Routine changes

As COVID cases rise in Virginia, our Governor has tightened some of the restrictions which is a good thing. He has also allowed the Health Department more teeth in enforcement. I hope that being charged with a Class One Misdemeanor will get some of the local businesses’ attention. All of these changes go into effect at midnight tonight and we will see if anything changes.

Saturday mornings are a time for us to go get breakfast and go to the Farmers’ Market. We usually drive through for breakfast, but chose to go to the bagel shop this morning and I ran in to get the bagels and beverages to eat in the car. The Farmers’ Market first hour is supposed to be for shoppers over 55 and people with pre-orders. The market is outdoors and opens at 9 a.m. We arrived at 9:20 and the line extended down the streets on two sides of the market. There are dots painted on the side walk for social distancing and most people are adhering to that, but if it is a group of 4 or 5 people together, they are standing at one dot. I wouldn’t have even gotten in the line, but gone home except I am not only well over 55, but had pre-ordered from several vendors. The line in front of me was packed with young people, most who entered the market to get prepared food and beverages and mill around browsing. Only 50 shoppers are supposed to be allowed within the confines of the market at a time but there were many more today, with many vendors having 2 or even 3 sellers in their stall and as this was a Holiday Market, there are many more vendors selling crafts, so the number in this corner of the block far exceeded a safe number and the crowd made it difficult to quickly get my pick up orders and get out.

Because I have been a vendor at the Holiday Markets in years past, I appreciate the local shoppers, but because of our ages and underlying health situation, today I did not feel safe. When I got home, I did email the market manager and he kindly responded. The college students will be gone soon for the rest of the semester, so hopefully, the crowd situation will abate. If not, our Saturday morning routine may have to end like so many of our other routines. At least I can still do curbside delivery at Eat’s Natural Foods or Annie Kay’s Natural Foods and the local grocer.

When we got home, I de-iced the chest freezer, organized it and took inventory of what was on hand. I fear as we go into winter and cases rise, there will be another run on supplies and grocery goods or slots for curbside pick up will fill making even safe pick up difficult. Right now, between our garden supply frozen and canned and market goods frozen and root cellar stored, we are in pretty good shape, I even have the necessaries to have a full Thanksgiving for two and we will then eat turkey left overs forever.

I sure hope that the pending vaccines will make this go away. I miss going out. I miss my children and grandchildren. I want to feel safe again.

Time to Update the Garden Journal

This has been a year of change with the garden and some lessons learned, some good, some not so good. And along with my garden, the reports from Granddaughter’s garden that I helped design and did the planting guide, I’ve made some decisions. The journal needs to be updated so that in the spring, when it is time to plan, I remember my lessons. Last weekend while talking to Son 1 on our socially distanced meet up, he described his A-frame trellis he made for his tomatoes. I tried the single leader method this year with tall poles, but the tomatoes won again and some production and harvest were lost. He built long 4 foot wide beds with sufficient path between them. Put the trellis in the middle and planted on both sides of it. He has the advantage that his yard is flat where my garden is anything but flat, but I have a blade on my tractor that is 5 feet wide and I think if I take down the fencing, I can terrace my garden. We are not lacking for large stones that could be the retaining walls between long beds. If I did that, an A-frame like he described could be built and set and the tomatoes trained through the open lattice work which would give them more air and more light. I think shorter versions of it might work for peas and cucumbers that also tend to overwhelm my efforts. When he and his wife were doing the grounds work, stone masonry, and waiting for the shell of the our house to be complete so they could turn to the interior finishing, the garden which they started was much larger and was long raised mound beds ignoring the slope by just leveling the tops of the mounds. Returning to that plan might be the easiest method for me to use, but I still have the paths that get so weedy even when I put down cardboard or newspaper first. But I have been using old hay in the paths, so I have been setting myself up for a problem there.

The compost pile was moved this year and a box built where it had been. That box gets shaded from the asparagus in the morning and the garage in late afternoon, so that box is going to be removed, the compost pile started there again and the space where it is now will be incorporated into a long bed with the asparagus at one end. The peppers had enough space and they did fine. The tomatillos were trained up a garden stake and tied but late season, they had gotten so tall they were falling all over the bed they had shared with beans early in the season, so that wasn’t a big deal. The ground cherries that I wanted to try were just planted too late. I gave them about 20 days longer than the package said they needed, but it wasn’t enough, so they will go in with late spring plantings. The fall peas were not trellised like the spring peas, the package said they didn’t have to be, but they are a fallen tangled mess that the slugs have found, so I’m probably not going to get many if any fall peas.

It may be time to open the passage way from the chicken run to the garden and turn them loose in there instead of the yard and let them clean up bugs and seeds, scratch up the weeds before tackling the reorganization plan.

Today and tomorrow are the last two days of a very warm, dry start to November. Cooler, more seasonal temperatures and rain are due beginning Wednesday and lingering through the weekend. Taking advantage of the beautiful morning, the last of the beans were pulled for next year’s seed and the plant skeletons tossed on the compost pile.

I love how the pods become speckled with red. They are now spread out on a raised screen in the garage to finish drying. Once dry they will be packaged in a small jar or bag for next spring’s planting. That is one seed that is easy to save and pure as they are the only variety of bean I planted and the neighbor’s gardens are far enough away and separated by woods on both sides according to the Seed Saver’s book.

While out there pulling them, the ground cherry plants were pulled and put in the burn pile, the marigolds are dead, so seed head were gathered for next year and the plants with the remaining seed tossed into the chicken run, though they are out in the yard and don’t realize it yet.

They will sit out for a few days to ensure they are thoroughly dry before packaging them up for next spring.

I should go harvest Zinnea and Calendula seed too before it begins to rain, though the Calendula usually self seeds and plantlets can be dug and moved once they are up. Harvesting some seed would be insurance though. . . .

I’m back, my thoughts sent me back out to harvest more flower seed and to open the chicken run to the garden for the winter.

Zinnea, Calendula, and Marigold seed drying for storage. By opening the garden to the hens, I’ve basically closed the book on the 2020 garden. It was a good one, productive with lessons learned.

Oh, The Spice

Not the kind from “Dune.” The smaller Jalapenos and Serranos were sliced and spread on a huge baking sheet covered with Parchment paper and put in a 200 f oven for 2 hours. At the end of the two hours, they weren’t quite dry enough, but I needed the oven for a casserole, so I took the pan out on a cooling rack and cooked the casserole. After turning the oven off, I put the pan back in over night.

That dried them to only about 2/3 of a pint jar of nicely dried hot peppers that can be used to spice soups, chili, or ground if a bit of spice is needed on another dish. I will divide the spoils with Son 1’s household for their cooking. The first two hours in the low oven filled the house with the hot spicy scent of capsaicin. One slice ended up on the counter as I was filling jars and I popped it in my mouth. MISTAKE! There is no milk in the house. A swig of plant based creamer and a slice of bread helped calm the fire.

The remaining green hot peppers that had any size on them were pickled, another half gallon jar. One entire shelf of the refrigerator is full of quart and half gallon jars of cucumber pickles, dilly beans, and pickled hot peppers to enjoy through the cold dark months ahead.

The red Thai peppers were strung, another couple strings with the ones hanging in the utility room beginning to turn, so more will be strung. There are 8 plus one of Serranos hanging to dry in the kitchen/dining area.

I tried last night to get a photograph of the gorgeous moon as it rose above the ridges and trees. I lack the photography skills or camera to get a good shot.

It was so large and beautiful.

I retook the photo for my November fiber challenge start on the fall tablecloth with the pumpkins and gourds. The only color we really had this year, the leaf colors never materialized and were short lived.

This morning I pulled off the first length of the “Apple Picking” braid and divided it lengthwise and started the two spindles that will spin it. The other two live in my bag and travel everywhere with me to be taken out when sitting in the car or as a passenger. The different textures of the two fiber give me variety.

A few more rows were finished on the sweater. The decreases every other row shaping the shoulders make it go faster the farther up I go. A few more rows and I have to begin the neck placket which will slow things up again as I will no longer be knitting in the round, but back and forth and each row makes the pile in my lap heavier and more awkward to turn.

It is a cool, rainy day, so more knitting will get done, there is no more produce to be prepped. After not being able to get jars or lids during canning season, the shelves at the grocer are restocked. I may buy a flat or two of jars to set aside for next year. I purchased the reuseable canning lids, so I should be okay there as there are enough on hand for the jars currently on hand. Now I need to figure out how to get the pickles, salsa, peppers, and dried herbs to Son 1’s family without a whole day in the car.

Have a great rest of your weekend and don’t forget to vote if you haven’t already.