Sunday, November 22, 2009

Still Warm Weather

A November Queen Elizabeth
Sesame flowers
Sesame seed pods
The ripe open seed pods

I shake the dry pods and their seed into a bin
The sifted seed almost clean and ready to use in bread
The NoKnead bread recipe is back in the August 24th blog entry
The Chicago fig tree gave us three ripe figs this week - they were great
The Meadow Vole trap parts

The finished trap ready to be baited
The lard in jars cooling down and soon to be used

This month has been unseasonably warm. Today the temperature here at the garden was a sunny 54 degrees. No wonder I still have the Queen Elizabeth rose trying to bloom and out and about I have seen a Shasta Daisy and Easter Lily blooming in a yard! Too bad I harvested all the apples off the trees a month ago - they would have been much better tree ripened than cooler ripened.

The sesame crop for this year was small but the included pictures show the harvest and the half cup of seed for bread that this year's crop provided. The great NoKnead bread recipe is back in August. The sesame seeds will be used in the loaves Susan will make for Thanksgiving. Next year I am going to try for a full cup of harvest so that will mean a big row of sesame in the garden instead of a 6 ft. row next to the house. I planted the crop there because that spot was warm enough for this long season crop, but maybe with another warm fall, I can get a bigger crop in the garden.

I have included pictures of the PVC Vole trap in this issue because meadow voles are such a terribly destructive pest in the yard and garden. I make these traps from 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. I usually buy a half length, 4 feet, and can make two traps from that amount. The pictures show two 8 inch pieces for the sides and one 4 to 6 inch piece for the center fill tube. If you want to use the trap in the garden buy some end caps for the center tube so you can place that part of the trap vertically and fill it in the winter without digging the whole trap out of the snow. I do not glue my pieces together because you don't need to, as the pipe will fit snug and glue just adds to the cost. I have used two different poison baits this season and will see which one gets eaten the most by the voles. I still put plastic rings around my fruit trees just to be safe. There is nothing worse than when the snow melts in the spring to find that your fruit tree has been eaten on all winter by voles and you have to try to save the tree with bridge grafts. Voles are territorial so the more of them you can remove the safer your plants will be during the winter. I have seen these vermin destroy huge hosta clumps because voles do not hibernate but must feed all winter long. Take the time now to manage the population.

The garden is still providing some greens, nice parsley and carrots, and the Napa cabbage is still growing and we should be able to have some for Thanksgiving dinner. The fig tree, whom we have named "Stinky", provided us with three tasty tree ripened figs this week. Stinky is a keeper.

As a cook I like to experiment and I have been reading about returning to using animal fats for some cooking. Old fashioned organic "LARD" has resurfaced as not as bad a fat as was once thought. Lard has some of the same good nutrients that one finds in olive oil; so this week I bought some organic pork fat and rendered it on the grill. The included pictures are of the the three half pints of cooking fat that I got. I am going to experiment with the product this holiday with biscuits, pie crust and some frying to see just how we like the lard and how our digestive systems fair. This is plain, no additives added fat from organic pork that was locally raised so the product I rendered should be about as pure as one can get.

Happy Gardening

Friday, November 13, 2009

And the 2010 Winner is ....

Today the FIRST of the 2010 garden catalogs arrived in the mail!!!

The Stokes 2010 Gardening Guide arrived in the mailbox today so how far off can spring be now.
This is undoubtedly the earliest I have ever gotten a vegetable catalog. Nice work Stokes - now
I have something to start planning with.

Happy Gardening

Monday, November 9, 2009

November - And Still the Garden Has Bounty

Borage has escaped the frost and still blooms
The absolute last rose of summer
Hidden beauty of Nasturtiums
These little zinnias are really tough reliable bloomers
The sorrel is still out there for egg dishes
Flat leaf parsley tastes best after a touch of frost
This white borage is really a great plant - I will have to search for seed to save
Even the Alpines still have a few fruits
Spinach for next spring

Most of the leaves have colored and fallen but this viburnum is still showing

The days have been warm recently. The meadow voles really did damage the lettuce crops (ate it all !!!) in the cold frames and as a result I replanted this week. I had to use a variety of old seed that may or may not germinate because I planted all the specialized winter type seed that I had purchased. I will make a note not to do that again. The spinach has germinated nicely in the hoop house so I included pictures this week. Leaf raking is done and most of them are piled on the curb waiting to join the other leaves in the city compost piles. That site is close, so in the spring I can go there to get extra compost to add to the garden.

We are still planning to enlarge the garden but a new prospect has been discussed. Instead of having a rail fence around the yard and another fence around the garden to keep the bunnies out, we have discussed fencing the entire back yard and eliminating the garden fence. I like that idea because then I can walk in and out of the garden wherever I please, and eliminate bunnies from the entire back yard. I think we will work on that plan and see just what it will cost as part of the garden projects for 2010.

The winter rye seed has germinated nicely and the green cover crop will grow till freeze-up and then next spring I will till the rye into the soil. I have done this for many years and the process has greatly helped me lighten my heavy soil and add good organic fiber to the mix.

With the garden work much slower at this time of year I will decrease my postings to every other week.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall, And Most of the Leaves Have

My "Bloodgood" Japanese Maple has great fall color
The parking spot for Saturday night - almost no takers
This hoop house was a kit that had 9 plastic braces for the wooden members

I put the side braces on to help stabalize the structure - next year a real hoop house.

In the last week many of the leaves have fallen due to high winds of the last few days, and only a few leaves are left on the trees. The different grafts on the apple tree show different fall color or as some apples, no color at all - kind of an interesting look on the tree. I have been drying and making apple sauce almost daily this past week and will continue until most of the crop is processed. The "Firesides" and one variety, no name anymore, off the garden tree are the favorite for fresh eating so I will try to hold on to them as long as possible. Most of the rest will be dried.

With a few sunny days I was able to cover my wooden hoop house and protect the planted seed from all the recent rain. I covered the structure with two sheets of 10ft X 25ft X 4 mil plastic. I used staples and battens to secure the cover to the structure. I had good luck with this covering holding up all last winter, even with heavy snow and wind. The spinach has sprouted inside the hoop house and so have the mixed greens but I have not had any lettuce show in the cold frames. I am afraid the seed may have been too wet and will give it another few days before I will try some re-seeding. The mixed greens that spouted in one cold frame have be attacked by voles - those evil creatures. I put poison in the vole traps and hope that puts an end to them. Voles are voracious feeders and must eat all winter as they do not hibernate. I am trying two kinds of poison bait to see if one or the other does a better job. Obviously, I will have to fight them year 'round to manage their population. I will also put plastic rings around all the fruit trees just to make sure they are excluded from that food source.

I harvested the sesame stalks today. The dry leaves are best pulled off with an upward motion along the stem. That leaves the seed pods that will dry and open. I cut the stems and put them upside down in a brown grocery bag and put the bag in the green house, which on sunny days is nice and warm, to dry. The pods will split open and the seeds fall to the bottom of the bag. This should take about a month. Then they will be destined for that great bread that Susan makes.

Happy Gardening