Tag Archives: garden

Our First Apple Crop

This has truly been a wacky year for food production at the farm. Some things that normally grow in abundance have floundered and some things that have never produced before have done well. Apples were among the crops that did relatively well this year.

We have seven young apple trees of various varieties that we have planted in the past six years, three of which we planted in April of 2011 before we even closed on the property. Each year the apple trees have had had at least some blossoms in the spring but they never developed into more than a few apples. Last fall, as an experiment, I put a small amount of wood ash around the base of three of the trees. This spring nearly all of the trees blossomed heavily so I am not certain how much effect the wood ash had.

In May, when the apple trees were in full bloom, we had several mornings of heavy frost. Since the frost damaged asparagus, rhubarb and grape leaves, I am still stumped that our apple trees were unaffected.

Our honey bees were more that happy to do their part in our apple production, flying from blossom to blossom and tree to tree collecting pollen from one blossom and redistributing a portion of it on the next blossom while they collected their pollen from that one.

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Honey bee – too busy to pose for a picture

Being our first apple crop we didn’t know what to expect and it seems that our apples fell victim to bugs, worms and disease.  Then to add insult to injury the crows  decided to make our apples part of their diet.

A couple weeks ago when my husband was tired of watching our apples being destroyed he decided to pick what might still be good before the crows got anymore. He first brought home a bag of red apples and since I was busy that day, probably cleaning garlic, I put them in the refrigerator and half forgot about them. A couple days later he brought home these golden delicious.

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He had been talking about dehydrating apples or making apple chips for a few weeks so I decided to use the useable part of these apple to make chips.

When I peeled the apples I was pleasantly surprised to see that the blemishes, which I have not positively identified but might be apple scab, were only skin deep. Once I removed the peel there was no evidence of disease.

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I peeled, cored and sliced the apples. I placed the slices in a single layer on my dehydrator trays. Each tray held about four apples.

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I filled up all nine trays and realized I had peeled way too many apples. So I needed to come up with a semi-quick or easy way to use the other half of those apples. Since fruit pies are a favorite dessert here and pie filling freezes well I decided to make apple pie filling.

I know that golden delicious apples are not necessarily a cooking apple so I was happy to find a recipe for pie filling that just called for apples instead of “cooking apples” or a specific variety of apples. Not that it would have mattered because I often change up recipes, substituting what I have on hand for what is called for in the recipe. Sometimes it turns out really well and sometimes not so good. The apple pie filling is in the freezer for now but I am certain that we will enjoy the apple pie that it makes.

The apple chips on the other hand are disappearing quickly. They make a nice snack.

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When I took them out of the dehydrator, after about 18 hours, I packaged each tray of apple chips in a sealable plastic sandwich bag. This way I know that the package contains about four apples or four servings. Then I put the bags in jars for storage. It is important to know an approximate serving size because these apple chips are so good that it could be easy to get carried away and eat way too many. I warned my husband that eating a whole bag at one time was not a good idea, and that you need to make sure you drink enough water when eating dried fruit. He told me that this was a lesson he learned as a kid – the hard way.

A few days ago when I was looking for a side dish to go with the stuffed green peppers I made for dinner, I came across the “half forgotten” bag of apples in the refrigerator.

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Stuffed Peppers

I decided to cook up some apple sauce. I didn’t need a recipe for this because I have cooked and canned apple sauce many times in the past. Although many of these apples had bites taken out of them (crows) and a few had worms in them, I was able to cut away enough of the bad parts and cook up a wonderful dish of apple sauce. To make apple sauce, after I peeled, cored and cut away any bad parts, I put the apples in a pan with a small amount of water. I brought it to a boil then turned it to low and let it simmer until the apples were very soft. I then mashed the apples with a potato masher. I then continue to let is simmer and thicken up a little. There was no need to add sweetener. I put it in a bowl and chilled it before dinner and it made the perfect side dish.

Over the next few months we will be researching natural options for controlling disease and insects on the apple trees with hopes of growing even better crops in the future, and who knows we might even build a scarecrow or two. https://www.todayshomeowner.com/scarecrows-in-the-garden/

A Year In Growing Garlic Part X

We are wrapping up 2016-2017 garlic season and at the same time preparing for the next planting so this will be my final post in this series. I’ll start where I left off. We began harvesting garlic in mid July and although we had stopped watering the garlic two weeks prior to that, as is recommended, the soil was saturated from the rains that finally came.

Though larger garlic producers may have other methods, harvesting garlic for us means digging each individual bulb by hand. My favorite tool for digging garlic is this shovel with a narrow blade, a short shaft and a D-grip. It is a comfortable height for digging the garlic and the long but narrow blade can get close to each bulb and dig deep enough to loosen the soil under the roots. We bought a second, similar shovel this spring so my husband, who did most of the digging, would have one as well.

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My husband and I started together digging the garlic but before we got our first hundred bulbs out of the ground I needed to shift gears. I began laying the garlic  on racks so that the bulbs were exposed to the air in order for the dirt to dry, while he continued digging.

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When we ran out of room on the racks my husband began tying the garlic in bundles and hanging them from the fence posts. They still had good air exposure this way.

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and when we needed even more room he set up this system on the trailer hooked to the tractor which he could then park in the shade until we could get to them to brush and bundle them.

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The garlic coming out of the ground this year was very wet as the rains came just when we didn’t want them too. Once the dirt on the bulbs had dried it was time to remove it.

I have discovered that the easiest way to remove the dried dirt clumps from the roots and bulbs by hand is to wear garden gloves and just rub it off the bulb and roots. In the past years I would where cotton gloves and usually ended going through a several pair of them, ending up with hole in the right glove and a left glove that was still intact. (Yes I am right handed.) This year we used leather garden gloves and they held up much better.

After we rubbed off all of the dirt that was loose enough to come off we used twine to tie them into bundles of 10-25 bulbs so they could dry or cure. The garlic needs to cure in a dry, area with good air flow and out of direct sunlight for the next three weeks or so. The large bundles were hung from rafters to dry and smaller bundles were dried of shelves.

Since many factors contribute to how quickly the garlic will cure I would check different varieties, when I needed garlic for a meal, to see how they were coming along. To check them I would snip a bulb from its stem, clip the roots and peel it. When the bulb is cured all of the layers of peel inside should be completely dry and papery.

It was about three and a half weeks after we first began digging the garlic that some of the garlic was cured and I started the final cleaning. The finale cleaning prepares the garlic to be sold or stored. It involves clipping the dried leaves and stems as well as the roots. It also involves removing any dirt that still remains.

If you are growing garlic just for personal use there is really no hurry to do this. In fact leaving the stems and roots intact and even a little dirt on the bulbs, right up to the time you want to use it, will probably prolong the life of the garlic.

These are the tools I prefer to use for clipping and cleaning.

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On our first day of clipping and cleaning I was blessed to have my sister Jamie, and cousin Abby here to help. Abby is a farmer too and is always eager to help out if I say I need a hand, and while Jamie may not claim the title of farmer, she has done her share of farming related activities. Things such as growing her own vegetables and fruits, raising her own chickens and now she can add cleaning garlic to the list.

Working as a team seems much more efficient than each person doing their own pile of bulbs, so I clipped while Jamie and Abby cleaned. We all gabbed and the time flew by. I was even more grateful when they offered to come back to help one day the following week.

When I refer to clipping I am talking about removing both the leaf end of the garlic and the root end from the bulb. At the leaf end I usually cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the top of the bulb being carful not to clip the tips of any of the cloves. On the root end I clip as close to the bulb as possible but some of the roots still remain. It is my understanding that any garlic that is imported into the United States must have the entire root plate removed but garlic that is grown in the US can be sold with roots still attached. I am not sure why this is but since it is easier to just clip the roots down that is what we do.

As for the final cleaning we start by brushing each bulb with the scrub brush. Sometimes this is sufficient to remove the dirt and make the bulb look presentable. Sometimes the outer wrapper is dirt stained and one layer needs to be removed. Our goal is to get the bulb as clean as possible while keeping much of the outer wrapper in tact.

While cleaning the bulb I also give them a quick inspection for quality and sort them by size. To inspect the bulb I feel for firmness. Each outer clove should be firm. I also look for bulbs that may have been accidently sliced or dented while being dug and bulbs that do not have the outer wrapper in tact. Any bulb that does not pass inspection is set aside along with the very small bulbs. These will be used in my kitchen or dehydrated for powder. For sorting by size I am first looking for next years seed. Approximately the largest 15% of this years crop will be saved to replant in October.

Since we don’t punch a time clock I really don’t know how many hours my husband and I put into clipping and cleaning the 5000+ bulbs we grew this year, but I can say it was a long and monotonous process and I am thrilled that it is done.

I hope you have enjoyed following us through this year in growing garlic and if you haven’t been following along but would like to find out what you have missed you can find the whole series here https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/ . If you have any garlic related questions or comments be sure to leave them in the comments section below and I will be happy to respond.

I will conclude this post by responding to some of the things people have said or asked about growing garlic.

Comment: “Garlic is easy to grow.”

My Response: We have had much success in growing garlic but since I have had many people tell me that they tried growing it without success I am not sure that it is so easy. I do agree that given the right planting time, the right weather and soil conditions and the proper TLC garlic is easy to grow, but this seems as if it could apply to most crops.

I do find that people who make this statement are growing garlic only for personal use, and as a garlic farmer I need to add that while each step in the garlic growing process is easy enough that it could be performed by a 10 or 12 year old, growing 1000’s of garlic bulbs becomes both time and labor intensive.

Comment: I didn’t know that there were different kinds of garlic.

Response: I’ve read that there are as many as 600 different varieties.

Comment: I like the ones with the red coloring.

Response: There are many different varieties that have red or purple coloring on the skin. My varieties may be different then ones you have had before.

Question: “Does garlic really keep vampires away?”

My Response: – “I assume that it does since our farm and home are completely vampire free,” or if garlic is present at the time of questioning I say, “look around, do you see any vampires?”

Additional Statement: “No vampires  were harmed in the growing of this garlic.” I guess I just needed to satisfy any potential readers who belong to Vampire Rights Coalitions and such.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Coming Soon…

This is a busy time of year for us. We are wrapping up our garlic season https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/ and I will be putting up the final post in that series soon. I have created this page that links to all the posts in that series and added it to the menu at the top of my home page so you can read through them at your leisure.

It is also harvest season and along with harvesting food comes preserving it, so I will be writing several pieces on what we are harvesting and how we are preserving it. Check out the pictures below for a sneak peak at what’s coming up.

I will share how we will enjoy this years apple crop.

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Some different methods for making tomato sauce,

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What I am doing with our beautiful grapes this year,

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And a write about wildlife on the farm – friend or foe.

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To make sure you don’t miss out on these or any future posts you can sign up at the bottom of this page to follow along via email and if you like what you read don’t forget to share it with your friends.

Our Harvest Picnic

Sunday we invited friends and family to the farm for a picnic. While many of those invited could not make it for various reasons everyone who came seemed to have a great time.

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My husband added some seasonal decorations to welcome our guests.

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The bees wasted no time finding the sunflowers he picked.

 

The chickens roaming around, pecking and scratching, added to the ambience.

 

As summer nears it’s end Black Eyed Susans, Hibiscus and Phlox continue to adorn the farm.

When we host guests this time of year we like to make it a harvest party that includes foods from our garden. Included in yesterdays meal was potato salad – with homegrown potatoes, celery and chives along with our farm fresh eggs; apple crisp – with apples from our trees; pickled garlic scapes  https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/06/15/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-viii-garlic-scapes/ ; and my garlic and dill chip dip https://donteatitsoap.com/2015/08/14/simple-and-fun-recipes/ . We also had fresh lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes to top the burgers which were made with locally raised grass fed beef.

While I took many pictures of the scenery before our guests arrived I somehow forgot to take pictures our guests and the activities they enjoyed.IMG_3200Trooper played in the pond early in the day, but later on some of our young guests enjoyed catching perch in the pond and building sand castles on the beach.

I also neglected to get photos of my brother-in-law flying his remote control airplanes. He brought two planes and was able to use the path which we keep mowed around our back field as a runway. He also brought equipment that enabled him to allow others to participate. It’s called buddy boxing. To really explain buddy boxing you probably need someone who understands technology better than I do, but since I’m the one writing I’ll tell you my simplified understanding of how it works. Two transmitters or controllers are linked together and set to operate the plane. The student’s controller is allowed to operate the plane unless the teacher feels the plane is in trouble at which point the teacher has the ability to override the student’s system and take control of the plane.

I think this is a great way to be able to teach kids, or even adults, who want to learn to fly remote controlled planes without having to worry about damaging the plane or endangering objects, people or pets on the ground. Pete was certainly a great teacher and the kids had a great time flying the planes.

Other activities included greeting everyone with hugs, catching up with friends and family, most of whom we haven’t seen in a year or more, my husband gave garden tours and showed off the huge, mammoth sunflower which came up as a volunteer this year. “If it’s not the biggest sunflower you’ve ever seen I’ll give your money back,” he told people. Maybe he should have charged because everyone agreed that it was the biggest they had ever seen.

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While it wasn’t a homegrown water melon, it was among the produce that our grandson (and future farmer) Jackson, enjoyed. He also got excited about watching the chickens eat corn on the cob.

Some guests left with garlic and some with honey and several left with regrets about having to leave so early and hopes of returning soon. It was a great day filled with friends, family, food and love and we are grateful for all those who visited.

Unfortunately we were so busy and having such a great time that we forgot to hold one of our planned events. The rock picking contest. Participants were to be given a milk crate, shown to one of two areas that have been plowed this summer and told fill their crate with as many rocks as possible.  Cash prizes were to be awarded. Oh well guess we will be picking up rocks this week. 😉

Okay, I’m just kidding about the rock picking contest, but we will be picking up rocks this week. Have a great day.

 

A Garden Dinner

Over the last week we have been so busy with digging and storing garlic to dry that some of the things we would normally do fell by the wayside. Two of those things include planning and preparing a good dinner and tending the garden. We finished up the garlic tasks yesterday morning and decided it was time to play catch up. My husband worked in the garden – weeding, harvesting, and thinning rows. He brought home a nice size bag of fresh veggies that we decided to incorporate into our dinner. I cleaned the veggies and prepared them for our meal. This is what was on the menu. All of the vegetables and herbs were home grown.

Salad – Three types of lettuce, radish, cucumber

Salad Dressing – Basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, garlic, onion powder, sea salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar

Garlic mashed potatoes – I minced several cloves of garlic, mixed the minced garlic with 1/2 stick of butter, then mixed it into the mashed potatoes.

Baby beets with beet greens – The beets in the garden needed to be thinned so even though the beets were only about 1 inch my husband brought them home. After cleaning them I trimmed the long roots off the cut the leaves off leaving a couple inches of the stem attached to the beet. I put the greens and the beets in the steamer and cooked until the beets were tender.

Grilled pork chops – Since we don’t raise our own pork (yet) the pork chops were not something we produced, but they were seasoned with minced garlic and fresh dill. They complimented our garden dinner nicely.

My husband and I MMM’ed and wowed as we ate our dinner and even after dinner we continued to rave about how much we enjoyed the meal. We could truly taste the nutrition in the foods we were eating. Honestly, my favorite fresh garden vegetable is probably potatoes. They have flavor and texture that I have never found in store bought potatoes and are definitely worth the work it takes to grow them.

If you are growing a garden this year I hope that you too are enjoying the fruits or vegetables of your labor.

Tonight’s menu will include potato salad, sautéed swiss chard with garlic and grilled Italian sausage.