Thursday, October 9, 2014

Final Harvest

Early October garden harvest

We have had a couple weeks of sunshine recently after a 6-week stretch of rain, rain, rain in August and September. Clear nights have meant cold nights and frost, leading to the impending harvest that must happen soon! Every year the state cross-country running meet happens the first weekend of October, which is the perfect time to harvest. So each year I've had to decide:  harvest the week before state or chance frozen ground the week after? This year I decided to spread my chances, partly because I've been very busy and finding time to harvest the whole garden is next to impossible. With both the kids in sports and not getting home till late each night, plus a heavy load of homework and their being gone every weekend, there was no chance of their help.

So a few days before heading to the state XC meet last week I dug 4 rows of potatoes. They were short rows; each 2 rows filled up a 5-gallon bucket. Every year I waffle between washing the potatoes and then drying them and putting them away, or just pulling them out of the ground and storing them dirty. There are pros can cons both ways. This year time was my deciding factor; it was all I could do to dig them, so the buckets went into the bathroom in my cabin (not quite a root cellar temperature, but pretty chilly) with a towel to cover and protect them from sunlight. I pulled up the remaining 15 or so onions; we've been harvesting onions from the garden since July so we've gotten 3 months of onions out of it. I just love being able to run to the garden to get an onion and not deal with the mess and mold of onions going bad in my cupboard! The final beets were pulled and cooked up for the kids' pre-race meal (a tradition we began this season; I need to plant more beets next year as I had to supplement ours with other folks' to keep my kids in beets).

Pulling up the broccoli and zucchini plants which had been frosted in the garden took only a moment.  In the greenhouse the zucchinis, green beans, lettuce, parsley and final head of cabbage were still looking good so I left them, pulling out the tomato plants. All the green tomatoes are on a tray in my kitchen and are ripening a few a day.

After an exciting and eventful weekend, with the Homer girls winning the state championship and the boys taking third, I was back home to a garden and greenhouse that had been heavily frosted. Outdoors the carrots had finally drooped a little and the potato plants were skeletons. The hardy kale continues on indifferent to the temperatures. I heard someone threw a tarp over their kale in Homer last winter and had fresh kale all winter long. That is my goal (as you can see in the picture--the tarp is on a section of the row)! I love massaged kale (olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, salt and cayenne pepper massaged into the kale till it is half the size; sprinkle with toasted pecans and craisens) and was craving it in the 4 days I was away from home over the weekend. Only problem will be shoveling a path through the snow to get through the moose fence into the garden area!

I dug the final 2 rows of potatoes and had to crack the frosted, frozen ground off them. Most of the carrots came sliding right out of the ground--except in a few places where the ground was frozen hard and deeper and it took some work with the shovel to detach the carrots from their home. Time was of essence once again and so the carrots stayed in the wagon in the lean-to for a few days covered with a towel until I could snap off the tops. Lazy year means they are not washed either, so we'll have to do that when we have more time. We ended up with 3 full 5-gallon buckets of potatoes, which will get us through till April or so probably, and 1 full 5-gallon bucket of carrots, which will probably last a couple months along with the 40 pounds we bought from the McNeil Canyon School carrot fundraiser.

The greenhouse was also pretty much toast, with only the parsley and lettuce (surprisingly!) still looking perky. That too took only moments to clean out, and the plants all went into the compost bin with some water dumped on them to help along the decaying process.

The morning of our first frost last week, with the yard ringed in fluffy fireweed
So the kale is staying in all winter and I'm excited about that. I'll keep picking parsley till it is frosted beyond use; have to remember to water it every now and again as it is all that's left in the greenhouse after I picked the lettuce plants clean last night by headlamp. It's that time of year when things are getting darker and I might be able to hunker down and get some things processed at night.

Once again--a successful garden season!

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