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Preparing for Fall

My garden is looking forlorn. Between the buckets of rain we have received in Eastern Pennsylvania and the fact that my son “borrowed” our lawnmower, it is a little over grown.

I have not planned to grow much this fall. I am more ready to start winding it down and preparing it for winter. I will cover a lot of the winterizing of the garden in a future post. This is more about the sorry state of it now.

I would put much of the fault for the mess on the rain – and lack of available time for proper weeding. We have not see more than about 4 days pass in the last 2 months without rain. Is it wrong that I do not want to be elbows-deep in mud and muck? And while this is a bad reflection on my commitment to my garden, it speaks of truth. When I go out, it’s going to be a mess.

Like the tomatoes. The plants look horrible now. They are pretty much done, so I am not doing anything with it until I am ready to pull it all down. But we harvested a ton or so (meaning about 200 or so). Unfortunately due to getting them in the ground late and all the rain, we did not see any until very late in August.

Lettuce Patch – The rabbits ate most of the different varieties I planted. We were able to harvest Arugula and Green Romaine. They were great for salads.

Zucchinis and Cucumbers – Both the Zucchini and Cucumbers were a great success. We had experienced difficulties in the past with the rabbits chewing off the zucchini flowers. After finding fencing, we had success. Cucumbers were lots of fun. We had both regular cucumbers and pickling cucumbers.

Herbs – saw limited success, mostly due to the location. These were on the side of the house. Every storm they would get washed out by runoff from the gutters. We had lots of basil, parsley and cilantro. As of yet, I still have not been able to get my white sage seeds to sprout. I will complain more about that in a future post.

And the Pumpkins – Still Growing. In keeping with my plan to use all organic seeds, I planted what they sent. So far I am not so impressed. I suspect I will be buying large orange pumpkins in a few weeks to carve for Halloween.  I took this picture yesterday. It is about double this size today.

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First Batch!

First batch of Pickles

Organic Seed PacksFor this project, it feels like to story of the Little Red Hen. Not the part of the story where she does all the work but will not share at the end, since none of the other’s would help her. But more because getting to this point went through so many steps.

It started Back in March when I bought the organic seeds. In the omnibus pack of seeds there was a pack for pickling cucumbers. I had not planned on planting them, but through them into the germinator at the last minute. and wouldn’t you know, they sprouted.

Then in May when I plowed out the additional gardens at the end of my yard. Thanks to former boss and old pal Dave Lesser for the use of your rototiller. Come to think of it I had better return it.

Then there was protecting them from all the horrible dangers of a garden in our neighborhood. Rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, insane weeds, weeks of watering with no rain. Then the last 2 weeks of 5+ inches of rain.

Here are the Cucumber plantsAs of last night, we had picked about 45 cucumbers, and we have to start preparing them for winter (sounds pretty rustic).

I had wondered if there was something special about Pickling Cucumbers, making them different than regular cucumbers. I still do not know, but I did crunch down a wedge while we were preparing them and thought it tasted pretty good. And if I were to describe them, they do look like, well pickles.

So we started preparing the cucumbers for canning. And what a challenge it was finding a recipe. There are hundreds of recipes and variations available. We settled on a pretty simple recipe we found online.

We have not canned anything in a number of years (probably about 12). We used to make jams and jellies all summer long. We started doing it because my wife loves jelly, but most commercial jellies . . . suck. After Knott’s Berry Farm stopped shipping to the east coast, we needed another source. Over the years, we tried Strawberry, Blueberry, Sour Cherry, Peach, Raspberry and Blackberry. We also tried making juice Jelly – commercial juice out of a bottle.  We were kind of horrified when a “mixed berry” juice jelly became the favorite that we shared.

When I was growing up, we also had a concord grape vine in our backyard and would make grape juice and jelly annually. And I have to say the system my wife and I had was far easier and less messy than my Mom’s system for Grapes.

For Jellies, we also went to the trouble of heat sealing the lids, rather than using wax to seal them. Wax would have taken the process so over the edge with work we would never have kept it up. And so long as you have the right pots and utencils, it is pretty easy. Since we have them all, the process of jarring the pickles went pretty well.

As you see, that is 4 jars down. We have at least another 8 to go plus however many more we may want.

Also considering what we might want to do with the tomatoes, which should start coming in the next week or so. Spaghetti sauce? salsa? Stewed tomatoes?