Mid-summer on our farm

Here are some pictures of the goings-on around our tiny farm:

zucchini
My zucchini and yellow squash are going nuts. These plants are huge!
zucchini with cat
Here you can see them with Wizard in front, so you get a little more idea of scale. There are 5 plants in that mess, plus some sunflowers sticking up in back.
ducks
Somehow our duck door got left open – they were starting to spill out.
ducks 2
More duck spillage.
chickens
Here is a picture of the chickens. I love the variety of colors we have.
dogs
My husband got this cool picture of our dogs. Atat’s tail is curled around Downey. Nova thinks the camera is some type of food.

Harvesting and Freezing

I’ve gotten a lot of vegetables so far this year.  I’m still waiting on my tomatoes to ripen, but they are coming along. I’ve been picking suckers and new flowers left and right, and I can see the tomatoes are starting to get a pinkish tint to them.  We’ve had 80-90 degree temps this week, and it’s expected to continue – I think that will help with the ripening.

In the winter we were buying a lot of kale, so I grew a bunch of it, and we haven’t used a whole lot yet.  So this weekend I decided to pick as much as I could, and freeze it.  I left the plants, with new baby leaves in the centers, so I will still have fresh kale until we have snow (it supposedly can survive frost, and gets better after a frost, so we’ll see how that goes).   I ended up with a giant basket of kale:

My big basket of kale.  This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That's a whole lot of kale.
My big basket of kale. This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That’s a whole lot of kale.

I took the leaves off the stems, blanched them for 2 minutes, and then froze them up.  I ended up with about 10 cups of frozen kale.

This year I decided to grow lemon balm.  I picked some to dry for tea.  It smells so good!

Lemon balm.
Lemon balm.

I have had tons of zucchini and yellow squash, and I have frozen a lot of it.  I read online that you can get away with not blanching it first, so I am trying that this year.  Last year I blanched it, and it worked fine but it was more labor intensive;  Also, since it was wet when I put it in freezer bags, I ended up with blocks of frozen zucchini.  I don’t know if the slice/freeze method will still produce this result; I’ll have to wait and see.

I also grew acorn squash for the first time this year.  I had four plants; most produced only one fruit – I did have two forming on one plant, but when I went out this weekend I realized that one of the fruits was rotting on the vine.  The other four seemed ready to pick.  The plants still have flowers so it may produce more, I will have to wait and find out.

Acorn squash.  Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.
Acorn squash. Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.

My corn is getting close to being ready.  The silks are turning brown on the cobs. Last year I read that you wait 10 days after the silks turn brown – I checked a few cobs and I think by this next weekend they may be ready.  I noticed today though that I must have raccoons or something attacking the corn.   It must be raccoons – they are notorious for getting into corn in this area – I found a half eaten cob in my garden on the ground. I hope they give me time to get at least a few ears before they get them all. I’m not sure how to deter them – they climbed my fence.   I’ll have to figure out some kind of raccoon deterrent – maybe putting a lip on the top of the fence so they can’t come over the top of the fence.

The harvest season begins

This is my favorite time of year.  I love when I can just go to the garden to pick dinner.  My vegetable plants are really starting to produce for me.  I had some chard and kale already this season, but the last few days my zucchini and yellow squash have started to have large enough squashes to pick.  Yum.  I have a lot of plants so I know I will eventually be overrun.

squash
Yellow squash and zucchini, waiting to be sliced. I sauteed these two up with some onion. These were about 6 inches long each (the cutting board under them is very tiny, in case it makes these look gigantic).

This year I have 5 zucchini, 2 yellow squash, and I think 4 acorn squash plants. Last year I had 3 or 4 zucchini plants, and by mid September I was very tired of zucchini.   I froze what we had left and didn’t eat any for a couple months.  They were very delicious in the middle of winter when I wasn’t sick of zucchini any more.  This year I received a pressure canner for my birthday, so I’m planning on using that to can a lot of our harvest.  I also plan on freezing some things.

I have gotten some pea pods, but not enough to do more than just eat the peas straight out of the pods.  My son has been enjoying that. I worried my peas wouldn’t like the heat we’ve been having but they are doing well.  Next year I will have to have more plants.

My beans have been producing well.  I actually got enough from my first harvesting of them to use for a side dish for tonight’s dinner:

Yummy beans.
Yummy beans.

I started with some green bean plants, but they didn’t do very well at first. I wanted more plants, so I bought a packet of purple beans.  They really took off, and I’ve been getting more purple beans so far than green.  The green plants are growing taller than the purple, and I can tell they are going to produce well – there are a lot of flowers and baby beans growing along the vine where they’ve climbed up my string support system. They are even climbing one of my sunflowers.  Last year I had a few bean plants, but I never got enough beans at one time to cook on their own; it was always just enough to cook up with something else.  I’m hoping to can or freeze some this year – hopefully I have enough to do that.

I have a lot of green tomatoes forming.  I’m growing three varieties of indeterminate tomatoes, and the plants are going crazy.  I have been consistently pulling off suckers from the plants, and now because there are so many baby tomatoes, I’m pulling off extra flowers too, in an effort to let the forming tomatoes get bigger faster, and possibly ripen on the vine.  I worry that they may take too long if I don’t do that – last year I had to let my tomatoes ripen in the house.  Our growing season isn’t very long – we may get frost by mid September.

It’s an exciting time of year.