Saturday, May 14, 2011

And it begins again

We spent around a hundred bucks at the Garden Center today. I planted green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, broccoli, butternut squash, purple kale, pickling cucumbers, rosemary and basil. I think that's it. Brendan got all the additional tomatoes his heart desired. They wont go into the ground until tomorrow, or next week.

This year the goal is to preserve and freeze as many things as possible. I have to commit to this in order to make the most of our investment, as well as to have organic veggies all winter long. I will be the blanching queen. We will have to invest in a food saver as well. I plan to track all the costs and compare our investment to the cost of store bought organic veggies. Good luck to us!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Seed Saving

A cool rainy august afternoon is the perfect time to start some end of season rituals. The first seeds I ever saved and used the following season were from the sweet and abundant sungold cherry tomatoes. I followed the instructions of Ms. Martha Stewart and successfully participated in the circle of life.

It makes what the company Monsanto is doing all the more evil. If anyone is unfamiliar, Monsanto is a chemical company that began genetically modifying and patenting seeds. Monsanto thought that since they modified their "roundup ready" seeds to resist their patented weed killer, "roundup" they had the right to also patent those seeds. Weeds are a huge problem in our little home gardens but in industrial mono agriculture it is magnified by the thousands. It is simply too time consuming, costly and laborious to weed hundreds of acres. Monsanto made the farmers believe that they had the answer to all their problems. Farms bought the seeds, bought the roundup and basically made a deal with the devil.

Once you were contracted to Monsanto and their products you lost the ability to perform one of the most timeless rituals in agriculture: seed saving. Monsanto made you buy new seeds each year since these new GM crops could only produce one year. The seeds were duds. Farmers traded in their mechanical threshers for good and were roped into a never ending cycle of seed and weed killing chemical purchases.

That however, is not even the worst part; now the neighbors got involved. If you had a field next door to a farmer under contract with Monsanto and you decided to forgo the company and live with some weeds and save your seeds you could also face some trouble it turns out. Say a mighty wind blew some of your neighbors Monsanto seeds into your field and Monsanto came by and tested a few of your crops, as they had a tendency to do, (rest assured if you weren't on the Monsanto train you were red flagged.) the next thing you know you are getting dragged to court by a billion dollar company for patent infringement and they will try to take your farm away from you. These struggling farms already at a disadvantage just did not have the spare time and energy and extra money to spend on litigation. Some people lost generation old farms. They lost their livelihood. So that a few people could get MEGA rich. Sound familiar? Finally in 2009 Monsanto has come under scrutiny from the government and there are actual investigations launched. Let's hope some things change.

Here is a little excerpt from Wikipedia if you were still feeling a tinge of sympathy for the devil:

The 1940s saw Monsanto become a leading manufacturer of plastics, including polystyrene, and synthetic fibers. Since then, it has remained one of the top 10 US chemical companies. Other major products have included the herbicides 2,4,5-T, DDT, and Agent Orange used primarily during the Vietnam War as a defoliant agent (later proven to be highly carcinogenic to any who come into contact with the solution), the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet), bovine somatotropin (bovine growth hormone (BST)), and PCBs.[5] Also in this decade, Monsanto operated the Dayton Project, and later Mound Laboratories in Miamisburg, Ohio, for the Manhattan Project, the development of the first nuclear weapons and, after 1947, the Atomic Energy Commission.


So that is why it is all the more important to buy organic non-GM food and save your seeds! Today I saved some seeds from our batch of sungold tomatoes, heirloom variety tomatoes, cucumbers, patty pan squash and zucchini.

Most of us know that membrane that surrounds tomato seeds. It is there to buy the seed some time, namely the winter, before the seed begins to germinate and sprout a new plant. If all goes well the membrane dissolves at just the right time in the spring and the circle continues.
In order to save those seeds we need to separate the seeds from the membrane and halt the natural progression by drying the seeds and storing them in a cool dry place until we are ready to use them. The best way to separate the membrane is to let the seeds ferment in a jar or cup. After about a week the seeds drop to the bottom of the container and the membrane separates and grows a lovely mold on it. All you have to do is wait for that to happen and then carefully scrape off the membrane and wash off your seeds over a strainer. Then lay them out to dry on a plate with a rag or paper towel. After a few weeks the seeds should be dry enough to scrape into a little envelop and stored away in a cool dry place for next year.

Cucumbers are very similar to tomatoes except you should really let the cucumbers rot before you try to take out the seeds. The cukes should be vine ripened, big, yellow and smushy.

All the squashes are pretty easy: you just scrape them seeds out, wash them off to remove any of the vegetable matter as it can cause mold, dry them on a plate with a rag or paper towel for a couple of weeks, label them and store them away.

You don't even need to have your own plants to do this. As long as your veggies are organic and hopefully not some hybrid, which can be hard to tell sometimes but hey, try it anyway, just supplement with some locally purchased seeds as well and see what happens. It is immensely satisfying!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A rite of passage

The squash has succumbed to over production and powdery mildew.

The lettuce is bolting and the beets long gone. But it is time for the Mediterranean debut: peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.

It started with the lovely sungolds and now we are harvesting the gorgeous Italian eggplant and for lack of better terminology, regular eggplant. The peppers are turning their lovely hues, some green some left for red and some a purely color named black beauties. The chili peppers are doing well and the sweet banana peppers are big producers and yummy!

Oh and the greens we thought had to be collared greens are actually...BROCCOLI!

The july sowing white radishes are delicious and fast growers. The leeks are doing well but I don't know when to harvest them.

The garlic was small and this fall I want to plant rows and rows of it. Onion as well. We also want to plant more beans. And Brendan can never get enough tomatoes! Brendan wants a whole bed devoted to peppers. Maybe half peppers half eggplant. I would like more radishes. More watermelons and cantaloupe too! The list goes on!

I also would like to cut down the dang apple tree in the back yard and plant a peach tree. I CANNOT get enough peaches this time of year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010



This is august so far. The tomatoes, after months of hot dry weather where they are like, in HEAVEN have started to ripen and we have probably picked about 4 of these quarts. Which by the way go for $3.49 at the co-op! The zinnias have deeply impressed me I have to say. After the beetle fiasco of July I had really lost hope. Their little skeletal silhouettes were discouraging to say the least. But BAM come august and they are pumping out flowers like the well is oil! (poor taste, sorry)
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That little guy is Hades, resident chicken herder. That's what he does. Chases and annoys all the other amimals.

This is a photo essay on harassment:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Harvest 1.1

Patty Pan squash


Late Blight Alert!
Late Blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans was found on tomato plants earlier this week on Tuesday July 20th and today July 23rd in Hadley Massachusetts. These are the first two positive diagnosis that has come into the UMass Plant Diagnostic lab this season and the first confirmed cases in Massachusetts. The source of the inoculum is unknown at this point but it is suspected that the spores came from long distance transport or a volunteer potato plant in the area. Although the disease is not known to overwinter in the Northeast as of yet, overwintering can not be ruled out. A sample has been sent to the North Carolina State University to detrmine the clonal lineage. This information may provide us with some clue as to where the initial source of the pathogen came from. Suspected plant samples should be sent the UMass Plant Diagnostic lab immediately (413-545-3209) for confirmation. We would expect to see late blight show up along rivers or where fog tends to collect. These foggy areas should be inspected closely and frequently. Conventional potato growers should now be using systemic fungicides on their fields. Tomato crops should be protected with fungicides specific to downy mildew and inspected regularly for symptoms of blight. For a list of recomended fungicides see this weeks full late blight report.

The murmur of blight is vibrating through the farms and gardens across the pioneer valley. It can obviously do some real damage to crops and farmers are advised to literally rip up and dig under any plant that looks infected.

This is what our alarming tomato looks like:

I am not really worried as of yet but only time will tell.

A great summer recipe

Fusilli with Creamy Zucchini and Basil Sauce

* 1 pound zucchini (with blossoms, if possible)
* vegetable oil to come ½ inch up the side of a skillet
* 1 pound fusilli (or any short, stubby pasta)
* 3 Tbsp butter
* 3 Tbsp olive oil
* 1 tsp flour, dissolved in 1/3 cup milk
* salt
* 2/3 cup roughly chopped basil
* 1 egg yolk, beaten lightly with a fork
* ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
* ¼ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

First, put a large pot of water up to boil. Slice zucchini and blossoms into pieces 3 inches long and 1/8 inch thick. Heat the oil and fry the zucchini sticks in batches, without crowding the pan, until they are light brown, turning occasionally. As each batch is done, transfer to paper towels to drain. When the pasta water comes to a boil, add 2 Tbsp salt and stir in the pasta and allow to cook while you prepare the sauce. Melt half the butter and all the oil in a skillet. When the butter foams, turn the heat down and stir in the flour-and-milk mixture, a little at a time, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add the fried zucchini sticks, ¼ tsp salt and the basil and stir gently. Off the heat, swirl in the remaining butter, egg yolk and grated cheese. Strain the pasta when it is al dente and toss it with the sauce in a large serving bowl and serve immediately.

thanks to the Kitchen Garden Farm