August 19, 2016

The Garden's Second Wind

It's been a hard summer on my garden. Upper 90s since the beginning of May, and eight weeks with less than an inch of rain forced the plants into survival mode. It seemed all I could do to keep them alive, never mind fretting about there being nothing to harvest. When it finally started raining again in the middle of July, the garden began to respond, and at least I am getting my summer harvest.

I had an early start on my cantaloupes, so we enjoyed quite a few of these
early in the summer. Their comeback means we'll enjoy a few more!

I'm glad to see the green beans thriving once again. I got a few quarts
canned earlier but will be glad for more. We like canned green beans.

My sweet peppers barely made it! The little one
on the lower right will be our first of the season.

Okra is another favorite but I have yet to harvest enough for a meal.
It's growing and flowering now, so I'm looking forward to a harvest!

Pickle making has commenced.

We usually plant a quarter acre of field corn every summer. This year we didn't because Dan was busy milling the lumber for the new barn. Since corn seed is only viable for a year or two, I planted a seed patch in the garden.

My seed patch of field corn.

All the pretty pictures don't mean I'm not having problems.

The tomatoes have blight, but the sweet basil is doing very well.
Tomatoes go into the freezer for sauce making at a later date.

And the rain brought on plenty of weeds.

Can you tell there's a cushaw squash vine in there?

Trouble is, there's no time to weed. Every day is spent picking and preserving all day long. One of the reasons for that is because our fruit trees and bushes have done exceptionally well. We had a very rainy winter so there was plenty of moisture to make a lot of fruit. I worried about them when it was so hot and dry, but the rains came just in time to plump everything up. I can hardly keep up with it all.

Apple and pear sauce. So sweet it doesn't need sugar.

My 3/4 jars were prefect for canning it.

This was the first year I had enough pears to can by themselves.

I also canned half a dozen quarts of pear mincemeat
I found the recipe in the Ball Blue Book.

Those pickles I mentioned. Two kinds of dill, one with the last of
the garden dill, the other with seeds I dried and saved last year.

I canned lots of figs, plus froze some for making jam this winter.

Blueberries are still coming on.

Of course we're eating well too!

Apple pie. I've been freezing pies too: blueberry, fig, apple. 

So that's my garden report for going on the end of August. It's hard to believe it's almost time to start thinking about fall planting! How is everyone else's garden doing?

The Garden's Second Wind  © August 2016 

40 comments:

  1. Pear mincemeat? That sounds interesting. I don't like mincemeat pie, but I love mincemeat muffins. Got a great recipe for a 24-26 oz. jar off off Epicurious.com and one for 14-16 oz jar from a book I'd be glad to share.

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    1. I'd love to see your recipes! I've only had mincemeat pie once and really liked it. Never tried to make it though. I don't know how close this tastes to "real," but it made a pretty good pie.

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  2. Pears!? Have you tried, pear honey? My great-aunt suggested it when I told her about me having access to all the seckel pears I could carry off one year.
    Link to Paula Deen's recipe: http://www.pauladeen.com/pear-honey
    I've make it both way: some with lemon, some with ginger. It still makes me smile when I think about her surprised joy at getting a case of pear honey for Christmas that year.

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    1. Judy, sounds lovely! Thank you for the link. I've just finished up the last of the pears for this year, but hope for another great harvest next year. :)

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  3. Sorry to hear you had Blight as well, although my second tunnel of tomatoes so far seems to be fine, I am just starting the pickling and canning from the garden and have a few lovely melons coming along.

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    1. I don't think I've ever had a year when blight didn't hit! This time it's late because everything seemed to stunt when it was so hot and dry. It's nice to hear you had one group of tomatoes that didn't get it. There's always hope!

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  4. I am always stunned when I hear about you picking pears and apples already - our season is so much later than yours! our spring has been another bad one, so there isn't much in the way of picking. elderberries look reasonable, some apples, but most of them cider apples, no pears, no plums etc. - I am now waiting for the blackberries (wild ones!) to ripen... the rest of the garden is soso, but tomatoes have to stay in the tunnel anyway, as do the cucumbers... nothing to write home about all in all:)

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    1. Bettina, our climate allows for early gardening, but the summer hot spell always slows it down considerably. Usually we get enough rain to keep it going, but not this year. Always thankful for whatever we can get, right?

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  5. Everything looks so good Leigh. Glad your garden persevered & is finally producing.

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    1. If we hadn't had all that rainwater it wouldn't have!

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  6. Weeding and preserving issues...I can so relate! Fruit is something we are short of (other than apples), your fruit bounty is a delight. Have you made fermented dill pickles?

    Your trials are such a perfect example of thing that happen that most modern consumers have no idea about.
    Good luck with the rest of the season.

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    1. Fiona, yes, I've tried fermented dills and loved them! I haven't tried to do a year's worth however. Since the fermentation doesn't stop they eventually get too sour for our taste. I figure it's better to make smaller batches that we can finish off in a timely manner. I just like to keep something fermented around all the time.

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  7. Leigh,

    Beautiful garden beds, and lovely harvests. OMG, look at your jars of canned fruits.....Amazing!!! My garden is on the downward spiral, I've not been around enough to take care of it as usual. And I can't expect my son to take care of the garden as I do. So I've been dismantling and breaking down my garden for this season. Just in time to start enjoying the travel trailer we purchased in the fall. I'm looking forward to next springs garden planting.

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    1. Sandy, I think your traveling is worth it. :)

      The fruit is a real treat this year. I just finished the last of the pears and still have two dwarf trees of apples to go. Starting to wish I had a cider press!

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  8. I love seeing your garden grow...mine is struggling...the lettuce is doing pretty well and I did get a beet...there are probably more but I picked that one because it was pushing itself up out of the dirt. We've gotten about a quart of green beans so far. and unfortunately I don't think I got any squash planted. they all look like pumpkins. oops! loads of green tomatoes, no ripe ones though.

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    1. But hasn't it been a cold summer for you? Sometimes I think it's amazing we get anything at all!

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  9. First, thanks again for the wonderful baking book! I got it this morning and I have browsed it and so has my son! There is so much information that I will use! I am going to enjoy using it and Mister says he will be a happy taste tester!

    Now, for my garden... weeds everywhere.... huge tomato plants that have taken forever to start ripening and I am harvesting a bucket at the time -- which is just enough to put by as I work during the day. Terrific cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, potatoes (sweet and two kinds of white), no brussel sprouts (even though the plants were HUGE and full of the sprouts -- but they didn't come along full size) and sketchy peppers... Apples and pears are just coming in... Winter garden going in over Labor Day. I am going to try low tunnels and see how those cold weather crops do this year! Suggestions??

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    1. Thank you Matty! Do enjoy the book. You'll probably never use baking powder again; I know I don't.

      Sounds like your garden is doing really well. I love that you're getting cool weather crops too.

      My suggestion for winter gardening is to get ahold of one of Elliot Coleman's books. His Four-Season Harvest is fantastic. We made our first hoop house last year and I ordered a lot of the varieties he suggested. He's in Maine so you know it has to work farther south!

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  10. What's happening in your garden, reminds me of why permacutlure focuses more on perennial plants (trees, shrubs and vines) as the staple calories, with the smaller portion given over to hardy annuals.

    We had a winter, similar to yours, so our mulberries are actually plentiful! Our orange trees are also full of blossoms. Normally, this time of year, they're waning as they wait for the very late spring rains to arrive - as they are prone to do. But we got that uncharacteristic bout of winter rain, which has seen them bloom and most likely, carry abundant crops.

    Trees, bushes and hedgerows are a lot of effort to get established, but they're the smarter investment in the long run. As they will always make the most of what rain is available, and work towards cooling the climate on those hot days. Annual gardens, while they're what we normally associate to food crops, they don't really nurture the garden when its being tested in extremes. Not like established perennials do.

    Glad you're canning those windfalls though. They look delicious. :)

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    1. Chris, yes. I needed to be reminded of that. I need to focus once again on our hedgerow garden. I've been discouraged with it because probably less than half of what I planted in it didn't make it. Partly because of the weather and partly because of the chickens, who consistently unmulched and scratched up all the soil around newly planted trees and shrubs!

      I do find that fall planting of these things is better for success. Unfortunately, most of the nurseries I order from deem April to be our prime planting time and won't ship before then. The trouble with that is that April is quickly followed by hellishly hot temps in May, so it becomes a lot of work trying to keep everything properly watered (not to mention the chickens). All those fruit trees I'm harvesting from now were planted in winter, with lots of rain to establish roots. I need to go back to that original company and try again.

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    2. I'm nodding my head as I'm reading your experience. We have dilemmas with chickens and wild brush turkey's too. They always go for the fresh ground around newly planted seedlings!

      I've had to resort to laying tree branches around the earth, so they can't scratch them up. Sure, it looks ugly sometimes, but it's only for establishment.

      I should write a blog post about what I did recently, using rocks. Don't be afraid to make it look extremely messy, with branches and rocks as deterrents for scratching. They actually help the new seedlings by adding extra micro-climates, so watering lasts longer in the ground.

      Once those seedlings get their roots down, they're not as susceptible. You should also try and find some local, leguminous natives which thrive in your environment. Plant them as caretakers, over your more sensitive seedlings. As you chop and drop the mulch of their natives, they'll release nitrogen into the soil, to help your edible plants along.

      It sounds like such a simple solution, but it has literally made the difference here. I can't get sensitive edibles to survive, without those native, leguminous caretaker plants to shelter them in the beginning.

      Good luck with your revamp! Keep trying until you succeed. :)

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    3. Rocks and branches are a good idea, and it would definitely make a good blog post. Dan and I were just discussing a fall nursery order. Once we can get a breather from canning and barn, I'd like to sit down and make some serious plans. Our hedgerow has some survivors, but I really want to see it thrive with the purpose for which me made it.

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  11. What beautiful canning! I have to ask, what kind of lids are you using? I can't wait until our fruit trees are producing (and planting more this Fall a mini orchard of sorts) and then I can go canning crazy. Our garden was small this first year back doing it, but we still have eggplants, herbs, and soon to be a bunch of okra.

    Planning fall garden too...

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    1. 1st Man, I use Tattler reusable canning lids. I love them. They come with lids and rubber rings (which eventually have to be replaced but can be bought separately), and only require small adjustments in technique. Highly recommended.

      I love that you are getting eggplant. That's something I've never been successful with!

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  12. Oh Leigh you've been so productive with what you had! This is our first full summer of growing, we'd hoped , all the veggies we'd need for summer. We're only half there but fall promises to reward us with more. Having trouble storing everything in our Grain Bin House. Tiny living never took into account the canning results!

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    1. Donna, I have thought that about the tiny house movement - living space doesn't need to be large but storing for self-sufficiency does! We have a huge 1500 square feet, but not enough storage space, not only for the food itself, but for all the jars and tools to prepare and preserve it! Still, I love your house. :)

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  13. Ah, yes, the harvesting and preserving season! I feel most guilty about the meals we have to eat during this time. (I may be in the kitchen a lot but it's not preparing fancy daily meals!) Although, maybe I shouldn't feel bad at all because the meals are super-simple, for sure, but they're also just about totally straight from the garden (with maybe an occasional PB&J thrown in) . . . without a lot of preparation! (Can one eat too many sliced cucumbers?)

    Love to see the pictures of your preserving efforts!

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    1. I know what you mean! The freezer, fridge, and pantry are stuffed to the gills, but when it's 4:30, time for chores, and I haven't even gotten started on dinner, we end up eating hot dogs, LOL.

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  14. My chest not healing means that the garden looks like the farmer was taken hostage somewhere. Oh, well. Another year. I have my hands full with chipmunk and ground hog eradication programs. I have a happy herd with all the grass to eat and one pullet that started laying at 18 weeks. The ducks and the other pullet have not started yet. Tiny little omelettes. Tiny.

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    1. Hurray for pullet eggs! It's a start. I suspect the chipmunks and ground hogs are not helping the garden any from the human perspective. Our problem lately has been skunks. They don't bother the garden but they create other problems!

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  15. As you know I don't have a garden now except for the flowers and a couple herbs on the patio but sure enjoyed looking at all the things your garden is producing and all the work you have done canning and freezing. I will miss eating produce I put up this winter but hopefully I can do some of that next year! Nancy

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    1. Nancy, next year you will be gardening at your new home! That will be exciting indeed. :)

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  16. Hi Leigh, I love seeing your canning photos, are you using a water bath canner? I did 80 pounds of tomatoes in my new water bath canner last weekend and I'm so proud of myself. Though, these were not MY tomatoes! I only harvested a dozen and we had them on toast. I found a good price at the market for the canned tomatoes, but I have enough for the winter! Blight...thanks for shedding light on what a third of my tomatoes look like. My rosemary is thriving and overall I harvested THREE strawberries (yahoo!). The thyme and oregano never grew...otherwise the parsley and chives continue to thrive! When I buy my property I'm thinking about a greenhouse...

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    1. Rain I think you are awesome! My rosemary is doing great too. And I love it when I see younger folks jump into the canning life. You will be fine.

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    2. Thank you! And thank you twice over for saying "younger folks" I'm nearly 50 years old, but I know I don't look it (or feel it!!!). I'm on the hunt for blueberries now. I am developing a canning obsession.

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    3. Rain, wow, I'm impressed! One's own tomatoes are the best, of course, but I'd never turn down an opportunity to fill my pantry like that!

      Yes, all the canning photos in this post are the result of water bath canning. I has to add lemon juice to the figs, and the mincemeat and pickles have vinegar as one of the ingredients, but all WB. Hopefully I'll be getting the pressure canner out soon for a couple more loads of green beans. :)

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  17. Holy smokes, all I can say is WOW!!!!!! 😄

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  18. The thing about gardens is that they aren't entirely successful every year. Some years certain crops do well and other years different crops thrive. After two unsuccessful years up here for cucumbers and tomatoes, we've been having bumper crops of each. I've put up somewhere around 70 quarts of tomatoes this year knowing it may be another couple before we get another year like this. Lots of work but certainly gratifying later when you get to open and consume all the hard work!

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    1. 70 quarts of tomatoes! I'm envious! Good point about fluctuations in harvests over the years. That's a good reason to take advantage of whatever does well, because it may have to last for several years.

      Sometimes I think it would just be easier to buy and stock up on something, but it's never as good as homegrown, home preserved. Always worth the effort.

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