Tag Archives: harvest

Winning

The much expanded garden has had the best of me this summer. I am getting squash, cucumbers, beans, peppers, tomatoes, and some greens, but to get to them involves a hike through the weeds. I just haven’t been able to stay ahead of them since I took out the rotting boxes and returned to wide rows. This move I think was a mistaken one. The second error was not using the bales of spoiled hay to heavily mulch after planting or weeding.  I was on the verge of just giving up for this year, accepting whatever harvest I could wade in and get, but then knowing that the work would be even harder next year if I did, I kicked myself in the tush and set about to remedy the problem at least for this year.

This is the lower half of the garden that still needs weeding again and mulching.
This is the lower half of the garden that still needs weeding again and mulching.
This is the upper half after two mornings and    one evening of work.
This is the upper half after two mornings and one evening of work.

A friend of mine has a beautiful garden with boxes, a flower bed outside the garden fence and wood chips spread over cardboard in the paths and flower bed. Once I finish weeding, planting some fall seed, and breaking up the other bale of hay to mulch the lower half of the bed, I will begin my search for cardboard to mulch a 4-5 foot bed for herbs and flowers outside the garden fence and a path inside the garden fence. Relocate the wood pile and get the area ready for this winter’s wood. As the harvest ends, I will again establish boxes, locate more cardboard and lay in a supply of wood chips to mulch the flower bed and paths. The two terrace walls need to be improved to make the heavily sloped garden into three fairly flat areas.

I realize that I tried to expand too much too fast and one section that was taken back from the chickens will be returned, not to the laying hens, but incorporated into the meat chick pen to give them plenty of space. This will involve moving one of the gates, but that too can be done.  I just need for the pole beans climbing the fence to produce and die back.

If I don’t get the weeding and mulching finished by Thursday afternoon, I hope Son #1 and DIL will help me finish one evening over the weekend or early next week while they are here visiting.

The two garage chicks never really integrated in with the coop chicks.  A few nights ago, one of them came to me when I went out to coop everyone up for the night and it didn’t seem to have any energy.  The next morning, the chick didn’t leave the coop and before I could do anything to help it, it died in my hands.  There didn’t seem to be any evidence of injury and none of the others in the coop seem ill.  I wonder if the chick ate something that it shouldn’t since it didn’t have a Hen Mom to teach it.  On a more positive note, the remaining chick, though it seems to think I am its Mom, is eating with the other chickens in the morning and nests with the Coop Hen Mom at night.  Perhaps it will eventually become part of the flock.

Olio – July 24, 2015

Olio – a miscellaneous collection of things.

This week has been a bit cooler with nights that invited an open window over the bed and a light cover in the early morning hours. A week of weeding a bit each time a harvest run to the garden is made. During my weeding a grabbed a handful of poison ivy where the corner of the compost bins had been without seeing it.  I thought we had eradicated it. Since I developed a significant allergy to it about a decade ago,  a quick return to the laundry sink to scrub up was in order. I mostly removed the urushiol oil from my hands but I must have brushed my hand against it before and have a small spot of rash on the back of one hand. This morning I took plastic bag with me and using it as a second glove, pulled and bagged it.  I’m sure it will reappear again as some root broke off.

As happens each summer, about the time you can hardly give away another summer squash, the plants begin to die off, one by one. One day the plant looks healthy, the next they are a wilted pile, a sure sign of squash borer. I love summer squash, Mountaingdad doesn’t favor it so much, so their loss doesn’t bother him. There are many quarts frozen and two yellow squash and all 4 Bennings green tints, this one . . .

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are still thriving. The bees love the huge yellow squash blossoms and their hum accompanies me with natures song as I wade through the hip high plants to pick the veggies.

I am getting a few cucumbers, not as many as I would hope and every once in a while one escapes notice until it gets so large it is tossed directly to the chickens. They seem to appreciate the fresh veggies too.

Just as my beans are beginning, something has gotten into the garden and nibbled a half a row down to stubs.  I suspect the deer realized the electric fence was off, it is back on now, but there is also a tiny bunny who flees each time I go to the chicken pen and it could easily get through the welded wire fence.  I hope it doesn’t get so fat it can’t get back out of the garden.

A friend gave me a sack of pickling cucumbers in exchange for a sack of summer squash (don’t you love bartering?)  and I made two half gallon jars of lacto fermented dill pickles. They are fermenting on the kitchen counter for a few more days before moving to the root cellar.

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They will be so good with sandwiches and diced into meat or egg salads.

With two knitting projects going, I haven’t been spinning this week, so no progress on that front. It wouldn’t take me long to finish the Coopsworth and have it ready to wind into balls to knit.

The sweater sleeve is growing inch by painful inch. I blame the hot weather for not working more on it, when in reality, I hate knitting sleeves. Round and round in endless boring rows having to stop every couple rows to turn the whole sweater body over in my lap a few turns to keep from having a tangled mess.

The sock however is progressing nicely. The leg is done and after taking this photo, I started on the heel flap. Usually I do after thought heels, but this sock fits so nicely (I’ve made them twice before) that I follow the pattern.

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I have been playing with this sock as I go. I usually knit socks two at a time using one long circular needle with the Magic Loop technique, but I started this one on two shorter circulars half the stitches on each needle. I tried a few rows on a 9″ circular which was okay too, but I transfered the sock to double point needles to do the heel. In the past , I have felt like I was playing with pick up sticks, the kids game, when using them, but this time, I found the rhythm and I think I may be a convert. Unfortunately I can’t comfortably use metal needles and a size 1 bamboo needle is so thin it looks fragile. Bet I break a few.  Perhaps I should lay in a supply of them.

We ended yesterday with a 2 1/4 mile walk on the Huckleberry Trail.  This is an attempt to get us both back in shape, to improve my strength and try to help Mountaingdad with his balance issues.

Loving life on our mountain farm.

Olio – July 19, 2015

Olio- A miscellaneous collection of things.

The heat has returned. . . and the humidity.  With the heat and humidity, we also get intense thunder storms with half an hour of rain, of course, right after I watered the wilting deck herbs and flowers.

The chicks watch is still on.  Not a single egg hatched from the clutch that the Momma Hen was driven off of by the Broody Hen who took it over.  They should have begun hatching on Friday, but not a one so far.  I will wait until tomorrow then remove the eggs and begin breaking the Broody, or maybe wait until tomorrow night when all the girls are sleeping and take the eggs and give her the two 4 week old chicks in the garage and see what she does with them.  It is a good thing that I ordered Red Rangers for mid August as the Buff Orpington experiment sure has not provided the culls that we had hoped to put in the freezer for winter.

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Littles, Teens, and Hens enjoying the scraps and overgrown squash and cukes.

After I shucked the corn from yesterday’s Farmers’ Market to go with our steak, I took the husks out to the chickens and wandered into the garden to see if there was a cucumber to slice for dinner too.  This is what I brought back to the house.

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Two overlooked yellow squash and one huge cucumber went straight into the chicken pen.

After dinner, Daughter and I cut up and froze 6 more quarts of summer squash for the winter soups, pasta sauces and casseroles.  After she and SIL left to go to a movie, I made the first two pints of Dill Pickles from one of my favorite cookbooks, preserving by the pint, for storage.

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On the spinning front, I am still plodding along on the pound of Coopsworth with about 700 yards of yarn finished, washed and dried and another bobbin nearly full.  I fear that I am going to end up with 3 bobbins and have to wind off the last one into two balls to ply it.

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I wish the teal color showed better in the artificial light.  It is going to make a luscious sweater when I am finished with it.

As for knitting, I am working on the first sleeve of the sweater that has been in the works for months.  It is just too hot to sit with a sweater body in my lap, so it only gets picked up on cooler evenings.  Unlike most knitters that I know, I generally don’t have multiple projects going at once, but the sweater is too big and too hot to be a carry around project, so I cast on another project.  One of my friends is an Indie yarn dyer and she and her husband have several causes and organizations that they strongly support.  Upon the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, to support Urban Peak in Denver, CO, a shelter for homeless youth, she dyed a special yarn, Rainbow Unicorn of Love.  For every skein she sells, they are donating 10 pairs of new socks to this shelter for the homeless young folks staying there.  The cause seemed worthy to me so a skein of her delicious sock yarn joined my stash.

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So what do you do with Rainbow Sock yarn, why make socks, the perfect portable project.  Unfortunately, I have about an inch of ribbing and the pattern that I though I was ordering as a download is actually being mailed to me and I haven’t received a shipping notice yet.  I may do another favorite sock pattern of mine, designed by a knitting friend for the Bejing Olympics Sockapalloza,  Olympian Socks.  I have another skein of Unplanned Peacock Sock yarn in Botanicals colorway that can be made into the other pattern once it arrives and this pair is finished.

Loving life on our mountain farm.

The Garden

The week has been cooler and mostly drier at least during the daytime, but it really hasn’t dried out enough to mow, at least not with the tractor. A few evenings have provided pleasant weeding weather with armloads of greens for the chickens and chicks and an endless supply of flea beetles on the amaranth being pulled for them.  The weeds are still winning this year, but I am striving to keep them out of the beds of beans, tomatoes, peppers and asparagus. The squash have spread out so much they are shading out most of the weeds in their bed and the pumpkins are beginning to do the same in the three sisters bed. The paths are a mess and the harvested beds also. They must soon be cleared for fall veggies. The paths are a dilemma, most have weed cloth down but enough soil has accumulated on top that the weeds are prolific.  Prior years of piling pulled weeds as mulch and laying down spoiled hay as mulch have created several inches of soil. Some weeds pull easily from this, but the weed cloth is deteriorating and some weeds go through it. There are also the rocks that have been tossed out of beds as they were worked, before I started collecting them to put on the rock piles. I would love to remove the weed cloth and everything on top of it, but it is so heavy when you pull it up and then what do you do with it.  Occasionally I just weed wack the growth down.

The garlic has cured on the screens in the garage and was trimmed of stalk and roots to take to the wire shelves of the root cellar. The onions didn’t do well. There was only one spoiled garlic, but few sound onions. I wish I had brought them straight into the house to chop and freeze. We have enjoyed a few of them, but I guess I will be buying onions this winter. The squash plants are over whelming. We are eating them fried, roasted with other vegetables, baked with cheese, added to stir fries and curry and quart bags frozen for winter use.

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The year’s harvest of garlic and a day’s crop of squash.

The cucumbers are full of blooms and tiny little cukes are showing, so soon there will be pickles. Bush beans are blooming but not the pole beans. Hopefully we will add beans to our meals as well. The pole beans are climbing the popcorn stalks and tiny ears are forming on the stalks. The peppers are loving the cooler wet weather, the tomatoes not so much. It may not be a good tomato year unless it dries out a bit.

Each evening as I go out to secure the chickens for the night, I enjoy a small handful of raspberries. Because of destroying their bed and transplanting a half dozen plants, there won’t be enough this year to make jam or to freeze, but they will volunteer themselves and the bed will be more prolific next year.

We may have chicks today or tomorrow, though I am doubtful. Momma let herself be driven off the nest by a broody hen who has taken over the clutch. I didn’t see any activity when she left to feed this morning.

Loving life on our mountain farm.

A Terrible Night on the Farm

Around 2 a.m., I was awakened by a noise, I assumed it was a pack of coyotes I have been hearing lately, but once awake, I didn’t hear it again.  Hubby had just come to bed, but that never wakes me.  I got up to relieve my self in the dark and after I got back in bed, heard the toilet still running and got back up to get it to stop, again in the dark.  When I stepped into the bathroom, the floor was wet, so the toilet was not only running, but stopped up and as the upstairs flooring is the upper side of the 2 X 6″ tongue and groove pine ceiling of the first floor, the water was dripping through to the kitchen and downstairs bathroom.  Hubby and I sprang into action, tossing down towels to sop up the spill, sopping up the drip through and having to spray down the kitchen and walls downstairs with cleaner to leave the counter and stove tops sanitary to use in the morning.  Once the mess was subdued, my adrenaline was kicked up enough to keep me awake.  I had had a restless night the night before as well.

I sat up until nearly 5 and finished a book I was reading and finally went to sleep in time to get up for morning chores.  Dogs were fed, granddaughter was fed, coffee was made and I went out to do the morning chicken chores to find that a skunk or Opposum had gotten in the chicken tractor and killed 4 of the 3 week old chicks.  I know that loss is part of farming, but on two nights of inadequate sleep, the water disaster and finding 2/3 of the babies dead and mutilated, it was too much and I cried.

When I let the hens and teenagers out, one of the brooding hens left her nest and didn’t return.  I watched them for a couple of hours to see if she would return and she didn’t, so I moved her 7 eggs under the other hen that is a day behind her in brooding.  She stayed away from the nest for many hours and when she returned, was very agitated that her nest was empty.  She tried to steal eggs from the other two hens and managed to break one egg that was viable and another that wasn’t.  To stop that behavior, I had to put crates in front of the two sitting hens to protect them from her.  Tonight, I will put Momma Hen and her two remaining chicks in the coop and put a crate in front of her as well to protect her littles in the coop.  This weekend, we will try to make the chicken tractor more secure as we should have more chicks starting to hatch on Wednesday or Thursday.  Also while out there, I removed the fencing between the two runs, making it one larger run that can be temporarily divided with poultry net if I need two runs.  This freed up about 25′ of fencing that can be used toward the run on the new cull coop that is under construction.

The only real positive of the day was a small harvest to round out the potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic that were to be roasted with a pork tenderloin.

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The turnips are of a size to harvest and free of the little white boring worms that I used to experience before dusting the seed row and top of the seed bed with wood ash from the winter’s fires.  The Daikon radishes are also maturing and both made good additions to the roasted veggies.

Arctic Zone

Yesterday was cold and wet, rain at our elevation, snow about 800 feet above us.  With the cold was wind, stripping the gold and red leaves from the trees that had not lost their leaves yet.  A good day to stay indoors, but it was Farmers’ Market day and if we were to have meat this week, other than chicken, a trip to town was necessary.  We dallied, not leaving to have breakfast as on most weekends and knowing that there was a home game at the University in town, an attempt to try to miss the traffic seeking to find parking on side streets or failing that, paying $10/car in church lots or people’s yards. Home games are madness in our little town as the university is huge and the alumni dedicated, even in a cold rain.  The market was done, the vendors all thanking us for coming out in such nastiness, but we came home with ground beef, stew meat, onions and radishes, still having greens in the garden and a bit of the last salad in the refrigerator.  Our usual meat vendor wasn’t there, so I was unable to get the ground pork that I wanted to make a stuffed pumpkin this week, unless I can find a package in the chest freezer.   Or perhaps, I will make a pumpkin, chicken curry in a pumpkin shell, there is plenty of coconut milk and red curry in the pantry.

Once home, the winter squash picked over the prior two days were toted down to the root cellar in the basement, two big canvas sacks at a time, many, many trips up and down the stairs.  The shelves look ready to provide well this winter.

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Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, garlic and canned goodies.  This is what is left after loads to northern Virginia and what is upstairs in the pantry.  The freezer stocked with green beans, peas, apples, chicken and a bit of pork and beef stockpiled from weekend trips to the Farmers’ Market.  Our favorite meat vendor toughs it out at the market on all but the worst winter Saturday’s throughout the upcoming winter.

As the wind blew last night, and the temperature dropped, our power failed.  Quickly gathering up the battery lanterns and flashlights and tossing a down blanket on the two quilts on the bed, I settled in with my tablet that had a good charge and the ebook that I am currently reading.  Fortunately, the power only stayed out a couple of hours and we were awakened by the TV and lights coming on and the computer printer doing a self start, though it had been powered off before.

The morning dawned an hour earlier, thanks to the time change last night from daylight savings time.  Yes, I know, an extra hour to sleep, hmmmph, I awake with the sun and get up once awake, my body doesn’t just switch gears like the clock.  As I let the pups out, I realized that we were seeing our first snow flurries and the lightest of dusting on the ground and decks.

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Mountain snow showers are a common occurrence, rarely amounting to anything, whenever there is moisture in the air and the temperature below freezing.  The freeze last night, the first freeze burned back the pumpkin patch and the bean patch.  The greens look sad this morning but will perk back up as the daytime temperatures rise above freezing.

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After feeding the chickens and breaking the ice on their water, a walk through the ruined patch revealed as I suspected, several more pumpkins.  The largest, not damaged ones gathered and brought in, like I really need more in the house.

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Happily, several of them were Buttercup squash.  A couple were tossed into the chicken pen and the rest left to be gathered in the garage or thrown immediately to the chickens over this week once the wind dies down and the temperature rises to a more comfortable range.  This was the first morning that I had to don the heavy barn coat to go deal with the birds.

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The peppers that were gathered prior to the expected Arctic chill have all been processed, the tiny jalapenos sliced and frozen, some used in last night’s chili with cornbread for dinner.  The small bell peppers, sliced and frozen, the ripe habeneros packed whole in freezer bags, the green ones set in a bowl to ripen as you can see they are doing.  They too will be bagged and frozen.  The tiny hot orange pepper that I still haven’t identified, was pureed with vinegar they had been soaking in for the past few weeks and a Tabasco-like sauce made that a single drop burned my mouth for an hour.  The rest of them are ripening on the upside down plants in the garage.  The tomatillos that we gathered were rid of their husks, washed and packed whole in freezer bags, another 3 pounds to be used in Pozole this winter.  A chicken, some tomatillos, a bag of dried hominy soaked, a handful of Mexican spices and a hearty soup to feed a small army is made.

We are lovin’ life on our mountain farm and now must accept another winter is upon us.  We were lucky this year, we got an extra 2-3 weeks before the first frost.

A Tribute to a Mountain Man

Today a true mountain man was laid to rest on the hill overlooking our home.  The banner photo at the top of my blog was taken almost from the spot where he was buried.  He was one of the first people we met upon buying our land.  He was wary of us and we of him at our first meeting, but he quickly became a friend.  One of the characteristics of Appalachian men is to not to talk to women outside of their family.  He, though shy, was never like that.  He would stop when he saw me at our mailbox or mowing the top field and chat.  A nature lover, he would point out the hawks or the baby raccoons that he could spot before we ever saw them.  As a veteran, he was proud of his country and his service to his country, generally wearing a ball cap that stated Viet Nam Veteran.  He was a simple man that didn’t care what other people thought of him, he marched to his own drummer, but would do anything for you if asked.  In the past couple of years, he first lost a leg to circulatory issues and finally his life to Pneumonia on top of COPD, he failed fast and will leave a huge hole in his family and his neighborhood.  His request was to be buried on his farm, on his hill where he spent many hours day and night, watching the wildlife or the stars.  At his graveside, he was given a 21 gun salute by the local American Legion, VFW and National Guard.  His family presented with the flag from his coffin.  Like in life, he was buried in simplicity, in his hunting clothes, his Viet Nam cap and a simple pine box.  He will be missed on our mountain.

His passing allowed us to meet people who had just been names to us since our move here.  Our farm sits in the midst of hundreds of acres of farmland owned by his family, his brother and cousins, only a few of whom we had met.  It is a sad way to get to know them, but nice to be able to put faces with the names we have learned.

After the service and a dinner at the chapel, we hurried home to try to harvest what was left in the garden, one of his cousins, our closest neighbor coming down to help and visit.  We are expecting winter to arrive tonight and have snow flurries expected this weekend with nights in the 20’s.

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Darrell helped harvest any pumpkins and winter squash that were hanging from the compost bins, the ones on the ground we left to see if the leaves will die off in the freeze.  A box of mixed peppers, another of the remaining tomatillos and some greens were harvested, the pepper and tomatillo plants pulled and tossed in the chicken pen, the chard covered with row cover to try to save it for a bit longer.  The two cayenne pepper plants were pulled and hung upside down in the garage to see if the rest of those peppers will turn red.  He left after visiting and having a cup of tea with a box full of some of the goodies.  As we were cutting the pumpkins, we realize that there must be 35 or 40 more in the garden.  I need to find more recipes other than soup and roasted winter squash.

It keeps on giving

that wonderous garden of ours.  I asked my favorite farmer friends at the Market this morning when our average first frost date was, because my memory told me it was around October 10 and they confirmed that we were past it, so far without a frost on their farm in our county or ours.  They still have tomatoes and flowers growing!  Of course I had to buy a tomato and a bunch of flowers.  Don’t they look great on the fall table cover?

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We are getting mid 30’s nights, but no frost and the garden keeps giving of bush beans, broccoli, peppers, tomatillos, turnips and greens.  The big crop of harvest now are the winter squash.

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Seminole pumpkins and Burgess Buttercup squash.  There are so many out there that I still cannot get to and though the plants are beginning to die back, there are still flowers on some of the plants.  There will be many softball size squash and pumpkins to feed the chickens over the next couple of months and many more larger ones that we will never be able to eat them all.

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Though it was getting dark when I went out last night to lock up the laying hens, the sun setting behind the west hill and casting it’s last glow on the gold of these trees stopped me for a few moments of time to enjoy the chilling night and the beautiful color.  By the time I walked back, the sun had set and the side yard was dark.  It is indeed a beautiful time of the year, though it is short and soon the trees will be skeletons in the woods and we will be able to see lights from our nearest neighbor’s houses through the woods.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Rainy Autumn Afternoons

are perfect for processing a half bushel of apples.  The apples peeled and cored, some chopped fine for applesauce, another 7 1/2 pints canned, others chopped for Apple Cranberry Chutney, 4 pints, 4 pounds pared and sliced and frozen for pies or cobblers during the holiday or when guests arrive.  Again I am thankful that I discovered the Peeler/corer tool, but it still took quite a while to prep all the apples and prepare the recipes for canning.

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Apple Cranberry Chutney

After trying Marisa McClellan’s Green Tomato Chutney in her book food in jars it seemed that apples would be perfect for a chutney.  After looking at various recipes, I created my own that turned a beautiful red color from the blush pink of the Rome Apples and the red skins of the cranberries.

Apple Cranberry Chutney

  • 2 qts.  mixed apples, pared, cored, chopped
  • 1 c yellow onion chopped
  • 1 c Cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 c Yellow seedless raisens
  • 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp pickling salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 1 Pt. Raw Cider Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 c Brown Sugar

Place the cloves in a muslin bag or tea ball.  Add all ingredients to a large non reactive pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until reduced by half and thickened 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring frequently.  Remove the spice bag and the star anise.

Ladle into clean hot pint jars, wipe rims, add hot lids and bands.  Water bath process for 15 minutes or pressure can at 11 PSI for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool, wipe and label jars.  Enjoy with roast meat or served over Neufchatel or goat cheese on crackers or baguette slices.

 Tomorrow, I harvest radishes, turnips, tomatillos, and peppers then cover as much of the remaining garden as I can with sheets and hope that we don’t really get a frost this early in October.  Many of the radishes and turnips will become Kimchee, the Tomatillos and peppers will become salsa and hot sauce.  This may be the end of the season for us or we may get lucky and have a few more weeks.

Tomorrow will also be a day to make a batch of Sauerkraut.  I see Roast Pork or chops with sauerkraut and chutney in our future.

The Hot Shelf

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Every few days, the tomatillos, jalapeños, and habaneros overwhelm me and processing takes over the morning. Four more pints of hot green salsa, 1 more pint of pickled jalapeños, and 4 more 1 cup jars of  XXX hot sauce (http://wp.me/p3JVVn-GH) were made for winter storage. The spicy globe basil was finally dry and it was crumbled and stored in jars 2 1/2 pints worth.
The tomatoes are beginning to ripen quickly so I will stop freezing them and start canning chili tomatoes, pasta sauce and more Casa Del Platero (http://wp.me/p3JVVn-GK)  salsa for winter.
Peeks under the row covers show green bush beans developing, brocolli, chard, kale and cabbages getting some size on them. The winter squash and pumpkins are so verdant that it is difficult to see the fruits hidden in the jungle of leaves.

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This has been a good garden season so far. Hopefully there will be lots to eat this winter.
Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.