Independence Days Update: The Cusp of Autumn

admin September 17th, 2010

It won’t officially be fall for a few days,  but we had a night low of 37 degrees, the kids are wearing two layers early in the day and we shut the windows at night.  That’s fall, even if the dates are wrong.  Sometime between our departure and our return, autumn moved in to stay.  We’ll have warm days again, of course, but the change has come.

You never know when it will come these days - sometimes it is warm all fall, other times it gets cold early.  Our first frost has happened anywhere between September 19 and October 30 over the nine years we’ve been here, so you never know what to expect.  And that doesn’t count the basil frosts - you know, those light ones that just toast the basil.  We had one of those the last week in August once.

It is time to try and pull in all I can of summer, and the process keeps us busy - besides the five day diversion during which we ate all kinds of unsustainable things, increased our waste production and otherwise used resources in ways we don’t ordinarily, now we’ve got to come back and get into the groove again.  I’ve got literally piles of produce to attend to right now

I did come back with some wonderful plants that went into the ground yesterday - I took a workshop on propagating woodland medicinal plants.  While our medicinal herb production has mostly focused on wetland herbs, our 19 acres of woods already are home to a small amount of goldenseal and blue cohosh (but not enough that I’d ever harvest any for sale), but clearly can produce the conditions suitable to growing them.  The class, taught by an extension expert from North Carolina was brilliant, and she gave us all plant divisions to take home of Black Cohosh, goldenseal, bloodroot, mayapple and wild ginger. I have small amounts of black cohosh and wild ginger already, but I was excited to get some new planting stock.  It’ll be years before we attempt any serious harvest of these plants, and I’m not counting any chickens before they hatch, but it seems a good use of our land.

Before we left there was an unholy rush to get all the tomatoes processed - bazillions of them, roughly speaking.  They are ripening more slowly in the cooler temperatures now, but I’ll need to do some more.  Today I’m gathering in the pumpkins and bottle gourds as well, and clearing a bed to be made into a low hoophouse for lettuces, spinach and kale.   I’ve got zucchini to dry and cukes to pickle - the final rush.

We’ve been so comatose the last few days after the chronic sleep deprivation of the trip that things have been slow getting started - yesterday we dealt with the last of the sweet corn, and picked the raspberries that we waiting for us so patiently.  Today there’s jam to deal with, and peppers and…

This time of year is my favorite - it feels so lush and rich and the wealth of the harvest makes me happy.  At the same time, with school started up again for Eli and Eric and the busy season hitting before winter, and the wave of holidays, it feels like we go two months at a dead run - and long for the quiet of winter.  I guess it makes the transition easier!

Plant something: Black cohosh, goldenseal, mayapple, bloodroot, wild ginger, winter wheat, lettuce, arugula.

Harvest something: Pumpkins, gourds, squash, broccoli, kale, collards, dried beans, peppers, hot peppers, apples, carrots, beets, daikon, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, pea shoots, many herbs.

Preserve something: Made raspberry jam, made peach jam, dried zucchini, dried pumkin, dried apples, pickled green tomatoes, froze corn, froze lima beans.

Waste Not: We wasted a lot on our trip - there just wasn’t a good way to avoid it.  Sucked.

Want Not: Nothing special

Build community food systems: Gave a talk about why grow food in front of Thomas Jefferson’s Vegetable Garden!!!!

Eat the Food: Lots of corn chowder.

How about you?


11 Responses to “Independence Days Update: The Cusp of Autumn”

  1. NM says:

    I have a ridiculous amount of basil waiting to be dealt with, and some peaches. Pears are going to arrive today. Feeling that end-of-summer rush to make Sure enough is put away for winter, which sometimes leads me to take on more than is really necessary. Still wanting to get my hands on some more tomatoes to process. Currently wondering how it would work to puree tomatoes and freeze in ice cube trays to use in salad dressing, to provide some fresh tomato flavor.
    Planted: nothing. Still.
    Harvested: Blackberries, summer squash, peaches, raspberries, eggs, vegetables
    Preserved: Canned tomato broth, blackberries in spiced liqueur, brandied blackberry jelly, dried many small batches of: basil, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, peppermint and mixed greens (carrot and beet tops, etc), froze: blackberries, a pint of huckleberries, some pistou in small batches, corn, grated zucchini and breaded fried zucchini, a quart of soup. Made a bit more basil salt, small batch of raspberry vinegar, froze raspberries, dried raspberries, canned gingery cinnamon peaches in apple juice.
    Want not: This does not fall under the frugal category, but it’s too exciting not to share … My husband’s anniversary gift to me finally arrived after being on backorder for a couple of months, and I nearly fell over. He’d ordered the Diamant hand mill, which we’ve been talking about for a few years, but rejecting as just too expensive. It’s beautiful, and it beats the heck out of our old hand mill; he ground enough flour to bake a loaf of bread in just 15 minutes. Want not, indeed!
    Waste not: I saved the tomato skins and cores from canning tomatoes, cooked them up in the reserved blanching and cooling water, strained the resulting broth and canned it like tomato juice. Also saved the flavorful syrup left from making blackberries in spiced liqueur, simmered the spices in it a bit more, added some more blackberry juice and lemon juice, and canned it up as brandied blackberry jelly. Have begun drying the carrot tops, broccoli leaves, beet tops, etc., from the CSA basket, to sprinkle in casseroles and soups for extra nutrition.
    Community food systems: One Slow Food activity fell through; we’re working on a couple more. Writing bi-monthly cooking column for newspaper.
    Eat the food: Eggplant scallopini, bread with freshly ground flour, zucchini bread with freshly ground flour, green salad with good tomatoes and homemade dressing, pesto/pistou on everything, homemade jam on toast, salmon with ginger, garlic and honey, peach pie, sauteed onions with chard (and faux chicken), provencal vegetable soup with pistou, eggs with potatoes, carrots, onions and celery, corn with onions, peppers and tomatoes, mashed potatoes.

  2. Devin says:

    We finally decided to leave MN and move back to CO, so we are busy unpacking and getting setup in the house, so we have not been doing much prep. We have been visiting the farmers market and are putting us some cucs for pickles and some jam from local peaches. We will be working over the Winter on next years plan for the new homestead work

  3. Brad K. says:


    You mentioned “clearing a bed to be made into a low hoophouse for lettuces, spinach and kale”. I understand about the hoop house, you have written about it before, so I think I can look that up.

    But . . I am having trouble visualizing what you mean by “clear a bed”. What operations, do you do, what tools, what goals do you shoot for with each process? I imagine this is a pretty basic question, and I have a couple of reasons for asking. First, my first year gardening has been . . well, I tell people I put in a “small” garden. The two watermelons that ripened were 4″ . . and 2 1/2″. The five Black Cherry Tomatoes (absolutely delicious, and I am not a big tomato fan) fit in a Hunts Snack Pack 4 oz cup. The other reason I ask is that I don’t have a rototiller - and wonder what you do for soil work.

    (On the other hand, I have four pepper plants bearing fruit on the kitchen window sill, and four or five more in the garden; the beefsteak tomatoes are starting to ripen, and there should be more of the Black Cherry tomatoes. The Luffa is still blooming - though none of the fruits that started are still there, and I think one of the eggplants is trying to bloom.)


    Brad K.
    Ponca City, OK

  4. admin says:

    Hi Brad - Sorry, I don’t think it was clear. In this case I just meant moving the plants that were there now - pulling the zucchini and squash vines and cutting down the borage and dill that were inhabiting that particular bed now. I need the space, and the plants are just about done anyhow.


  5. Evey says:

    It is definatly turning to fall here in WV. Also my favorite time of year.

    Plant something: set out a few replacment cole plants; seeded 3 more small patches of mixed lettuces for the winter low hoops

    Harvest something: black walnuts-only 2 out of 5 of us like them, DH and me; 3 cukes from the mid summer planting- pickles next week; chard; peppers; tomatoes-oxhearts mainly

    Preserve something: a few jars of pickled hot peppers, hulled walnuts, washed and are now drying;

    Waste not: seed saving; using those black walnuts; “remade” and froze tons of leftovers from party for 70

    Want not; found some cotton sweaters for .50 at thrift shop, will remake into washclothes to go with handmade soap I’m going to make this week.

    Community: donated leftover breads and eggs to Hospitality House.

  6. KC says:

    I have been developing a relationship with my tomatoes. Especially the ones where I know their name … Eva’s Purple Ball – each one is like a perfect gift. , Nyagous, Mule Team, and Moneymaker who is still hard at work producing numerous tomatoes (but smaller at the end of season).

    The okra (Burmese okra) grows 6-8 inch pods almost overnite. Luckily the pods stay tender even at that length. The tatsoi and Michili are growing leaps and bounds and are ready for harvest. Lots of little carrots to thin. I harvested my tiny bed of black coco beans. They survived the rains with only a few sprouting. They are the most delicious dry bean I have ever eaten. Too bad I only planted enough for 2 or 3 meals. I’ll try to find more room for them next year. They took almost 90 days from planting to harvest. The greatest delight – so far- are the purple hull pink eye crowder beans. So easy … just plant them and watch them grow. They hardly need to be weeded because they grow so fast. They don’t mind drought or rain and aren’t particular about soil. The bugs don’t care for them. They are almost foolproof — my kind of vegetable. The long purple pods have more than 15 peas per pod and they cook up in minutes. They have a short growing season (50-60 days?) so you can plant them after a spring crop or before a fall crop, etc. The sunflowers grew too tall (remind me not to fertilize them next year) and are falling down. I planted 5 hills of magenta parching corn and beginning to harvest it. Not sure when is the best time to harvest. I will be drying it … so should I leave it on the stalk longer? I had hoped to plant some to save the seed … but it turns out that you need many more plants to save the genetic diverisity. Not sure if I will plant corn or not next year.

    I am wondering about next year… should I try to preserve all these foods … or just eat what we have in the root cellar and cold frames. Canning and dehydrating seem to take a lot of energy (my energy and gas and electric). I’m thinking of trying to simplify my diet more.

    The Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello was great. I spoke with Rodger Winn who explained a few things about beans : they won’t self-fertilize (bear fruit) when temperatures get too hot. This is why so many of us are having problems with our bean crops this year. Rodger grew over 30 variteties of beans this year and he shared seeds of 2 heirloom varieties (from NC) that produced even in the heat. He also gave some good tips about saving seed if you are in a small garden - plant different colored flowering ones next to each other so that if the wrong colored flower appears in your grouing, you can weed it out. Bumblebees are the ones with enough strength to open a bean flower for pollination (cross pollination), but most insects prefer other flowers. You can plant sunflowers as separators and the bees prefer them. After your harvest, weed out any off color seeds.

    Also, I received some interesting seeds of various cowpeas and yardlongs - (I’m thinking that next summer might be hot , too, and cowpeas are good in the heat.) Rodger also said that the greasy bean or cutshort is good for drying. It stays tender even after seed fills out, so that you can eat it when it has more protein. It is not so good for canning , though, because it gets mushy.

    Plant something: Lettuce, bok choy and arugula. It looked like rain, yesterday, so I planted more turnips, daikon and winter radishes, and greens - (but no rain). We are in a drought and everything is very dry.

    Harvest something: tomatoes, peppers, asian greens, endive, lettuce, escarole, beets, crowder peas, black coco beans, green beans, horticultural beans, magenta parch corn, basil, zinnia, marigold, cosmos, okra, tatsoi, michili, cucumbers, tiger beans (short crop). The polecat crowder peas are coming in, now. You can eat them immature like green beans or harvest for green shelling or drying. I didnt know they were polebeans when I planted them, so they are growing profusely. Luckily I planted them next to a fence.

    Preserve something: dried tomatoes (the cherry tomatoes and yellow pear are drying nicely as are the speckled roman). Made tomato sauce and froze it. Froze yellow pear and cherry tomatoes – whole … just dropped them in a bag and put them in the freezer. Will see how they do. Also cooked stewed tomatoes with okra and basil and put in the freezer. Made more applesauce. Dried peppers and froze peppers.

    Waste Not: mulching with brewery grains. Making vinegar from the neighbor’s grapes.

    Want Not: I traded one of our cds for 3 nettle plants.

    Eat the Food: I received an eggplant from a friend’s CSA while she was on vacation. Wow. It adds so much to the tomato – pepper- okra combinations that we have been eating. Also, added new potatoes to that combination. Delicious. Crowder peas… yummm. Finally – finished the very last of the sweet potatoes from last year. They held up well and still tasted good. Tonight we ate a variation on fritters. I fried up some okra, peppers, and mung sprouts and then added them to a cornmeal batter (made with kefir and local eggs). Fried em up and ate them . Mmmm good.

    Build Community Food Systems: played music at Harvest Festival. Trading seeds and plants. sharing garden vegetables with a friend.

  7. Leigh says:

    North Carolina has a wonderful cooperative extension. It was my best resource when we lived there.

    My IDC update -

  8. Beverly says:

    Out here in the high desert of the Salt Lake valley things are very hectic with produce coming in thick and fast, despite a spring frost that damaged about 60% of the fruit crops and record heat during the summer. (Peaches are some three weeks late. Very odd.) Fortunately we have very low humidity so many things can just go out in the sun to dry. Good thing too, as I’m seriously burned out. One of the little kids in the neighborhood has picked all my Delicata squash and they’re beyond help when found, same for my acorn squash. Nary a one left. Why can’t kids take the beans? The beans are still booming and we live at 6600 ft. The golden Romano pole beans were the best performers this year. Very long and golden with a marvelous flavor. The Fallgold raspberries are beautiful and hidden from kids, but hubby and I never make it all the way to the house with them before they too vanish. Soon the wild rose hips will be ready. I love to drop a couple of them in my hot tea during the winter. In the morning I will put up cooked peach raspberry jam and put out tomatoes, peaches and basil to dry. The small leafed basil “Boxwood” drys well and the tiny leaves lend flavor to split cherry tomatoes put out to dry. Monday I’ll go find wild elderberries for jelly. Good excuse to linger in the autumn colors of Big Tooth maple and Gambel oak. Don’t forget that all parts of the cattail are edible, a delicacy at times.

  9. The Mom says:

    Monticello was inspiring! It was so wonderful to meet you and hear you talk. How wonderful to put a voice with the writing. I wanted to much to hear your second talk, but my daughter had a bit of a meltdown and Hubby was having a hard time dealing with her. My son and I loved your talk though. The medicinals talk sounds like it was wonderful. As much as I would love to do that, I need to back off and try to do things at a more moderate pace. Trying to do too much just makes me end up with a mess and wasted plants. Vacation was wonderful, but it is also wonderful to get back to my normal life. Sitting and having poached eggs from my chickens and homemade sourdough was absolutely the most fabulous thing ever.

    Harvest something: tomatoes, broccoli, jalapenos, anaheims, bell peppers, beets, potatoes, eggs

    Preserve something: canned whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, peach butter, froze broccoli, peppers and beets

    Waste not: With vacation, our waste was infinitely higher than normal, although we did manage to recycle most of our trash.

    Want not: Bought a whole Virginia Ham from a small farmer whose family has been doing it for years. I’m so excited about it, I can’t stand it. Also got some bacon from the same farmer. At Monticello, got some wonderful fruit jams, made from local fruits.

    Eat the Food: Aside from some ham and jam that we bought locally, it was pretty much a wash.

    Build community food systems: We weren’t home, but I spent lots of time talking to Virginia farmers.

  10. risa b says:

    Heh — I read that as “waist production” and that would certainly fit our case here — trying to eat everything we don’t have time to process. ;)

    Despite my whining about there not being a proper canning season here, we have done more with apples, blackberries and grapes than we expected. Today I am moving a ____load of potatoes to the cool room.

    Much to be thankful for.

  11. Claire says:

    What a year. Still more rain to split tomatoes, cooler weather mostly this month but some humid weather too (more diseases), and the squirrels are eating all the fall peaches. The county code enforcer and a police officer cited the front yard for what they claimed was overgrown vegetation … at least the citation did include the fact that the vegetation so noted was flowers, herbs, and edible plants due to my IDing all the plants for them. I’ve had to shift efforts from the veggie garden to the front yard edible forest garden to pacify a gardening-challenged police officer, not to mention the stress of being threatened with the vegetation being mowed down by the county if I don’t comply with his idea of what a suburban lot is supposed to look like.

    Planted: nothing at home, though I did plant seedlings of soft rush and wild bergamot that I’d grown into our Zen center’s rain garden.

    Harvested: the usual summer stuff like tomatoes, peppers, one pattypan squash, and the first few beans from my very late planting, plus collards and mustard greens and the first persimmon of the fall. Shiitake mushrooms, including the first shiitakes from the logs plugged last fall, plus quite a few from logs plugged about 2 or 3 years ago. My DH found an edible variety of mushroom in a local park.

    Preserved: hopefully my front yard plants, from the threat of being mowed down - and that would include 3 apple trees, 2 pear trees, 2 apricot trees, 2 persimmon trees, 2 hazelnut trees, and others. But the citation hasn’t quite been withdrawn yet (I’ve been told we are *making progress*), and we are planning next steps.

    Waste not: using saved-up cardboard and newsprint from shipping boxes as mulch liner underneath the prunings from the front yard, all this on top of the grass now growing in what will be new veggie beds next year. Much easier to kill the grass first in this non-hazardous way, then dig the new beds.

    Want not: found a used student-grade plastic clarinet, like the one I played in school band 40 years ago, at a garage sale in the neighborhood, and bought it for $10. And it works!!

    Community food systems: my DH and I are starting to plan a process for amending the county code to make it more friendly to front yard gardens. Not sure just how to go about it, yet, but intend to find out.

    Eat the food: mushrooms in lots of dishes, stir-fry dishes with collards or the mustard greens as the greens component plus other garden veggies.

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