Our 2022 garden: surprise beet harvest!

While working on the wattle weave bed in the old kitchen garden, I had to go around the beet bed constantly. Our beets did not do well this year, and in the end, I hadn’t bothered harvesting anything. It just didn’t seem worth it.

While working on the other bed, however, I sometimes had to stick a spade or garden fork into the ground to have them out of the way for a while, and a few times that meant sticking them into the beet bed.

Which is when I noticed that some of them actually looked useable.

So I harvested them.

This was all I got, out of the three varieties of beets planted in that bed. They’re so small, but my daughters like them at this size. They’ll be able to use them for maybe one or two meals.

Which is a heck of a lot more than I expected to get out of that bed!

At this point, we’re not sure if we’ll grow beets again next year. We’ve only been gardening for three years here, but each year has been worse than the one before. Perhaps we’ll try again, after we’ve built up the soil more and have better raised beds. If we do grow beets again next year, I think we’ll only do one variety, and save trying multiple varieties for the future. It’s hard to know which of the ones we tried are types we like, when we’ve yet to have a really good growing year for beets.

I’ll take what we can get for now, though!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)

Yes, here we are, Oct. 9, and there’s still things to harvest!

Well… half a harvest.

I’d been leaving the sunchokes along, and this is how they look after being hit by frost, then rain, then more frost. This being Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, I decided to go ahead and harvest some of them to include in our meal. There were ten of them planted, and I decided to only harvest the nearer five.

I was a bit surprised by how they looked. A lot whiter than I expected, but that may be because they never got to reach their full size during this crazy growing year we had. This bed is right next to where some of the longest lasting flooded areas in the yard this spring. The bed was slightly raised, which was probably the only thing that saved them.

There wasn’t a lot to harvest, and I also made sure to rebury at least one of the largest tubers under each plant, for next year.

As for the plants, I did a chop and drop. I’ll add more mulch to this bed before things freeze over, too.

To prepare them, since they were so fresh, I basically just scrubbed them. I’ve never tasted sunchokes before. These are supposed to be edible raw, so I made sure to try a piece. I don’t know how to describe the taste, other than “mild”. There’s nothing else I can compare it to in flavour.

I added them to the other vegetables that I tossed with olive oil and seasonings. I liked them better roasted. They take on other flavours very well. Roasted, they have a very smooth texture. All four of us liked them, which seems to be a rare thing!

If all goes well, we will have a larger harvest of them next year. 😊

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: going through the harvest

The sun room is starting to get too cold and night to leave our harvests in it anymore. This morning, I went through them and binned them up.

All of the carrots, both types, filled one bin enough that the lid can’t quite close. Those will need to be taken care of quickly. The Black Nebula carrots are already getting wimpy!

All the gourds will go someplace warm and dry to finish curing.

The Tropeana Lunga onions are growing rather than curing, so they will go to the kitchen for fresh eating and dehydrating.

The hulless seed pumpkins that have ripened the most will be moved inside to ripen some more, while the remaining ones were shifted around on their shelf to get more sunlight. We should be able to get away with leaving those there for a while longer.

The tomatoes that are ripening were laid out in a single layer on the bottom of a bin to go inside for further ripening. The green ones that have shown no signs of turning colour by now are not going to, so they all went into one small bin. I picked through them in the process of sorting through, and the more wizened ones went into compost. The rest will go to the kitchen as we decide what to do with them. The problem is, I’m not the tomato person in this household, so I’m not exactly inspired over them!

Now that these are clear of the sun room, we’ll be able to continue cleaning out and partially reorganizing the sun room for the winter.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting carrots and turnips.

It was a chilly night last night, with temperatures dipping below freezing. As I write this, we’re at 3C/37F – just under our predicted high of the day.

It was actually very pleasant out there!

With a few frosts already past, I decided it was time to harvest the carrots.

This is all of them.

Plus the Purple Prince turnips – the only turnip variety of the three we planted this spring, that survived. Barely. Their greens were constantly munched on by insects. I’m not sure why I even bothered to harvest them. They’re so small, a lot of them got left behind in the bed, then still more went into compost when I trimmed their greens. Not much of a harvest there.

I’m surprised by the Uzbek Golden carrots, which were from a free seed packet. A lot of them were much larger than I expected.

The Black Nebula carrots where more difficult to harvest. Even with several years of amendments, the soil still gets pretty compacted, and these guys get long. It took quite a bit to dig them out!

Well, that didn’t take long… 😅

We are expected to dip to -4C/25F tonight, so these needed to be set up indoors to cure – and the only place we had available in the sun room was covered with tomatoes, still.

Thankfully, they are all laid out on screens.

I was able to stack the screens with the tomatoes and gourds, then lay out the trimmed carrots. After a day or two, we’ll brush the dirt off and go over them. Several of the biggest Uzbek Golden carrots have split, but the Black Nebula look like they were a slug favorite. Quite a few had damage at their tops. The size variety among them is pretty surprising. Quite a few of them are really big around! From the photos, I expected long and narrow.

Once we’ve assessed their condition, we’ll decide how best to store or preserve them. I suspect blanching and freezing will be the best option for most of the Black Nebula carrots, while the Uzbeck golden will be kept in the kitchen for fresh eating first.

I haven’t actually tasted any of these yet! We did harvest a few Uzbeck golden for meals over the summer, but almost no Black Nebula, because even the little ones were hard to pull. I hope they taste as good!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: dehydrating tomatoes

Yes, we still have tomatoes!

A lot of the tomatoes we set up in the sun room are slowly ripening. There isn’t enough to bother cooking them into a sauce or whatever, but more than we can conveniently eat, so I’ve started dehydrating them in the oven.

It’s mostly Yellow Pear tomatoes that we have, and they are so small, I am dehydrating them on parchment paper. I had two baking sheets full, but when they were mostly dry and quite shrunken, I combined them into one.

That jar is all of them!

Once I’d combined the Yellow Pear tomatoes, I set up a cooling rack and started dehydrating some Cup of Moldova tomatoes. Once the Yellow Pear tomatoes were done, I filled the baking sheet again with more of them. That finished off what I’d picked earlier, but this morning I gathered more ripe tomatoes!

I am considering powdering the yellow tomatoes, and doing some of the red ones in olive oil. Or just powdering the whole lot of them. They’ll take up less space that way. It’ll be a while before they’re all dehydrated, so I have time to decide.

As I’m writing this, I am hearing the wind pick up outside, and the trees are starting to get whipped about. While today’s high is supposed to be 17C/63F, tomorrow is supposed to have a high of only 3C/37F. Tonight’s low is supposed to be 1C/34F, but tomorrow night we’re supposed to drop to -3C/27F.

And yet, we’re still getting fresh tomatoes! 😁

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022/2023 garden: finishing the garlic bed

Once I got home from the city and grabbed a meal, it was right back out to work on the bed our fall garlic will be planted in.

This is how it was left, the night before.

Because I had been tromping across it with the wheelbarrow, the first thing I wanted to do – after putting the new handle on our garden fork! – was loosen up the soil at the bottom.

It was not easy. At this point, not only was I hitting a lot of rocks, but at the north end of it, a lot of tree roots, too!

I also had a kitten on my back, most of the time. The little grey and white tabby that is the most socialized of the bunch. At one point, he simply draped himself across the back of my neck and stayed there as I moved around!

I was also picking up and tossing quite a few larger rocks into the trees, too.

Something this guy really loved! He kept chasing after the rocks as they bounced on the ground, then came back to watch me, waiting for the next throw! He even made it a challenge not to bean him with a rock, the way he was running after them!

Silly thing.

After the base was loosened, I gave the whole thing a thorough watering.

Then I got a wheelbarrow load of wood chips. Just one, for a think layer all across. This is on the same principal as using logs in a hügelkultur mound. As the anaerobic bacteria slowly breaks down the wood, the wood acts as a sponge to hold water for the roots above. Since these are wood chips rather than logs or branches, as we used in the high raised bed, they will break down faster. With garlic having shallow roots, the breakdown of the wood chips won’t affect their nitrogen needs.

The wood chips got a thorough soaking before the next step.

I pulled up the frost-killed summer squash, the remaining dead tomato, eggplant and pepper plants from the other two beds, and quite a bit of dead winter squash plants, too.

Then, because they were so bushy, I tromped them flat, being careful to just step on the dead plants. I just loosened the soil on the entire bed. I didn’t want to compact it all again!

Once they were flattened,, then given a soak, I could start adding soil back.

The soil was raked out evenly, though I tried not to get too close to the logs. That’s where the crab grass will inevitably grow in from the path.

With so many rhizomes catching on my rake as I was working, I finally went ahead and raked the weeds and roots I’d tossed into the paths.

There was a lot more than it seems, while all spread out! It all got dumped among the nearby trees.

With all that soil getting sifted, plus what was added to the bed, this is what I was left with.

Almost half the soil I took out is still there! The logs framing the bed are so low, if I add more back, I’ll have a problem with the sides washing down into the path – something that was an issue when watering the tomatoes.

Which is fine. The high raised bed’s soil level dropped over the summer, as expected, so I can use it to top that up, and still have some left over.

I did not, however, soak the freshly laid down soil. That would have just compacted it. We got a frost advisory for tonight, but things are supposed to warm up after that. We might even hit 21C/70F in a couple of days! So the grass clipping mulch went back right away.

Then it got a thorough soaking!

When it comes time to plant the garlic, we can make holes through the mulch. After tonight’s frost, we’re supposed to have some very pleasant evenings, which will be prefect for the cloves to start rooting themselves before the overnight temperatures start to be consistently too low for growth.

Thankfully, none of the other low raised beds need this much work put into them. They just need to be weeded and mulched for the winter. Except for the bed with the carrots and turnips in it. That will stay as it is for a while longer, as they won’t be bothered by frost.

Lots of clean up to prepare for next year, still! But this bed, at least, is all done and ready for garlic.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 – 2023? garden: preparing the garlic bed

Well, the soil sifter I made really got a work out today! I’m actually quite impressed. It got beaten and battered, and that janky thing withstood the abuse and did the job.

The half inch mesh works out well. The soil was very full of worms, and most of them fell through the mesh quite easily. Any pebbles small enough to go through will not be a problem. In fact, they will help with drainage. Unfortunately, it’s also large enough that roots can fall through, too, so I still did most of the picking of roots by hand, tossing them on the path to be trampled on, pushing through the soil until I reached a point where I could just shake the rest through. What got left behind were the larger rocks and weeks, and small clumps of soil. I didn’t want to break those up too much, as it would have hurt too many worms.

I laid out the black landscape-type fabric/tarp we’ve got to put the sifted soil on until I’m ready to put it back into the bed.

It took many loads as I worked my way down. You can see the crab grass rhizomes I pulled out on the grass. You can’t see all the other roots and weeds that also got pulled out.

Using the wheelbarrow and soil sifter really helped a lot. I have a long handled garden claw that I used to break the soil up in the sifter, pulling up the longer roots, and using the back of it to help push the soil through the sifter. It was a real back saver! Plus, when I stopped to work with my hands, I could brace the garden claw on the ground, or even into a corner of the sifter, to lean on as I worked. The logs around the garden bed allowed me to raise one leg, relieving even more pressure from my back. Without all those little things to help out, I would not have been able to finish the soil sifting today!

This is where I stopped, after several hours.

Oh, wow. I just looked at the time stamps between the first progress photo I took, and the last one. I was working on this for four hours. !!

Basically, I removed the top four inches or so of soil. After that, I was scraping the shovel over rocks.

There are still a lot of rhizomes along the edges, but the run under the log border, and I wasn’t up to moving those out to get rid of them.

The sifted soil is now so light and fluffy, it looks like there’s so much more than what could fit into the space in the bed!

What got left behind in the sifter got dumped among the nearby trees. Plenty of rocks, clumps of soil, worms, and the occasional sticks, rusted nails and even bits of glass!

I am so glad this is done.

Tomorrow, I plan to add a layer of wood chips into the bottom of the bed, top it with the summer squash vines I’ll be pulling from the next bed over, and then the soil will be returned, ready for garlic planting and mulch. I hope to get that all finished tomorrow, because the day after, I am expecting to go into the city for a much needed stocking up trip to the city.

While I was writing this, I got a call from my brother. He had just made the trip out to my mother’s to get the battery from the motorized chair he got for her (which she refuses to use) that isn’t holding a charge for some reason. She just let him know that they’re coming to spray her apartment for bedbugs again, the day after tomorrow. She hadn’t mentioned a thing to me when I called her last, even though she’d told me about some other stuff, even though I’d really stressed with her to let us know right away if she got another letter of notification that they’d be coming in to spray her place again, so that we would have time to help her prepare. She started talking to him about staying in the lobby, even though she has to stay away from her apartment for 12 hours after spraying.

*sigh*

My brother took a picture of the letter she got and will send it to me. Hopefully soon, because I’d like to read it before I call her. It looks like I will be helping her book a room at the motel again, as she doesn’t want to stay at my sister’s overnight. Too many stairs in her house. Which means I’ll be using her car to go into the city, which means not a Costco trip.

At this point, I don’t even know if they are spraying her place because they’re actually finding bed bugs, or because they’ve just decided to keep spraying the same apartments every month. The guy did leave a trap, but no one comes to check it.

What a pain.

Oh, and I just found out our vandal had called my mother again – at the beginning of the month! It was her birthday, so he used that as an excuse to call her, then start harassing her about the farm again until she finally hung up on him. I had hoped, after losing his court case against me, he’d finally give up, but apparently not. She never said a thing to any of us until now. So frustrating!

Well, we’ll figure it out. For now, I’m just going to focus on getting that bed done and planting garlic for next year!

The Re-Farmer

My morning buddy, and our 2022 garden: eggplants and slow going

I had such a slow start to the day today. Not a lot of sleep, and when I tried getting up this morning, I lost my balance and almost fell. My husband was up and I ended up asking him to take care of feeding the cats this morning so I could lie down again. Considering it’s because of his own pain levels that he’s up (or not) at odd hours, it takes a lot before I ask him to take over like that. I have a theory on what’s going on and will be testing it over the next few nights. If I don’t follow up on that later, it will be because nothing changed.

When I finally did get out, the kitties had full bellies, which means I had company during my rounds!

Especially as I went up the driveway to check the gate and switch out the memory card on the gate cam. The new camera, with its direct solar power and battery backup, has the batteries still at 100%! The other two trail cameras are at about half, and both have had their batteries changed at least once, since we got the new camera.

I’m not actually all that happy that the kittens follow me to the gate. I don’t want them wandering to the road, so I try to pick them up if I can. At one point, I was carrying the three amigos, all at the same time. Interesting that the three most socialized kittens like to stay together the most, too. I can’t say it’s because they are all from the same litter, because the fourth one of that litter is more or less indifferent to its siblings, while the muted calico, from an older litter, still likes to hang out with these three the most. That one is a lot more socialized now, too. It still runs off at time, but more often than not, we can pet it and even pick it up for cuddles.

I worked on the garden bed I intend to plant the garlic in last night, but didn’t get very far.

This is where I left off when my back started to give out.

I really look forward to when we have more high raised beds!!!

I removed the grass clippings mulch and loosened the entire bed with a garden fork first, then started working my way around, pulling out as many crab grass rhizomes and other weeds as I could. The job was made much more challenging, because the kitten in the earlier photo decided it absolutely had to be on my back while I worked! When I straightened up, she would climb up to perch on my shoulder until bent down again.

I managed just over half the bed. I found the soil to be much improved, easy to work into with the garden hoe – though I’m still hitting rocks – and filled with worms. Compaction, however, is still a problem.

Once I’ve got more of the roots and weeds removed, I’ll use the soil sifter to get more out. I plan to dig a trench down the middle. The summer squash bed is right next to it. I’ll be pulling those up and burying them in this bed as a soil amendment. After the garlic is planted, the grass clipping mulch will be returned. The summer squash bed will be ready to work on next.

Things are going much more slowly than I expected, and it’s basically because of pain. Yes, I pain killer up before I start, I’m just taking your basic painkillers. They’re not particularly strong. I’m the sort of person where pharmaceuticals tend not to work as expected to begin with, and typically need double the dose to maybe get the same effect as a regular dose on someone else. It’s the same thing with the painkillers dentists inject before working on a tooth – something I discovered the hard way when I was in 5th grade. I still remember the dentist working on a cavity. I had my eyes squeezed shut in pain and was clutching the arm rests when the dentist made a snarky comment about opening my eyes, it’s not that bad. I did open my eyes, glared at him – and broke one of the arm rests. I was an adult before I dared go to a dentist again. As an adult, the dentists would actually listen to me when I told them there was still pain.

So… yeah. I do have an extremely high pain tolerance because of this, and can typically just keep working through all sorts of pain. That’s getting harder and harder to do as I get older. The problem is, there’s really no one else to take over. My older daughter has joint problems that has lead to injuries that just won’t heal, so there’s only so much she can do, and both of them have back problems that won’t go away unless they both get reduction surgery (as I did, more than 20 years ago: best thing I ever did!!!), but neither of them trust doctors. At all. They’ve seen the BS my husband and I have put up with over the years. Since we’ve moved back to this province, we’ve found health care has gotten even worse during the almost 15 years we were away. So while they can help, all four of us are just really gimpy. Plus, my older daughter has her commissions to work on, so she gets paid, and isn’t available as much. They both also take care of the inside stuff for me, so I’m free to work on the outside stuff – an arrangement I am quite happy with. Still, the way things are going, I’m going to have to ask them to help me with the outside stuff more. It’s frustrating. When we first moved here, I was able to get much more work done in much less time. I did not expect my body to give out that much in so few years!

Ah, well. It is what it is.

I’ll be taking pain killers and heading back out soon.

On another note, we had another small harvest this morning.

I decided it was time to pick the Little Finger eggplant. I actually found one more little one, after I took this picture. These are all from just one plant. None of the others matured enough to produce anything. I had intended to leave them for longer, but last night we dropped to 2C/36F. We were only supposed to drop to 6C/43F, so I didn’t try to cover them for the night. They don’t look frost damaged, but with how messed up the forecast has been, I figured it was time. This variety is meant to be picked while still relatively small and glossy – maybe a bit bigger than the largest one I’m holding.

In talking with the girls about what to plant next year, we are thinking of trying 3 varieties of peppers, and I’d like to try this variety of eggplant again. However, we will need to work out better protection for them. My older daughter is wanting to save up for a type of greenhouse that is specifically designed for our extreme temperatures. Something like the polycrub that Stone Croft Skye has. Before then, I hope to pick up a decent sized portable greenhouse, or maybe a smaller one to use for our seedlings. We have GOT to come up with something better for starting seeds. We had to spend way too much effort to protect them from cats, making for less than ideal growing conditions.

That is something to think about later, though. For now, we need to clean things up and get beds prepared for next year, first.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: harvesting carrots and red onions and cleaning up

I took advantage of the lovely temperatures (and being in less pain) to do some more clean up in the garden. Earlier in the day, my daughter and I drove into town so she could get a new photo to renew her driver’s license, while I popped across the street to pick up a few things at the grocery store. I was thinking of making a cream of chicken soup and was about to buy some carrots, when I remembered…

We have carrots. They’re just still in the dirt.

So I went over to where the chocolate cherry tomatoes had been planted, and pulled up the Napoli (orange) and Kyoto Red (dark orange) carrots – and a single shallot! I also dug up the red onions from sets that were planted with the yellow pear tomatoes.

The new soil sifter came in handy! 😁

I’m actually surprised that we got so many decent sized carrots. The Kyoto Red were pretty small – there were two I left behind because they’re blooming, and I hope to collect some seeds. I used up the last of the Kyoto Red seeds, but I think I still have some Napoli pelleted seeds left. Those really did far better than I expected.

Then there’s that single, solitary shallot!

There were actually two more, but they also bloomed, and I’m waiting for the seed heads to dry before collection.

As for the red onions…

Most of them aren’t any bigger than the sets we planted in the first place. Given how spindly the greens were, I thought they might be rotted out, or at least soft, but nope: they are quite firm. They’re just really tiny. I think they were simply too shaded by how massive the yellow pear tomatoes got.

I was going to take them in and was trying to figure out where I could lay them out to dry a bit, until I thought to check the weather again.

We’ll be having at least a couple relatively warm nights, and no rain is expected. I just spread them out on the soil sifter and will leave them out overnight. Tomorrow, I should be able to brush the dirt off more easily, before bringing them inside.

With that in mind, I think I’ll soak some of those blue grey speckled tepary beans overnight, to include with some our garden’s carrots and onions in my soup!

Once these were gathered, I worked on taking down the hoops in the main garden area, as well as the mesh and supports over the spinach in the old kitchen garden. The spinach is a loss. They germinated, and then got mostly yellow and stopped growing.

With the mesh and netting, I laid them out as straight as I could on the ground, then rolled them up around whatever straight sticks I had that were long enough.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult that is with a yard full of kittens!

The twine I used got salvaged, too, and the shorter pieces came in very handy to tie off bundles of netting, mesh, supports and hoops.

We have a few more warmer days, and my priority right now is to get the empty bed in the main garden area prepped, and then plant our fall garlic. When we go into the city next for our stock-up shopping, I hope to pick up more hardneck garlic to plant. It’s a bit too late to order them like we have for the past couple of years.

Once that is done, I plan to work on building up some of the beds in the old kitchen garden. I have ideas for those that I hope will work. If I get at least one of those done over the next few days, that will give us a prepared bed to plant any garlic I pick up later on. There’s still the beets to harvest from that garden, but I suspect those will be going straight to compost.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: sweet potatoes harvested

This morning I spent some time doing some clean up in the garden, taking off the netting from a couple of beds and removing the supports and twine. While I was at it, I decided to go ahead and harvest the Covington sweet potatoes from the grow bags. They did survive the frost, but with the cooler temperatures, anything there wouldn’t be getting any bigger.

This is it. Our entire sweet potato harvest.

They’re smaller than fingerling potatoes!

Now, I know we can grow short season sweet potatoes in our zone. In some of the local gardening groups I’m on, I’ve seen people posting pictures of their very nice sweet potato harvests. The soil in the grow bags looked good; there were lots of worms in the soil, and even mushrooms growing out the sides of the ones that tore; a sign of healthy soil. Like so much else this year, they just never really recovered from our horrible spring. This is actually more than I was expecting to find, to be honest.

Yes, I want to try growing sweet potatoes again. Whether we’ll be able to try again next year, I don’t know yet, but I do want to grow them. They would make a valuable, nutritionally dense, storage crop to help meet our self sufficiency goals.

What a rough gardening year it has been this year!

The Re-Farmer