Garden Update: 03.16.24

We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather these past few weeks, with warm, dry day…though there hasn’t really been much rain, leading to concerns of brush fires getting out of control. Luckily, we got some rain last week and it wasn’t all that windy yesterday, so we ventured outside to get some yard work done in preparation for the 2024 garden.

We picked up a Milwaukee Brush Cutter attachment for the weed trimmer so that I can hopefully keep the plants behind the swing set under control, though some of the trees sprouting were more than 1″ in diameter, meaning we needed to cut those manually. There were a few trees back there whose stumps were never dug up, so every few years, we need to go through and clear them out again to make room for the flowers. Occasionally, Brooke has burned that patch, too, but we should have done that last Fall, or earlier than now so it wasn’t so green. Still, it looks a lot better back there and Calvin got in on the fun.

Speaking of which, awhile back we picked up a hand-held reciprocating saw to complement our other varieties. This one is a bit easier to handle, so Calvin was able to use it. He did a pretty good job, though I don’t think he’s quite big enough for the full-size version, let alone a chainsaw…

After the burning was done, I borrowed our neighbor’s tiller to turn over the garden plots. This is probably the easiest experience with tilling that I’ve had, and I’m not sure why. There weren’t many grasses in there, so the tiller didn’t get clogged up, and the ground was relatively soft after having some rain, so maybe that was it? Brooke noted that the burning didn’t take all that long, either, when sometimes she’s out there all day trying to coax it along. Maybe we had just enough wind to fan the flames, but I think she had all three plots burned within 2 hours of starting. That soil is still looking great!

Brooke also moved some strawberries around. She planted a few new starts, but mostly spent time moving them from outside our brick boundary to back inside, as they tend to like to spread anywhere they can. We also picked up some manure bags to spread around. We’ll probably do that with the tomatoes, too, but it’s a bit early to be putting them in…

Last, but not least, we added a new member to the garden plot party. We bought these bricks rather than making them, mostly because this section is up next to the garage, so it doesn’t have to match what’s going on in the garden completely. Here, Brooke planted some flowers mostly so she could cut them and bring them inside. Some of them worked last year, but we never added the brick border, so it ended up doing mostly nothing. This time, it should be a bit easier for me to know where the flowers are so I don’t mow over anything, and it’ll look a bit nicer, too.

Yesterday’s high was around 67 F and today barely hit 45 F, with a gnarly wind chill, too. We’re still swinging wildly between “warm and beautiful” and “cold and yucky,” though this next week looks to have plenty of sunshine, albeit with cooler temperatures. It was good to have a nice weather day fall on a Saturday where we could take advantage of it and enjoy it! Looking forward to more beautiful days to come!

Thawing out

Clearly it’s been a minute since I updated anything on here, and as usual, it takes some outdoor work to get me to post anything. It is what it is!

January got really cold. We actually had snow on the ground for over a week because the temperatures didn’t go above freezing for at least that long. It was kind of nice having some cold days, after November and December were unseasonably warm, but timing could have been better. The kids and I were all off our school routines for a few weeks to the point where Meg and Calvin haven’t had school on a Monday yet in 2024. Some of that was for planned reasons (MLK, teacher PD day…), but others were treacherous weather conditions. Last week, I finally got 5 full days of class in and it was rather exhausting, though I’m happy to get things more back to normal.

To that end, it’s sap collecting season! Again, the weather has been a bit hit-or-miss for sap, as it hasn’t been cold at night and warm during the day: instead, it’s either just cold, or just warm, and we haven’t really gotten the “swings” we need to for most efficient sap flow. Brooke tapped the trees over a week ago and we had maybe 15 gallons collected. The weather was pretty nice (high 56 F) yesterday, so it was the ideal time to get outside after the extended freezing period and keep a fire going for most of the day. Given all the precipitation we’ve had in January, we weren’t entirely sure how the firewood at our neighbor’s house would do, as it’s been left uncovered, but we got it going.

Brooke also got into the bees, as we’ve noticed them being active in the warmer weather. As we have come to expect each Spring, unfortunately, our bees from last Summer didn’t make it. There was a lot of honey in there, so we know they didn’t starve: we think their numbers just weren’t high enough to survive the extreme cold we had. Brooke treated them and fed them back in November, so this is the most effort she’s put into helping them through the Winter, yet it wasn’t meant to be. I think she’ll order packages from a different vendor this year and put the honey back in that she collected from the hives yesterday, hopefully helping out the new tenants when they move in around April or May.

In other relatively big news, we’re down a few fruit trees. We planted them in September 2016 and, in some ways, they were successful. We had a few good years of peaches, though last year, they never seemed to ripen (which is a shame because the Japanese beetle issue was lessened last year, so we may have had a lot of peaches….but alas…). The dwarf pear trees, however, never really did much. Sure, they “grew pears,” but they would rot on the branches and never fall. We would collect a few, but they didn’t have much flavor and we’d just add them to cider.

In the end, the peach tree, especially, was more of a hassle than it was worth. It was big and hard to mow around, and peaches that would fall would ferment and attract bugs (and wouldn’t smell great). The pears also weren’t really producing, and if anything, the pears and peaches were encroaching on the cherry and apple trees, and we do get something off of those.

So yes, we killed some trees. The wood should be good for Oktoberfest in the Fall, so it’ll sit, drying, until we’re ready to use it. We haven’t decided if we’ll plant anything else out there just yet, but knowing Brooke, she always has ideas about yet another garden plot. I know she’s been eyeing fresh cut flowers, especially out near the bees, so maybe that’ll be next on the list.

It was good to get outside, though! We still have a few weeks of Winter left, but Punxutawney Phil has given us hope.

Garden Update: 08.20.23

It’s been a bit since I last updated this. The garden has done very well for us this year! The fruit trees had a bit of a “down year,” aside from the cherry tree (the jury is still out on the apple trees). The regular garden stuff, though, has done remarkably well.

The tomatoes started turning red in earnest at the end of July. We didn’t end up with any paste tomatoes, but we have a variety of “slicer” varieties, many that worked really well for BLTs. The cherry tomatoes produced well, too, but since Meg wasn’t really here for most of July, I wasn’t going out to pick them as often as I normally would.

We picked a few at the start, but in the last few weeks, we’ve ended up with at least three 5-gallon buckets full of them. We got our fill of BLT slicers, and the rest have been processed to be frozen for sauce over the next few months.

We’ve probably got at least 7 bags like this filled so far? We have another bucket outside full of tomatoes yet to be processed, so at this rate, we are going to run out of freezer space. I don’t think we’ve had a tomato haul like this for a few Summers, so this has been a welcome change!

The zucchini plant died a few weeks ago, but we certainly had our fill of those, too. At least 10-15 big ones, many of which we ended up giving away because, frankly, no one likes zucchini that much…

The pepper plants are doing well, but we’re only just starting to have them ready for us. They have been drooping quite a bit when we haven’t had much rain, but thankfully, while we were on vacation last week, we ended up with 3-4 inches, so that’s helped keep them going.

The anaheim peppers are doing really well! We’ve got a few plants, but many of the individual peppers are 8-10 inches long, so we ended up with quite a few that we’ll be able to process.

Honestly, no idea what these are. A lighter-colored variety that we think is going to be a hot variety? Brooke’s hoping to dehydrate chop these up to make chili powder, so we’ll have to see just how hot they are. She picked a hot bell pepper variety (I don’t think it was this one?) and it had me sweating, but that doesn’t take too much…

Still, a good year for peppers, too! Last year was a pretty good year, so I suppose we’re just on track for another solid one.

Brooke’s been picking soup beans already, though I feel like she’s usually doing that well into November. Since we got a decent amount of rain in the past few weeks, she’s had to slow down to let them dry out a bit. It’s too soon to know how this haul is, but we’re pretty consistent about soup beans, so it’ll probably be plenty

The kale and barley are….still doing their thing. We haven’t picked kale in over a month, but it still looks pretty good? At this rate, hopefully it’ll last into the winter so we can keep on picking it. The barley is still there….and we probably won’t get much out of it…but hey, it’s growing…I guess….

Last, but not least, Brooke picked some potatoes! They’re…pretty tiny. The leafy parts died off, so Brooke dumped them out to see what we had and…they’re probably edible? She’s letting the other bag keep developing a bit in case they’re still growing. The sweet potato plants look bigger, so we’ll find out in a few weeks whether they fared better.

Probably only one or two more posts for 2023’s garden! I think it has done well for us, but school starts Tuesday, so our processing and weeding is going to slow down even further than it already has.

Garden Update: 07.03.23

The garden’s in full-swing! First, I should note that we’re in relatively severe drought conditions here in Missouri, though we got a little rain over the past few days. There are storm chances still this week, but a lot of it is “pop up” kinds of systems, rather than good, sustained, rains. Thus, I’ve been watering the garden every few days. I mowed today, but honestly, I can only see where I’ve mowed near the garden, as that’s the only grass actually growing…

First, we’ve got some zucchini! This is the biggest one, though there are others coming on. We’ll give this one a few days, but we’re well on our way to getting some of these to dehydrate and chop up for smoothies later this year. Maybe we’ll have one fried zucchini (as that’s usually enough), but the kids aren’t huge fans and we’d probably just end up wasting it.

The tomatoes are doing well! We’ve got one (or two?) cherry tomato plant, so those are just now starting to turn, but a lot of the big “slicer” plants are doing well. Brooke’s tied them up a few times so far, so with watering help, they’re still growing pretty well.

Given how much sun we’ve been getting, I wouldn’t be surprised if these start turning within a few weeks! There are a lot of big-ish ones like this on the various plants, but this was probably the highest concentration of them.

And some cute cherry tomatoes! Meg’s going to be gone for a lot of July, so she isn’t going to get to eat a lot of these, I’m afraid, but hey, it’ll save us a few trips to Aldi for them…

The pepper plants…well….look like our typical pepper plants. Last year’s crop did shockingly well, so perhaps I’m a bit spoiled, but I was hoping for a bit better out of them. It’s still a little early, I guess, but the plants are still relatively small and I haven’t seen many (any?) flowers on them. Perhaps it’s because they’re mostly under the tree so they get more shade, or maybe it’s the lack of rain…but either way, they’re still pretty tiny.

The beans are doing alright, though! Brooke had to re-plant a few seeds to fill in some gaps. She picked an ice cream bucket of them today, so I think we’re bouncing back after a somewhat “down year” in 2022!

The leafy greens, we’ve mostly let go, at this point. I think Brooke’s going to pick some and dehydrate them for smoothies this Fall, so it won’t all go to waste. Strangely, they haven’t really gone to seed all that much, so I think they’re still mostly growing? Probably about time to dig up those carrots and see if anything’s actually down there, too….

And last, but not least, the potato bags. The sweet potatoes are looking pretty good (the middle, green one). The regular potatoes, though, those leaves just don’t look all that good to me, so I’m not sure how those are going. The onions look alright, too, so hopefully all is not lost from this little experiment.

The peaches are starting to turn, but I didn’t take a picture because they’re sooooo little due to lack of rain. We also haven’t seen japanese beetles this year, either, but maybe that’s because of the lack of rain and lack of peaches to feed on. Blessing in disguise, perhaps? Hopefully we end up getting something!

On second thought, I never posted pictures of cherries, so here goes!

We were actually in town during the main cherry haul, so we actually got a pretty decent amount! Plenty for Calvin to go out and eat a handful, and also enough for a cherry pie, so that worked out well! Our strawberries also did pretty well, though they’re getting smaller with each year, so it’s probably about time to re-plant some new ones!

Garden Update: 05.29.23

The garden has really only just started, but since I took the time to weed the paver blocks around each plot yesterday, I figured now was a good time to take a few pictures!

We’ve had plenty of sunshine for the past few weeks, but rain has been very, very limited. We had a bit over 1.5″ a few weeks ago, spread over a few days, but other than that, I’ve had to supplement with the sprinkler a few times already in order to move things along.

The tomatoes are looking good, at least! A family friend started a lot of seeds over the winter and more of them “took” than he was planning for, so we inherited 14 plants, most of which are doing pretty well. Brooke also put zucchini in the mounds on front-left, but while a few of those plants are up, others were decimated by squirrels, so she may end up re-planting a few. The pepper plants are in the back-left, and only one of those is doing anything. Brooke picked up a few more plants yesterday that she’ll plug in soon.

The first plot that was planted included a few varieties of kale, some spinach, and some carrots, the latter of which was also spread around by squirrels (ug…). The kale and spinach are all doing well, though, and Brooke already processed and dehydrated some of it. We should get another month out of them, likely, before it gets too hot.

The bean plans are moving right along, but feel a bit slower to get going than I was expecting, especially the “soup beans” (furthest back). Our green bean haul was smaller than usual last year, so hopefully we recover a bit this time around. It’s a bit early to say, though, how this year is going to go – it’s only May!

The new thing Brooke is trying this year is these “potato bags.” I think she saw this idea on social media, or a targeted ad, or something….but the thought is that potatoes are annoying to have to dig up, so why not plant them in something that can be dumped out, instead? She’s got regular potatoes in the right hand bags, then onions in the left hand ones. The middle (green) one is where the sweet potatoes are going to go once she gets them planted.

When Brooke planted these, she put some straw in, as well as some compost, and some topsoil. It took a bit to get the mix the way she wanted it, but given how the plants are growing, it looks like she got it right!

A month ago, I wasn’t sure how the strawberries were going to do this year. We’ve had the plants for a few years now, and we haven’t really done anything to reinvigorate the plot, aside from directing “runners” back into the plot as best as we can. Well….

….I guess it’s going fine? We’ve probably picked two ice cream buckets-worth (you know, a universal, agreed-upon unit of produce measurement) of berries over the past few weeks. In years’ past, we haven’t always been here in early June, due to vacation/travel, but this time, we should be able to get a good sense of how much we’re actually getting. The berries are great, of course, and they went very well on angel food cake yesterday!

The next big thing will be cherries, though! Taking a page off the strawberries, again, we aren’t always here in early June, so we don’t always get the full harvest of cherries before the birds get them (though we don’t have as much of a problem with birds as my parents did years ago on our cherry tree). Again, like the strawberries, I don’t think I’m seeing as many cherries on there as I have in years past, but maybe I’ll be surprised!

Onward into June! We’re just getting started!

Garden Update: 04.30.23

This season has been sooooooo dry, so in some ways we’ve been ahead in getting some gardening and landscaping done, but in other ways, we’re a bit behind. I finally tilled up a few garden plots today because Brooke was only able to burn one of the other plots a few weeks ago, maybe a month later than she normally would. It’s been so windy that it’s been difficult to pick a good day to clear brush from the Fall and Winter.

Part of what slowed us down was the rye Brooke planted in the western garden plot. She planted it as a cover crop last Fall and, by the time I got back from Albuquerque, it was at least 8 in. tall, so on Good Friday, I went and turned it over manually. The tiller wasn’t going to go through all the rye, so we had two options: either mow over it, then turn it over; or turn it over with the grass and wait for it to die off.

Well, it took 3 weeks for it to dry up to the point where I thought the tiller might work, and thankfully, it worked out to “fluff up” the soil relatively well.

Brooke seems to think she’ll be able to plant beans there sometime this week or next weekend, so as long as it doesn’t harden up, it should be good to go. The bigger plot is going to house tomatoes and peppers, so even though the tiller didn’t seem to turn it as well, planting tomatoes will require a shovel anyway, so it’s probably fine.

We’ll have to see how the western plot ends up toward the end of Summer. Not sure the rye cover crop was “worth it,” but perhaps I’ll be surprised.

In the northern plot, Brooke planted spinach, kale (seen in a tiny row above), and carrots. The kale is up, but only after Brooke started watering it. Cats have been out there digging in the dirt, so some of her seeds surely got dispersed to where they shouldn’t be. She planted these seeds about 3 weeks ago, so she wasn’t entirely sure they were going to take at all, but apparently it was the abject lack of rain, because watering the plot twice was enough to get them to finally sprout. We’ll have to keep watering them this week, as the forecast still only shows the occasional 40% chance of precipitation once or twice this coming week.

Brooke put some lettuce in the planter near our garden patio. It stays shaded nearly all Summer, so as long as we keep it watered, we should be able to keep fresh lettuce alive for a good portion of the Summer.

Last, but not least, we still have some buds in our strawberry patch. It doesn’t look as good as I’d like, but perhaps it still has some growing to do? Brooke tried “fluffing” it up a few weeks ago, pulling some of the straw off, but it still seems like we need to add some plants in there. We’ve had a few frosts this past week, and it appears that the flowers have survived well enough. We had plenty of buds on the pear, apple, and peach trees, so I think they largely avoided frost damage. At least this year, we’ll be here in early June, so we may get to see the strawberries and cherries come to fruition (see what I did there?).

Maple Syrup 2023

First of all, apologies for taking awhile between posts! Christmas Break went generally well and we haven’t really had any snow days, so didn’t have much to say, to be honest (kids are fine, school is moving along, etc., etc.). However, now that we’re on the other side of maple syrup season, it was time to try out the new fire pit Brooke constructed last Fall.

Over the past few years, we’ve been relying primarily on propane to boil down the sap collected from the maple trees in our yard, but we wanted to try not burning fossil fuels in the process of making our own syrup (seemed somewhat antithetical). The weather has been remarkably good these past few weekends, so we had a few chances to burn some of the firewood we’ve collected from trimming trees in the yard.

Brooke picked up a few serving platters last Summer, partially for Oktoberfest and other hosting duties, but also to help add some surface area to the boiling vessels, hopefully boiling off sap more efficiently. It largely worked, and we were able to burn down sap relatively quickly! …..once the fire got started… Both days, it took a lot longer to get a fire going than we expected, meaning we didn’t really get started with the process until the afternoon.

Again, the weather was so pleasant, it was a nice reprieve from a normal February (though the implications of warmer and warmer Winters is terrifying for a host of other reasons). Still, sitting outside with a beer and a fire isn’t a bad way to spend a weekend.

Brooke also took a hacksaw to the gourds she grew this Summer. Most of them have been inside in our basement drying out, though she left a few outside…because frankly we didn’t notice them, so they’ve just been hanging out? She cut the tops off and ended up with some hollow gourds! The plan is to cut up some of the others and make bowls eventually, but she kind of tested the process this weekend. More on that in the future!

Brooke spent a few hours today refining the sap, heating it to the correct temperature (she plugged info into an online calculator this time, taking atmospheric pressure into account to target the correct boiling point, while not crystallizing the syrup). She ended up with just under 2 gallons, which is better than the 1.13 gallons we got last year. We still ended up going through almost two propane tanks, and more firewood, so again, was it worth it? Dunno.

But I got to have a few beers next to a fire in February. Not too shabby.

A Beautiful Fall Day

Brooke has been wanting to get another round of apple cider made this year before it gets too cold, and this weekend was really the last chance to get that done. Next weekend, the lows are dropping down to the teens once again (it did that a few weeks ago) and we’ve now got a snow chance in the long-term forecast, so really, today was the last opportunity!

Brooke and Calvin did a bit of cider processing earlier in October (mostly our own apples from our tree, as well as a few pears we were able to salvage), but didn’t make as much then as we did last year. This time, we went with two 5-gallon buckets of apples collected from a local seller, as well as some that Brooke’s Dad picked up from one of their properties.

This time, Brooke used a meat grinder to crush the apples before we put them in the press. She quartered them and Meg put them through the grinder, with Calvin scraping them across the cookie sheet toward a bowl for transfer to the press.

The press is always the challenging part, and the kids are amused in trying to crank it just a quarter turn further. The cider presses out, the apple pulp settles a bit, and usually you can crank it just a little bit more. After awhile, we sort of give up, but still keep the rest of the pulp to convert into apple cider vinegar (Brooke was pleased with how it turned out last year!).

While we were outside, we started up the new fire pit and roasted some hot dogs! We got 1.5″ of rain on Friday, so a lot of the sticks were still pretty moist, making it a bit difficult to get a good fire going. We got something out of it, but it wasn’t quite the roaring fire we were hoping for. Still, it was enough to roast some hot dogs!

Ultimately, we ended up with a pretty good haul! The smaller bottles will go in the freezer for smaller volumes. Calvin likes heating up cider and putting a cinnamon stick in it, so this should make it easier for us to make it on a whim without thawing out a ton that’ll go to waste.

Separately from the cider work, Brooke also harvested her gourds. It still may take another 6 months before we can actually make bowls out of them. We’ve got to find a “cool, dry place” for them, which will have to be our basement, despite the fact that it’s only really “cool” and rarely ever “dry.” Still, we don’t have much of a choice of where to put them!

Sorghum Extract

In keeping with hair-brained ideas of what to grow in our garden, and maintaining our theme of producing “sweet things” (i.e. honey and maple syrup), Brooke decided to try growing sorghum. She’d read that the stalks of the sorghum could be ground up using a relatively cheap, electric wood chipper, and then she thought we could use the apple cider press we already had to squeeze the sorghum to juice it.

First of all, Brooke set aside Sunday to harvest the two rows of sorghum she grew. It did a good job “training” the soup beans to climb the stalks, so that kept the vines out of the yard this year. Brooke had to untangle some of that a bit in order to cut the stalks down, then we removed the tassels from the top and the leaves, as those aren’t necessary to get the sorghum goo out (it probably has a technical name, but I’m too lazy to look it up. “Goo,” it is.).

I tossed the leaves back onto the garden plot to let them decompose there, hopefully returning some nutrients back to the soil. We ended up with a decent number of stalks! It’s a bit tough to gather how many more we need in order to make more of the end product but, well….we’ll get there…

The wood chipper we picked up from Harbor Freight did a good job! I haven’t been happy with it for chipping sticks and leaves, as the opening at the top is very narrow (for safety reasons), making it annoying to get wide sticks that have fallen with leaves on them into the thing. For this purpose though, it’s perfect: the stalks are straight, you just shove ’em in there, and they’re chopped up efficiently.

The cider press, however, didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. It worked just fine for apples, especially after we chopped them up a bit, but there just isn’t enough water in the stalks of the sorghum plants to have much “juice” come out! Brooke was able to get a little out, but it wasn’t an efficient method of extraction. So, she had to resort to “plan B.”

She grabbed a big pot she had downstairs and effectively made a “sorghum tea” out of it. This ended up involving soaking the sliced-and-diced stalks in water, then trying to game out when the tea was “done” (i.e. as close to “fully extracted” as we’d get). I’m sure this process could be refined with something like a refractometer, but Brooke was just looking to “pilot” this process and refine it next time. The question was: how much will we get from two rows of sorghum?

Answer? A quart jar. She heated the liquid to 210 F for awhile, which is what she read the right temp was to do the job without causing undue crystallization. The color looked good! The taste isn’t quite as “molasses-y” as I think we expected, but to be fair, molasses doesn’t come from sorghum, so of course it doesn’t taste identical. It’s definitely sweet, though, and sticky. I don’t really pick up as much flavor as I do from molasses, though? There’s a “burnt” quality to molasses that this doesn’t really have. I think Brooke picked up more flavors than I did.

In the end, we didn’t get a ton, so likely isn’t going to be a process we can take advantage of to make enough to sell it or anything. We’ll just have to see how good it tastes in cookies: then we can decide if it’s worth it!

Garden Update: 09.06.22

Normally, this time of year, the garden would be running a bit low on productivity, but this year, it sure seems like we’ve got a long(ish) way to go! It sure looks good, too, despite the notable lack of rain this Summer. I haven’t had to water for a few weeks, and the temperatures have been a bit milder recently.

The sweet potatoes are growing well (not really pictured, but just off to the right of this image), but the main story is the bottle gourds…which are apparently a thing?? Brooke picked up these seeds mostly on a whim and they’ve taken over the garden, and there are quite a few gourds growing (three in the image above – we’ve got almost 10, maybe?). I’m still not sure what, exactly, we’re going to do with them. I suppose we could carve one up like a pumpkin for Halloween?

In this shot, we’re still seeing a lot of bottle gourd plant matter (all those big leaves), but we’ve also got some zinnias! It sure took them a long time to get going this year, but Brooke’s had enough to pick here and there to bring into the house. I think she’s still planning on starting a new flower plot next year, so maybe the zinnias will move out there, but for now, randomly interspersed among the gourd plants, we’re still getting something out of them.

The sorghum are still doing their thing, of course. The tassels are mostly brown at the top, but it looks like they have grown secondary stalks, which is something we didn’t expect. The secondary ones are still green, so it may take a bit before we can do anything about them. When Brooke’s ready, we’ll use her new electric wood chipper to process them and see if we can get more than a teaspoon of molasses.

The beans are still coming along, too (pictured a few shots below). Brooke’s working on soup beans, and that will probably continue for the rest of the month. She ended up picking some green beans yesterday, despite the fact that we’d normally be done with them a month ago. She’s canned 9 pints of green beans so far, and she likely got enough for another 3 or 4 more. It wasn’t looking good earlier in the Summer, and we definitely don’t have as many beans as we normally would, but at least we’re recovering a bit compared to previous years!

The tomatoes needed some TLC, so last week, we removed as much of the greenery as we could while still leaving the green tomatoes on. We finally got a few “slicers” to ripen, but we still don’t have as good a haul of those as we have in the past few years. On the other hand, we’ve got a ton of romas this year, so we should be in good shape in the tomato sauce department.

The bell peppers, though…they’re a whole other thing. We haven’t had this good a pepper year since we lived in Iowa, and these last few Summers, I’ve questioned whether it’s even worth planting them because we get only a few peppers, sometimes one or two per plant. Well this year, we’ve got buckets full of them, to the point where the plants are so overloaded that they’re falling over (as seen above).

Those are some nice looking peppers, right?? And we’ve got multiple fridge crispers with more in them. And we’ve been giving peppers away because we’ve got so many. It’s. Nuts.

We’ve still got quite a few romas on the vine, as well as cherry tomatoes, but we’re about out of “big beef”-style ‘maters, sadly. Those are the ones I’d rather have, of course, but so long as we’re getting a lot of the others (and we are), it isn’t a total loss.

The peach haul this year was very disappointing, but the apple trees are actually doing pretty well! We won’t have enough to get a ton of cider out of them from our cider press, but they’ll definitely supplement whatever other apples we get from Peter’s. We’ve also picked some pears, but we aren’t sure they’re quite ready yet. Some are rotting on the tree, while the ones we preemptively pick don’t seem to be ripe. We’ll just keep trying, I suppose!

Last, but not least, the tobacco plant! It’s gigantic, and the flowers at the top are kinda pretty! The leaves started to turn yellow toward the bottom, suggesting that they were ready to be picked.

The leaves have been at a good size for weeks now, but only recently did we think it was time to try and dry a few. Not that we know what we’re doing, but you can see how the edges of the leaves are lightening up relative to the rest of the green centers.

And so, we’ve got some hanging up in the garage attic! It will be plenty warm up there, and hopefully humid enough to dry the leaves without overdrying (which is a concern). The whole point of the leaves are for them to produce smoke when lit, which means they need to be at least somewhat moist. Whether this particular setup actually ends up being the right one or not remains to be seen.

There’s probably a month left before we shut it all down for 2022! We’ve gotten plenty of produce this year, despite the fact that the proportions of fruits and veggies were different than we usually get. It keeps things interesting from year to year, I suppose!