garden

Autumn Chores

As I look at the last post date, I truly have two choices to make. I could feel bad about how ridiculously long it has been since I last shared farm news, OR I could share some updates and forget the first part! I choose the later. 

Back to school and fall harvest equal a mountain of tasks that I wouldn't even be able to list had I not captured some of them on camera. We've celebrated the arrival of two new calves this last week, harvested enormous quantities of vegetables and fruits, canned, saved seeds, bottle fed our two precious pygmy goats almost to complete independence, prepared the bees for winter, and did I mention start school and survive soccer season? 

Three generations- Patch the bull, baby brother Buddy the bull and mama Snow White.

Three generations- Patch the bull, baby brother Buddy the bull and mama Snow White.

Are you ready? I don't even know if I am! I have so many pictures to share, it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps the best conclusion is... the realization that I can quickly share the snapshots now and then share the nuts and bolts of these projects over the upcoming winter months. Fall is upon us farm friends. Instead of an overwhelming declaration of information all in one sitting, I will plan to share more as the upcoming nights grow longer. 

Seed Saving

Zucchini

Pumpkins

Our annual pumpkin pick down the driveway proved quite successful this year. The bees did an amazing job cross pollinating and providing a crowd pleasing variety.

Our annual pumpkin pick down the driveway proved quite successful this year. The bees did an amazing job cross pollinating and providing a crowd pleasing variety.

Grapes

Thanks to the thoughtful planning of Grandma and Papa Klann before us, we have three varieties of grapes growing on the farm. One small seedless variety that melt in your mouth and two seeded varieties. 

This is the first year the purple concord grapes were able to fully ripen on the south side of the house. 

This is the first year the purple concord grapes were able to fully ripen on the south side of the house. 

Eleanor and Emmett celebrate successful grape picking. 

Eleanor and Emmett celebrate successful grape picking. 

Red Pepper Jelly

There is a special someone in my life (my baby brother Jake) who celebrates his birthday in October. It's a big sister's job to make sure her "little" brother gets what he wishes for on his special day. Uncle Jake asked for jelly and that is just what he will get. 

Mixing ingredients to make red pepper jelly. Once canned, you dump it on a cube of cream cheese and spread it on crackers. It makes for a sweet, spicy mix slathered on a cracker.

Mixing ingredients to make red pepper jelly. Once canned, you dump it on a cube of cream cheese and spread it on crackers. It makes for a sweet, spicy mix slathered on a cracker.

Fifty plus baby bell pepper plants grew in the garden this year. Because of the incredibly long growing season this year, we were able harvest lots and lots of peppers. Peppers in Central Oregon are pretty hard to come by unless you grow them in a greenhouse. This year proved anything can happen.

Tomatillos

For a year that I hadn't even planned on harvesting tomatillos, we had a good one! We grew tomatillos last year and several plants reseeded themselves in the garden. I would cautiously estimate 30+ pounds of tomatillos came out of the garden this year and this equated to green enchillada sauce and lots and lots of salsa. If you haven't tried growing a tomatillo, I would suggest it. They aren't the slightest bit spicy, but they add a lot to a recipe.

Tomatoes, tomatoes

The tomatoes came on late this year and for a while I was afraid I wouldn't have any to harvest. Last weekend we worked to pick, clean, slice, and dehydrate over ten pounds of tomatoes. Grabbing them out of the freezer in the dead of winter to toss on top of a salad is well worth the effort this time of year. 

Thankful

Having baskets full of harvest can make for a daunting autumn season. I work so hard to get the garden going, I hate to not salvage all I can from its bounty. Having the honey bees here on the farm has 100% made a difference with our garden. For the cold months ahead and the many meals we will enjoy, I thank the bees and cherish sharing it with all of these creatures (human and not!).

Cauliflower: A Harvest Win For The Whole Farm

Large cauliflower leaves provide a water source for our thirsty bees.

Large cauliflower leaves provide a water source for our thirsty bees.

I've been busy lately with the cauliflower in the garden. This is the first year I was able to successfully grow it and I have to say it has been an exceptional harvest year. I started this journey in early February when I first planted the cauliflower seeds in the greenhouse. It was February 2nd to be exact. The kids and I made our daily trip into the retreat of the insulated greenhouse on a cold morning. Believe it or not, a sunny winter day with temperatures below freezing can deliver an 80 degree retreat in the greenhouse.

Below is a picture of what we planted this year. This variety comes from the company Territorial Seeds. I devour their catalog during the winter months wishing and dreaming and this year I felt like this short season variety would give me the best chance. Notice the part about "50-60 days." We will get back to that part in a bit.

Fast forward to the tail end of June (4+ months later). I've harvested roughly 20-25 heads of this amazing and delicious stuff. Yes, that is correct, 20-25. I apologize for losing count, but I can make up for it with pictures of what I did (and still am doing) with it. 

The cold crop bed at the farm. This bed includes onions, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes and cauliflower. 

The cold crop bed at the farm. This bed includes onions, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes and cauliflower. 

With 20+ cauliflower heads ready all at once, I had to have a plan for what to do with them. I knew I wanted to harvest them before the big heat set in around here and I knew that meant pulling the entire plant. Cauliflower offers only one harvest as opposed to broccoli, which may send another shoot up. This left some gaping holes in the garden space, but I have plans for those!

Time to find some new things to add to those empty spaces.

Time to find some new things to add to those empty spaces.

In order not to make this post too long, I'll quickly show you a few of the things I did with this amazing harvest. The story of how to blanch vegetables and how to can them will come another day.

I made sure to wash the cauliflower when I brought it into the house to ensure that none of nature's little friends tried to join us inside. Soaking the heads for a few hours in a light salt water helps with this. I used my trusty Ball Canning book in my experiment with a few jars of pickled cauliflower. 

I can't forget to note that we had other winners in this great harvest here on the farm. Our chickens earned the right to forage and devour the left over leaves after my harvest. They were happy ladies too.


I feel very pleased with how this year's harvest turned out. We have fresh cauliflower in the fridge for snacking and meals. We have plenty of enticing cauliflower resources to reach for during the cold winter months ahead too. It has been an enormous task to "put it away" in the freezer and in canning jars, but I am thankful to have had the chance to do it. February 2nd to June 28th... not quite the timeline noted on the seed package. That is gardening in Central Oregon for you! This little face makes it all worth it though.

Grandma Norma's Rhubarb

I've always been one to love history, ancestry and anything old and worn. I have a love for antiques, old houses and relics from the past. For me, things that are dated conjure up countless possibilities for a good story. If only they could tell the tale!  The rhubarb I just harvested from our garden has it's own little history and I am so happy to be a part of it. Our rhubarb plant came from a cutting from Eric's sweet grandmother Norma's plant. Harvesting from it this year felt like connecting with her over the rainbow bridge. 

Harvesting rhubarb can feel a bit scary at first... only the stems are edible. Some gardeners advise wearing gloves as you work through the pile of leaves and stems for fear of making contact with the massive foliage. I didn't do this, but I made sure to wash my hands as soon as I finished and I carefully discarded the leaves into the trash to ensure our free range chickens didn't have the chance to "sample" them. 

When I began tackling this first harvest, I didn't realize just how MUCH rhubarb was actually there. Last year was the first full year for the rhubarb in the garden, so I didn't harvest any of it and allowed it to flower and to go to seed. I read that this would make the plant stronger and it surely felt strong as I clipped and clipped the stalks. 

Once I had the rhubarb inside, I had to decide what to do with it. I had some strawberries in the fridge, so I made a double batch of strawberry rhubarb oatmeal bars. Yummy! The recipe can be found on my Pinterest board under the category called "Summer Bounty." The rest of the harvest was washed, cut, frozen and divided for use later during the year. 

After the individual pieces had time to freeze, I measured out two cup portions and put them into freezer bags. Most recipes I use call for at least two cups, so this makes life a bit easier when I am tackling a recipe. Freezing it also keeps the individual pieces from sticking together in the event that you need to adjust the portion size being used. I asked our daughter to help mark the bag for me in hopes of making a tiny memory. It is my hope that both of our children remember the work that comes with harvest and preservation. The taste that comes from what we have a hand in is powerful. Perhaps the next time she helps with a rhubarb based treat she will not only savor the flavor that goes with it, but will recount the hours of work it takes to preserve nature's bounty for later in the year. 

The freezer has 10 cups of delicious rhubarb thanks to the plant that originated in Grandma Norma's garden. Each time our family dives into a dish that calls for it, we can pause and give thanks to her memory and the taste of early summer that goes with it. 

Onions start to finish

   Planting onions this year has been an experiment to say the least. We eat a lot of onions at our house... I think I could safely say that almost every meal includes an onion of some sort. For the last several years I have increased the number of onions we grow in the garden and have managed to keep them stored in the basement for when I need them.  We are down to about five onions from last year's garden, so  I am getting anxious to start planting!

   The normal plan of attack in planting onions on our farm is twofold: onion sets and onion bulbs. Normally, I buy Walla Walla Sweet onion sets at the hardware store. I also typically buy onion bulbs at the local nursery making sure to pick a variety of white, yellow and reds. This year I did both of those things, but I also decided to start onions from SEED. Crazy right? It actually has been a fairly simple process and I am eager to see how things work out. 

 The process started out in February this year by planting two varieties of onion seeds in seed trays. We use a great deal of yellow and red onions, so I chose those for this little experiment. Until yesterday, all I have done is water the seedlings and keep the tops short by "giving them a haircut" every so often to help build up the roots. This literally means I take a pair of scissors every few weeks and trim them to no longer than three inches long.  I have also been working to prepare them for living outside by "hardening them off" for a few hours each day. I take five minutes each day to move plants in and out of the greenhouse to be sure they are not shocked by their sudden life outside in the elements. 

 Yesterday I methodically removed each of the onion starts out of their trays and carefully shuffled them to their new home in the garden. They serve as terrific borders for the beds and are companions with most plants. I dug trenches with my hand trowel and carefully placed the onion starts along the border. I planted them closer than the normal recommended spacing because I know I will be thinning them out as the season goes along as green onions. I will carefully harvest them as I need them in the kitchen so that the remaining plants have adequate spacing to grow to full size by harvest time. 

 

  

Strawberry Rhubarb "Dump Cake"

Tis the season for strawberries and rhubarb. Here is an easy recipe that consistently proves to appease the pickiest of palates. A bonus feature, it is so easy to make.

1. Ingredients:

* 1 cup of chopped rhubarb                     * 1 cup of freshly sliced strawberries                               * 1 stick of butter (cut in cubes)               * 1 box of yellow cake mix

2. "Dump" these ingredients in a greased glass baking dish in this order: fruit, cake mix, butter

3. Bake @ 350 degrees for 1 hour, cool and enjoy. 

May I suggest a little ice cream to go with this?