This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

turkey sandwich

turkey sandwich

I love leftover turkey sandwiches. This one is kind of a vegetable club. Some bacon in there, and avocado. The surprise was that I found a couple garden tomatoes that I didn't know we still had. They were ones I picked green before the frost several weeks ago. They were perfectly ripened today. The purple onions are also ones I grew.

Friday, November 26, 2010

thanksgiving

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What a great day! We had a lot of fun. My parents and brother and his family and dog Bannor visited with us. Our menu was very traditional this year: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. With some special highlights. My husband grilled a fantastic turkey that had I brined in bourbon and orange slices. The recipe was from "Grill It", a Schlesinger cookbook. The stuffing, a Chez Henri recipe with fennel and dried apricots (recipe link) was excellent. I was able to pick even more fresh lettuce from my cold frame than I had hoped. And my mom made the most fantastic candied sweet potatoes from my home grown potatoes! We ate and talked all afternoon. Skippy and Bannor enjoyed themselves too. What a very nice day.

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I thought I would need to pick all the baby lettuce in my cold frame to fill our salad bowl, but it was over filled with maybe one fifth of the lettuce. I left most of it still growing. I hope it will stay warm for a while and we will work on eating the rest of the lettuce soon. Since its my first fall with a cold frame, I don't yet know how long the lettuce will last. Our temperatures have been getting down to 30*F outside, 34*F inside the frame so far this fall. I have lettuce, escarole, spinach, kale, and broccoli still growing in the frame. I picked all of the dill, as I think its less hardy.

The other homegrown Thanksgiving item was the sweet potatoes. My mom has made candied sweets every year for maybe the past 30 years. As long as I can remember. They're always delicious, but this year they were exceptional. Maybe because I grew them. It was my first year growing sweet potatoes and I have a mix of yellow and orange varieties. Or maybe it was because we added "a bit" of rum to the recipe. My mom stirred the sauce and said the aroma was great.

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Candied Sweet Potatoes

(I will try to find Mom's recipe and add it here soon.)

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving menu

The big feast is just around the corner now! I am starting to figure out what I have to serve to the 6 guests (and one dog) who will join us for dinner. I will get a turkey tomorrow morning (should I hunt a wild turkey in the fields or go to Star Market?). I will also be making breads all day tomorrow.

I heard a great stuffing recipe on the TV the other day that I will try. Chez Henri's Turkey Stuffing. It sounds fantastic with fennel, celery, onion, chorizo sausage and fruits.

Turkey - Orange and bourbon-brined BBQ turkey from "Grill It!" by Schlesinger, Willoughby
Stuffing - Chez Henri recipe
Gravy
Mashed potatoes (home grown)
Home baked breads (corn bread, basic white and pumpernickel from Beard on Bread)
Sweet potatoes (my potatoes, Mom's recipe)
Creamed onions (Mom's recipe)
Cranberry sauce
BBQ baby back ribs (thought we'd add something non-traditional)
Broccoli (maybe I will have some in my cold frame - maybe not)
Green salad

I will go out and check the salad greens in my cold frame tomorrow. Maybe there will be enough. Maybe there will be broccoli too. I haven't checked in a couple weeks. I'll check before I go to te grocery store, just in case.

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amaryllis bulbs sprouting in a south facing window

window view 2 Nov 21 2010

I bought 5 really nice looking amaryllis bulbs a few weeks ago, mail order from Sheepers. It was a good price for 5 big bulbs, unlabeled - so I don't know which is which. I think a couple are not going to make it :-( But one or two are sprouting well in my south facing window. Not the best success rate, but I will wait a while longer and maybe more will come along.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

November garden aerial

Aerial Nov 21, 2010

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memorial

My project this week was to construct a website for a soldier from Belmont killed in Afghanistan earlier this month. He was a scout in my son's troop, several years before him. Here's a link to the website.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

new garden bulletin board

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Last weekend a scout from our local boy scout troop started his Eagle project to make a bulletin board for our community gardens. A group of 6 or 8 kids, a bunch of parents (and a couple dogs) dug two 4 foot deep holes. They mixed cement and filled footings in the holes. The footings will allow them to set up their hand made board in a month or so - after our ground has frozen.

The scout has done a lot of work to design a nice board. It will have two sides. The front will be plexi covered and locked for official garden notices, the back will be open so that gardeners can post notices to each others. We are hoping it will be used to arrange seed/vegetable swaps, post events and gardening tips, etc. A good way to build communication.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

tree trimming

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Last week we hired a tree climber remove a small branch that was banging into our roof. Since he was up there, I had him also cut down a big branch that was blocking lots of sun from the back year. As he said, this extra branch was the size of a large tree.

It is great how he was able to rope the massive branch and drop it perfectly into our postage-stamp-size backyard. We now have a big pile of wood ready for fireplace the winter.

But best is all the sun we now have! It pours into our back windows! My orchids on window sills are happy. I am very much looking forward to the outdoor plants that will do better next year! My little apple tree will be happy. And daffodils, grapes and lawn. I don;t think it will really help my vegetables though, but maybe. We'll see.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

november garden plots

Today Skippy and I walked through the Belmont Community Gardens. There are many that look great with lots of things still growing. The mild fall weather has been good for gardens. These are a few photos I took:

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Monday, November 15, 2010

raking leaves - the importance of leaf letter and hand rakes

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My giant maple tree is rapidly dropping its leaves this week - as are all of the other trees in my neighborhood. I am very pleased this year because I think I have been hearing fewer leaf blower and more (swwooch swhoosh) hand rakes. Yeah!!! Raking is such a great way to get exercise, enjoy the fall, check out the yard, relax, hang out with the birds, get some sunlight, etc etc. My son is doing a lot of our raking this year, because he seems to need lots of cash and is OK with the rate I pay.

The raked leaves go right into the gardens that border my yard. I will remove them in the spring. Leaves are a perfect natural mulch. My friend Victoria sent me a great article recently about the benefits of using leaves on your gardens. It was from a Grow Native Cambridge newsletter and titled "The Importance of Leaf Litter". Here's are some excerpts:

... as we now prepare our gardens ... for winter, I thought we might reflect on our rather odd and somewhat recently adopted tradition of removing all leaves from our gardens and urban landscapes. It turns out, this is not a particularly ecological or wise thing to do...Numerous species of butterflies overwinter in leaf litter -- either as eggs, larvae or caterpillars, or in their pupal state....Leaf litter is an important part of the soil food web. It provides habitat for numerous insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. It is this balance of many different insects, and of predators and prey, that helps prevent outbreaks of isolated species of insect pests. And all these insects in the leaf litter provide important food for birds. Leaf litter is also habitat for salamanders and toads, and for other larger predators that control insect pests.-Claudia Thompson, Director, Grow Native Cambridge

Here, here!! The leaves look really nice in the gardens, too.

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planting fall bulbs

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I finally got time to plant my fall bulbs. About 50 white daffodils (Mount Tacoma, Thalia, Professor Einstein and Sweet Love) for the back yard and 50 very early tulips for the front. Also some muscari and snow drops.

To plant them, I first lay out piles of what I want to plant in the grass along the garden. The big ole squirrel followed me around and I caught him stealing and eating a couple bulbs. I think he enjoys posing for my photos now. Squirrels don't usually eat these types of bulbs, so I doubt he will bother digging for them. My fingers are crossed!! It is almost impossible for me to plant crocuses and small shallow tulips with the greedy squirrels here, but daffodils, hyacinths and deep tulips are usually OK.

My other fall tasks of the past weekend included digging my dahlia tubers and raking the rapidly falling maple leaves. I'll add a separate post about those leaves because I really like to 1. use a rake and 2. pile them in the garden during the winter.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

cold frame greens

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I have lots of greens in my cold frame, but the questions: are they growing? I think they are, but slowly. I'm trying to compare this photo with the one I took 10 days ago (click the label "cold frame" below). I'm wondering if things will grow enough in the next 10 days to get a big salad bowl full of greens for Thanksgiving.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

playing

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Skippy and his girlfriend Bella (a standard poodle) played til they couldn't move in the grass in front of the Belmont Community Gardens.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

remote thermometer in my cold frame

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I have a new remote thermometer in my cold frame. Nothing special, but I like to be able to see the temperature during the day without going out and lifting the cover.

When there is no sun on the frame, the temperature is similar to the outdoor temperature. But it doesn't fall to the lowest temperatures at night. When there is sun on the frame, it gets 10 or more degrees warmer than outside. Only problem now is that the sun has sunk so low that it is mostly lower than the house next door and the frame stays quite cool.

Last night we had a good frost even in my side yard. My tomato plants are still standing and they wilted back. I will need to remove them soon. November 2 is a bit late for my first frost. Soon, I want to go back and get a list of my first frost dates for the past few years. I think they vary by about a month year to year

In the cold frame, the lettuce, escarole, spinach, beets, dill and broccoli plants are still growing, but slowly. I haven't set up my heating system, but this is on my to-do list.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

long shadows in my plot

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Winter is approaching. The shadows are very long. My photos end up with areas of too dark shadows and areas of too bright light.

I've covered much of my garden with salt hay by now. There's a bit of lettuce, spinach and other greens hidden under the hay. Also some perennial flowers and my newly planted garlic crop. In the bare areas, small shoots of cover crops are starting to sprout. Winter rye and clover. These will grow during any warm spells we get or may just hang out and wait until spring to grow.

When Skippy waits for me in the garden now, he curls up in a ball in a sheltered spot to keep warm. I enjoy how nice and warm it is too, down next to the soil in the sunlight - as long as I stay out of the coollldd wind (bbbrrrr).

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