Category Archives: Gardening

Working with Local Produce

blueberry pancakesOver the years I’ve worked at spending more of my summer hunting down local produce (and meat, sometimes) to both enjoy it now and preserve it for later.  I like being able to control my “food mileage,” but more importantly I like supporting my local farms.  There are precious few of them left and it’s up to us to make sure they survive.  Ginormous corporate farms can use a lot of questionable practices or are at the mercy of Monsanto, so the more I can support my local people and keep them around, the better.

Here’s an example of enjoying the bounty now.  Half whole wheat/half all-purpose pancakes with blueberries.  I picked them this past Tuesday at Dondero Orchards in Glastonbury, Connecticut.  I love this place.  They are small but have pretty much all you could desire–I picked peaches and blueberries this particular day but they also had raspberries and some early apples.  I picked strawberries in June there.  And they have the best cider donuts I have ever, ever tasted.  So there you go.

My basic pancake recipe can be found here.

PreservingI also have been canning more or less on par with last year, but hopefully this year’s pickles won’t be a disaster like last year’s.  I made a half-batch of blueberry jam using the recipe in the Sure-Jell packet on Tuesday and Spiced Peach Jam (Ball Blue Book) on Thursday, along with 6 pints of Garlic Dill pickles using a recipe from Food In Jars, one of my favorite sites.  I’m hoping to make some tomatillo salsa.  I noticed some tomatillos at the farmer’s market on Thursday and if I get my act together this morning I’ll go down there and get some before I head north for a family reunion.  I snagged a pepper–the recipe called for “long green peppers,” which is extraordinarily vague–from a friend of a friend’s garden.  It looks like a spicy pepper.  Ideally I’ll find a jalepeno at the market as well for the salsa but I’m not banking on it.

the first garden squashAnd lastly I leave you with some truly local produce–stuff I’ve grown myself.  These were the first three squashes I pulled out last week.  The yellow squash came from an inorganic flat I bought just in case my heirloom veggies didn’t make it, since the seedlings I grew at home got crushed in transit.  But as you can see, there’s a zucchini!  That’s one from the seeds I started in April.  I’ve only gotten two zucchini so far.  I think I’m the only person who does not get mountains of the stuff, no matter how often I grow it.

Enjoy your weekend!


Crawling out of my hole.

Hi, new readers!  I don’t know where you’ve all come from but there seems to be suddenly a lot of folks happening by.  Hello.  How are you?  It’s nice to have you.  I know it looks like I don’t come by here anymore–I’m definitely not a compulsive blogger these days.  But this is the busiest semester I’ve ever had.  I’ve spent an average of two nights a week at school and have been putting in days well over 12 hours at the office on a regular basis, nevermind how many more hours I’m putting in at home.  Helping organize two major spring events meant that I put all my paper grading aside, and that’s come back to haunt me.  I have 20.5 papers to grade today, and then the bulk will be done.  There are a few stray papers turned in yesterday for another class–a few more will come in tomorrow–but overall, once I get through the big stack I’ll be in a happier place.  Considering I had about 100 papers to grade this time last week, I’m doing pretty well.  Next week brings final exams, anxious students, stacks of bluebooks.  I don’t mind the bluebooks, though–they’re a sign of the summer to come.  I hope to get into the garden plot this weekend–the community garden was opened last week, but alas, I spent Saturday at work all day and Sunday it rained–and my seedlings are getting ready for the transition.  They still have a few weeks of inside growth–and I haven’t even started cucumbers yet–but it’ll take me that long to rake in compost, put up the fence, and pass the last likely frost date.

Until next week, then, I’m going to stay quiet.  I’m hoping, though, to take on some sewing this weekend.  I’m not sure what, but I’m excited at just the thought of it!

Seeds! (Coping with Cabin Fever)

I just ordered my spring seeds.  I’m trying to keep my readiness for spring gardening at bay, since the ground is still covered in snow and the groundhog, as always, has predicted six more weeks of winter.  But ordering seeds is a necessary step, right?  And one I can do from the warmth of my dining room, even as I peek out at the snow.

This year I went primarily with heirloom seeds.  None are organic, but I’m figuring that I’m splitting the difference, in some ways–they’re at least not GMO seeds, right?  And they’re fine old crops, tested in even-colder-than-here Vermont, so I have high hopes for them.  I figure I’ll still get tomato flats later, as the summer comes; for now, though, I’m thinking about creating a flourescent light rig in the basement to get these little guys started come March or April.

So what did I order?  I ordered two kinds of cukes–one especially for pickling, one for munching; two kinds of squash–a black zucchini and a winter, delicata; Giant Noble Spinach; tomatillos (I’m feeling adventurous); arugula and a French lettuce blend; Calabrese broccoli and Emperator carrots.  I also ordered a bunch of seeds for non-heirloom herbs such as basil, parsley, chives and sage, plus some flower seeds–marigolds and nasturtiums for the garden and home, and sunflowers to go by our rustic front fence.  Then I added peat pots to get them started in–last year I used plastic cups.  This year, I’m being a little more environmentally responsible.

I’m ready.  Come what may, late winter, I know spring’s around the corner.


Freakish CarrotThis is my Halloween gift to you–a freakish carrot pulled by Mr. Pea when he closed down our community garden plot today.  He came home with a couple of dozen carrots–most of them enormous and stout, which makes me wonder–but this one is hte winner as our oddest veg of the year.


Pardon my silence this week–I’ve had a terrible setback with the vertigo, prompting panicky doctor’s visits and general mayhem.  I’ll post more soon–making some country bread right now, plus a book review.

I’m back!

We went to Maine for a few days.  I meant to take beach photos, but never actually brought the camera to the ocean.  Then I went to stay with dad a few days–mom is away.  Now I’m home.  Check out the harvest Mr. Pea picked yesterday, after the garden went untended for several days:
harvest, august


Harvest!  Wooohoo! Today I took what is really the first substantial harvest out of our garden. I’d been avoiding it a bit–there was rain to contend with, other things to do, and the dead tomatoes had really taken the wind out of my sails. But today I went back and was richly rewarded, although I am starting to think that instead of growing veggies cheaply, I’m working on growing the most expensive veg out there. The tomato loss is mostly responsible for that, but today we also lost our winter squash (not much to look at there anyway) to vine borers. I tore one plant out and saw the worm–came home and confirmed it. I’ll go back for the other later, before it, god forbid, spreads to my zucchini.

Anyway, today there’s the usual mountain of lettuce–I’ve been bringing enough home for us and the upstairs neighbors, as there’s no way we’ll get through it all before it eventually bolts. Two rows of lettuce go a long way. I was going to pick chard, but have no use for it today or tomorrow and Friday we’re out of town for a wedding. So I’ll wait. There’s a head of broccoli, which is pretty exciting. I think I’ll hold onto it for a stir-fry tomorrow. There’s a teeny tiny carrot. This thrilled me to no end. I’ve never grown carrots or seen them grown. This one was a stray that had seeded itself by the herbs, and I pulled it. It’s not big, but it’s orange and carroty and that makes me happy.

There’s also a nice pile of basil which I just turned into pesto and popped into the ice cube tray and into the freezer. There are also three! onions. Threeeeee! The whole field-now at I think 45-isn’t ready, but a couple had begun to tip and were clobbering other plants, so I pulled them. I’ll slice one to have on a pizza with that other veggie you see, the purple pepper. It hasn’t grown any lately, so I pulled it before it rotted. There are two others–the green-turning-yellow ones–that are nearly yellow, so another week and they should be ready. Hopefully. I also salvaged a few cherry tomatoes to see if they’ll shelf-ripen without blighting. We did get one sungold cherry that way. Yay. The $18 cherry tomato 🙂

How does your garden grow?

So sad: tomato blight

late_blightRemember those beautiful, robust tomato plants I showed you a week ago, full of joy and excitement? Well, they are a thing of the past, ravaged by what you see here: late blight (not my photo–I didn’t have my camera). I’d noticed this devastation spreading in the community garden and a woman who I call Debbie Downer, who likes to visit my plot and tell me things won’t grow, had told Mr. Pea and I about while we weeded a couple of weeks ago. And today our poor plants had begun to croak. I had a feeling it was coming–late blight (the same disease that caused the Irish potato famine, isn’t that charming?) starts with brown spots on the stems, and I had spotted those a week or so ago. Today those spots were splitting and cracking, the leaves were blackening, what little fruit had grown (they’d just really started to set) were getting blotchy spots, which would ultimately rot the tomato and turn hard. I took what was growing and not blotchy off, pulled off the dead stuff, but I don’t think there’s much of a chance for the plants themselves.

Late blight is evidently not uncommon but typically comes later (thus the name), after harvesting. With all the rain we’ve had, and our unseasonably cool weather, it came faster. There have also been accusations levelled at big box stores such as home depot for the blight: evidently some of the plants they sold in the northeast were infected and then as they sat on shelves, the infected spread their spores to other plants, and then these plants were put in gardens, and, well, here we are.

Oh well. As Mr. Pea says, life doesn’t always go as planned, and really, they’re just plants. And as another gardener (who, incidentally, looked like Santa Claus and gave me a present of a zucchini from his garden–coincidence?) noted, at least we don’t depend on these tomatoes for our livlihoods or sustenance. That would be much worse, indeed.