We’ve reached the point where, when people ask me how the garden’s going, I say something like, “Well, the plants are winning now.” This is very meaningful to you, if you have ever weeded by hand a 70×120 foot garden. When the plants start truly winning, they also start shading out the weeds that are still there, so the weeds don’t grow as much. It’s also a deep breath of relief because, hallelujah, it’s evident that you WILL get a crop out of this!

The peppers still seem slow however. They are taking part in the drip tape experiment, and I’m just not sure what’s going on. The only thing that makes me think we might still be ok is that it always seems like peppers surprise me. Suddenly they just go nuts and you’ve got jalepenos out your ears. I’m hoping for a big surprise. Until Saturday, we were also still worried about our yukon gold potatoes. I’m not sure what their deal is… we planted them at the same time as the pontiac reds, watered them the same, but look at the difference here (pontiacs on the right, yukon on the left).

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It is obvious the golds are fairing much worse. They didn’t even flower. So Lynda and I decided to dig one of the biggest ones to see if there was anything happening under the surface. Surprise!

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So, ok, don’t judge a plant by its “over” (ground… I’m trying to be clever here…). What’s weird though is that, as you can see, all the potatoes are clustered together very close to the surface. Usually they would be more spread out and go down deeper. We’ll see how they continue to develop. Let’s continue our tour of winning plants…

Spectacular lettuces, kohlrabi, squash are out of control, tomatoes (kids in tomato jungle), baby carrots – yum!, and these are the mere beginnings of our chinese noodle green beans. I’m pretty sure they need about a 10′ trellis rather than our measly 4′ chicken wire, but I guess we’ll see what happens and make adjustments next year. I planted these thinking they would be fun. They should grow beans about 20 inches long each. So is that like 1 serving of vegetables per bean??

Friday I harvested all our garlic. I thought they would be bigger, but I’m pleased regardless because they look so beautiful! From what I’ve read, they will need to cure like this for about 2 weeks before they are ready for long term storage.

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Where to begin?! I’m so far behind in posting it seems ridiculous to try to say it all. But hopefully this starts me back on track to keeping up a little better. We had our first farmers’ market of the year last Tuesday, July 2. Things aren’t that far along yet, so we were able to offer lettuce and garlic scapes as far as produce goes ;) But we bagged and sold popcorn from last year, and I made homemade noodles. And that adventure deserves a picture:

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I have to work out some packaging kinks, but they are darn good noodles, if I do say so myself! Special thanks to Karen Lindgren and my kiddos for their help, literally, cranking out the noodles!

We’ve had two sets of garden helpers already this year, which has been a huge blessing. Justin and Katie Fogel and Mohsen, Parisa, and Hamed Barkh each spent a day weeding with us, and it was incredible to see the difference a day of friendly help can make! THANK YOU FOR GIVING HELP IN EXCHANGE FOR GRATITUDE!! We love you guys!20130705-003710.jpg

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After his day in the garden, Mohsen threatened to write an article on the exploitation of immigrant workers when he returned to Vancouver. I told him he was whining and should get back to work. Here’s Mohsen and Hamed doing a great job! Jordan is supervising ;)

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Everything is planted, needless to say. We are a little larger this year, but mostly we are just making more effective use of the space, so there is more of everything. We tried a new method with peppers and tomatoes – plastic mulch and drip tape. It is fantastic!!! Warm warm soil, no weeding and very efficient water use. I’m expecting a bumper crop (fingers crossed!).

We also have had some deer trouble since Deets got run over last year (it happens). He was way more aggressive than Gus, who was recently kicked out of his barn living space by a tom cat. Come on, Gus, you’re a friggin dog! Start acting like it!!!! Look what the deer did to our FLAGS! WHAT??!

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So, every so often Jordan and Josh shoot bullets, or more recently fireworks, into the tree row where they live, and they’ve been backing off quite a bit.

We also put in some fruit trees: 2 plums and a cherry.

I also have 3 raspberry bushes that have had a very long stay in a few hanging pots, but NEED to be put in the ground… BADLY.

So, how’s that for some quick highlights? I hope not to wait so long to post again.

Peace.

I think the sprouts from last post must be getting me in the mood to start posting again. I fell off the wagon for so long, I suppose it feels good to be back, despite all my personal issues about blogging, such as there are millions, and the world DOES NOT need another string of random personal insights. I’m sorry to say, I believe the large majority of blogs should simply be personal journals. A personal journal, in those cases, would be more valuable to the blogger because of the privacy which allows for true authenticity, as well as the ability to shield themselves from who-knows-what might be done with their post in the future. Unfortunately, the world has forgotten the purpose and usefulness of this “very good” (similar-to-God’s-perspective-on-creation “good”) exercise and venue.

Nevertheless, our hopes for Glacier Gardens are large, and I feel like a blog is an important foundation for helping them come about. In our case, I view the blog as more a long-game marketing medium.

Moving on, here’s a super simple, super tasty breakfast casserole. We’re fortunate enough to get local, naturally-raised pork sausage from The Hermans (where we also butcher chickens and get our eggs), and we’re still using our frozen peppers from last year. They are so fantastic for any kind of cooking, but not for eating fresh. Today I tossed a handful on top of the casserole. Delicious!

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Easy Sausage & Egg Casserole

- Bread slices to cover bottom of pan
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1 lb (or less) sharp cheddar, grated
- 1 lb (or less) sausage, browned and drained
* optional: peppers, onions, or other veggies

Grease 9×13 pan. Line with bread. Sprinkle cheese over bread. Beat egg and milk; pour over cheese. Spread meat and veggies over top. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes, or until center is no longer runny.

I made a smaller casserole because today it’s just me and the kids for lunch.

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Also, I thought I’d show you a bag from my eggshell stash. Every time I make something that calls for more than one egg, I pull out the bag from the freezer and toss in the eggshells. I’ll put them in the ground under my tomatoes again, like last year.

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Last Saturday, April 6th, I started our tomato, pepper, and onion seeds. This morning we had our first sweet little greens emerge!

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Unfortunately, this is the other thing that sprang up today.

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ENOUGH ALREADY WITH THE SNOW!

…Because it’s so easy to post random stuff! For instance, I have been known to thaw a chicken on the radiator. You wouldn’t believe how handy it is. I got a wide shot so it would include the coincidental placement of Alice’s chicken.

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I can’t seem to get back to this blog over the gardening break; but I’ll be placing my seed order in the next few days, so there’s no denying it’s coming back soon! Thankfully, my mom sent a lengthy and positive review of the fruit relish I made last fall. So, here’s my guest contributor, Mary Liechty :)

I have the blessing of being the recipient of several great canned items from Glacier gardens. It doesn’t hurt that I’m the mother-in-law, mother, and grandmother of those that work coaxing bounty from that piece of earth.

Yesterday we had a gathering of family here in Texas, it was for the winter birthdays. We decided to do tacos, after all we do live in Texas. With our tacos I set out two items from Glacier garden. I had a jar of jalapeños. I also had a jar of fruit salsa.

No problem with jalapeños in Texas. They were heartily appreciated. The unexpected surprise was how much everyone loved the fruit salsa. I expected a few of the gals to try it. However, I was very surprised by the responses of the guys in the room.

Skeptical eyebrows went up as each took a “taste.” Then those eyebrows went up further as eyes widened while the fruity delight gave a new and refreshing experience. There was very little left at the end of the party. I saved it just because it was sooooo good.

We like our salsa hot and spicy in Texas. We like our tacos the same way. Yet, this chunky version with it’s sweet and tangy savor hit a cord here and was appreciated by all.

Can’t wait to see what the new planting produces.

I’m trying to imagine what this blog will be during the few months of complete garden inactivity. We are still working in the garden – yesterday Jordan was cleaning the garden of all rocks, markers, forgotten tools, twine, etc, to prepare it to be tilled before we get real snow cover. And as soon as the snow melts in the spring we will prepare the ground to be tilled again.

During those short, sometimes house-bound, months, we remember the bright green days of the garden at mealtime. There is a lot of satisfaction in carrying an armload of mason jars into the kitchen to prepare a meal, especially when the food is for friends and family who were part of your journey. They visit the garden, linger at the market to ask how everything’s going, listen to you talk about this or that specialty variety, maybe even help you weed once or twice.

So during the garden’s winter rest, perhaps this blog will veer slightly and follow the path parallel to the garden: the table.

 

 

Dry beans are great because they are so patient. You let them go while you have to feverishly harvest and preserve everything else, and then they just sit and wait until you are ready to thresh them. Thank you dry beans! You win the Produce Congeniality award.

We planted a small kidney bean called hidatsa red, which I planned from the beginning to let dry down. The butter beans were kind of a mistake – the limas were all ready at such a variety of times, and some seemed at different points even within the same pod. I have never grown limas so maybe I just need to adjust my expectations. But for the most part I decided it was too hard to babysit them to try and figure out when I could pick them, so I just let them dry down. Dry limas are called butter beans.

 

I wanted to thresh the beans outside, because I knew the chaff would be really messy, so on a 50ish degree day, I let Solveigh and Alice stomp them down to weaken the pods.

 

 

Then I rolled the kidney beans between my hands to break them down further. The lima bean pods were a lot tougher, so I actually shelled those one at a time (more about that later).

Beans are heavier than the chaff, so they fell to the bottom of the container, and I pulled off all the chaff.

There were still bits and pieces that needed to be winnowed out, so we set up a fan and poured them back and forth a few times.

 

Last step: poured them over a large screen and shook them a little.

BEAUTY!

A few days later, I did the lima/butter beans. The pods literally popped open like a spring hinge. Some were so dry when I picked them, they curled up on themselves. Crazy!

The pods didn’t make nearly as much mess as the kidney beans, so I just worked on them while we watched Breaking Bad for a few nights. We’ve got lots of good pots of chili ahead!

Mentally, I wasn’t ready to plant again, but the seed garlic arrived and had to go in. Garlic needs a few weeks to get a start. Then it goes dormant over the winter and comes up in the spring! I’ve never grown it before, so, like so many other things, this will be another experiment.

I planted the garlic on Monday and today went to take a few pictures and cover the garlic. It is really cold this week, but will mellow out again next week; so I decided to cover the garlic to keep it warmer for a few days.

Good morning! Yes, that is snow on the ground.

And here’s our dead dead garden.

Today I cleaned up the carrots. I canned carrots last year and used them in stews and roasts. But the fact is, fresh garden carrots are just plain best. We didn’t have as many as last year anyway, so I got a tip from my friend Yvonne on how to keep them fresh. Cut the greens off the top, wash them well, dry them well and pack them in ziploc bags with some paper towels to soak up excess moisture. We’ll see how long they keep, but I think we’ll probably eat them all before they have a chance to go bad.

Ideally, you could set them outside for a few minutes in the hot prairie wind, but it was overcast and cold, so I used technology.

By the way, anyone who thinks a “leggy” carrot is weird has never eaten a homegrown, garden carrot — it’s very common. Warning: liberal propaganda ahead — We have been taught to believe what we find in the grocery story is normal and everything else is inferior or a malformed attempt at perfection. Boooo hegemony! Whew, glad I got that out of my system.

Ready to eat in my crisper drawer!

Like can so often happen in North Dakota, winter creeps in before its natural time. It will put the brakes on all your late spring excitement and slam you with a blizzard in the middle of May, or before you’ve even thought about what the kids will wear for Halloween, BAM, a freeze in the middle of September. This does not seem too crazy to anyone living in North Dakota. To a native Texan, it was a difficult adjustment.

The early freeze happened September 21, but was first predicted Sept 17. Monday the 17th I decided, since we had two markets that week – 18th and 22nd – we might as well just pick it all, because you definitely can’t cover as much as we still had going. I started harvesting about 10am and didn’t finish until 6pm. Jordan helped by digging all the carrots (which wouldn’t have been hurt by the freeze, but they were shouldering out of the ground and needed to be dug), picking cucumbers, pulling pimiento plants, and cutting the squash vines (for which you practically need a hand saw). Here’s the helpful hubby. Babe, you make that carrot look good!

Here’s the final visual tally of amazing delicious produce picked in one day!

Yes, I just piled the melons into the floor of my car. What about it?! And the eggplants in the first picture are stacked on top of a second bucket of bell peppers. The final shot is of a few pounds of lima beans, which deserve a post of their own, but I will let that wait for another day.

We pulled the pimiento plants because you can hang them upside down in a cool dry place, and the peppers will redden/ripen one at a time. It has been working so far! Check out these fibrous roots.

One more thing to mention!!! We walked into the garden and could not find our busy garden spider. A little looking found her on the other side of the same plant, but since she moved I was able to get a picture of all that was left of the grasshoppers she has been feasting on.

Can you see them? Apparently, the only inedible part of a grasshopper is its thigh! Funny, you’d think they would have a lot of meat in them. Pesky exoskeleton?

Now that all the markets are done for the year, I’m trying to preserve at least one thing everyday so I can get through all the stuff we have left before it gets over-ripe. Today I canned apple pie filling. Check out the new recipe I posted for when a jar doesn’t seal: What Can You Do With This Vegetable?

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