Search This Blog

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Homesteading Update, 07 August 2011

Things are cranking along in the homesteading department.  I wish I could report that we're having a bumper crop of everything this year, but since I put the garden behind the coop in priorities this summer, and then lost all the chicks to lameness or being roosters, we haven't had a bumper crop of anything this year.  We're not even having the usual bumper crop of spiders that we usually get, which is pretty weird, actually.  Maybe it hasn't been hot enough for them.

In the good news department, though, we are getting strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries.  I went with Tristar, which seems to be a pretty popular variety up here and I haven't been disappointed.

I was originally going to go with a June-bearing variety, but changed my mind at the last minute, and I'm glad I did.

Yesterday for breakfast we had fresh ground whole wheat blueberry pancakes with strawberries.  The blueberries came from the back yard as well.  It was pretty decadent and I'd do it again.

The French filet green beans have been pretty good to us as well. There are only ten plants in the bed but they seem to be yielding pretty well, and we've been eating a lot of beans.

I especially like them with spaetzle and bacon and butter and a healthy sprinkling of Penzey's Bavarian seasoning. It reminds me of the Birdseye Bavarian Style green beans to which I had an addiction before I couldn't find them anymore.  What a bizarre substance on which to be strung out.

Last weekend (I think it was last weekend- they're starting to run together these days) I harvested all the garlic and the shallots.  This was the allium harvest for 2011 (not counting the onions, which are a long way off from being ready).

The garlic were one crop in the yard that seems to have thrived on neglect.  I'd water them only occasionally, but that's also because we had a lot of rain this spring and early summer. But I also left them in the ground a month longer and I only planted the large cloves around the outsides of the heads.  This year I planted the same soft neck variety I did last year, Oregon Blue, largely because they were grown at home last year, and a hard neck variety called Music that was recommended to me by Danni over at On The Way to Critter Farm. I must say, the cloves are HUGE.  Everybody in the garlic family is now dealt with and drying out for the season.  I think I'll be trying the Italian garlic soup recipe this autumn.

The shallots are much stronger grown at home than any I've ever purchased at the store or at a farmers market.  A lot of them put out flower stalks, but there were more that didn't, and so they're much more storable.  I've since learned that you do to shallots what you do to hard neck garlic that send out scapes; you cut them off, so that the plant throws its energy into making more bulb.  But I've left the remainder with flowers in the beds for the bees, which seem to really like them.  Actually, I'm thinking about letting the bees keep all the honey this year because I had a lot of allium and brassica flowers and I hate to think what that honey must taste like!

And take a look at my onions.  Last year I grew onions from seed and the alternately warm and cool periods during our whacky spring tricked them into thinking they'd been through a winter and most of them threw up a flower stalk and attempted to set seed, which basically renders them un-storable.  This year, I planted seed again, but they didn't do so well next to the kale.  But I still wanted onions to grow and store, so I took a hint from my friend Rae and bought a bunch of onion sets from Wilco.  The sets were planted in July.  Now look at them!  They are the onions on the left.  They're bigger than the onions that I started from seed, which are on the right.  The only thing I don't like about starting onions from sets is that you're not starting from seed, which you could have presumably saved yourself.  I think the thing to do here is figure out how to grow your own onion sets, because in my part of the world, they seem to be the thing to do, especially as our springs get longer and cooler and the summers get shorter and cooler.  At this stage of their growth, I can't predict how big the onions will be, but it's part of the whole experiment that my garden is.

The cooler summer hasn't been doing my pepper and eggplants any favors, either, and the tomatoes are still a long way off, but at least they appear to be covered in fruit.  I don't think I'll be getting a bumper harvest of them, either, but I should be able to put up some sauce at the end of the summer.

Then yesterday, we had the winter's firewood delivered.  The last couple of years we've burned one cord of wood (mixed soft and hardwoods) and one pallet of Bear bricks.  Last year's Bear bricks were made by a contracted outfit and they were larger and banded in plastic, and they made a huge mess in addition to being harder for me to pick up and manage.  So I am done with Bear bricks.  This year I ordered two full cords of mixed hardwoods, and it was a great deal. For twenty dollars more than the place I usually deal with (Grimm's), I got two cords of fully seasoned mixed hardwoods; the other place would sell me hard and softwood.  So I'll probably be dealing with Dean's Innovations until such time as we have our own pickup truck.


turned into this

and this

and this.

Will it last the whole winter?  That's a good question.  One cord of mixed soft and hardwoods and a pallet of Bear bricks didn't last the whole winter; in fact, we ran out of fuel at the end of January.  But it will be interesting to see how long the fuel lasts this way.  I'll report on that next spring.

And this morning I finished shelling the dried peas. The peas were something that got neglected but that didn't go to waste.  I should get two batches of pea soup out of this.

So the summer hasn't been a complete waste, and although it could have been better, I seem to be salvaging some of it.  I'm a long way off from self-sufficiency, however, it's better than doing nothing at all.

With that said, I need to go finish putting away the last of the firewood, and finish cleaning up the garage.  The solar water heater folks are coming this week!


Holly House said...

gardening setbacks can be a hard pill to swallow, but that firewood will be a sweet reward all winter long! Can't wait to see what else you harvest!

Miriam said...

Our onions haven't been particularly impressive this year. We haven't harvested the yet because I keep hoping the bulbs will get just a bit bigger, but the tops are now almost all lying down, so I think it's time for me to give up wishful thinking and start harvesting! Funny how results can be so different from year to year.

I am very interested to hear more about how the solar hot water works for you - keep us posted!

Rae said...

Congrats on the strawberries! Ours also did well this year (the ones we transplanted from my friend's garden).

Have you figured out where you're gonna get your pullets? Is the coop all finished? You may need to come out and see these birds of yours to the freezer sooner than later... Ethel waits at the coop door morning and night, and has ambushed and bitten me more than once (bitten, not pecked, bitten, hard) and the other two are trying to pass their genes around whenever Dunderhead (what I named our stupid rooster) isn't looking. If Dunder catches them at it, he rips out a beakful of their feathers. :)

Onions... Ya know, back in California, we had no problem starting from seed. Here though, with this screwy weather and short season, I swear by sets. Only way I can get mature onions! :) Glad they're growing well!

Holy cow on the wood delivery! Wow! That's a lot of stacking!

morgaineotm said...

Green tomatoes will make a fabulous relish. Definately was a hit last year and am looking forward to more this year! Onions that won't store can be dried, ditto with garlic. Hardwoods will last longer than soft, so you may get the full year from the two cords. We burned about 3 as our sole source of heat when we lived in northern NJ. Start your onion seeds in pots or the garden and when they get to a particular size, you pull them out and set them aside. Onion sets. Onion from seeds will probably take a year to 1-1/2 to give you onions. I've got sets going from seeds and the Egyptian onions all over. IN a few months, they'll go into beds for harvest next year.

John said...

Looks like you still have a nice crop. I am very impressed by your garlic and onions! Everything we have that has been out of the greenhouse is slow, except for lettuces. This cool weather is at least good for that. I have complete faith in your abilities and I do love all your garden entries. keep up the good work!


Paula said...

Thanks, everyone! Rae- I'll call you about this weekend.

click clack gorilla said...

Wow, looking good. I'm jealous. My strawberry plants bore no fruit, all of my garlic plants died, and my tomatoes still aren't ripe, even though the rest of my gardening friends in other parts of the world are telling tales of huge bowls of salsa. Mmmm.