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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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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!

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?

Another market last tuesday with some great visiting vendors – one offering fresh cut flowers by the stem and in arrangements. She also had the great idea to spray paint a mason jar with green chalkboard paint and put the arrangements in that. You don’t need a card when you can write “get well soon” on the jar! The second vendor was “the watermelon gang” as I keep calling them. They had a huge selection of different varieties of watermelons. Very fun.

Other than that, we’ve been canning. We picked 19 dozen ears of corn – all that was left – and made freezer corn and canned corn. 19 pints of canned and 20 2 cup freezer bags, 5 3 cup freezer bags, and corn chowder for supper that night ­čÖé

We also picked 17 gallons of Roma tomatoes that I will make into salsa and sauces. That starts tomorrow – oy vey!

However, the big news is: last night we popped our first ear of popcorn for this year. It was ready to pop from the field – amazing. This was the early maturing variety, Dakota Black Pop. We have to figure out a better strategy for shelling though, because this variety is spikey. Last year, Jordan shelled most of it barehanded, which won’t work with this.

It was SO DELICIOUS! So crispy, not that sticky feeling in your teeth, when you have to chew popcorn instead of crunch it. We didn’t even use salt or butter because it was so clean and light tasting. Mmmmmmmm. Fresh from the field popcorn is a GREAT experience.

We are eating┬ácantaloupe┬áeveryday right now – not a bad deal!! I feel like I should plant them staggered next year, because they are really coming all at once now. I picked 11 just today! We’ve already done 22 pints of salsa, and I plan to do another batch tomorrow morning along with another batch of salsa verde. I’ll post my recipes after I work out some kinks tomorrow. I also canned 25 pints of just tomatoes to cook with. We still haven’t even started canning/freezing corn.

But what you really need to know is that we have a “presence” in the garden. Creepy, YES! Check this guy/gal out!

Are you as freaked out as I am right now, because I’m CERTAIN that thing was born to KILL! It has occupied a spot very advantageous to its health and ever-increasing girth, right in the middle of the tomatoes. Every time we walk by, we scare up a bunch of grasshoppers and one will reliably get caught in its web. He runs down, wraps up the unlucky prey, and starts sucking its carcass dry. There is a pile of grasshopper carcasses below his web — eeeeek!!!! You can be sure that every tomato in this spider’s immediate vicinity will fall to the ground and rot before I consider reaching for it. While picking the tomatoes, I never let this guy out of my line of sight. I’m just certain that the moment I turn my back, he will rush me!!!!!

Jordan thinks it must be a pregnant female spider because it has gotten so┬ábulbous, but I’m not sure spider reproduction works that way….

Anyway, I’m fond of it, kind of like I’m fond of Breaking Bad — I like it, but I’m also pretty uncomfortable around it.

Speaking of bulbous, check out these butternut squash:

Just for comparison, I could easily hollow this out and wear it as a shoe. That would be a truly great pic. Soon they will get that lovely orange hue and be ready for eating.

During my online absence, we had Windfest here in Kulm. Here’s our really exciting float!!!:

We’ll work on making it even MORE exciting next year, but, as you can see, that probably won’t be possible. This picture really captures the excitement of the float by snapping the candy in mid-air! SO EXCITING! Did I say that yet??

PS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!!!!

Things have been so busy lately. Another market, a big trip to Jamestown for Alice’s first dentist appointment, canning, harvesting, meetings, parties, all those busy things in life.

We had another great market, and we were able to offer sweet corn. The first sweet corn is always a fun event! Here’s Alice picking for the market.

Jordan also took some time to harvest our garden wheat in seriously old-school fashion. We’re letting it dry down some more and then we’ll figure out how best to thresh it. We might get one loaf of bread out of it :). Here are some great pics he took of himself harvesting, which I think is hilarious.

The garden is LUSH these days. It seems like we are picking and eating more than tending. Tuesday I blanched and froze about 2 gallons of green beans. Alice’s job was to pick beets, and then yesterday I pickled 17 pints of them!

While we were working, Patty Bartle from the Edgeley Mail came and interviewed us about the farmers’ market we started in Kulm. It is in the current issue, so pick one up!

Lynda has also been pickling cucumbers like mad. See her current stats and some new recipes here. Cheers!

first ripe tomato

first ripe tomato

watermelon

watermelon

grasshopper damage – they eat thru the stalk

representative menace

onion, beet, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, turkey and cheddar

thank you sandwich gods!