Friday, October 2, 2009

First Frost

The last pile of basil ready for drying.

The food dehydrator. Mom and Dad got it for me when I was 14. I love this thing!

Several pocketfuls of peppers and tomatoes are safe from frost.

The habaneros were beautiful right before the freezing temps.

Goldfinches and black-capped chickadees spend lots of time playing hide and seek and snacking in the sunflowers.

The tomatoes look like my late '80s wardrobe.

The big pot of fluorescent tomatoes cooked down to two quarts of orange-ish pasta sauce.

The spring-planted garlic harvest and the last garden bouquet pose for a portrait.

The peppers are cozy in the hoop house after having survived the first frost.

Some sorry looking flowers on the first morning of October

We woke up to a frosty, new world on October 1. Because the forecast had been calling for lows around 28F, I recruited Chris in a hasty harvest of some remaining vegetables and herbs. We picked all of the orange habaneros, all of the red serranos, and almost all of the green or red jalapenos. I had brought in all of the remaining tomatoes earlier in the day. There were several clumps of basil left, two summer squash, and a pile of sweet red and green bell peppers. We pulled the plastic up over the remaining peppers and eggplants in hopes they wouldn't outright freeze yet. On the way in, our fleece pockets packed with produce, we were both wrapped up in the excitement of the changing seasons. I was mourning the end of the abundance and bright colors, and Chris was celebrating the beginning of the hunting season saying, "I love frost!" (I almost karate-kicked him into the compost pile, but I understood how he felt.) It's been a beautiful fall. It's been a bountiful summer.

From the $14 and change in plants and seeds I invested in the garden this spring, we got plenty of very good food. A couple of things didn't work out like I'd hoped. For one, all of my baby broccoli plants that I grew from seed thrived for about three gloriously cool weeks in the garden until a groundhog snuck in one night and mowed them all down, right as they were starting to look tasty. I just left the stalks there with the hope that the groundhog would recognize my offering and stay away from other things. The potato harvest was fine for the summer, but scant enough that we won't have any into November. Finally, I love to share my produce. But I also made the mistake of not being specific when I told the neighbors to help themselves to squash, beans and sunflowers while we were on vacation. I came back to the garden and wondered if the groundhogs had completely consumed every last winter squash I'd been tending to all summer long. Well, no. Just like I had suggested, the neighbors helped themselves to the squash. Duh. I forgot that I might want some of that. It's fine. I know they appreciated it, and I consider it a good price for the rental of the garden space. We did find one lone winter squash and roasted it a couple nights ago. It was fantastic!

On the other hand, some things went very well. We've had green beans for ten solid weeks. I kept picking and they kept coming. The Black Valentine variety that I grew was perfect for the kind of bean eaters we are. When we went on vacation, I let them grow into big, beany pods. Now, I'll harvest the black beans in a couple of weeks. I've never done that before. The tomato crop was okay, considering the widespread late blight that we could not avoid here. I'm not sure that I would have had the late blight, except the neighbor got her tomato plants from a "big box" store. It wasn't devastating because we had plenty of healthy tomatoes. The green zebras seemed to be immune to the fungus. The other heirlooms seemed to be resistant. Summer squash were numerous, as usual. We have lots of beets, and I'm not sure how to store those yet. I got a modest garlic harvest, but the thing is, I planted the cloves in the spring. It did very well for a short season. Carrots have suffered many groundhog attacks, but I've got a few rows left out there and we'll just see how far they take us into the fall. I bet I'll buy carrots in early December. Oh well, it was a transition year and I'm grateful to even have had the space to grow food. I've been reflecting a great deal, as fall tends to make me do that. But I've also been very busy preserving lots of produce. Along with the garden, we also had some free asian pears offered to us and I found a local orchard down the road with u-pick apples and peaches. For the next several days I'll be drying, freezing, and canning.


Catalina said...

What a nice season's end harvest.
We just had our hard frost last night.
It's sad, but I'm ready for a little rest.

Melissa said...

I am so envious of your garden skills. We finally bought a home in NC in the mountains and I hope my soil proves to be better than the low country. I may ask you in the spring for help!

alisa said...

I love the bounty that you are getting from your garden,the tomatoes and basil looks amazing!I'd love to guide our readers to your site if you won't mind.Just add your choice of foodista widget to this post and it's all set, Thanks!

Molly Crawford Reidy said...

Congrats on your home purchase, Melissa. That's exciting! Will you have chickens? :)