Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How Much Does a Garden Grow: September 2017

(This post's photo is from a line of hand embroidered tea towels at my Etsy store, Carrot Creations.  See it here.)

And just like that, high gardening season is over.  September gave us the typical small harvest every other day. But, as I write this in mid-October, I am still harvesting a few tomatoes, some peppers, and arugula.

The big story this month is butternut squash.  I've saved and replanted seed every year, allowing me to get a plant that is well-suited to being prolific in our climate. I harvested over 23 pounds this year from a very short row, for a retail value of $71.82. With so much squash on hand, I need to start making some pies; the butternut squash will taste just like pumpkin once I spice it. I might also pressure can some, since I have learned this year that it can be canned in cubes.

The San Marzano tomatoes kept coming in, for a yearly total thus far of 594 ounces or just over 37 pounds.  For those of you keeping track (because I clearly am!), the tomato total through September was just over 178 pounds.  Still not enough; never enough. But, I am grateful; I even had tomatoes in my stir fry last night, in the middle of October.

So, we are starting to wrap up a highly successful garden year!  But, more to come, because October is still productive. Let's see if we can get to $1000 in retail price for the garden produce!

Cumulative Totals

Total Ounces of Harvest: 4253.5
Total Pounds of Harvest: 265.8438
Total Retail Value: $962.70

(Total Expenditures: $-287.67)

Total Profit: $675.03

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Interlude: On A Day Working in the Fall Garden.


I do not like your wretched fall.
I do not like the fall at all!
I do not like the falling leaves.
I do not like to wear long sleeves.

You may have your herbal tea.
Keep your soup far from me.
I do not want a cozy fire.
Sun and heat I desire.

I do not want to drive in snow.
I won't wear boots wherever I go.
I do not want to stay inside
Of this house where I reside.

I do not want to wear a sweater.
Shorts and flip flops would be better.
I want to garden all year round,
And live in a small beach town.

So keep your fall, if you please.
I'll winter in the Florida Keys!

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Monday, September 25, 2017

How Much Does a Garden Grow: August 2017

Finally! It is nearly the end of September, and I am finally updating you on the garden progress through August. You really never know busy until you've tried to prep for a new class you've never taught before plus tried to finish a book in the same month. (More about the book very soon, which I will shamelessly plug here!)

In any event, I am pleased to say that the August garden helped push our garden tallies to a much more reasonable retail value total. Some highlights:

Tomatoes! I planted 71 tomato plants this year, and next year I hope to plant more. All the room, all the tomatoes. Cumulative totals through August:

Coure di Bue: 511 oz., $127.75
Principe Borghese: 493.5 oz., $123.38
Siletz: 364 oz., $91.00
San Marzano: 574 oz., $143.50
Black Krim: 167 oz., $41.75
Martian: 428 oz. $107
Volunteers: 226 oz., $56.50

So, through the end of August, I harvested 155.65 pounds of tomatoes for a retail value of $690.88.  September will add to these totals.  Nowhere near the goodness of 2009, when I think I harvested at least 300 pounds, but certainly better than we've had in years.

I was able to can 9 quarts of juice, 2 12-oz. jars of tomato soup, 7.5 pints of chili sauce, and 6 pints of tomato sauce, in addition to over a quart of dried tomatoes.  Again, not nearly enough to get us through, but hopefully enough to give us some cushion.

Another good haul for the month was beans, and I harvested 118 oz. in August for a value of $22.42. We ate some of those fresh and I canned a lot for Mr. FC&G's winter lunches. I also plan to be selling bean seeds this year, since I have developed a strain that is very hearty and prolific.

Cucumbers did not do fabulously in their new spot this year, and I admit I lost track of the zucchini a bit, so I didn't can nearly as much as I should have.

All in all, a much better year.  And I haven't even told you about September yet, or for my plans for harvests into the winter!

Cumulative Totals:
Total Ounces of Harvest: 3717.5
Total Pounds of Harvest: 232.3438
Total Retail Value of Harvest: $855.40

Total Expenditures: (-$287.67)

Total Profit: $567.73




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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Lessons Watching Irma from Afar

As you all know by now, I am in love with Key West, so I've spent a nail-biting four days watching Hurricane Irma approach and pass over the island. Right now, it looks like Key West was mostly spared, although islands in the middle keys were not as lucky.

I've watched everyone pass wisdom around the internet, some of it useless and some of it downright destructive, and it reminds me that we all need a well-thought-out disaster plan well in advance of anything that may hit us. To that end, I thought I'd share a few tips that I have recently read that I thought were particularly helpful. If you have others or can contribute your own experience, please comment!

Additions to Your Disaster Plan

  • Plan your "bug out outfit" or "disaster outfit" in advance. Try to come up with something that will handle various temperatures and situations. You may want a pair of quick-dry pants (nylon fishing pants work well in lots of climates) with cargo pockets; for cold weather, you can always add a silk base layer. Consider layering a tank top and an active-wear sweater if you are in a cooler area. Don't forget socks and hiking boots or something that will protect your toes from injury or infection. Break your shoe in ahead of time. Don't forget a hat for both temperature and sun protection.
  • Sleep in your evacuation clothes. For disasters that come upon us suddenly, like rising water, you won't have time to get dressed, and no one wants to be on the news wearing undies and a t-shirt, to say nothing of sitting on their own roof that way waiting to be rescued. 
  • Likewise, pack a bag ahead of time. Make sure you have all of your medications, a knife, a whistle, and some ID in there, in addition to a full water bottle and some portable food, like granola bars. Take a couple of extra pairs of socks and some quick-drying undies, if you have them. Don't forget a flashlight, because you will be saving your phone for communication.
  • Along the same lines, keep all of your electronics (like phone, tablet, etc.) fully charged for as long as you maintain power, and have a few external chargers as a backup.
  • Even if you don't like social media, get a Facebook account. You don't have to do anything with it, but if you are in a disaster like Irma, you can post your whereabouts and tag family outside the disaster zone to let them know your status and potentially how to send help. Don't forget to set your posts to "public" so they are more easily visible. For all of its security-related downfalls, Facebook seems to have consistently been the one social medium that updates regularly and that is used by all ages, making it a good communication tool in emergency when appropriate.
  • Freeze large freezer-type bags of water to stock your chest and fridge freezers. They will help keep the contents cold, and you will have drinkable water as they melt.
  • Fill every receptacle with water while you can. Your bathtub and washing machine will hold water for washing and flushing your toilet.  Every large pot and jar should hold drinkable water. Remember, you don't have to buy water to have a good supply of it as long as you plan ahead.


What is your favorite disaster tip? Did you learn anything from Irma?
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Monday, August 28, 2017

The End is Near

Well, the garden is starting to give up. I hate to say that. I, after all, am the person who started my seeds in an incubator in the dining room on Groundhog Day, and I would just as soon live in a climate in which I could garden year round. But even I have to admit that things are looking pretty rough out there.

The problem, of course, is that garden plants rarely die all at once, unless there is a hard freeze. So, I have plants that look like they've been put through the wringer, but they have a few viable green tomatoes or some cucumber blossoms or the possibility of a zucchini. I pulled a few this weekend, but I'm not going to pull anything that looks like it might still produce.

One of the amazing plants this year has been the Principe Borghese tomato, which you see in the bowls in the photo taken earlier this summer.  Billed as a drying tomato, it indeed has given me many tomatoes to dry, plus many to eat raw. I've also dumped bowl after bowl of them into sauces and juices, because they are so flavorful. They were the first to be harvested at the end of June, and it looks like they may be my last whenever the vines finally give up.

The amazing thing about these tomatoes is that I understand that they were supposed to be determinate, meaning that they were supposed to set and ripen fruit within a small window to facilitate easier processing.  Instead, they've been steadily producing for two months, and I expect them to go even longer. I can't wait to add up the August garden tallies and see how many pounds I've harvested.

I'm not complaining. As long as these sweet little things are willing to ripen for me, I'll continue to eat them. Every little bit counts.
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Monday, August 21, 2017

Sustainability or Not?

So, yesterday I had an interesting experience. I visited an organic farm (which I will not name here, but which was really, really cool), and the owner talked about how much he disliked the term sustainability.

In a way, I was sympathetic to his point. His idea was that simply being able to live and maintain the land at the same standard (a base level definition of "sustaining") wasn't good enough; that he sought improvement to his land and his production.

But, as you know, part of the subtitle of this blog references sustainability, and I still like the message.

Sustainability asks you if you could keep your lifestyle up - sustain it - through years and generations. Could you continue to eat through good harvest years and bad? Do you have enough money socked away to get your family through a job loss or a downturn in health? Do you have the skills to make do if there's a power outage or a decline in resources (or an increase in price)? Can you keep your soil as healthy and productive as it needs to be to maintain your garden?

To me, sustainability is a huge task.  Improvements are often eaten up by bad years and bad spells and bad luck. Keeping an even keel is a tough job. But it is important to resist practices -whether that be using unhealthy herbicides, overspending, or damaging your health - that tips the balance so you cannot sustain a healthy, vibrant way of living.

I still like "sustainable."  I think I'll keep it.
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Monday, August 7, 2017

How Much Does a Garden Grow: July 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2017 garden is officially profitable!

I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself, if I might say. The return to mechanical rototilling plus an early start with the seeds and some favorable weather has really worked to our advantage.

First up, let's talk tomatoes. We have harvested over 72 pounds of tomatoes in July alone, over $263 worth at current prices. My reviews thus far of the tomatoes:
  • Principe Borghese has turned out to be a wonderful and prolific grape-sized tomato for drying. I've gotten so many, I've started throwing handfuls of them into sauces and stir frys.
  • Siletz was a great early tomato, but it is incredibly fragile. Therefore, it is easy for one to look fantastic in the windowsill in the morning and be developing a bad spot that afternoon. That's frustrating, and I probably won't grow them again.
  • Black Krim, of course, are my big fussy babies with the green shoulders and the tendency to be eaten by critters. But they are so worth it for the taste!
  • Cuore di Bue is a wonderful sauce tomato, big and solid and beefy. 
  • San Marzano, likewise, is the quintessential sauce tomato.  Both of these make great sauce and wonderful, thick juice.
  • Martian is a storage tomato, and it has turned out to be a wonderful slicer with few seeds and a long life.  Definitely worth the wait.
  • Volunteers, of course, are always a surprise. I have some sort of prolific grape tomato that is not a Principe Borghese or a Red or Yellow Pear, and I have a round slicer of some sort. I also have those infernal yellow tomatoes. Why, oh why, did I ever grow them years ago? I don't even like yellow tomatoes (not acidy enough for my taste), and so I keep throwing them into the sauce, and then the seeds go into the compost, and then I grow them accidentally the next year, ad infinitum.
Also this month were bountiful harvests of zucchini and cucumbers (although never enough of either to satisfy) and some potatoes and greens, plus herbs aplenty.

I'm hoping this is just the start of a prolific season. We could certainly use the tomatoes to can and put away for winter, plus feeding us both 6-8 slicers a day.

Cumulative Totals:

Total Ounces Harvested: 1638.0
Total Pounds Harvested: 102.375
Total Value of Harvest: $374.87

Expenses: (-$287.67)

Total Profit: $87.20
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