A friend of mine (who I swear is a sister from another mother we are so alike in thought) was lamenting the frustration of wanting every seed to germinate and every seedling to survive, and then the angst of having this not be the way of nature. I would add to this the wish to harvest every single thing you have grown and savor its fleetingness or turn it into something lasting. I mourn every tomato and green bean that has been nibbled on by a slug, even though I have too many tomatoes already, and the green beans are small and not-so-tender and pretty much done for the year. I kick myself for every overgrown cucumber I missed, even though both the chickens and the goats love them, so they don’t go to waste.
And so, my kitchen counter is filled with canning supplies, wine making supplies, and piles of tomatoes, peppers, grapes, pears…you get the idea. The water bath canner lives on the stove this time of year, hogging all the space and occasionally getting dumped out and refilled for the next batch of jars. And all that peeling, slicing, dicing, stirring…all takes much longer than you think its going to. Next up? Ancho chili BBQ sauce with the pile of tomatoes I still have (after making relish, jam, roasted sauce and canned diced tomato wonders). Made with last years dried Anchos, of course. The goats have been loving this time of year, as they are getting all of the leftover grape pulp and split watermelon and kale stems. They beg for treats every time we walk by the fence.
We had a 36 degree night on Tuesday, and the cucumbers, squash, melons and gourds are all nipped. I forget sometimes how fragile these heat loving plants are. Got to admit, kind of glad to see the cucumbers slow down. Yikes.
We harvested a big tub of concord style (almost seedless) grapes last week. I waited a bit too long to get them harvested, so the birds and wasps also got their fair share. We juiced them (after several experiments, the juicer won out, even if it didn’t harvest every drop). I didn’t want to cook them as I didn’t want to kill the natural yeasts. We then put the almost 3 gallons of juice in a food grade bucket to ferment (first time I’ve ever done that. I usually add a brewing yeast – but these are grapes. They come with their own wild yeasts.) The plan is to turn the juice into wine, and then turn that wine into red wine vinegar (because I’m just not a huge fan of grape jelly or grape juice). I was SO excited when the grapes started turning purple, as a tag I found on one of the plants indicated it was a white concord. There are still some larger table grapes ripening up out there. The wine grape harvest hasn’t started yet in our area.
I planted a few hot peppers for our use this year, a lot of which have been getting ripe. So I’ve been drying cayenne and Thai chilies for future use (I grind the cayenne in a spice grinder/coffee mill and use the powder), drying poblanos, turning them into anchos for future sauces and chili powder, smoking and then drying paprika and jalapenos (smoked sweet paprika and chipotle – oh hell yes). Anaheims (aka New Mexican chilies) have been going into various salsas (I normally would roast and freeze them, but my freezer still has some roasted Hatch chilies from Colorado). Pepperoncini (ie. sweet Italian) have been pickled (almost 2 1/2 lbs off of ONE plant). More jalapenos will follow in their footsteps. Extra bells (the only pepper that sells well at the market) have been roasted and frozen for future use. I haven’t picked the seranos yet. A few go a long way on these, but they are used all the time in Mexican and Indian foods. They dry well. Might pickle a few jars of these as well. And the skin underneath my thumb nails has a slow burn from all the chilies. Such is September.
I grew yin/yang beans this year. I became familiar with this dry bean when I was living in Boulder Colorado. A burrito place opened up near campus (near The Sink pizza restaurant that has been there forever, for those who know the town). It was one of those wrapped in tinfoil, peel and eat, bigger than your head, feed the starving college students kind of places. One of their bean options was yin/yang beans. SO Boulder (four square miles surrounded by reality – hey, I can say that. I lived there for 5 years). But I loved them. And I have wanted to grow them (this has been my year for that – living out my previously denied garden fantasies – cantaloupe, moon and stars watermelon, yin/yang beans, sweet corn, grapes) ever since. So when I saw the beans in the Fedco catalog (also called Calypso) I had to try them. They did really well, and we’ve spent several nights on the couch watching TV while shelling them. Haven’t actually cooked up a batch yet. But I sure think they are fun to look at. They are my desktop photo right now!
And on the animal front, Betty the brown bunny, whom I bred to Duffus on August 2nd, gave birth to 10 babies on September 3rd! Ten. Wow. I had figured she wasn’t pregnant, as she wasn’t trying to build a nest, and it had been 32 days, and when I bred Alice to Duffus, it didn’t take. I think Betty was as surprised as I was. Turns out Duffus wasn’t such a duffus after all (or Betty was a less picky girl). Two babies didn’t survive (rabbits only have 8 nipples, so it’s unusual for more than 8 to survive) but the other eight are doing great. All are brown or black but one. They are just starting to open their eyes.
And on the Charlie front, I saw an ad in the Giant Nickel newspaper for heritage breed turkeys. So I called, and ended up buying two 5 month old hens for Charlie. They were not cheap. One is a Bourbon Red, like Charlie. The other is a Slate. Both are heritage breeds that should be able to breed naturally and are good foragers. So perhaps we’ll have Charlie babies in the spring, and if I can sell day-old chicks for around $15 a piece (about what I paid for my day-old turkeys) they should help pay for themselves. I think Charlie is still trying to figure out who these new girls are (we just brought them home last night), but hopefully he will learn that he is not a chicken and stop trying to mate with the Buff Orpingtons. Yikes!
In between all of the harvesting fun, I’ve been packaging up soap that I made a month or so ago (cold process homemade soap needs 4-6 weeks of curing time to harden up before you can use it). These bars, which are really simple, with no coloring or scent, turned out really pretty.
No duck eggs yet. Darn it.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2012, where we’re off to turn a few cucumbers into bread and butter pickles…and blanch and peel another 10 lbs of tomatoes. Uffda.