Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The flowers from 2017

Darcey Bussell

All in all the flowers did great this year.  There will be some moving around of things that are too big for their spots and things that aren´t thriving, but that will have to wait for colder weather.  William Morris just hung his head and looked pathetic all summer, so he´ll need some shade.  Darcey Bussell bloomed well, as did Munstead Wood who needs and deserves a better spot.  Falstaff lost his leaves in September, he may be tired of being in a pot.

The Roses

Don Juan
Roses old and new all did well.  It was a hot, dry summer so foliage suffered.  Blackspot arrived and stayed. 
Bremer Stadtmusikanten

Apricot Nectar

Special note to Eden (Pierre de Ronsard), famously stingy and slow growing, who pumped out no less than 4 flushes from his pot.  To be planted on a yet to be built arbor around the veg patch.

A new problem appeared, in some beetles, first irridescent green, then black that started eating the light colored, fragrant roses.  First spotted on the unknown white in June.


They then hit Sharifa Asma and Molineaux, leaving the blooms half eaten.  By that time, the giant white dahlia  My Love was blooming and acted like a beetle magnet.  Since it´s too big for it´s spot, and I´d rather not have the roses chomped, it will get moved.  Fortunately, it´s also very attractive for all kinds of bees and butterflies.

The Dahlias

Dahlia Cactus ¨My Love¨

Dahlia Decorativa ¨Duet¨

Dahlia ¨Black Prince¨

Planted some bulbs from the Ag coop.  Two of the three came up - Pompom was a no-show.  Also, since I loved Black Prince from last year, I dug up the roots, separated and stored them for spring and then planted them around the place.  They mostly survived OK, but are very floppy.  I love that burgundy color.  I don´t believe I´ll bother digging this year, except for the giant white beetle attractor.


Indigo bloomed, despite suffering from the drought.  Now waiting to see when I should harvest for seeds for next year.

Some surprise fall-blooming gladiolas showed up.

The marigolds were crazy this year.  I´m gathering flower heads to try some experiments with natural dyeing.

I have to note that I´m really having a hard time working up any enthusiasm for the long list of redoing beds or moving things around.  I need to put up some more wires to tie the climbing roses who are actually climbing.  The iris need digging and separating and several other things moved but that can´t happen until I free up some bed space somewhere else.  We have the number of a guy with a tractor to till up a section of the pasture for veg next year, but that area will then have to be amended and turned into beds.  There will be leaves to be gathered and spread.  I have to get more manure from the horsey place, which will then need deep mulching to keep grass from sprouting.  I´m tired thinking about it.

And, Breo went back for surgery on his other knee and is now hobbling around the house needing attention.  He had a bad first night, but since then has cheered up and started showing some more spark.  It helps that we´ve been through the procedure before and know a little more what to expect, but we still stress out about his welfare.  Keeping him relatively still is nigh unto impossible.

So, blogging may be haphazard until the new year.  But in any case, I wish everyone a Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain and fall season.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Apple Sharlotka

Something yummy to do with the abundance of apples this time of year. And I use whatever apples I have on hand, homegrown, gifted or otherwise. Mostly, I just like saying ¨sharlotka¨. Good name for a cat.

I started with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  Her MIL is Russian, so I guess this must be pretty authentic.  In the comments it becomes clear that it´s a popular dessert from Poland to the Ukraine.

Mine doesn´t come out so blonde and pretty.  It may be because I use brown sugar.  It may be because our oven has no temperature marks, so I´m guessing about the 350 degree thing.  Mine are always toasted to a dark brown.  But there´s no question that the results are tasty.  Good for breakfast, dessert, tea time, there´s no end to the possibilities.  Also delicious with a cinnamon powdered sugar glaze drizzled over the top.  It can also be made with pears instead of apples.

Keys to success - you do have to push the batter down into the apple pieces, it won´t sink by itself.  Don´t forget to run a knife around the sides of the springform before turning it over or you risk the bottom of the cake sticking to the paper.

From the link above:
Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
Ground cinnamon, to finish
Powdered sugar, also to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. (I cut each half into four “strips” then sliced them fairly thinly — about 1/4-inch — in the other direction.) Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.

Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter so that it covers all exposed apples. (Updated to clarify: Spread the batter and press it down into the apple pile. The top of the batter should end up level with the top of the apples.) Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Preserving 2017

Once the veg/fruit starts coming, you can´t really keep up with it.  The question is how you preserve it for later.  A dehydrator and fruit press are on the list of capital investments still to be made.

The cucumbers were numerous.  I gave several to the neighbors/family and used them in gazpacho and salads.  Mostly, I made pickles.  I tried bread and butter pickles, refridgerator dills and lacto-fermented dills.  Unfortunately, the cukes went from white to yellow in the blink of an eye, and yellow cukes tend to be bitter.  So even pickled, I can taste that bitterness.  Still, I´m amazed that the salt brine will make pickles in a week or less.  I´ve got a big jar in the fridge, and wonder how long until they go soft.

I used the many, many zucchini/courgettes in tortillas, pisto, zucchini bread, lasagna, veggie puree for Breo and froze some shredded.  I have my doubts.

This year tried roasting the tomatoes instead of boiling for hours in on the stove.  I did put a glug of olive oil in the first coupe of batches, which means they´ll be kept in the fridge, as I´ve read water bath canning isn´t recommended with things containing oil.  A canner is on the list, too.

And I made ketchup, which is A.MAZ.ING.  Light years away from what you buy in the store.  In fact, it may be a little heavy on the cloves, as I was guestimating the weight of the tomatoes and using the recipe here.  I´ve got 3 more little pots in the freezer.  When those run out, I´ll make more using canned store tomatoes and see if there´s much of a difference.

No jams this year, since I still have several jars from last year.  Wondering just what to do with the apples, since the neighbor kindly gifted me with another few pounds.  Maybe pie filling. Got the bag of hedge mix in the freezer waiting for inspiration.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Fruit 2017

I´ve commented on the apples and blackberries for the galette, now for some of the rest.

No mirabelle plums this year, despite pruning the tree and generally tending to it.  I think the birds got them all.

The 3 rhubarb plants that miraculously survived are doing well in their bed. No harvest until next

White currants got eaten by birds.  Black currants are frozen with the rest of the ¨hedge¨ mix.  Planting in the ground this fall so they can be netted next year.

Blueberries - Netted, very few berries, ripened over months 4 or 5 berries at a time.  In the frozen hedge mix.

Strawberries - Tasty.  Planted under the blueberries this year.  Kept producing a little fruit over the summer, but were buried in the abundant marigolds, so got forgotten about.

Raspberries - suffered with the drought.  Birds got the few berries.  Will try planting in the ground this fall, but I think they may be goners.

Pears - more production this year after severe pruning.  But even with hand picking and carefully placing them in a cool dark space, they turned from hard to brown and squishy in a matter of 48 hours. Don´t know what I´ll do with those.

Melons - 2 already eaten!!  Fragrant and delicious.  Saved the seeds from the first to ripen.  There are several melons still on the vine.  My understanding is that they won´t ripen once picked, so I´m waiting, even though the first couple had some bad spots.  The ones I have in the kitchen broke free from the vine on their own, so we´ll see.

We have a first ever lemon on the lemon tree!  At least I´m pretty sure it´s a lemon, could be a lime at this stage.  Both trees look happier out of their pots.

One small jar of walnuts pickling.  Both walnut trees had nuts this year, which is a 200% improvement from before.

Other trees:

The two oaks survived the drought, but barely.
One of the two sour cherries survived.
One of the two almonds survived.
Both hazels survived.
Looks to be a mast year, despite the drought.  Acorns are early and abundant and the chestnut trees look loaded.  I hope that doesn´t mean a long cold winter.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Summer Veg 2017

With fall well and truly starting, a look back at how the veg garden did this summer.  This year was very, very warm starting quite early.  There were only a couple of notable rains between April and September, so another very dry growing season. 

Garlic - did much better in a raised bed.  Very weedy, though.  I have to find something to mulch them with.  Despite the raised bed, wet in the spring.  By the time I finally pulled them, some of the bulbs were opening and not very attractive to look at.  But I got a good yield and flavor, and they make my eyes water like onions when sliced for cooking.

Peas - burnt out by June.  Not much production.  Planted a different variety in August to try for fall.

Onions Red, Spanish and Chato - Bought starts in May.  So hot in June, they skipped the spring onion stage and went straight to forming bulbs.  Ate all the local chatos by mid-August.  Now eating the round Spanish and reds in salads.  Would need to plant 3 times as many for winter use.

Carrots - first sowing was good, second half were eaten by critters, third had terrible germination.  Sowed again for fall.  Good flavor and size on the ones I managed to harvest.  Garden carrots are so fragrant!

Potatoes Red and white - Red fingerling were bought bagged from Lidl last fall.  Took a long time to sprout, even after planting in March.  Finally planted some white seed potatos kindly donated by the neighbor in April.  First blight appeared and then a plague of potato beetles/grubs. I estimate that between 20 and 25% were eaten by voles.  The reds that weren´t eaten produced pretty well and were delicious.  The whites were not abundant, but good sized.  Unfortunately, as I´m using them, many have gaps in the center of the potato, and brown spots.  Must order online or get certified seed potatoes next year.

Green beans French and broad - The calima bush beans grew and produced really well.  They´re short, and kind of a pain to harvest, but tasty and productive.  Did better directly sown than transplanted.  Planted some more for fall in August.  I planted some purchased broad bean starts to replace the peas, and to my surprise, they´ve got purplish pods.  I suspect the market people sold poor V beans for drying.

Lettuce Loose leaf and head - Loose leaf did spectacularly well, providing salads all June and into July, cut and come again.  Head lettuce struggled.  Had a bed of red, curly and bib that did nothing for over a month, despite regular watering and some shade from the other beds.  The curly lettuce in the herb garden did better even while completely overshadowed by the indigo and cilantro.

Spinach - complete disaster second year running.  Barely makes it out of the ground and then just lies there looking forlorn until I dig it out in disgust.

Parsnips - not seen a seedling yet.  Planted in February, re-sowed in May, again in August, and the last bed was seeded last week.

Cucumbers - tags got switched with the melons.  And 7 or 8 cucumber plants is lots more than we need.  I composted a lot of yellow cucumbers.  They did get mildew by mid-August.

Peppers - the smallish, light green Orense did well.  The padron, not quite so productive.  The bells are staying very small and none are turning red.

Tomatoes - got blight, which I now think drifted from the neighbors´ potato patch.  I did some pruning and ultimately sprayed copper twice.  Those planted earliest produced pretty well and actually turned red.  The last few have produced fruit, but I´m not sure they´ll ever mature, now that nights are down to 9C/50F.

Courgette/zucchini - Four plants is a lot to keep up with.  Finally got mildew at the end of August.

Pumpkins - exuberant growth.  Small New England Sugar Pie and white Long Island Cheeses did surprisingly well.  The butternut was very disappointing, except for a volunteer that started up by the compost area where we planted the citrus trees.  That thing formed double the number of squash in the proper bed.  All squash finally came down with mildew mid-August.

For the fall:

Leeks - starts planted in August.

Brussels sprouts - Planted starts in August.  Seem pretty sturdy, but may be too late to see sprouts.

Rutabaga/swede - started and transplated in August.

Peas - started and transplated in August.

Parsnips - sown in September, again

Carrots - sown in August and September

Swiss chard - sown in September

Beet greens (grelos) - sown in September

Spinach - sown in September, again

Garlic - to be planted the end of October, which worked well last year

Our frost date is usually end of October/beginning of November, but we typically don´t get freezes until December/January.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Apple galette with wild blackberries

So we survived the yearly August family visits.  Let´s just say I have thoughts about the whole extended family arrangement predicted for the post collapse future. Now, after a couple of days of rain and a sudden drop in temperatures, it feels like we are well and truly heading into fall. 

And I am pleased to offer this easy galette, made with home grown apples from the tree that´s now producing more, and more accessible apples that we had pruned last winter, along with blackberries from the nearby hedges.  No idea what the variety of apple actually is - blushed golden, not too sweet.  I remain unconvinced by the local ¨cooker¨ Reinetta.

Butter crust from Louis P. De Gouy´s The Pie Book, which I had in the freezer.  Galette recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  She´s my go to dessert source.  I did substitute half brown sugar for white, just because I like it more.  Also made a great zucchini bread (courgette) recipe from her site when we were overwhelmed.

Apple/berry filling couldn´t be simpler.  I did go ahead and use the peels and cores for a sugar syrup and basted the whole thing when it came out of the oven.  Perfect balance between not too dry and crumbly, but not soggy.  It is a bit of a faff turning every 15 minutes, but as our oven heats significantly more at the back than the front, just as well.

Hope everyone had a swell summer!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The July Garden

As I´m sure all of you who have grown potatoes knew, I´ve spent the last few weeks picking potato beetles off the plants every morning.  Oh, and now they have blight too.  So I´ve cut down the foliage on the most obvious cases and crossing my fingers for the rest.  I dug some up, starting with those closest to the tomatoes, so the beetles wouldn´t migrate, and managed to spear 90% with the garden fork.  Very few potatoes, but quite large.

The tomatoes now have actual tomatoes, and blight.  It´s so discouraging.  Today it´s raining, but tomorrow I go in search of copper sulfate, I guess.  Have read some people have success with aspirin in water, but more as a preventative.

The peas were burnt by the heatwave in June, so they came out and broad beans are in their place.  They took forever to grow, didn´t produce very much, and the peas were just OK, so I shall have to find another variety.

The cucumbers all appear to have identical leaves and flowers, so now I have to figure out how to attach them to their trellis.

Courgette/zucchinni have appeared.  Peppers are coming along. 

The squash are happily producing flowers and vines.  Now keeping an eye out for mildew.

Newbie observation - everything seems to need staking or structures.  Peppers, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers.  I spend a lot of time tying things to other things.

We´ve been eating the new potatoes, bush beans, lettuce, onions and carrots.  The blueberries are ripening 6 at a time, so I´m freezing them for future processing.

Good year for flowers, though the usual blackspot.  Molineux and Comtesse.  Great marigolds this year.

I have a jar of walnuts in brine.  Struck out on malt vinegar at the Corte Ingles in Coruña, so will have to order online.

Taa daa - the finished patio - a vast improvement.