tasty Jade Cucumbers

Monarch Caterpillar

Wild Section of Garlic, Milkweed, Iris and other plants.

Sunrise above the garden, June 27, 2020.

Categories
Garden Local Food

Get Milk?

Hiking buddy, June 23, 2020.

My farm friends with community supported agriculture operations take the coronavirus pandemic seriously.

On one farm the crew wears personal protective equipment while working and changed the interaction with customers to control exposure to spread of COVID-19.

On another, the farmers decided, before most planting began, to have the entire crew move to the farm and by self-isolating reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. They also changed the interaction with customers and cancelled the annual potluck because they believe the coronavirus will not be controlled by autumn.

If any of my friends contracted COVID-19, it would have severe consequences for the operation, including the possibility of ceasing deliveries to customers, at least for a while.

While we deal with the coronavirus an explosion of insects is preparing to assault our garden. In the last 24 hours I observed Japanese Beetles, Colorado Potato Beetles, squash bugs, cabbage worms, and many other species. While the invasion was anticipated, I choose to grow organically so using commercial chemicals to hold them in abeyance is not an option. My main tools are vigilant inspections each morning, hand picking the bugs off the plants when I see them, and for the squash beetles, a mixture of castile soap diluted with water in a spray bottle. To be honest this is just part of nature, and I do my best to protect the yield, giving up as little as possible to insects.

I’ve been making a shopping trip every other week to the wholesale club. Yesterday would have been my day to go but after considering the produce from the garden and what was stored in our pantry and freezer, the only thing we needed was milk.

I’m not lactose intolerant. Maybe I shouldn’t be drinking fluid milk, but I do. With the pandemic it’s a bit stressful sourcing the next gallons. Really that’s all we needed in the grocery category. What to do?

Hell if I was spending 90 minutes driving across the lake, past the Trump bar and the jail Hillary house, near the convenience store where young male adults with large Confederate flags mounted on their pickup trucks congregate, past the correctional facility to the wholesale club where milk is cheap. Too much else was demanding my time.

The options in the small city near where I live did not seem safe from spread of the coronavirus. Three convenience stores sell milk and it’s fresh. The cashiers wear masks and have those plexiglass protectors at the register. It’s the customers with no PPE that cause concern.

There is a grocery store in town. Their milk is also fresh. I’ve not been there since the governor declared the pandemic emergency. The unknown is often an issue. It’s just a gallon of milk… were there better options than the unknown?

I wasn’t ready to give up. There is a dairy store in the next town where the milk comes from their cows. I remembered when they reopened early in the first phase they did curbside pickup. They were taking the risk of COVID-19 spread seriously. I drove the six miles, put on my mask and went in.

The store is always spotless. Three cashiers were all wearing masks, as were other customers inside. I didn’t feel like a freak with my mask, wearing one was accepted behavior. The milk cost more than double what it would have at the wholesale club. The added cost was worth it for the time and gasoline savings. It was also a stress reliever.

I got two gallons so I don’t have to go shopping again soon.

Categories
Garden

Broccoli Time

Emerging Broccoli.

By the last day of spring the broccoli harvest began. Of the 31 remaining plants, I harvested six and the rest are not far behind. There will be broccoli shoots as well as summer begins.

Already this is the best crop I’ve grown from a taste and abundance perspective. The seeds of the fall crop have germinated in our portable greenhouse, so there will be more.

It’s raining this morning so I might just kick back and eat broccoli all day.

Categories
Garden Local Food

Sharing the Wealth

Neighborhood Kale and Collard Stand, June 15, 2020.

Yesterday’s kale harvest was big. To share the wealth I displayed some at the end of the driveway and posted the free give-away on Facebook.

Some of it was claimed, the rest returned to the garden via the composter.

Ten years ago I saved or preserved everything I grew in the garden. Any more I keep only enough to get us through to next year. I’ve visited root cellars filled with very old Mason jars of a garden’s preserves. That’s not who we should be. We take what we need and if we can’t give it away, leave the rest for compost.

Leafy green vegetables are not a favorite around here. I have regular customers who use it in smoothies or bake kale chips. Others prepare it traditionally as greens. The main use in our household is in tacos, soups and stir fries. When out of lettuce we make kale salad. Once in a while I add a leaf to a smoothie. I’m not a smoothie person. I tried kale pesto once and it was okay. Pesto with more flavor, like mustard greens, is better. For a gardener the main challenge is to grow just enough to meet needs. I cut back the space for kale to 18 plants this year. It is still too much.

Combine kale with kohlrabi, collards, mustard, spinach and chard and there is an abundance of greens this year. Next year I’ll use the planting space differently to more closely match what I grow with kitchen usage.

For now there is kale for all who want it.