We must admit, during the growing season we're spoiled by the choice of vegetables we eat from our fields...it's the 100 metre diet at its best!
Naturally, it's really hard for us to start buying vegetables from the grocery store when winter comes. To minimize the withdrawal we try to have as much of our own food as possible. During the summer, we can Roma or paste tomatoes (the most amazing and versatile item in the pantry!) as well as jam (and if we had more time, there would be pickles and salsa and canned fruit, etc).
We also freeze strawberries, wild blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, blanched green beans, garlic scapes, cherry tomatoes (which make a beautifully sweet sauce), and kale. This year we harvested kale from the field in December when it was already frozen, put it in plastic bags, then directly in the freezer. It's such an incredible plant! Since it's so cold tolerant frost, kale doesn't turn to mush like other greens which means it's the ideal winter addition to any garden.
Along with the stored squash, carrots, beets, potatoes, rutabega, garlic, freezer meat and fresh eggs, our selection isn't too bad. Throw in a bulk order from Speerville and we practically have our own grocery store!
Kale harvest in mid-December 2012. Yield = 2 garbage bags full!
Kale plants hangin' in there after a snow storm in January 2013
It's hard to imagine that during the summer solstice we're not even inside for supper at this time of the night because it's still light out. We're looking forward to the downtime of the cold, dark part of the year so that in the Spring we're able to emerge full of energy and excitement for the next growing season. Growing organic market vegetables takes an incredible level of physical and mental effort that would be very difficult to maintain year-round. The winter is our time for rest, recuperation and renewal - and planning which starts right after the holidays...
While the weather was warm and sunny this past weekend we completed our annual garlic planting: about 8,000 cloves are now in the ground and nicely protected with 25 bales of straw, ready to take on the rain and wind of tropical storm Sandy!
We must say this was the most pleasant garlic planting we've ever had, it was such a pleasure! Usually we get the cloves in by mid-November and it's cold and rainy, our fingers freezing as we push the cloves the ground. However, this year it was a scene of bare feet and t-shirts!
Needless to say, we're looking forward to the garlicky harvest next summer...
It's well known that this season has been unbelievably dry. We've been in Nova Scotia for almost 9 years and have never experienced such a drought. Since we have well-drained sandy loam soil, which is perfect for growing vegetables, it has been quite a challenge to keep everything hydrated and growing nicely. How fortunate that early on in the season we decided to install an irrigation system! It's been quite a learning curve figuring out how to maximize our gravity-fed water system. We tried both sprinklers and drip tape and by far the drip is winning out in efficiency and usefulness.
Mulches are also very important in dry years since they reduce evaporation and conserve soil moisture. We're using biodegradable black plastic mulch for the first time this year, and our mulched zucchinis that were planted later are twice as big as those without mulch. Sure, there can be a difference in soil temperature, but the big difference is moisture retention which has been absolutely vital this summer.
So far, our well has run dry about 6 or 7 times, and it's taking longer to recharge. This season has definitely obliterated our naive assumption that we don't have to worry about water in Nova Scotia (especially on the heels of a wet 2011!).
Times they are a changing' and we have to adapt along with them...we see irrigation ponds and rain barrels in our future.
Check out the spiffy ear protection handmade by Stewart's Mom! On her recent visit, Mary sewed together these blackfly-proof ear protectors for Stormy and Deedee out of cotton tank tops and shopping bags. A great homemade solution that the horses actually like (they're usually pretty picky about people touching their ears).