Garden Tomatoes

It seems our tomatoes have survived the early blight long enough to start ripening! It was touch and go with the tomatoes this year because we had so much rain early this summer, and the tomatoes couldn’t quite get dry enough. We spent hours spraying on organic copper fungicide and cutting off infected leaves, limbs and fruit to try and slow down the spread of the disease caused by fungus. I honestly wasn’t sure that we would get any fruit at all, and I am beyond thankful to be getting some ripe ones!

You can see that we trimmed all of the leaves and many stems from the first two feet of the plants. It helped keep the blight from spreading as quickly, and it caused more air to flow between them which helped dry them out faster after rain.

Unfortunately, a few of our Speckled Roman fruit got infected, but I’m hoping that some of it will still be ok. See how the fruit is kind of red and yellow striped? I’ve never grown these before, but they are supposed to be great paste tomatoes. I was looking forward to growing these tomatoes all year, and if they all get infected, I will try them again next year!

The first large tomatoes to ripen were the Estivas. These are a pretty standard early ripening tomato, and our plants have already produced more fruit this year than last year. 

I love seeing the progression of fruits ripening!

We always grow cherry tomatoes! These are Sun Cherry Tomatoes – they usually ripen early, and we love to munch on them during the day.

This year we planted 40 tomato plants:

Busy Summer

Immediately after work today I decided to drive to a neighboring town about an hour away for peaches. Parker’s Orchard in Moravian Falls, NC has great peaches – and last year they were only $12 for a bushel! We like to freeze our peaches to use in smoothies and cobblers during the winter. As it turns out, by the time I got to the orchard, the store was closed. I was so disappointed! Thankfully there was a berry picking patch not far away, so at least I was able to get some raspberries!

By the time I got back home it was already dark, and I just spent the last 2 hours getting my etsy shop set up so that I can sell some tote bags and knit hats. In theory, it is an easy process to set up the shop, but there are so many side pieces that also have to be worked out. I’m hoping to make the shop public later this week.

All that to say, I don’t have much to post about, so I thought I would share this picture of some red onions we just harvested!

I am certain summer has arrived because I feel like I hardly have a chance to sit down. I’ve grown to become very thankful for the calming and restful season of winter after a busy summer, but for now I shall embrace the life and busyness that summer brings!

Roasted New Potatoes

We have changed much about the way we eat so that we are eating seasonally as often as possible. For example, last year, between the end of the summer and the beginning of this summer, we only bought and ate 3 tomatoes from the grocery store. We decided that tomatoes just weren’t that good when they were picked green thousands of miles away and ripened with gas – so we didn’t really eat them.

Now, please don’t think we made this change to save the environment, although that is a nice benefit. We decided to eat more in season because we like good food. Period. I grew up thinking I hated tomatoes. As it turns out, I only hated tomatoes from the grocery store. They lack flavor, and they are incredibly mealy. Now one of my favorite treats is a sliced tomato – picked only days ago, when they are actually in season. My garden mentor Martha Kay taught me to slice fresh tomatoes to put on top of homemade biscuits and grace them with a dash of salt and pepper. Now that is how the world should eat tomatoes. And that is how you know summer has arrived.

I’m getting off on a tangent though – this post is supposed to be about potatoes! I have always thoughts of potatoes as a staple good – something that you should be able to get in the grocery store year round. Only recently have I realized that potatoes have a growing season as well – and they taste better when eaten in their season!

If you live in the south eastern part of the US, new potatoes should be popping up at your local farmers market right now. New potatoes are basically small potatoes that are harvested early to allow the other potatoes to grow larger. New potatoes are small, tender and packed with flavor! We picked some up at our farmers market this weekend – I think they were $3 for a pound. In my book, one of the best ways to eat these is roasted. They are slightly crunchy on the outside, cooked and steamy on the inside, and full of flavor.

Roasted New Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Herbs of your choice
Wash new potatoes and cut large ones in half. Potatoes that are about the same size will cook more evenly. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any herbs you would like to use. I prefer oregano and rosemary. Toss the potatoes so that all sides are covered in oil and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 450 until just crispy, probably 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately!

 

 

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love

I love when someone recommends and loans you a book that they know you will love! My friend Rebecca recently offered to let me borrow her copy of The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, and I almost turned her down because I’ve got a stack of book thigh high that I’m currently reading, but I am so glad I didn’t.

This was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Memoirs are my favorite type of book to read, and this one was full of the humor, love, and reality of transitioning from a NYC based writer to a North Country farmer. It is hilarious and completely captivated me this week. Kristin meets and falls in love with an aspiring farmer, and they set out on their ambitions plan of providing people in their community with an entire supply of food, from fruits and vegetables to meat and dairy products. As the farm begins to come together, they continually argue about how to do everything.

We lost whole previous daylight hours fighting over how to build a pig fence of whether the horses should spend the night inside or out. ‘But farming is my art,’ he would say finally, when we were both thoroughly frustrated and close to tears. That seemed ridiculously pretentious to me at first. How much further from art could we be, sweating and wallowing in the dirt like this? Later, after I’d been on many different farms and met many different farmers, I had to concede this point. A farm is a form of expression, a physical manifestation of the inner life of its farmers. The farm will reveal who you are, whether you like it or not. That’s art.

I had to not my head in agreement when I read a question she posed further in the book:

Question: Why is farming like a relationship?

Answer: Because you do not reap what you sow. That’s a lie. You reap what you sow, hill, cultivate, fertilize, harvest and store.

I have learned that growing something is definitely not as simple as putting a seed in the ground. There is an almost constant battle between the dirt, the elements, and the plants to see which will win.

So if you are looking for a good, lighthearted book to read, I would highly recommend The Dirty Life. It might even convince you to start growing something!

Wild Blackberries

The wild blackberries are out in full force this year! Have you checked your surroundings lately? You'll be surprised what you can find if you pay attention to the things that are around you. 

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I've been living in this house for 4 years, and I've never seen this many blackberries around. There are still so many that are waiting to ripen up!

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Picking blackberries can be hard work – they usually grow in dense thickets, and they are covered in thorns. 

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But if you make the effort to pick them, it is so worth it! I've been picking about a pint each time I go out. 

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Delicious! The ones we haven't eaten fresh are being frozen for jam, smoothies, or cobbler later in the year. 

Garden Peas

Today I sat between the tomatoes and the peas, sweaty from having worked in the garden, and devoured all of the garden peas I could find. All of them. At first I felt guilty, but then I decided that is the gardener's prerogative – I'm growing it and I can eat it when and how I want. I've never grown peas before, but I have now decided that they are my favorite of the legume family. I like sugar snaps but am not a huge fan of the sometimes leathery pod. I like green beans, especially small tender ones right off the bush, but I LOVE english garden peas. I literally just ate all the peas off every vine we have, even the ones that were still really small. I just couldn't stop.

So, today's harvest photo is a little smaller than it should have been, but that is the joy of gardening.

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Did you see those strawberries?!

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They are just as delicious as they look! Our plants are finally starting to really produce – we're getting 15-20 strawberries every few days. I think I'm going to be able to start freezing some.

Harvesting Lavender

Last spring I started several lavender plants from seed, and I bought one larger plant from our local nursery. This year they really took off and even bloomed! 

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I wanted to prune and harvest the lavender the right way so that next year the plant would continue to grow big and healthy. I searched on youtube for pruning lavender and found this informative video on the best way to do it. 

 

link

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And voila – plenty of lavender! I spread it out on baking rack and put a cookie sheet under it to catch any blooms that fell off. I placed it on my kitchen counter, out of any direct sunlight, in a breezy area to dry. As soon as it finishes drying, I'll strip the blooms off the stalk to use in baking or scented bath products. 

Anyone have other good uses for dried lavender? 

Linky Love – Gardening

I have to confess that of the gardening blogs I follow, there is only one that I truly love. 

Chiot's Run – Susy Morris is the writer, photographer, and real-lifer behind Chiot's Run. Her posts are incredibly authentic, practical, and inspiring. She is an organic gardener in NE Ohio, so her growing climate is similar to ours. I have learned so many practical things from Susy, but here are a few of my favorites:

Honestly, I could go on and on with links to Chiot's Run, but I'll leave it at that for now. Trust me when I say that you will never find a more down to earth, comprehensive organic gardening blog, with some cooking, preserving, and simple living thrown in. Second only to SouleMama, this is one of my favorite blogs! Even if you don't garden, you will love this blog, and I bet you'll be inspired to at least put some basil in a pot on your front porch.