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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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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.

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?

This past week, we did a lot of weeding, planted a second round of lettuce, beets, beans, and peas, and dealt with a seriously ill child, including making 1 and a half round trips (1 hour each way) to the ER. No fun, a lot of stress, but hopefully we’re out of the woods for a while, and the big umbrella of life that covers children, husband, garden, friends, family, community, and home will be normal for a while. I celebrated our return to normal by switching out our winter bedding for the lighter summer bedspread. What? That’s not celebrating? Well then why does it make me so happy?!

Just an update, we dodged the bullet. We actually had a threat of frost for the 29th and 30th, so covered both nights. It never really got to the ground though – some rooftops had frost when we woke up – but I’m still glad we covered it. Now time for the second round of lettuce, beets, carrots and onions, and plenty of weeding.