Chilly Carrots and Kale

Adversity? Nope – Hard core gardening!!  Fit for a deer?! We aren’t going to let a snow get in our way…

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Who said you can’t have fresh back yard garden veggies in the Canadian winter?! It takes some planning, some luck and a bit of crazy – but seeing little faces light up when they find veggies they planted last summer under the snow is pretty cool.

It was actually warm enough to dig under the snow with some garden gloves in the winter tunnel this morning (a balmy +3 degrees celsius!).  The strong winds and piles of snow destroyed our pitiful little tunnel, but the straw insulation managed to protect the few precious carrots we had left!!  Hubby thought he had picked most of them for Christmas dinner but there were enough little guys left for a quick snack!!  The kale is still going strong – that “vile weed” seems to survive everything we throw at it.  Thank goodness it tastes good in soup and pasta…

The beet, turnip, leek and onion tunnel is still covered in ice and feet of snow (completely unaccessible on crutches), hopefully we will be blessed enough with a few more warmer days before winter sets in again and we will be able to see some green under there as well!

Worth a try next year in your yard?

 

“Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity.” ~ Og Mandino

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The flurries have begun and the 2015 garden $$ totals are in…Picked (but not so much planted) Sept 22nd – Nov 18th

The garden is tucked in for the impending winter season.  Will it be soft, gentle, fluffy and peaceful or a raging onslaught of freezing rain, blizzards and hurricane speed winds?  In Nova Scotia one never knows.  I have been holding off on doing the final tally of what we picked, weighed and calculated this season thinking that we would have stopped bringing in a regular harvest long before now.  But blessings be acknowledged, the girls continued to haul in buckets of treasures up until last weekend!  We did have to buy some tender veggies and extra salad greens from the market last week – the first real time since June!!  There are still beets, carrots, kale, chard, leeks, onions and mixed greens tucked under hoop tunnels and snuggled under frost blankets for special treats between now and full freeze up, but I think it is safe to say that the majority of our harvest is now in! We had our first flurry today, winter is unavoidable.

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When we began asking ourselves how much we could be saving in produce, we never expected that the totals would be so high.  We also never anticipated the volume of veggies that we could actually consume as a family of four during 1 season, nor how much we would be able to freeze and jar to extend our feasting. And we certainly didn’t even stop to think about how much fun it would be to weigh, track and tally our bounty – who knew kids could get so excited about book keeping?!

 

In the end it is safe to say that this experience has been far more worthwhile to us than any actual $$ total.  It has taught us to be less wasteful by ensuring we consumed what we picked, less picky because even ugly cucumbers taste great and save us money and to be even more grateful for our ability to “shop” for dinner right in our own backyard.  It is amazing how much more we appreciated our own produce when we compared what the weekly prices were in the market for what the kids simply pulled out of the (non-chemically treated, clean earth, worm filled and flower kissed) dirt. Dirt is amazing!  And seeds, well they are just mind blowing. Really.

 

So without further adieu…..drumroll please…..the totals for Sept 22- Nov 18th of our 2015 season are:

Approx savings compared to local market: $972.75!!!!

Total since May 26th – $2355.45 WOW!!!

Total weight picked this period: 136.09 pounds!!  That is almost as much as I weigh….

Total to date: 341.15 pounds (That is a lot of veggies!!!)

These totals are compared to local produce when possible but not specifically organic produce – we would prefer to eat local than purchase organic food that has had to travel very long distances, using wasteful packaging and not being allowed to ripen to perfect.  We do use organic methods in our own garden, so the estimated savings would likely be much more significant had we compared to local AND organic produce!  Not to mention the savings in jams, jellies, spreads, sauces, salsas, dried and frozen herbs, saved seeds, compost, cut flowers…you get the picture!

 

Dollars and cents may speak to some, time outdoors and exercise to others, quality conversations and relationship building to most…how do we put a price on the value of our family garden?!

 

 

 

Picked and Planted – Sept 1st – 21st

These past weeks we picked:

September has been a lovely month in Nova Scotia.  It has been very warm, even hot on quite a few days – this weekend reached over 30 degrees. We have had some good rains and cooler nights but thankfully no frost or hurricanes. The garden has continued to thrive, allowing us to pick a great volume of vegetables for the freezer and the salsa production line!  I will admit that we have not been out picking as much as we could be with the start of school, sports and the end of vacation, but we are still not paying  for produce…though I will admit that I picked up come gorgeous butternut squash from a farmer’s driveway when we were in the Annapolis Valley blueberry picking, I simply couldn’t help myself – it is so fun putting coins in a jar and picking out fresh treasures with the farmer trusting you completely to pay for what you take!

Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and herbs have been the big hitters, but we have also picked a lot of kale, chard, zucchini, onions, leeks, celery and beets.  We also started picking eggplant and jalapeño peppers! Squash should be ready for harvesting by next week and the new fall crops of greens and radish will be close behind. Fingers crossed we will be hauling in freshness for at least another month!

Approx savings compared to local market: 264.24

Total since May 26th – $1382.70.46

Total weight picked this period: 72.45 pounds!!  That is more than my 8 year old – our minds are blown again!

Total to date: 305.04 pounds

This month we planted:

Fall greens – Bok Choy, Spinach, mixed salad greens and beet greens

Market turnip (30 days!!)

Cherry Belle radish – 4th planting of the season!

I covered the seedlings with frost blankets to keep the soil moist and to help fend off the birds and slugs. So far the battle with the slugs has been awful!

“Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.” ~ Unknown

Tomato Taste-off!

The big day has finally arrived!  All 9 varieties of tomatoes that we specifically selected, started from seed under lights, nurtured, rescued from snapped stems and gave away when over 100 grew into viable plants had fruit ripen all on the same morning! We have had a great tomato season, full of fun growing experiments and incidents with little hands seeding far more plants than necessary. Now the time has arrived to post the results of the main event – the tomato taste off!!! Drumroll please…..

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Round 1 Results

The Red Guys: Scotia, followed by Subarctic and finally Big Beef. This was a close round with the winner being debatable to the point of Rock, Scissors Paper…actually Scotia won in a 2-2 tie, but since both kids preferred the provincial namesake, it won round 1.

Round 2 Results

The colourful guys: In first place we had Lemon Boy, followed closely by Gold Dust. Sadly Black Plum was a very distant 3rd place and was in fact last overall. I am hoping Black Plum will redeem itself when I make sauce with them because they have been left behind in the fresh eating department.

Round 3 Results

The other fellas: Sun Gold was so far ahead in this heat that it won a buy to the gold medal position. Hands down. Second place, which would have actually been better suited in the red category, was Menonnite. This was my personal favourite red tomato this year; oddly enough, they were terrible last year. Finally in this category was the little heirloom, Alaska.

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The Final Results

Gold: Living up to it’s name – Sun Gold!!

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Silver: Menonnite – the top red!

Bronze: Lemon Boy, but definitely one of the prettiest varieties

Runner Up: Scotia, you make our province proud!

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Judging by the left overs they were all winners!! What should we try next year?!

“It is difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts when eating a homegrown tomato!” ~ Lewis Grizzard

Picked and Planted – August 5th-29th

These past weeks we picked:

A whole lot of everything!!  We have had a constant supply of everything from the past month, including a reintroduction of radish from the second planting, some random lettuces and especially exciting was the addition of tomatoes and tomatillos! I love tomatoes so much, I did a special post just on them…yup, love ’em!

August was a big month – we picked a lot, we saved a lot, we jammed and baked a lot while on vacation and since being home, we have frozen a lot.  My hubby is thoroughly enjoying the quote ” We are putting up some big numbers, big numbers…” I can’t argue!

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Onions

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Herbs and garlic

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All sorts of colourful carrots – no better way to get little ones to eat veggies than to let them pick out their favourite colours and plant them!

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Carrots are not the only the only veggies that come in multi-colour!  We have been picking green, yellow, pink, purple and speckled beans in all shapes and sizes.

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Magically, rhubarb has continued to produce in the shade.  We froze 16 cups so far for the winter.

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Apples are almost ripe – we picked 5 pounds in advance of the deer, hopefully we didn’t pick them too early…

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Our favourite root veggie – beets!  So delicious steamed or roasted.

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And what good are tomatoes and basil without cucumbers for greek salad?

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And not to be forgotten…TOMATOES!!!!

WOW!  What a month!!!

Approx savings compared to local market: 495.89!!

Total since May 26th – $1118.46

Total weight picked this period: 103.31 pounds!!  That is more than my 12 year old – our minds are blown!

Total to date: 232.59 pounds

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This was our first massive picking before we left on vacation – the picking buckets get loaded into the truck with everything else so we don’t have to go to the store during our holidays.

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This was our second big picking after holidays for the freezer and storage!

A few notes – 1. Prices are calculated by comparing to the price of non-organic, (local when possible) produce at the local grocery store that we stop at the most.  We usually buy our produce (when our hand is forced) at a local veggie market that is mostly organic and spray free, but tends to be more expensive and has less selection.  We chose to compare to the supermarket as it was more reflective of what most people would buy and what I could quickly take a picture of with my camera when grabbing the weekly essentials without an extra trip. If I cannot find what we grew (market turnip, tomatillos etc.), I will call the specialty market in Halifax for their prices. These costs do not factor in the price of what the produce becomes (jams, pies, baking, salsa, pickles etc.), simply the raw food we pick. I suspect our savings would be almost double if we compared to organic or final products!

2. Since May 26th, we have purchased 2 pounds of tomatoes, 6 cucumbers, 1 bag of potatoes, 8 bunches of bananas, 3 watermelons and 1 pineapple. Everything else has come from our garden or our weekly fruit share from Tap Root/Noggins CSA.  Not bad, if I do say so myself!!!

3. We record everything by hand after weighing our picking buckets with a digital fish scale.  The kids are getting to be very good little book keepers!  We are not separating by variety of tomato, bean, kale etc. but we are separating by type of veggie.  Maybe next year…

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My wee book keeper.

These past weeks we planted:

Zippo.  Vacation and work got the best of us!  That said, we finally pulled out the peas today and made space for all the fall greens we hope to plant tomorrow and later this week. Stay tuned!

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(Taken right after we got home – in desperate need of a mow and a lot of weeding!)

Tomato Time!!

We have been away for a glorious 2 weeks of sun, sand, sailing, hiking, playing, splashing and NO TV or INTERNET in beautiful Cape Breton!!  Other than Wifi in the odd restaurant and the radio, we have been unplugged and oblivious.

And we loved it.  Even the kids – we borrowed 2 extra kids to keep ours entertained and they didn’t even seem to notice how disconnected we were in the “stiff tents” that we lovingly escape to with our extended family every summer. For the first time in a long time, we all came home sun kissed, rested and fulfilled.

Thankfully while we were away, my mother came over to tend the garden, picking what was ready and diligently keeping our weight records for us – I have a lot of work ahead of me tallying for August – but that will have to wait because….WE HAVE RIPE TOMATOES!!!

And I am a tomato junkie of the highest degree, as are my girls.  As I write I am eating a bowl full of beautiful fresh ‘maters with basil, cukes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, oh my, my, my….yum!

This gallery contains pictures from throughout the summer of various planting methods that we are experimenting with.  We don’t have great luck with big tomato yields because we live on a windy hill and are susceptible to blight.  We are trying containers, big and small, on the raised deck and the lower patio, raised beds, rows with red film, interplanting with black film and with different herbs and flowers.

Results to date:

Planters: Early on, the plants in the planters on the deck took off but over time they have been hit worse by the wind and lack of moisture.  They are still producing in the big planters though slower than in the garden proper but the smaller planters have succumbed despite extra epsom salts, persistent watering when required and suckering off sick leaves.  I think the extremely hot days and cold nights have hurt them.

Red Plastic:  First of all, this stuff does not block weeds – it lets the sun in and the weeds simply grow up underneath the plastic.  Initially the slowest method, these plants seem to be have the most fruit and least amount of foliage.

Black Plastic: By far the best weed blocker and maintains moisture the most evenly.  There is a more proportional ratio of leaves to fruit than with the planters, but to date we have not picked any ripe fruit from them.  This could be because we planted a later variety but they are definitely behind the same variety in the red film bed.

Raised beds: These are the largest, healthiest plants.  They took the longest to form fruit, but have not struggled as bad during wet spells and as long as they have been watered (more often than in the rows), they have not been bothered by the heat either.

There is no clear winner yet between the red and black film or the raised beds, but planters on the raised deck have been voted out of practice next year.  We will keep a few on the lower, more sheltered patio because they are very convenient, but they will only be placed in larger planters. Time will tell!

The Stars:

Here are a few photos taken by the girls of our treasures – hands down taste favourite is the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes – no competition… second place so far goes to Mennonite, followed by Gold Dust, Alaska and then Scotia.  We are waiting for Subarctic Plenty, Black Plum, Big Beef and Lemon Boy to ripen up to compare. What are your favourites?

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The winner – Sun Gold!!

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Runner Up to date – Menonnite

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From top right to bottom left: Menonnite, Gold Dust, Scotia, Alaska, Black Plum (not ripe – wee hands picked by accident…), Sun Gold.

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Tonight’s “snack”!!! Stay tuned – we are just getting started on the Tomato-Geddin’ fallout!

 “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” ~ Miles Kingston

Picked and Planted – July 24 – Aug 3

This week we picked:

Snap peas, snow peas – still by the bucket full every two days!

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Raspberries and blueberries – we have picked a box of raspberries almost every day, so good for breakfast in yogourt.

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Our first bush beans – these are “Tanya’s Pink Pod” from Annapolis Seed, picked especially from my wee girl’s bed.

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Scarlett Runner and Purple Fortilluto Pole beans

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Carrots!!!  Many are still small, but oh….so….tasty!!!

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Zucchini, zucchini and MORE zucchini – Sun stripe and Black Beauty are doing amazingly well this year;  starting them under black film and 6mm hoops agreed with them!  I have some plants that are 5 feet tall – yesterday we picked 14 in one day…lots of baking for us.  I grate 2 cup bags for the freezer for winter as well using it in almost everything I can hide it in.  We love zucchini sautéed, as noodles, stuffed with lasagne fixings, baked with cheeses and in dumped in soups. But nothing makes chocolate cake more moist than this awesome veggie!

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I pulled our overwintered curly kale and am letting the pods dry out to collect the seeds.  We also pulled the lettuce that we let go to seed.  Tonight we clipped the pods and put them in a paper bag in the furnace room to finish drying out.  There should be enough seeds to never, ever, ever have to buy them again!!!

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Finally, we picked radish (round 2), broccoli (the big one of 2 heads the ground hog did not destroy…), kale, onion, a few rogue scapes, swiss chard and many fresh herbs including basil, chives, thyme, oregano, sage, cilantro and dill.  Soon these will have to be dried or frozen for winter.

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Approx savings compared to local market: $136.01

Total weight picked this week: 41.74 pounds – yup, zucchini weigh a lot!!

This week we planted:

After pulling the remaining lettuce and decimated broccoli, we planted a few more bush beans, carrots and beets for the fall.  We are taking summer vacation for a few weeks, so there will be a planting hiatus after which the fall harvest planting will start in ernest.  Hopefully we get some tomatoes and cucumbers soon!!

Wishing you all a beautiful sunny week!  Here are a few pictures of our beautiful ocean this past weekend – my girls were away so I borrowed my Dad’s car and my fur baby and I went on an adventure in search of a great beach. It was simply too hot to garden!!

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing and the lawn mower is broken!” ~ James Dent

Picked and Planted – July 15 – 23

This week we picked:

Our first Black Beauty zucchinis and the last of the garlic scapes and spinach

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Lots of fresh basil!!  Mmmmmmm…..time for basil pesto!

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The first raspberries are ready for picking, we are hoping for a good crop this year provided the rain stops and we get a few good hot days again.  We managed to pick a pint before the heavy rain came today.

My little hands also found one ripe blueberry, of course it had to be picked!

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We continue to have an abundance of Sugar Sprint and Oregon Snow peas, chard, kale, lettuce, herbs and onions.

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For good measure, we added some edible pansies to birthday cupcakes – a little something extra!

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Next on base for this coming week – maybe some Sunstripe summer squash, new potatoes, carrots and the first of the bush beans?

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Approx savings compared to local market: $51.31

Total weight picked this week: 8.12 pounds

This week we planted:

Succession planting of fall seedlings has started in trays on the front porch – as early veggies start to bolt we will leave some to go to seed but most will be pulled out and replanted with seedlings for a smaller fall crop and a few for overwintering.  This week I direct seeding Scarlett Nantes and Napoli carrots where there was lettuce and bush beans where the spinach finished.  We also planted more Gypsy and Munchkin broccoli in cells after Mr. Nibbles took care of the first batch, Romaine and Buttercrunch lettuces and Ragged Jack and Dinosaur Kale.  The porch is shady so hopefully it will be cool enough to keep these from bolting too early; if it gets too hot I will have to turn on the lights and bring the trays inside until late summer.  Fingers crossed!

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“When God blesses the harvest, there is enough for the their as well as the gardner.” ~ Polish Proverb

Picked and Planted – 6 July to 14 July

This week we picked:

Sugar Snap and Oregon Giant Snow peas – over 6 litres of them!!

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Baby Beets and Market Express Turnip

Red and Spanish Onion

Early broccoli (it started to bolt before the heads got big so we ate it anyways!)

Garlic Scapes

Rhubarb

Kale, Swiss Chard, Lettuce

Herbs – Chives, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Basil, Mint

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We picked the last of the Strawberries and Haskaps (single tear…they will be missed!)

We also tried some edible flowers – the Lavender is wonderful as a tea, the nasturtium was not a taste I enjoyed and I am still not sure about Calundula petals…..

Approx savings compared to local market: $98.35 (Total $435.25 since 26 May)

Total weight picked this week: 15.11 pounds (Total since 26 May – 79.42 pounds, which is more than my wee girl weighs!)

This week we planted:

A few extra Marketmore 76 cucumbers to fill some gaps

Replanted Laurentian Turnip for the fall because the pheasants ate all of the seedlings….

From our garden to yours, have a great week!

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“It might take a year, it might take a day, but what is meant to be will always find it’s way” ~Unknown