Officially Fall

It’s fall for sure here at Small Wonder Farm.  I used the steam juicer yesterday to make grape juice.  For the first time ever, the grapes came from our farm.  Very exciting!  I have blogged about this other years if you are interested in the process.  I also made grape syrup with them.  This was a new one for me.  The recipe, a simple one required grapes, sugar (I used agave), and a bit of water.  After boiling the 3 together, I ran the cooled product through my food mill and got a yummy syrup.  We will use it like maple syrup and also add it to carbonated water to make grape sodas.  Yum!

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Other signs of fall are everywhere–including the kitchen where I have 1.5 bushels of apples staring at me waiting to be sauced.  The tomatoes are only coming at a trickle now, but the cucumbers, peppers, and zucchino rampicante are still producing heavily. I harvested a few ears of each of the flint corns to get a good look at them.  Beautiful does not do it justice.  Most people know, I am a huge fan of color and the Red Floriani Flint Corn and the Oaxacan Green Dent corn are exquisite. In addition, potatoes, onions, and garlic are getting cleaned and bagged for long term storage.

Got lots more seeds in the ground today and the things planted a week and a half ago are coming up nicely.  Today I planted chard, lettuce, more spinach, more scallions, and more carrots. I am excited about the new garden season and so happy to leave the worst of the heat behind.  Today I needed long sleeves to have my coffee and granola on the porch.

Where Things Stand

Having 4 whole days without storms and downpours gave me a chance to catch up in the garden.

Done:  Strawberries, Romaine, Asparagus, Rhubarb

Harvesting now:  First few summer squash, basil, cilantro, raspberries, spring onions, handful of cherry tomatoes, broccoli

Soon:  cucumbers, peppers

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Pest problems:  flea beetles on eggplants, using dustbuster

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Fruit update:

Strawberries–ripped out both raised beds full of strawberries.  Added 1 yard of compost soil to top these 2 plus one other raised bed.  I will plant more strawberries in one and start second plantings of cucumbers and summer squash for late summer/fall harvest.

The strawberry harvest was light.  I had allowed them free rein in the raised beds and by this spring (year 2), they were so densely planted that the harvest was light and fruits were small.   I have enough “spillover” plants from around the beds to be able plant the new bed.

Blackberries–the vines are so loaded.  We will be able to bathe in them.  Our first year with a crop so I am unsure about when they will ripen.  Next couple weeks would be my best guess.

Raspberries–the early harvest is ripening and I have been picking about a quart a day. This is their 3rd year on the ground and they are now taller than me.  I think I am actually going to cut them back because they are providing too much shade to the tomatoes.  The placement of the raspberries is probably my biggest gardening mistake so far.  They are in the middle of the garden and there are too many of them.  This fall, we have decided to dig them up, transplant some to the southeast corner of the garden and gift the rest.  I still have many raspberries in the freezer from last fall! 

Trees:  all 4 apples, 2 cherries, 2 peaches, and the sole pear are looking great.  The only fruit we have are 2 peaches–one on each tree.  If we can get these to harvest, we will need to have some kind of ceremony around them!

Grapes–the grapes are loving their new home along the western fence of the garden.  We heavily mulched with compost and growth has been great.  We even have a cluster of grapes

on one of the pinot noir vines.

Kiwi–the hardy kiwi vines, in their third year, have yet to flower, but growth is good.  We will see.

Year in Review: Fruits

Since so much of the installation was in 2008, 2009 was our first big fruit harvest and it kept me busy.  Here is the run-down in chronological order:

Strawberries:  I spent three weeks in May doing literally nothing but picking and processing strawberries!  The harvest was huge and picking of them quite labor intensive.  I had to pick every other day in order to keep up.  They got turned into strawberry syrup (agave, not sugar sweetened) and canned or got turned into jam.  We were making strawberry basil mojitos at La Scala and so they went there too.  I turned that idea into strawberry basil jam–yum.  This coming year I would like to turn some into pie filling.  Planting all the strawberries in 2 of the raised beds was a serendipitous choice.  Strawberries spread like wildfire.

Rhubarb:  this was the first harvest year so the yield was light.   Turned into a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam, a couple of rhubarb cakes, and a pie or two.

Ground Cherries:  The plants are in the same family as tomatoes and tomatillos (nightshade family).  These plants stay low to the ground and trail a bit.  VERY prolific.  It produces a small golden-colored “berry” in a paper husk (think tiny tomatillo).  They have a great vanilla citrus flavor.  Very easy to grow, tedious to pick.  Made several pies and froze quite a bit and still left most of them sit there.  Still have lots.  Will not plant this year.

Raspberries:  we had a small spring crop and then they came on heavy late summer all the way to frost.  I picked and picked and picked and picked……..  I froze lots, made jam, and we ate plenty fresh.  So delicious!

Blackberries–picked a handful only since they were planted fall 2008, but the canes went crazy and I am expecting this year will be a great crop.

Blueberries–planted this spring.  Takes 6 years to get a real crop. 

Apples–4 trees planted in 2008.  All doing fine, but we will need to move them this spring.  Much too close together and too close to the garden.  Live and learn.

Peaches–2 planted in 2009

Pear—1 planted in 2009.

Our grapes–6 planted in 2008.  Only 2 survive.  Likely will plant more this year.

Let There Be Juice

Our friends Misty and Andrew of Geek Farm Life http://geekfarmlife.com/ are leaving their Indiana Farm for new adventures in Australia.  We will miss them.  In a win-win, we purchased many pieces of  “farm equipment” that we did not have and were on on wish list.  One is the Excalibur food dehydrator I have already blogged about–and which is currently hard at work drying apples.  Another is a lovely stainless steel steam juicer.  I got up at 6 today and made 10 quarts of grape juice from a gorgeous basket of Concords purchased at the market yesterday.  Here is the process:

 
The Juicer--3 stacked parts
The Juicer--3 stacked parts
lowest part--fill with water
lowest part--fill with water
part two--collects the juice and this is where the hose attaches
part two--collects the juice and this is where the hose attaches
the top--fill with produce
the top--fill with produce
beautiful Concord grapes
beautiful Concord grapes
adding more grapes (the redder ones are the ones already cooking down)
adding more grapes (the redder ones are the ones already cooking down)
juice in the pipeline!
juice in the pipeline!
filling sterilized jars
filling sterilized jars
sealing jars
sealing jars
what's left, called pomace
what's left, called pomace