Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Remarkable Season~ Garden Update

This has been truly a remarkable growing season for us.  We began with cooler than normal temperatures all through June, only to be thrown into almost two months of warmer than normal temperatures.  We have had next to no rain, the irrigation in the garden has worked great and we haven't had to mow near so much, yet the grass looks much like mottled, fresh cut hay.  Then, this week we had our first light frost on September 14th!!!  Let me put this in perspective for you.  We typically have our first frost right around Halloween.  It seems every year we think we are going to get cold and then have a lovely Indian Summer.  Then just as we approach a time when the kids are going to be trick-or-treating, they have to have coats on over costumes.  This week our highs have averaged in the upper 50's!  There are hints of sprinkles in the forecast, as well as a return to more seasonal weather (low 70's) for a couple of days.
What this all means??  Well, we have seen throughout this season that the garden has run roughly two to two and a half weeks behind schedule.  We normally process the bulk of our tomatoes during the last couple of weeks of August and first two weeks of September.  Just as our vines, heavy with fruit, were starting to ripen, it turned cold and everything seems to be in a state of pause.  Because of the extreme variations in weather, I stopped doing weekly newsletters/inventory lists on our farm bags.  I am varying their contents slightly from person to person depending on what has ripened that day.  The weather has been great for fall crops and this weeks farm bags consisted of Leeks, Beet Greens, Kale, Green Beans, and a few partially ripe tomatoes to be put in warm windows for a few days. 
Take a look at my post over at a sustainable life, where I discussed our first adventures in wine making.  This in mind, B and I spent several hours yesterday taking a country drive and foraging for elder berries and wild grapes along roadsides and ditches.  We came away with a 1/2 bushel of each and enough to start a five gallon barrel of wine.  For my purposes, I am stealing about 2 pounds of the elder berries to make some cordial.

This property once had a working orchard on it.  Sadly, after decades of neglect there are only a few gnarly trees remaining in various states of deterioration.  The apples are bumpy and nothing to look at, but this year (probably because of the drought) seem to be intensely flavored and amazing.  We collected a volume of fallen apples cut away the bad, kept the good and canned some amazing applesauce yesterday!  Adding to the homestead to do list...we are researching taking cuttings of these old trees so we can re-populate the orchard and one day never have need to go beyond our backyard.

I'm off to de-stem elderberries, and simmer some cordial!  Happy Weekend!!

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