Last Garden Update for 2012

We got the last of our crops out of the garden today – sweet potatoes. We had planted different types: white, red and orange yam.  We filled up the entire four wheeler and will let the potatoes dry for a day or so, before sorting and storing them in a friend’s cooler.

We also pulled out all the irrigation lines and the plastic which we used this year.  Jeff used the potato digging plow and ran it along each row edge, which loosened the plastic enough so that Lars and Tina were able to pull it out easily. 

We disked half the garden, and then made a row at the one side to plant garlic.  This is the first time we are planting garlic in the fall – previously we only used the fast-growing, single season, type.  We had ordered two different types of garlic:

  • California Early, an artichoke-type, softneck garlic  (8 oz)
  • German Extra Hardy, a purple striped-type rocambole – hardneck garlic (16 oz)
  • Music, a porcelain type hardneck garlic (16 oz)

We had enough garlic for 2/3 of a row… so possibly we’ll find something else to finish off the row before winter.

Tina also finished cleaning up the strawberry rows – getting them ready for the winter.  Just need to cover them with straw yet.

Garden Update – September 8

We are coming rapidly toward the end of harvest time.  This week we canned our last batch of spaghetti sauce and our tomatoes are pretty much done.  We dug the remaining potatoes and started digging up some sweet potatoes.

Working on the second cutting of herbs and we’ve been drying a lot of mint, some rosemary and more oregano as well.

We still have a few onions, melons, green peppers, carrots and parsnips, as well as some pumpkins.

White Sweet Potatoes

Pumpkins and Potatoes

We mowed off our potato patch to get ready for digging and found several pumpkins within the weeds.  Our pumpkin vines have been very prolific this year and some stretch the entire width of our garden.  Jeff smashed quite a few stray pumpkins while mowing, but the orange ones caught his attention and were “saved”.  They now decorate our kitchen door.

We only dug a bushel of potatoes today – enough for all our visitors to take some home and a side dish for tomorrow’s pig roast.  There are still plenty of potatoes and pumpkins to harvest.

Garden Update August 18

  • Corn:

Still working on our sweet corn. Unfortunately we kind of lost track of our harvest numbers. But at least we know what we froze so far:

  • 180 quarts of corn for our family
  • 140 quarts we helped family/friends

We have also sold some corn and given more away to neighbors and friends – we just don’t know how many dozen – or even wagonloads… Oh well, we do know that we are over half done with the corn.  Our Silver King variety is ripening now, and our best guesstimate is that we have at least 300+ dozen of this.  We actually put an add on Craigs List this morning, just to see what might happen.  We had 2 calls so far 🙂

  • Tomatoes:

We are on our 4th batch of spaghetti sauce, and there are still loads of tomatoes left.  We’ll just keep plugging away at them.

  • Melons:

Never ever grew such nice melons before.  We think it may be the plastic that we used, as all our viney plants did much better this year (sweet potatoes and pumpkins are going nuts).  We have amazing cantaloupes and very tasty watermelons – every day! 

  • Grapes:

Our Chambourcin grapes are ripening nicely.  We took some sample grapes from different vines, smashed them, and then used our refractometer to figure out the sugar content:  It is currently 17% Brix, so definitely getting closer to picking time – we think about 2 weeks or so.

Shrub & Zucchini Bread

  • Blackberries:

Made one last batch of Jeff’s Shrub recipe, with lots of lemon.  Turned out very tasty.

  • Other:

Still picking potatoes (did not harvest them yet, we just dig out what we need for dinner).  We have lots of onions, which we get for our spaghetti sauce, and as needed.  Have lots of herbs, especially basil, which we use for different recipes.  Started cleaning/weeding both blueberry patches  – nearly done with those and ready for mulching later on.  Also still grilling zucchini for dinner and using them for zucchini bread.

Efficiently Processing Sweet Corn for Freezing

For years we have been processing our corn outside – from start to finish, keeping the sticky mess out of the house.  We save a lot of time and energy by setting up “stations” to move the corn through our “production cycle”.

Our goal is to get the corn picked and blanched in the fasted time possible – the longer the corn sits around after picking, the more of its sugar content will turn to starch.  So while half the team goes out into the field to pick sweet corn, the other half gets the stations ready for processing in a shady spot in the back yard.

Station # 1:  Husking and Brushing
We set up several chairs (depending on how large our group is), a wheelbarrow and old clothes baskets for the husks, and  several buckets turned upside down for keeping sharp knifes and brushes.  (Knives for cutting out bad spots, soft brushes to remove extra silks.)  We also have a couple of large stainless steel bowls ready for the ears of corn. 

Station # 2:  Blanching and Cooling
For this station we have a patio table, a turkey fryer with propane (we use a heavy duty burner, like the kind you would use for making beer), a large pot with basket insert (usually comes with a turkey fryer), the gadget to lift out the basket from the pot and potholders.  We have stacks of dish-towels to cover up the husked corn bowls.  This station also has several large tubs and coolers, as well as a water hose with shut-off valve at the end, and several bags of ice on hand to help keep the water cool.  We also have colanders with bowls ready.

Station # 3:  Cutting Corn off the Cob
Another patio table that can easily be washed off with a water hose, covered with thick towels and another stack of dishtowels.  Several sharpened knives and a steel are on hand, as well as more stainless steel bowls or pots.  Also have empty buckets for the left-over cobs.

Station # 4:  Bagging
Depending on how many people are helping, we either set up another patio table or we use the table for the blanching station.  For bagging, we use quart size freezer bags, a measuring cup and a canning funnel – as well as broiler pans or trays for moving the bags to the freezer.

As soon as the first load of corn arrives (back of the four-wheeler  or on a small wagon), the first group starts husking.  At this point, we start filling the pot with water and bring it to a boil.  Meanwhile, all the tubs get filled with cold water as well. We move filled bowls of husked corn to the blanching station, where about a dozen ears of corn get blanched at a time.  As soon as the corn is blanched, it gets dumped into the first tub of water.  While the next batch is being blanched, we move the cooled ears of corn from tub to tub, adding ice to keep the water cold.  The faster we can cool down the corn after blanching, the better.  No corn leaves the cooling tubs until it sinks to the bottom and is very, very cold. We usually dump out the first tub and refill it frequently – while we may just add ice to the other tubs, making sure the water stays very cold. Then the corn gets moved into colanders, with bowls underneath and carried to the cutting table, where it sits to drain-covered with a dishtowel.  Once the corn drains off, we just lay them on the towel covered table – again covering our piles with dishtowels to keep flies and falling leaves off.  The corn is cut off the cob into large bowls.  As soon as we have a bowl full, it goes to the bagging station – where we usually use 4 cups of corn per quart size bag.  We use actual measuring cups to fill each bag – and we use a canning funnel (the kind that has a large bottom opening to fit on a quart jar) to get the corn into each bag without making a mess.  We squeeze out any extra air and zip the bag shut.  As soon as we have 10 bags filled, we carry them to one of our freezers.  (that way we can kind of keep track of how many bags we filled).  We spread out the filled bags across different freezer shelves – and several freezers, never more than 2 bags high – to make sure that the corn freezes quickly.  If the corn is not cold when it is bagged, and too much new corn is placed in the freezer at the same time, there is a definite risk of spoiling – the corn will turn sour before freezing – which will be a sad surprise later on.

We froze over 50 quart sized bags this weekend, and sold an additional 75+ dozen.