• Tag Archives potatoes
  • Yet.

    Imbolc                                                                   Bloodroot Moon

    Snow came in the night.  Maybe 2 inches.  Freshened up the landscape, pushed back the melting time.  Last year today it was 73, ruining my vision of the north, turning it into a slushy Indiana/Ohio/Illinois.  Climate change stealing my home.  It disoriented me, made me feel like a stranger in a strange, yet strangely familiar, land.  Now.  30 degrees.  8 inches of snow.  Home again.

    A book on my shelf, important to me:  Becoming Native to This Place.  The idea so powerful.  One so necessary for this nature starved moment, as the pace of the city as refuge lopes toward its own four minute mile.  Cities are energy, buzz, imagination criss-crossing, humans indulging, amplifying, renewing humanness but.  But.

    All good.  Yes.  Yet.

    That stream you used to walk along.  The meadow where the deer stood.  You remember.  The night the snow came down and you put on your snowshoes and you walked out the backdoor into the woods and walked quietly among the trees, listening to the great horned owl and the wind.  The great dog bounding behind you in the snow, standing on your snowshoes, making you fall over and laugh.  Remember that?

    There was, too, that New Year’s Day.  Early morning with the temperature in the 20s below zero and another dog, the feral one, black and sleek, slung low to the ground, went with you on the frozen lake, investigating the ice-fishing shacks, all alone, everyone still in bed from the party the night before but you two walked, just you two and the cold.

    Before I go, I also have to mention those potatoes.  The first year.  Reaching underneath the earth, scrabbling around with gloved fingers.  Finding a lump.  There.  Another.  And another.  And another.  The taste.  Straight from the soil.  With leeks and garlic.  Tomatoes, too, and beets.  Red fingers.  The collard greens.  Biscuits spread with honey from the hive.

  • Making Pot Pies

    Fall                                                       Waxing Autumn Moon

    We had our final straight from the garden meal last night.  Roasted potatoes, onions, fennel, carrots and a lone beet.  Raspberries for dessert.  Marinated chicken for protein, not from here.

    Today I cut up the leeks, cooked some chicken breasts, carrots, celery, peas and corn (none of these ours), and cooked the leeks in salt water for five minutes.  After shredding the chicken, a roux thickened the broth with the vegetables.  The shredded chicken went in the pie crust, then the leeks (our own), and after that the thickened broth and vegetables.

    A rolled out pie crust for a top to the pies and they went in the oven.  4 chicken/leek pot pies, frozen now, treats we can have when we get back from South America along with raspberry pie.

    Had an aha about our garden while cutting up the leeks.  We’re not feeding ourselves in any significant way with our garden, though we do eat several meals a year with our own produce and fruit.  What we can grow, and the leeks, garlic, heirloom tomatoes and heirloom potatoes are good examples, are specialty vegetables that, even if we wanted them, probably wouldn’t be available and would certainly not be available fresh from the garden.

    We preserve tomatoes, store potatoes and onions, garlic and honey.  Kate makes currant jam and wild grape jelly.  We have raspberry pies frozen and now the chicken/leek pot pies.  We also freeze chard and spinach.  Our garden supplements our diet in ways that would not be possible without it.

    It also gives us a joint project, a place we can work together, while keeping us in touch with the Great Wheel and the ways of the vegetative world.  We get a lot from our garden.

  • The Final Harvest

    Fall                                                Waxing Autumn Moon

    Going out today to collect the rest of the rest of the harvest.  A few potato plants I missed the first time around remain.  Leeks, those Musselberg Giants.  Some carrots, some chard.  Beans.  Rain has appeared in the forecast for the first time in weeks.  A good thing, but it reduces the clear days for harvesting and mulching.

    When I get those leeks inside, chicken and leek pot pies come next.  I’ll use carrots and maybe a potato or two.

    Still no news from Saudi Arabia.  The weather has cooled down in Riyadh, only 93 today.

    Been pushing to finish the fourth book of Game of Thrones, but will have to give up on ending it before the cruise.  Too many words, not enough hours.  I’ll have to finish it in a deck chair. Darn.

  • A Melancholy Garden

    Fall                                                  Waxing Autumn Moon

    In spite of the 80 degree plus weather it felt like a fall day outside.  The sky blue, the clouds white, the sun weak.

    Collected the potatoes.  After Mark carried the harvest inside, I put the potatoes on slatted wooden shelves that slide into our root crop storage system.  They went into the garage stairwell for a couple of weeks of higher humidity curing, after which they will return to the pantry and await their turn in the pot.

    The garden beds have begun to empty out.  Most of the tomato plants are down, the garlic left in July, carrots, for the most part, harvested.  The major crop still left in the ground is the leeks.  These are Musselburg Giants and they have grown thick and tall, dark green leaves on top, so much thicker than those pencil lead thin plants I started in the hydroponics.

    Fall gardens have a melancholy feel.  Plant matter turned brown, fruits and vegetables collected and eaten or stored.  In northern climates a garden’s year has its temperature controlled limits, after mid-September growth slows and begins to stop.

    By October most things have stopped growing altogether.  By November even the hardiest plants have either disappeared underground with food stored for the winter or given up struggling with the cold nights.


  • The Late Summer Garden

    Lughnasa                                                          Waning Honey Extraction Moon

    Working in the late summer garden.  Those creepy pre-beetle organisms continue to gnaw on my potato plants and I gnaw right back.  So far the invasion has not gained a significant beach head thanks to soapy water and the occasional visit to prune out bugs.  Parts of the garden where harvest has happened need to be weeded and green manure sowed.  That’s a weekend task.  The onions didn’t do too well this year.  I think the bed they’re in just doesn’t get enough sun anymore.

    Our tomatoes have matured or are close, but we’ve only had a few ripe ones so far.  Too cool.

    Kate planted decorative squash.  I took some time to look at them today.  Their tendrils reach out and grasp other branches, stalks, leaves, curl around them and seal themselves off.  These tendrils though look like springs and function like springs.  They give the squash plant some give as winds and rain put tension on the various connections.  It was easy to see how a clever blacksmith could have looked at this plant and been inspired.

    With the vegetable garden in a slow period we returned to the three tiered garden in our patio area.  I worked there for an hour and a half or so this morning and it felt like being with an old friend.  I’ve spent many hours on my hands and knees among these plants, each one of which I put in the ground myself.  Well, not the trees and the dogwood, but everything else excepting Kate’s squash and zucchini.


  • Pick and Plan Eating

    Mid-Summer                                                        Waxing Honey Flow Moon

    Kate and I have decided on a pick and plan eating method.  That is, we’ll pick fresh vegetables, then build a meal around what we have.  I picked this morning, for example, green beans, beets, golden and bull’s blood, lettuce, dill, and 7 garlic bulbs.  We still have onions from an earlier harvest, so there’s the basics for our lunch or dinner tonight.  In addition Mark has picked hundreds, maybe thousands of currants and Kate spent yesterday starting the preservation work.  She’s test drying some, making jams and jellies.  We’re well into the first significant harvest period though we have had strawberries, lettuce, kale, spinach and onions already.

    The tomatoes I started inside, which looked puny early in the season have grown tall and begun to bloom.  That means we’ll get heirloom tomatoes in addition to the two store bought plants.  Through integrated pest management I’ve beaten back the yucky scourge Colorado beetles on the potatoes .  Boy are they gross.  Little fat jabba the hut creatures until they get their wings. The leeks have begun to thicken, not much, but some.  The potatoes have blooms and that signals the beginning of tuber growth underground.  Lots of onions getting bigger, carrots, too.

    Big-Stone Mini-Golf deserves its own entry and I’ll get to that either later today or tomorrow.

  • Bee and Garden Diary

    Mid-Summer                                                                                          Waning Garlic Moon

    Today I performed partial hive box reversals in all three colonies.  The second hive box of three gets rotated to the bottom and the first or bottom box rotates up to take its place.  This means that all the hive boxes have to be moved, so it is a labor intensive activity, especially so now that some honey has begun to be stored.  One hive box was very heavy, my back a bit reluctant.  Having done that I checked the top box on colony 1 and the top two honey supers in colonies 2 and 3.  None of these have much honey.

    Since I put queen excluders on 2 and 3, I pulled those off, intending to leave them off for a couple of days.  At the hobby bee-keeper meetings I’m told this is a common way to get the bees to move up into the honey supers.  I’ll put the queen excluders back on maybe Wednesday.  Since I reversed the bottom and second hive boxes, there’s not much chance the queen will get up there.

    So far the bee season seems to have hurdled the early cold and rain and settled into a more normal pattern.

    The potatoes and leeks both have mounds around their stalks now, blanching for the leeks and more space for the potato plants to produce tubers.  A lot of gardening tasks are very time sensitive and these were among them.  When the potato plants flower (now), they begin to set the tubers.  As the leeks grow, only the parts covered by soil will blanch, turn white, and be useful for cooking.  As the young apples begin to grow, the bags have to go on before the apple maggots come out to play.  Also now.

    The bees, too, require definite care and different kinds of care all through early spring and summer, then less attention around now, when the honey flow begins.  Later in August will come extraction, then preparation of colony 1 for overwintering.  Gonna try one more time.  Colonies 2 and 3 will move out near the truck lane, into the sunny part.  That’s for next year.

    Our tomato plants started from seed have begun to mature, though they are far behind the two plants Kate bought at the green barn.  Those plants have blooms and green tomatoes.  It remains to be seen whether we’ll get any tomatoes from the others.

    We’ve harvested one full planting of spinach, several of lettuce, some sugar snap peas and just this week, lots of strawberries.  We have onions, carrots, beets, more lettuce and spinach, plus pole and bush beans all underway.  There are cherries and plums in the orchard in addition to the apples and the raspberry canes are in good mid-season form.  We’re going to have a good season as we continue to learn how to use our garden to complement and supplement what we buy at the grocery store.

  • In the Garden

    Beltane                                                                           New  Garlic Moon

    One of those nights last night, unable to get to sleep, still rolling around awake at 1:00 a.m.  Up a little bleary.  Wrote  few e-mails, then out in the orchard, first.  I’ve had tent caterpillars on two trees.  Each time I have removed the tent and stepped on it or crushed the worms.  This is non-chemical pest control, a route I prefer and, as long as I’m not running a commercial operation, one I can pursue.

    Now I wander in the orchard, looking at seed pods (fruit) beginning to develop from the last of the blossoms which dropped this week.  I’ll try to find worms and moths before they do 2011-05-17_0805early-spring-2011damage and as long as I can I’ll follow pinch and destroy.  After that, I think, right now anyway, that I’ll go with Gary Reuter, the bee rangler for Marla Spivak.  I’ll just put up with wormy apples.  This is partly out of regard for the bees who have enough pressure of them and they don’t need an added pesticide load from our orchard, but it’s more out of a commitment to no pesticides, grow strong plants and let them fend for themselves.  It’s worked reasonably well for me so far.

    (before the fall)

    After the orchard the potatoes were next.  Now that the soil has warmed up the potatoes have begun to grow, their dark lobe shaped leaves appearing atop a fragile looking stalk.  At this point the basics of potato culture involves mounding earth over the stalk as it grows.  That’s what I did today.  In the long raised bed where I have most of the potatoes this year, I also have a bumper crop of asiatic lilies and tulips.

    I planted this bed originally as a cutting garden, years ago.  The same fall the bed was built I went out to the Arboretum to a lily growers sale and bought Minnesota hardy bulbs.  They’ve been in that bed ever since, maybe 10 years.  Boy, have they enjoyed that bed.  They’ve started lilies all over the place.  That means that as I mound the potatoes I have to move around the lily bulbs that have generated.  I hate to just throw them away because they’re so hardy and have been with me so long.  I’m trying right now to raise vegetables and flowers in the same bed.  That’s also worked reasonably well for me.06-28-10_earlylilies

    I also mounded the leeks as my last action in the garden this morning.  In the case of leeks the mounding blanches the stalk, keeps it white underground and increases the usable part of the leek.

    That done, I’ve come inside to work on my Latin.  Pentheus, now, Book III:509-to the end.

  • A Garden, Some Latin, Ai Weiwei

    Beltane                                                     New Last Frost Moon

    The potatoes are in the ground.  The lettuce has two leaves, as does the spinach, a few beets have emerged.  The leeks look a bit droopy, but they’ll pick up.  The garlic is well over 6 inches now as it makes the final push for harvest in late June, early July.  None of the carrots have germinated yet and most of the beets have not either. The onion sets we planted havecropped-free-ai-weiwei mostly begun to show green.  The bees show up now around the property, working as we do, tending the plants in their own, intimate way.  The gooseberries we transplanted look very healthy.  The daffodils are a carpet of yellow and white.  A few scylla out front brighten up the walk with their blue.

    Most of today went into Diana and Actaeon.  I’m down to verse 227, the finish line is 250.  I’m close and moving faster now than I was.  One of the things I’ve learned is that doing this at a pace which would allow you to complete a project in a reasonable time frame would require real skill.  I’m a hobby Ovidist, to be a Latin scholar would take decades.  Who knows though?  I might make it.  When I finish this first tale in the Metamorphosis, I’m going to have some kind of celebration.

    Buddy Mark Odegard has come up with three remarkable designs for a Free Ai Weiwei t-shirt.   Here’s an example and the one most seem to prefer:

  • The Early Growing Season

    Spring ( it even looks like spring today!)                             Waning Bee Hiving Moon

    This morning or early this afternoon I pull the grass out of the entrance reducers and the bees will be free to navigate from their new home.  Tomorrow I’ll check on the hive to see if the bees have remained focused in the middle of the hive box.  Otherwise the newbees have the run of the grounds and the air around here.  From now through fall we’ll be engaged in a delicate dance, first to prevent swarming, then to encourage adequate honey supplies for winter, then, if possible, production of surplus honey for sale.

    One colony will receive the traditional treatment with three hive boxes, reversed and prepared for winter.   The other two get another hive box and after that, supers.  I’m trying to gauge how much sense it makes to struggle with overwintering since the odds seem stacked against it.

    Veggies go in the ground, today, too, seeds and a few transplants–leeks, in particular.  Yesterday I moved the tomato seedlings to larger pots.  The seed potatoes are in a kitchen window, eyes beginning to bulge.  On Tuesday or Wednesday, I’ll cut the potatoes into chunks, each with an eye, then wait a day or two for a callous to form.  After that, in they go.

    At that point the bees will be in their first week, all the vegetables with the exception of the post-frost plantings will be in the ground and the garden will have assumed its early growing season form.  At some point, too, I have to get out and work in the flower beds, the gardening that used to occupy all my efforts.  Now the perennial beds are established and I understand the patterns and problems they have.  Flowers are not as labor intensive as vegetables.