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?

The last few days have been full of canning. Salsa, salsa verde, tomato juice, tomatoes, tomato sauce with meat, pizza sauce, tomato relish. I’m sure you’re noticing a pattern. We picked about 20 gallons of tomatoes last monday (sept 3), so they HAD to be used.

I’ve been going over to Jordan’s great-aunt Esther’s house to can in her basement kitchen. Wow, wouldn’t that be handy to have? Well, it’s actually pretty nice to have one at someone else’s house, because then they can babysit your kids while you work!

 

So here’s the “laboratory”

Hmm, too conspicuous? How about this:

See? Great right?! So, I did A LOT of tomatoes, but I thought maybe a show-and-tell on tomatillos was in order. They are actually related to the gooseberry. I’ve read a lot of sites that say to wait to harvest until the fruit fills the paper lantern (as I like to call it). But I think you probably shouldn’t wait that long. Basically, if you feel something solid with a gentle squeeze of the paper lantern, you can pick. Here they are before husking:

 

And after:

As you can see, they are all different sizes and shades, but all ready to be picked. When you husk them, you’ll feel a sticky substance on the fruit. Rinse that before cooking. Then I cut mine in half and put them in a big roasting pan along with quartered onions, stemmed jalapenos and whole garlic cloves.

Roast for about 20 mins then put it all in a blender. Add salt, a little vinegar, and cilantro to taste, water bath for 30 mins and you’re done. That’s like the easiest salsa ever.

Here’s an image-of-caution on keeping your jars hot before putting in the boiling water bath:

Yeah, that was fun to clean up.

I also created a recipe that might change your mind about eggplant. See that in the wcydwtv page.

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!!!!!

It’s all fun and games at the plucking station. (see my first butchering post here)

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!