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Taking a Bit of a Breather

October 21st, 2011

The last couple weeks have been a bit crazy around here, with the new job at Ethel and all. I’m still trying to figure out what to drop in order to fit in the extra hours I need for that. As a result I’ve been up early working and staying up later than I should.

Sadly, my reading chair is feeling a little lonely (so it Dexter). So I took the evening off from blogging last night and spent some time reading Onward & Upward in the Garden by Katherine S. White. As a gardener, she writes wonderfully about her garden, gardening books, seed catalogs and all kinds of plants in this compilation of essays she wrote over the course of 12 years for the New Yorker. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Are you still busy with gardening & preserving, or are things starting to slow down for you?

A Lesson in Patience and a Giveaway

October 20th, 2011

I’m an avid reader and reading, on average, a few books per week. I have a few favorites that I read over and over again, Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill being my most favorite and the one I’ve read most (with East of Eden coming in a close second). I first read this book many years ago and fell in love. Not only do the authors portray a beautifully simple seasonal lifestyle in their kitchen garden, their way with words is perfect, almost better than photos. I keep checking this book out of the library over and over again, and each time I notice there are fewer and fewer copies in my library consortium. This past time there was only one, I decided it was time to buy a copy for my library.

I’ve been eyeing this book for years on Amazon and checking at any used book store I visit, searching to find it at a good price without any luck. I also added it to my wish list on Paperback Swap even though I’ve never seen a copy there either. Usually it’s being listed for $150 or more anywhere they have it, that’s a bit out of my price range for a book, no matter how much I love it.

Being threatened with the risk of not being able to read it again if the local libraries lost or sold their only copy, I decided it was time to finally buy a copy. I found one used for a price I could afford. Even though I paid more than I usually do for a book, with the number of times I’ll read this book, the price actually seemed reasonable for the amount of joy and inspiration I find in it’s pages.

Ironically, while still waiting for the book I purchased to arrive in the mail, I received an e-mail from Paperback Swap that another member sent a copy of this book to me. That means I got a copy of the book for FREE. I was flabbergasted!

Generally, I’m very patient person, waiting for quite a while before purchasing anything. This patience has saved me thousands of dollars in the past, on everything from t-shirts to land. Maybe I was impatient in my purchase of this book, or maybe I valued it enough to finally spend the money on it. Either way, I’m happy that I have two copies because now I can share this book with someone else. It certainly is a good reminder to be patient and to remember that the phrase “Good things come to those who wait” is very, very true. So faithful readers, my impatience will reward one of you.

Comment below for your chance to win my extra copy of Living Seasonally. For extra chances to win: use the icon below to tweet this post with the hashtag #chiotsrun or head on over the my FaceBook and share this post.

We have a winner! KimH a fellow Ohio gardener has won (if you didn’t get my e-mail make sure you contact me through the link in the sidebar).

Are you a patient person? Have you ever had an experience that reminded you of the important of being patient? Do you have a favorite book you’ve been trying to find a copy of for your library?

Always a Challenge

October 19th, 2011

Growing melons is a challenge here in the north where the summers are usually too cool for them. That hasn’t stopped me from planting a few each year, though I never seem to get a watermelon bigger than a tennis ball.

This year, I planted some Rainbow Sherbet Watermelons from Renee’s Garden. Most of the vines got choked out by weeds when were on vacation. I did find the one above watermelon when I was pulling tall weeds. One vine, however was planted in an heavily mulched area and didn’t have much competition. The boys from the farm pointed out that it had a nice little melon on it when we got home. I harvested it two weeks ago.

I was wondering which color it would be when I cut it open since the seed pack contained three different varieties of melon (one of the great benefits of buying seeds from Renee’s). When I cut it open, it was a beautiful golden yellow, which means it was a ‘Yellow Doll’ watermelon.

It was nice and sweet, small, and provided two perfectly sized servings. Someday, when I have a much larger garden, I want to experiment with growing melons in low tunnels (like the ones I use to overwinter crops). The farmer’s at the market tell me that’s the way to do it here in our area. They have also recommended a few varieties of heirloom melons that do better in cooler climates. That’s one great thing about shopping at the local farmer’s market, they’re more than willing to give you advice on what to grow and how to grow it best in your area. The local farmer’s market can be a wealth of information for the home gardener!

Where do you find the best gardening advice for your particular area?

Winter Gardening or Cover Crops

October 18th, 2011

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that the last couple years I’ve been experimenting with winter gardening. Growing spinach and other hardy greens in a hoop house over the cold winter months here in NE Ohio.

I do have a few small sections of the garden planted with some greens for a late winter harvest, but this year I’m focusing more on improving the soil. I do have garlic, perennial leeks, shallots and potato onions overwintering in one area of the garden. There are also three small squares of spinach and arugula and a few kale plants in the back raised bed, along with a few leeks left here and there.

The soil here at Chiot’s Run is very lean, as a result I decided to devote part of the garden each season to growing cover crops instead of vegetables. Of course some cover crops are edible, but I want to be able to add as much organic matter to the soil as possible, so I won’t be harvesting much if any of the cover crops.

Part of the garden was planted in mustard over a month ago. Mustard will winter kill. The remainder is planted in Fall Green manure mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, that will survive through the winter and come up early next spring.

The areas without cover crops have been spread with a partly composted chicken manure from the local farm and covered with straw. This manure will compost down over the winter and earth worms will help work it down into the soil. Next spring I should have much better soil because of my efforts this fall. It will take many years of this to develop into a deep rich loam, but I’m a patient gardener. I do believe that gardeners really are growing soil and not plants. That should be our focus. We can’t forget that it starts with the soil, without it we would have nothing.

I just purchased the book Managing Cover Crops Profitably and I have found it to be a wonderful resource for cover crop information. I’ve only looked up a few things and I already know it will come in very handy. This winter, I hope to have time to write up a series for this blog about using cover crops in the home garden with information gleaned from this book an other sources.

Do you plant cover crops in your garden? Would you be interested in a series on cover crops here on Chiot’s Run?

The Last Harvest

October 17th, 2011

Except for possibly some spinach and arugula, I harvested the last major item from the 2011 edible garden. Last week, the remainder of the potatoes were exhumed from the earth and stashed away in the garage to provide sustenance through the winter. You might think it’s a little late to be harvesting potatoes and it is for me.

Generally, I plant potatoes early in the spring and harvest them in July. Here in NE Ohio we had a very wet spring which made planting potatoes early impossible .  Any that were planted in April rotted in their water graves. I planted fresh potatoes in their place at the beginning of June, and they grew beautifully all summer.  Potatoes planted earlier have less trouble with potato beetles.  I didn’t spot a single potato beetle here at Chiot’s Run.  We spotted one or two potato beetles at my mom’s house, but they were never a problem.

Since I had planted all of my saved seed potatoes in the spring, I didn’t have any seed potatoes left for replanting in June, so I ordered some from Wood Prairie Farm. I got 1 pound of ‘Elba’ and ‘King Harry’ and 2.5 pounds of ‘Butte’. They all grew well, but Butte outproduced the others by a lot, which isn’t surprising since they were in a section of the garden that has better soil. I harvested 15 pounds of ‘Butte’ from the seed potatoes.  I’m really interested to see how the later harvest affects the keeping abilities of the potatoes.  Theoretically, they should last later into the spring since they were harvested a few months after the other potatoes.

This isn’t my entire potato crop, some of them were were grown in the potager at my mom’s house. We planted them in May and harvested them in early September when we returned from vacation. They were actually ready to harvest much earlier, but we were on our Tiny Trailer Travels for most of August.

There’s something really great about growing a good crop of potatoes each year. Homegrown potatoes are much tastier than their supermarket counter parts and it sure is nice to have that secure feeling a good stockpile of potatoes gives you.   Even though potatoes and other food are readily available in the supermarket all winter long, it certainly gives you a sense of security to have a big box of potatoes in the pantry! This winter I’m experimenting with keeping my potatoes in the garage until it’s super cold, then in the outdoor basement stairwell. I’ll keep you updated on how the root cellar alternatives work out.

Do you grow potatoes in your garden? Do you grow enough to eat throughout the year? What do you think will be your last harvest from the garden?

For an in depth article about growing your own potatoes read this post on the Your Day Blog.

PS – love those gloves in the last photo? Ethel is retiring the Port Royale style and they’ll be 50% off this week.

About

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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