garden tomatoes-ripe red ones on the vine

The Gardens in September

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{September 3rd}

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{October 1st}

As if my lack of consistent writing wasn’t enough to convince you of the fact, allow me to declare it outright: The gardens in September consumed me.

Frankly, it’s a good problem to have and one I asked for early spring in the planting. (Or you could go back even further and say I asked for it when I moved here to a place with nearly 8,000 square feet of existing gardens, 3,000 of which, we didn’t even plant this year. )

No, I’m not complaining. If you’ve been reading my garden reports for this year, then you’ll know that there were many, many weeks where you would have had hard work of convincing me I would have been able to make something of any of it, let alone bring in hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of produce so far…. yes so far.

The current tomato total ALONE is standing at over 400 pounds!!! We’re praising God for so many primarily homegrown meals. He has been more than generous towards our stumblings throughout this year.

But I’m tired because of it. And my brain is a puddle of mush. And the tools that have brought me through are a crockpot, a pen, and a pad of paper with a grid  of a to-do chart that I carry with me wherever I go. A time or two I might have freaked out because I thought I lost it. Can you imagine? Losing your brain? Because when the thoughts and the things flow through my hand, into the pen, and onto the paper, the brain is drained with them.

For me though, the system is working. I feel real good about keeping on top of the harvests as they come in. I’m gathering each Saturday night, making a preservation plan (on the aforementioned chart), and then am fresh from the Sabbath rest on Sunday and ready to go on Monday & Tuesday. I’ll harvest again on Wednesday. Preserve Thursday, Friday.

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I wonder. After spending all day in the kitchen preserving food and cleaning up the messes, is it not somewhat easier to go to the market, purchase the entire year’s worth of tomatoes, apples, beans, corn, whatever, and put them up all at once?

When you do it that way, you get a rhythm going and the mess only needs cleaned up once at the end. While waiting for the garden to give it’s gift, you have to take it as it comes and work on 4, 5, 6 or more different smaller tasks all in one day, cleaning up each in between, no rhythm to be found.

Don’t get me wrong, I love knowing where my food is coming from, how it was treated, and how incredibly fresh it is. I’m simply looking for a reason as to how some people can possibly put up so.much.food in one day and I only have a couple dozen sundry quarts to show for my efforts.

At any rate, now that we’re into October, I can feel the beginning of the end. Last tomato harvest was down ten pounds with not so many orange ones coming up behind them.

My focus is shifting from harvesting & preserving more towards clean-up, composting, and putting parts of the beds to rest for the winter, as well as maintaining what I hope to be my first successful fall, who knows, maybe winter garden.

I have many little seedlings going in the hope of continuing these updates well into the cold months, sharing how we’re continuing to enjoy homegrown produce well after the mercury says it’s impossible.

Growing in the nooks and crannies of my gardens are Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Red Russian Kale & Blue Dwarf Kale, beets, shallots, green onions, arugula, lettuces- Freckles is doing really well, Buttercrunch, heirloom Iceberg,  Red Romaine all came up, though I planted several other varieties. The spinach showed itself only in a couple of plants. And of course, the radishes are doing well and I harvested the French Breakfast already!

If you look carefully in the photos above, you can see the “dirt-y” areas are where the fall garden is growing. I’ve decided to hold off on hay mulching those for the next few weeks until I no longer hear the sweet music of the insects as I fall asleep each night. I’m wondering if those thick layers of hay will give shelter to the unwanted pests over the winter. Following that vein of logic(?), I’m also taking the leftover hay- what little is left of it- from the areas where I’m cleaning up and adding it to the Fall Compost Heap. With our lawn mower not having a bagger to collect grass clippings, I worry our piles are falling short on nitrogen, so these bits of hay will fill in.

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(mexican bean beetle larvae. past tense.)

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rouge vif d’étampes.

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très belle.

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ma jolie petit bébé

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wait- how do you say “Hot Pepper Taste Test Photo Bomb” in French?

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“Aren’t the SO BEAUTIFUL??!!” she says. Did you hear the squeal in her voice?

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nasturtiums

Hey! Amongst the weeds, I found that a nasturtium actually grew! And there was even a solitary orange flower for a few days. I didn’t have the heart to pick it.

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This one. It was my tormentor and companion for several weeks of bean picking. Scared the daylights out of me every time I first saw it. Not a bean.

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The grape harvest was meager compared to last year. It was over in one picking, however the clusters were more uniformly ripened and the grapes filled out & not shriveled as compared to last year. Interesting.

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Golden Bantam corn. The name says it all. It’s an heirloom, non-gmo sweet corn that will not tolerate having the “bantam” disregarded. Foolishly, I waited for typical corn size and ended up with large kernels that are mushy and stick to your teeth. BUT, when I did get one that was small, it was perfect and delicious.

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This Monday’s work. I cleaned up the corn & pumpkin patch, weeded it, and planted a couple rows of kale. Vintage Reformation Acres heirloom kale seed from our former homestead. It’s such a blessing to have brought a piece of that land with us, so to speak, and be able to perpetuate it.

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A thinning salad, which isn’t what it sounds like… but was tender and delicious and beautiful. Fall is the new spring.

{Pantry Garden}

Pantry Garden

{September 3rd}

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{October 1st}

Not much is happening over in the Pantry Garden these days.

The sweet potatoes were checked on Monday and I think they could go longer.

We have 2 brussels sprout plants that have made it… and look like they need staked?

The acorn squash have some babies, but the plants look dead. I think they’re doomed to the compost.

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Ok, so I need to weed. I’ll get there, but you can still see the rows of spring peas. Hopefully, a covering will protect them this winter (and not blow away) and I won’t have to worry about getting the ground worked early spring.

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Cabbage worm. Before. (Actually I see 3.)

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Cabbage worm. After.

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Chloe and I made sure the other two met the same fate. My observation would be that however bad the moths lay eggs in the early summer, it’s double (maybe triple) in the fall! My other observation would be they prefer the green varieties, so purple and red it is.

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The potato harvest filled a bushel basket. I think the sum total of the potato seeds I bought this year could have too (and maybe then some.) But they did grow even though the second batch was planted so late. (The first one rotted in the ground to to cold wet weather.)

But at least there was some return on our investment, expensive though these potatoes ended up being. Hannah took it upon herself to harvest them one morning. A fact which I’m thankful for, however they could have stayed in the ground for another 3 or more weeks until frost I do believe. Lots of marble sized potatoes in there.

Lessons Learned:

•Excuse myself from all of the rest of life from about mid-August through the first of October.

•Have the weeding 100% caught up by then.

•Install a canning kitchen outdoors because I’m prone to getting depressed (no, seriously) about getting locked down indoors with half a year of cold weather bearing down on us. Consider it a health expense and make it a priority.

Has your gardening year come to an end or is it still going strong? 

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15 Comments

  1. One more thing, Geoff Lawton (permaculture genius) has a DVD out (we have it) where he demonstrates a 14-day compost pile and it’s completely broken down! You make your pile (manures, grasses, leaves, etc.), layer it, sprinkle water on it so it “just drips” when squeezed, cover with a tarp (to cook), then every other day for 14 days, use your pitchfork and move it to a separate pile (to churn). We’re trying it now. 🙂

  2. I’m sure you’re completely exhausted and trying to muster up energy to finish the gardening race. Keep on going mama! The beauty of home education is that you CAN excuse yourself from life for harvesting! We got really behind in our studies (or at least what I had planned) when we moved, but no one, NO ONE, can teach our children these amazing life skills that we can as parents and farmers. Have you seen the Homestead Blessings DVDs? My husband bought them for me for Christmas last year and I LOVE their little outdoor canning kitchen. Just a simple gas stove with tables and trellises around for hanging pots, canning supplies (I think they use coat hangers for their canning rings). Simply splendid! Blessings from “Vine Living Farm”! 🙂

    1. You’re absolutely right Kelli, and I know it though I often forget when I’m busy beating up on myself. 🙂 Jared was telling me this morning about a conversation he had with the local Amish teacher. He’s upset that the children have lost touch with these skills & their roots & most don’t been know how to milk a goat or cow anymore. He was pointing out they’re all on the same path as us English, just about 100 years behind. Interesting.
      Yes, we do have those dvd’s & love them as well! That kitchen is adorable and is a country girls dream, isn’t it 🙂

  3. Dear Quinn,

    You say that you are worried about your compost piles falling in nitrogen. Add manure. Do you catch any manure? If your animals are mostly on pasture, I guess it would be difficult, but, not impossible. I remember someone (don’t remember who) who used to go out to the pasture and collect cow patties in buckets and use them. You can also incorporate chickens into your compost piles or your compost piles into your chicken yard, if you have one. You can start keeping rabbits. Their manure can be used right away. Or, you can mix rabbits, chickens, and compost piles. Or you can collect the urine from your household and pour it on on the compost piles. LOL! There are a LOT of ways to increase the nitrogen in your soil or your compost.

    The garden is lovely, but the chillens are more. 🙂

    Love, in Christ,

    Ginny

    1. Pretty much all we’re catching is what the laying hens leave behind. Which is certainly not enough. Like you said about it falling on pasture- it makes it challenging to collect. We try to make a “sacrifice area” over winter and then dig that out in the summer for the compost, but it’s been too wet to work all year (barn has water problems). Thankfully, when an amish neighbor moved, he let us clean out his pile and it was huge and then while getting some hay mulch from another guy, he offered up the most wonderful pile of composted manure that has inoculated our heap with red worms like you wouldn’t believe! It’s a thing of beauty, I tell ya’! So our spring heap was good… fall not so much and I find the rabbit idea very appealing for in the future 🙂

  4. Frost forecast this weekend, Quinn…how does that affect your plans? I know I am sure ‘not ready” for winter yet…

    1. It looks like we’re just going to miss it… upper 30’s tonight. Then I need to get my backside up to the greenhouse store and get some row covers! Nothing like seeing a bit of sleet this morning to snap me out of my state of denial about summer not being over. I am SO not ready either. Summer was way too short this year.

  5. Quinn, your tomatoes are impressive! Heirloom varieties are so pretty.

    All I have left in the garden are a couple of cherry tomatoes, my Kentucky Wonder pole beans and the brassicas. I have come to the same conclusion as you. The cabbage butterflies prefer green over red varieties. They have been much harder on the green collards than the red Russian kale. Same with the cabbages. I used to be squeamish about your past tense cabbage worms, but no more. They’re taking food out of my mouth and that means all’s fair in love and war. Just mash’em and move on. I have a raised bed sown with cool weather crops and plan to use row cover through fall and into winter. First time to try this and I’m hoping it will last for a few month yet.

    Love your posts!

    1. Hoping your raised beds do wonderfully Janet! I know some people who swear by their fall garden and say it does so much better than summer. May that be the case for both you and I! I’m glad to read you agree about the cabbage worms. The observation will certainly make planning for next easier. Why fight them if you don’t have to, right? Take Care!!

      1. Quinn – I enjoy your blog so much, but there are so many ads now that I find I don’t come here as often. Especially the one that covers your beautiful cover photo. It is impossible to exit out of it.

        1. That ad actually doesn’t cover it, but is above it. I’m sorry you feel this way. It’s a shame, but those 4 ads pay the blogging bills and I know a lot of people don’t like them. That is something I have to live with. I have spent several thousand dollars on running my websites and sharing information with you all this year alone so far. No mention at all of the 20-30 hours a week of my time I’m investing in it. I do my best to try to compensate for that by giving back with useful giveaways in addition to thoughtful content. Again, I’m sorry Molly.

          https://decor8blog.com/2014/07/18/can-full-time-bloggers-live-off-of-rainbows-hugs/

          1. The ads ARE annoying, but worth it for keeping the lights on around here, in my opinion 🙂

          2. I didn’t mean to upset you. I understand the whole ad thing. I was just commenting on the one ( which is now gone) on your main photo. On my screen it covered the bottom right of your beautiful picture. Thank you for your generous sharing of your life and your wealth of shared information. Yours is one of my favorites. Again, I understand the ads are there for good reason.

          3. No worries Molly. I was hoping to explain why they were necessary. I’m relieved to here that its not covering the header anymore. Must have been a glitch. I know that these things can show up differently on different browsers and try to check them periodically to make sure most people see the content the way it’s intended. 🙂 Blessings to you!!