The last of the summer harvest-Nov 4

late fall harvest

The garden finally froze last night in earnest and I got to say I’m relieved that I don’t have to go out and harvest today. Not bad being that we went up to November 4th before it succumbed. I still have chard, carrots, beets and kale but the rest of the garden is toast. All that cool season stuff will be around awhile until we consistently get super cold at night but the warm season vegetables are gone. It was a big year for me as I grew 125 tomato plants with 31 heirloom tomato varieties. Phew! Just thinking about it makes me tired!

So yesterday, knowing the weather was coming, I picked the very, very, very last of the tomatoes, lots of chard, the last of the beans, some Glass Gem corn, more potatoes and I found 2 more squash. The eggplants and all the peppers were done 2 weeks ago and the cucumbers were done a month ago. This has been the biggest and best garden I’ve ever had especially with all the rain we got this summer and all the wonderful, warm days-not too hot. I didn’t even have to use any organic pesticides or fungicides this year-fabulous!

Fall garden clean up-slow and easy

Nov tomatoes

Fall is a wonderful time of the year. The pace slows down for us gardeners. The perennial plants are looking sleepy now as am I, ready for our winter slumber. I want to prune the plants as they are shaggy but don’t dare as pruning now could kill them with these cold nights.

Just about everything is done. The outside beds have been cleaned up and I only have a few more beds to put horse manure in. I cut the smaller sunflower heads (with all their seeds) and laid them on the ground for the birds – they’re  crazy for them. I just planted garlic before the cold snap and watered it and covered with straw for the winter so it will get a head start before next spring. The herbs will get compost and straw over them to help see them through the winter. I’ve built 2 big compost piles that are hot (140-150°F) that should be ready by next month but will be saved till next spring for the beds. I still have some gourds left in the field, hoping they dry ok. Gourds are always iffy about drying properly especially with our winters, at least for me. I’m waiting for them to get lighter (in weight) before I take them out.  And most important, the plants and trees have been watered since I turned off the drip systems. All this sounds like a lot and it is, but I have the luxury of taking my time now.

The only tomato plants left were in the greenhouse and froze this last week with the 13°F nights. I had finished buttoning up the greenhouse before the arctic cold blast hit but it still killed the rest of the tomatoes as the greenhouse is not heated. I’ve already planted cold hardy lettuces in there which I can harvest in December and they made it through the cold blast with some winter weight row cover over them. I put a coffee pot in the greenhouse for me when I tinker in there. Perfect! The greenhouse will be very warm in the daytime and pretty cold in the nights which is always a challenge with unheated greenhouses in winters.

The goats, horse and chicken water heaters have been turned on and fixed after discovering one of the heaters was not working. The old chickens get a heat lamp to keep them warm at night. The bees have been readied for winter. The barn cats which never came in the house last year are now coming in the house at night which is such a relief. We are ready for winter here at the little farm. Can’t wait to read a good book by the fireplace when it’s cold outside.

And lookee! I still have tomatoes in the house and here it is-Nov 15th! I will relish each one now as I won’t be getting any homegrown for a long time!

 

Final Harvest 2013

final harvest 2013

Now that the harvest season is over, I have so much to catch up on with you all from this season. Seems when I am in the middle of the gardening season, I’m just too tired to write about all the things I want to share as I’m either in the glass shop or out in the garden during the day and come in at the end of the day ‘dirt tired’ as I say. So now I can catch up on maybe a particular vegetable I wanted to try, or how much honey I was able to harvest this year or a particular dish I cooked and enjoyed or something else I observed. I did take pictures all along waiting till I had the time to share.

Here is a photo of the last harvest of the season on Oct 21, 2013. I picked the Tarabais beans after they dried in the shell. They are in the baskets (on the left) waiting to be shelled, 3 heirloom Banana squash (on the right) which I left out in the first few frosty nights as they get sweeter if left out in the cold (but do bring them in when we get really cold), French Fingerling potatoes were dug out and put in the black box to cure and the very last of the tomatoes that I finished ripening inside that later became sauce and in the white bucket behind all of that was the honey we harvested just before putting the bees ‘to bed for the winter’. You always leave enough honey for the bees before harvesting any for yourself and some years you don’t get to harvest any. Here it is waiting to be put into jars after being strained in the white bucket. More on these individually later.

Tough year in the vegetable garden

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Yesterday’s hail storm-October 11, 2013

This has been one of the most challenging years in the veggie garden that I can remember.

First the leafhoppers arrived in spring to infect the tomato plants with the curly top virus they carry, a fatal disease for tomato plants. They particularly get bad during drought years because they like it dry and hot. I pretty much thwarted them by covering all but 4 of my tomatoes with row cover (I ran out) which acts as a physical barrier until they left in July when the rains came. So my loss was minimal-maybe 10% compared to the 50% loss of tomato plants last year for me. Luckily I always grow more than I need. I will definitely will cover them again next year.

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Biggest pumpkin ‘Honey Boo Boo’ only 176 lbs at end

A squirrel ate my best and fastest growing giant pumpkin plant which put me out of commission to be a contender for our state record, putting me 2 months behind when growing the back-up pumpkin. Here is a pic with my total pumpkins-biggest this year-named ‘Honey Boo Boo’ – 176 lbs-bummer…

We had one of the worst hail storms I can remember in early July but again since the tomato plants were still covered, they were protected. Everything else really got set back but did come back eventually. Many of my gardener friends got hit really hard and lost many crops in that one storm.

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Hail damage-tomato on left, cracks (now healed) from too much water tomato on right

Then in August we finally started getting a lot rain which we desperately needed. Unfortunately we got 3 inches of rain in one week which the plants couldn’t handle all at once and many, including rock hard green ones split or cracked from too much water. (Ahh, whata ya going to do? First too little water, then too much water all at once!) The tomatoes were a little watery for about a week until they absorbed the extra water and healed their cracks. Now they are good again. Most of the uglies became sauce.

Then another devastating hailstorm this time with the row cover off so the tomato plants took it hard and many started to succumbed to fungal diseases because the hail damage weakens the plants and makes them susceptible. Kinda like us getting a severe beating opening up many wounds.

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Hard freeze in late September finished off tomatoes

While I was on vacation, we got our first hard freeze in the last week of September which basically finished off the garden except for the chard and the grass growing under the tomato plants. Pretty unbelievable that we got such an early freeze in Sept when usually it doesn’t come till the second or third week of October. So the season has ended up very short. Usually I can go to the Farmers Market through the first week of November now I’m not sure I can get thru the 3rd week of October. I will go tomorrow to the market as I still have 8 boxes of good tomatoes but we will see after that. I just picked the green ones that were starting to ripen and see if they will still ripen.

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Pumpkin patch almost cleaned up before hail hit.

And finally yesterday we had another hail storm-in October no less! Unheard of to have hail so late. Luckily I had finished picking any tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and a few squash that made it just yesterday morning before the hail hit. So that’s it-THE END. (although I think I may still have some chard left-gotta see how beat up it got…)

Which brings up a point as I am rather calm about all this. I use to get super upset but I learned 11 years ago when we had our 3 year bark beetle infestation due to a severe 4-year drought that basically wiped out 98% of our pinon trees (I lost 300) that we really can’t fight Mother Nature. We can only beat our heads against the wall for so long. We try to do our best and then at some point I learned that I just have to surrender to what is—’you can’t stop an avalanche’ as I was told once. Once I surrender, all stress leaves because I realize I can only do what I can do and that’s it. And surrendering is not so bad as now I can let go and start to plan the next season. Ahh, the life of a little farmer. Luckily my main income comes from glassblowing not farming so I am very lucky in that sense compared to the farmers whose main income is from their crops.

Besides I haven’t been able to write that much in the blog this season as I’ve been so busy in the garden but I did take pics and can catch up on some of the things that took place but didn’t have time to write about. Stay tuned…