October 31, 2008

Trick or treat

In retrospect, perhaps I got carried away.(That was my costume. I was a farmer. I don't think my greatly exaggerated freckles show up in this picture.)

The outfit was within the bounds of normal Halloween excitement. But the $25 of candy? The multiple jack-o-lanterns offset by seven other enormous pumpkins? The candle-lit walkway? The three hours I sat outside freezing my pigtails off waiting in vain for just-one-more trick-or-treater?

I forced a roving gang of college kids to take fistfuls of candy. Three different times.

What happened to trick-or-treating? It used to be the highlight of the season for me when I was a kid, and damn it, it still is now. But I guess these days kids have better things to do - like sit at home and watch TiVo - than to trek up and down cold streets and earn their snack-sized Kit Kat bars. (Oh, yes - I give out the good stuff.)

I did document the few kiddos who came my way (er, some I had to chase down the street and beg to come my way). And here for all to enjoy, are their getups.

October 27, 2008

Halloween Party Pumkin Carvin'!

That would be: Wiqan and little Kai, me and Erik, Laurie and little Mahala, and Theo and Mandy in this silly composite picture.

Not pictured: two huge pies and the gallons of (very) spiked hot apple cider.

Fall should be celebrated!

October 25, 2008

Out of Fall, Into Coldframes

I signed off last with a long to-do list, and I'm happy to report that the list is now bordered by a long vertical column of red check marks. It is done and things are good.

1. Turn compost and collect finished compost.
Admittedly, that's not me. But I talked him into turning the front composter because it's completely full. I took care of the back one, which over the past few months has produced gorgeous, pitch-black finished compost.
As an aside, I really recommend having two composters going at all times so you can have an "active" pile (one that you add stuff to) and a "cooking" pile (one that you're waiting on to finish up). And when you harvest all your finished compost from one of them, leave a little at the bottom to get the next pile of gunk cooking faster.

2. Level with the damn brussel sprout.I killed the poor plant once, around July 4, when I decided it was never going to do anything that resembled producing a sprout. I tore up all 6 plants and my father-in-law gently pointed out that it was about to start bud formation, so I promptly stuck the most intact plant back into the ground. Lesson learned. Brussel sprouts take their good old time.

But really. It's freaking October 24 and the thing is still not done? I'm never planting these dumb things again, or maybe I'll do a little research first (novel idea) and plant them either very early or very late in the season, when they do best.

One piece of advice I found in the great cybergarden was to lob off the top of the plant so it stops growing up and starts getting down to business. So I did.Who knows if that will work. (?)

3. Harvest basil, coriander (cilantro gone to seed) and random other things to prepare beds for turning and enriching.
Here is about 1/20 of the basil I harvested. I got adventurous and harvested my two ginormous "ornamental" basil plants (the purple kind that's described as pretty but not tasty) and tried it out in my pesto recipe. I used walnuts instead of pine nuts because I figured the heavier flavor of the walnuts would work well with the stronger basil - and because walnuts are cheaper. So if I blew it, I'd be less mad.

Anyway, it rocks. And now I have enough pesto for . . . well, just look at my freezer:We could literally eat pesto for 15 days straight.

For the recipe and pictures, click here.

4. Enrich beds with finished compost.Here you can see that I removed the grid (and most of the plants) to prepare the bed for a major redig and enrich. It's sort of like exfoliating and moisturizing, but with dirt instead of your face.

Moisturize:and admire critters:- I planted a bunch of the vacant squares with more hairy vetch (a green manure) and some with more with turnips and radishes just for the heck of it. -

5. Rip up squash vines (and discover squash!)

6. Plant garlic.

I ordered "German Extra-Hardy certified organic garlic from Seedsavers.org, and it arrived in the mail a few days ago.Garlic over-winters in the garden, and you're supposed to plant it sometime after the first major frost of the season (which was the night before).

Inside the package were 2 bulbs and an instruction sheet.It said to separate the cloves only at planting time, and to plant them 4-6 inches apart and 2 inches down.These cloves (which you must plant root-side-down) will sprout before the winter, but if properly covered (by mulch or a cold frame) will go dormant and survive the winter - even in New England.

After planting, I covered the squares with extra compost (instead of mulch).
I'm saying all this, but honestly, I have no idea whether this will work. Theoretically, I should be digging these up next June!

7. Check in with fall crops.Here's the lettuce in the front garden. I harvested the lettuce in the rear garden because the sun patterns have changed such that it's not going to get any full sun until spring. Also, I needed some lettuce for the fajitas I made with all the zillions of bell peppers I just harvested.

The turnips and beets - and the 3 radishes that survived the squirrels - are doing great, too. The beets were "topping out," or basically growing themselves out of the ground, so I packed some finished compost around the tops. This happened on my early crop of beets, and it worked just fine.

8. Admit defeat with the carrots. Again.I failed. Don't know why, but both crops this year have ended badly - with short, confused looking carrots. I've varied the soil textures, the sunlight, the amount of compost. They taste good, but it's embarrassing. I have to tell people that I planted dwarf carrots or something. More research needed.

9. Harvest the marigolds.
They were going to get squished by the coldframes, and their main job, which was to repel harmful bugs, is not as important now that it's fall. So now I'm just giving them away.10. Finishing touches, then tuck into bed.Add the coldframes. . . and then the windows.And then wait for things to grow!

October 24, 2008

Cold frames!!

One of the many benefits of being married to a former home builder is that I can say things like, "gee, I wish my vegetables had cute little houses to protect them from the frost," and - viola! - I come home to discover exactly that. Two cute little houses to protect my tender plants from the encroaching winter.To prepare my garden for these boxes, and for last night's frost, I had to pull up the red pepper plants and hang them to dry in the garage.And then we moved the frames onto the gardens in front:Today, there's much to do:
  • harvest basil
  • harvest coriander
  • harvest carrots
  • turn compost and enrich beds
  • rip up squash vines
  • rip up tomatoes
  • "top" brussel sprouts (cutting off the top to encourage bud maturation)
  • plant garlic

I'll check back in later with updates and pictures. Enjoy the beautiful fall day!