Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good Night . . . Irene!

No time for photos today, as hurricane Irene now has her sights set directly on our little island.   Right now they are calling for 7 inches of rain at my house, so I imagine the carefully planted and very cute fall vegetable seedlings that poked their heads out this week will be beaten down to nothing.  And if they aren't destroyed by the rain, the hens - that will be left to free range if everyone leaves for the duration of the storm-will surely eat every single seedling.  (The last thing I want to do is lock the hens in a coop, not knowing when someone might be able to get back to give them food and water.  We will make sure the doors are tied open so they can get inside their protected area, will fill two huge food tubes with food, and will fill every bucket we have with water.  The water will be placed in protected areas around the yard and in the coop.  There will be plenty of bugs around too, so the hens should be fine.)

To prepare the beehives we installed imirie shims, a little square frame on each hive that gives the bees an opening where they can come and go from the TOP section of their home.  They need that extra entrance/exit because it is quite likely the main hive opening will be underwater as the tide surges.  In addition, each hive has three flat cinder blocks stacked on top to help hold it down and keep it from blowing apart.

So, the hens are taken care of as best we can, the bees as well.  Nothing to do for the gardens, we will just replant the fall garden after the storm.  For those of you on the Carolina coast, I wish you well.  There is still lots of time for the storm to change course, so we will see.  I'll let you know how things turn out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Turn, turn, turn

To every thing there is a season.  No place is that more obvious than in the vegetable garden.  Now is a transition season for me, and one of my favorites.  As you can see, the Sungold tomato plant is still producing, much more than we can easily eat.  The cayenne pepper ripens a few pods every couple of days.   I pick them as they ripen, and keep them in an open basket in the kitchen to dry for use this winter.  They, along with the parsley and basil, are the end of the summer's plants.  But, not the end of this year's garden.  Not by a long shot.

My favorite garden season begins now:  the fall and winter garden.  Here you see young broccoli plants, transplanted, beyond all possible luck, the day this week that ended in a full inch of rain here at the house.  This is a bit earlier than I usually put in broccoli transplants, but I wanted two good weeks to keep them watered before I was away from the garden for a bit in September.  The same day I transplanted these beauties I direct seeded some kale and some chard.  It will be a feat to get good germination in this heat and the very loose new compost in the bed, but I am watering daily and giving it my best shot.  I had the seed laying about, and figured it is worth a try.  If they don't make it I will look for transplants for replacement in a few weeks.

So, here the fall garden begins.  I can hardly wait!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Basil and fig time

Still waiting on my new camera, but here are a few shots from my smartphone.  Now is the time for one of the best aromas in the kitchen (Mom said "call it an aroma, not a smell, if it is good").  Basil! Before the plants throw in the towel for the season, I pick all I can, remove the leaves from the stems, rinse them, and then chop them in the food processor with good olive oil.   The resulting blend freezes really well, and is great later in the season when you want the taste of fresh, not dried, basil.  I put mine into ice cube trays to freeze, then pop them out into a freezer container or bag.  That way I can take out one at a time when needed.  It seems each individual cube is just around a Tablespoon, the perfect amount for most sauces and soups!  I hope to get another batch for drying, so I keep picking off the seedheads in hopes the basil plants will continue to grow.

The main crop of figs, although a bit light in this drought year, is coming in.  We eat all we can fresh, and the rest I dry in the oven and then freeze.  Here you see a tray of halved and quartered figs on a parchment sheet, ready to go in the oven.  I set it on convection to get air movement, but that isn't necessary.  I set my oven just around 180 degrees F or so, and just check every hour.  This batch I had to dry for about 4 hours on day one, then shut off the oven that night and turn it back on the next afternoon for another 2-3 hours.  They are chewy and sweet and amazing.  Because they aren't fully dry they will mold, so I keep them in the freezer.  They last a really long time that way, and taste great when thawed.

I have ordered my garlic for the fall, and and getting ready to go through my seeds to see what I have and what I need.  I will have to buy transplants for things like broccoli, as I won't be able to get to starting transplants in time in year. Still picking Sungold tomatoes!