Monday, June 30, 2014

Carrot Contemplation

A couple of days ago I bragged that the carrots were ready for digging.  Not exactly.
Eeeeww! Root maggots
In fact, the carrots were past ready for digging, having been invaded heavily by the heinous carrot root maggot.  I've had this trouble before in the summer.  I think this is one of the reasons people say not to leave root crops in the ground once the hot weather sets in.  Also, I blame my using some wood chips from the dairy barn mixed with leaves to mulch the bed.  I read yesterday that the flies that lay the eggs that hatch into root maggots like to lay their eggs in manure.  Oh well.
Good enough to go into the fridge for later
I did manage to salvage around 5 pounds.  There were some (above) that had little or no damage.  The rest I was able to clean up and cut away the nasty parts leaving a couple of edible pounds.
 Ready for the soup pot
 I  cooked onions, fennel and garlic in a generous amount of butter, added homemade chicken stock and the cleaned up carrot remains and simmered it till the roots were soft.  

Pureed with cream and garnished with sugar snap peas, dill, chives and yogurt, this was a tasty soup that we'll be able to enjoy for the next few days as it made about a gallon. 

This is one of those gardening experiences that give me pause.  

Is it really worth all the effort to grow what amounted to less than 5 pounds of carrots?  I can buy a 5 pound bag of organic carrots at the coop for about $6.  I have had this thought before when I harvested carrots that were less than stellar.  They are challenging to get started, often germinate poorly and carrots planted in spring for summer harvest are not that sweet.  The ones I grow in fall do better, can stay in the ground until I'm ready to eat them and are quite sweet especially once the cold weather sets in.  So I consider them to be more worthwhile.  But I wonder if I should really bother planting spring carrots in future.  

I think this may be one of the only crops I've ever really questioned the value of growing.  If you have any thoughts or experience with carrot growing, weigh in on this discussion via my comments section, go ahead, it's not that hard to leave a comment!

Here is a helpful article from Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association on Carrot Rust Fly.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Veggies Piling Up!

Red Pontiac Spuds Dug Today
This morning we pulled over 35 pounds of potatoes from the ground.  These will join the 20 pounds of Yukon Golds harvested earlier.  It's interesting that from the same number of seed potatoes and the same length of row, the red potatoes always deliver almost double the number of spuds.

We have been enjoying these babies fried up with onions, simmered in their skins with butter and chives and mashed of course.  Nothing tastier than a newly dug tater to put a smile on your face.

Onions strung through fence wire to dry under cover of the shed
Each year our techniques for growing, harvesting and drying the onions has improved I think, with this system being the best one yet.  They are now starting to fall to the ground which is my signal they are dry enough to bring inside.

In other garden news; the squash, cukes and beans are really starting to pile up and I'm thinking about what to do with them all in addition to eating veggies at every meal.  The peas got ripped down off the trellis this morning, vines brown and starting to turn white with powdery mildew, time to go.

Eating beets every day now too, and contemplating canning a few jars of pickled beets for the winter.  Carrots are ready to dig and cabbage has taken the place of lettuce in the salad department.  Chard is now the green for cooking in lieu of spinach and kale.

Still waiting eagerly for the tomatoes to start getting ripe, a few Sungold cherries tide us over until the reds begin to ripen up, I see tinges of pink here and there and know it will be soon.  

I'm contemplating which beans to plant where, now that some of the spring crops are out and freeing up space.  If you are a regular reader you know I am a bean-aholic.  Fortex and Garden of Eden pole beans are on the list along with borlotto shell beans and purple hull peas.   New to try this season are black and white calico shell beans, also called yin yang beans.  

As always there is no end to the garden chores at this time of the year, but we plug along trying to get something done each morning before it gets too hot.
The day lilies are going crazy now and offer a place to pause and take in the beauty during any trip across the yard.

I'm off to organize a dish for the community garden potluck tonight where we will be digging spuds and cooking them up as part of our event.  As much as we need rain, I hope it doesn't come between 5-8 tonight in Carrboro.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

At Morgan Creek Today

The water level is starting to drop but there was still plenty flowing by to make for an OK stream watch snapshot.  I was joined for a bit by my friend Eric and his dog Willow.  Once she got restless they took off and left me in quiet solitude to finish the task.

I did not see the variety or number of critters I sometimes find, but there were still things to look at.  Loads of crawdads big and small.  Dragonfly larvae; slow moving, shield shaped, they remind me of little tanks.   A salamander, still breathing through gills, less than an inch long, almost translucent.  Small fish, big tadpole, lots and lots of wiggly caddisflies.

Many damselflies were in the air but I did not find their slender fairly-like larvae in the water.  With jet black wings and neon blue bodies I love to watch them dancing and flitting together above the stream.

Once I had finished my "work", I waded up stream in search of a spot deep enough to lie down in.  I heard something moving on the bank ahead of me and looked up in time to see a coyote staring back at me.  We met eyes for a moment and then he turned tail and trotted off in the other direction.  I found a hole thigh deep and lay down to float for a few minutes, get that deep cool way down into my flesh.
Post dip selfie

When the horseflies found me and started to bite, I headed home to chill in the AC.
I wish you all a very happy solstice.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Solstice Eve

Tonight after supper (corn and zucchini tacos), we walked up to the mailboxes to stretch our legs and catch the last light of day.  The fireflies were rising, first around the house and later as it got darker, up out of the pastures.  And as we came back down our drive towards the house, the lightening bugs in the woods started to flash in synchrony.  Enchanting.

It has been brutally hot, everyday this week in the 90's.  Each day as the inevitable thunderstorms build, we eagerly watch the weather radar only to see the storms inexplicably break up and pass around us without dropping any rain.  Frustrating.  The only time its decent to work outside is before 9 AM or after 7 PM.

Despite the dry heat the gardens are looking good and productive.  We have 180 onions curing in the shed, 60 heads of garlic dried, cleaned and ready to store, 20 pounds of potatoes curing under the bed and another 20 pounds yet to be dug from the garden.

This week we started harvesting the first of the beans, squash and cukes and the tomatoes are fattening up.  Beets are getting rounder, carrots longer and broader by the day.
The peas are about finished as are all the spring greens, between the caterpillars and the heat, forcing them to bolt to flower.  I harvested all the kale and spinach wholesale a couple of weeks ago and cooked a bushel down to a couple of pounds for the freezer.  
Beet thinnings, kale and spinach headed for the freezer

I started a new half-time job this week.  Working for the NC Community Garden Partners to organize 5 one-day workshops across the state for community garden leaders over the next 6 months.  Those will be followed by a mini-grant process to award small grants to gardens for things like bee hives and season extension.  The project is partly funded by the Burt's Bees Greater Good Foundation so there will be a big focus on pollinators and organic pest management.  I will be busy pulling this all together and doing all my other stuff but I am excited for the opportunity and think it will be a worthwhile and fun project.

Still working at Spanish for Fun.  We made these "grow bags" with coffee bags and here I am teaching the kids how to snap a snapdragon.  A lost art I am trying to keep alive.  These kids are a total joy and keep me going even on the hottest of days.

Looking forward to a dip in the creek tomorrow as we head down to conduct our quarterly stream watch in search of macroinvertebrates and other critters.  It will be a good day to get wet.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Still Perking Along in the Piedmont

Hello friends, sorry for another long absence.  It's been a busy time.  Seems like I am gardening non-stop when at home.  Otherwise I am running around trying to drum up business for Playful Nature at the same time I am trying to do the jobs I already have.   Like managing the community garden and working with my young friends at Spanish for Fun Academy childcare center.  With the kiddo's in the past couple of weeks we have pressed flowers for drying, harvested strawberries and peas, garlic and potatoes.  We've planted tomatoes and beans too.  And been studying butterflies and other pollinators.  All in all, having a big time.

The back of the Boyd house at Weymouth
I did manage to slip away for a couple of days to one of my favorite spots, the Weymouth Center for the Arts in Southern Pines.  An enchanted place to retreat and where I met up with my old group of writing friends for a few days of deep writing and renewal.  I spent a fair amount of my time there trying to get a new blog up for the business.  It will be interesting to see if I can maintain two blogs when I don't seem able to maintain one!  Please wish me luck!
Nothing says late spring like snap peas and beets.  The peas are fleeting, they really only bear for about 2-3 weeks but they are so sweet and crispy that they are worth getting in the ground way back in February and erecting a high trellis so we can enjoy their crunchy green goodness.  I was literally using a step ladder to pick them this week.  I am wondering if I should consider a shorter variety?

FYI- I am going to change my settings back to require the "prove you are not a robot" screens to post a comment. Unfortunately, as soon as I removed that little firewall, I started getting strange comments posted from China, India and elsewhere.  Sorry for any inconvenience, please DO leave a sincere comment.

Thanks for reading and happy days folks.