Last Of The Carrots Pillaged

Carrots pulled from the garden show rodent damage.Rodents moved into my garden when I wasn’t looking.

I went out to harvest the last of the carrots out of the soil and found them mostly eaten away by rodents.

I have ruled out squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons since the damage on each carrot was started at the bottom end under ground. That leaves gophers, mice, rats and voles.

Rats usually take a lot larger bites than this and voles a lot smaller bites, so I am looking for a herd of mice or a couple of hungry pocket-gophers. But no mater how you look at it, the rodents got to my crop before I finished my harvest and now I’m cranky.

Once the winter is over, I’ll have to be vigilant with planting in the spring in case the varmints are wintering over with me otherwise I could lose all my root crop next year.

Slim Pickens In The Garden

Fall is the winding down season. Cooler weather means anything left in the garden and orchard slow and decay. The copious amounts of rain have helped with the melting process.

Picking an apple or pear off the tree before heading out to do chores has become a habit.A single asian pear of the season still on the tree.

Today I picked the last Asian pear off the young tree. This is only the second year of producing for this newly acquired variety and I was very pleased with the crisp, sweet taste of this planting as well as the quantity.

Only 3 Golden Delicious apples remain on the tree.The Golden Delicious apple tree is not far behind and I will be picking the last of those sometime later this week.

It has been a good year for tree fruits this year as well as the filberts. I have a freezer full of dried nuts, apple and pear bread, along with apple and pear chunks (for making pies).

The dehydrator had been busy most of the summer.

Counting Down From Ten

Ever since that downpour we had during the summer and the subsequent gift of finding fall Chanterelles in July, I have counted down after each rainstorm. The rule of thumb for mushrooms to grow is that the ground needs a good soaking and in about 10 days after the rain, the mushrooms should appear if all the other conditions are right.

Each rainstorm we have had since that first small spattering of woodland delicacies, I can be seen x-ing off the days on the calendar and trekking out into the woods with my bucket and mushroom knife.

It has only been hit and miss so far. The ground is still pretty dry under the dense stand of tall fir trees, that is until this week. We have had a series of days where we have gotten more than an inch of rain, so it was time to head out and see what the woods has to offer.

The very first patch I headed to gave me hope, I found new growth. As you can see from the pictures, they are very small, it was hard to find them in the carpet of dead fir needles.

I spent the next hour moving from one known patch sight to another, but the woods have just not started to produce much of the fungus yet.

Twenty some Chanterelle mushrooms.This was the total for my efforts. The mushrooms themselves are still very dry and brittle, and they don’t show their shiny orange brilliance the way they will when they are full of water.

To make the best of things, I divided these few into several different dinners. Chicken and mushroom pizza, diced into a pasta sauce, and hunks mixed in a white gravy to serve over chicken fried steak. All that did was whet my appetite for the delicious flavor of wild mushrooms.

With more moisture moving into the area this week, and as long as we don’t get a killing frost in the meantime, the mushrooms will be in full bloom soon. So I’m back to the count; 10, 9, 8…

 

Corn Harvest

We have been eating corn on the cob fresh from the garden for over a month now. It is so good to pick the produce and by eating it within the hour, we are spoiled by the garden and the bounty it provides.

Garden cart with ears of corn.The corn is getting to the stage where if we leave it in the garden will soon be overripe, the ears will start to lose moisture and shrivel. It is time to preserve the harvest.

I don’t care for canning anymore, just don’t have the time, patience or the will to do it. Besides, the taste of frozen seems to keep the flavor better (and I don’t have to do batches in canner-full amounts).

I filled my garden cart with the corn where I shucked the husks. Some of the corn had reddish leaves while others had only green, it is all because I am a rebel and planted two different varieties in the garden. Not side by side but all mixed up. You are probably saying to yourself, “Wow, she really lives on the edge!” Yup, that’s the way I roll.

When asked why I have two different varieties of corn growing together, and I do get that question a lot, I just have to shrug and admit that it comes from pure laziness and no other horticultural reason. Just didn’t feel like planting separate rows and didn’t realize it would cause such a stir in the neighborhood.

But back to processing; one year, when I was still canning, I had a large amount of corn I needed to cut off cobs to fill the jars of a canner load. I had found a device at the store that promised a ‘quick and easy’ process for cutting the corn. It was a nut cracker shaped tool with a round serrated blade welded into the center. The idea was to set an ear of corn on its end, collar the blade around the top of the corn and push down. It was advertised as cutting all the corn off the cob with one cut. I thought this sounded fantastic.

For any of you readers, please, for the love of all harvesters, don’t do it!

Corn is messy to say the very least, you add a sharp tool that can zip through the corn at lightening speed and the messiness will increase ten-fold. That serrated blade was over kill for such tender vegetables, it would quickly and efficiently grind up the kernels instead of cutting them off the cob while slicing through the tender flesh of a pinkie finger that happened to get in the way. Balancing an ear of corn while setting the blade on the top was a fairly easy maneuver, but keeping it in balance as the knife pushed down through the corn was another matter.

The cobs were slippery and would slide sideways and shoot off the kitchen counter along with corn juice and kernels spattering cupboards and floors in goo. Many times I would find that after cutting from the top to bottom of an ear, the ear had shifted while cutting and leaned one way or the other from center. One side of the cob would have only the bare top of the corn kernels cut off, while on the other side of the corn, would be gouged into the cob and peeled it in with the corn. Although cob is as tasty as corn, it is tough to eat.  And corn spits, when a single seed is popped open, that sucker will shoot sweet corn juice right across your kitchen, it will splatter on floors, walls, ceilings and any unsuspecting human within 20 feet.

I learned my lesson and got rid of that tool in a hurry. It took several months to find and clean all the spots from that endeavor, and the ceiling was never the same again.

This year, I’m back to my single knife cutting down the cob several times to get all around it. The mess in the kitchen from processing corn for the freezer. It is still a messy process, and I do get more splatter than I would like and it is a lot slower than the lightening knife, but at least I can eat the product without pulling bits of corn cob out of my teeth while keeping all my fingers.

Oh, and one other devil-may-care culinary task I employ that people have asked about, I do not blanch or par-boil the corn before freezing. I know that it is recommended in all the Betty Crocker, Ball and Kerr books, but I find it unnecessary and that it actually destroys the fresh taste of the corn. Yep, that’s me, I’m a rebel.

 

 

 

Close On The Heels

The other late fall apples will be ripening soon. The Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, King, Johnathan and winter apples will be nearing their prime about the time the Honeycrisp finish their season.

The late fall apples have the unique ability to change their fleshy structure when they get close to ripe and especially after the first frost of the season. Near the center, the fruit begins to crystallize and concentrate the sugar in the apple. the process turns the white flesh opaque.

Grocers and farm markets have noticed this phenomenon and have dubbed the fruit ‘ice apples’. It has become the marketing edge used to entice the consumer to try the fruit that looks different from the apple that they are used to eating.

‘Ice apples’ were favored by those in the know for a long time before they were given this new name. On the farm, have a couple of varieties that hang on the trees long enough to get frosted several times before we pick them for fresh eating. They are also the absolute best for applesauce because of the extra sweetness.

 

Waiting For Ready

The break between pears and the fall apples doesn’t last long.

Honeycrisp apples on the tree.The Honeycrisp apples are very large this year and are starting to get a touch of red on their skins.

This apple is one of my favorites. The crispness of the fruit along with sweet juiciness that tends to drip down my chin when eating reminds me of Gravenstein apples but with a slightly thinner skin.

It is hard to resist these fist sized apples, but they are still not fully ripe. After the red is first visible, it is still a couple of weeks before the sweetness of the apple is fully established.

This is only the third year of production for this tree. Last year it was so loaded that we had to strip off multi-buckets of apples early in the season and again half-way through the growing process and still had to prop branches from  breaking under the heavy load. This year, there are only about 40 apples on the tree, but the ending volume will be about the same as last year.

This apple is perfect for fresh eating, pies and quick breads, dehydrating, canning, and freezing for winter baking.

Loaded Crab Apple Tree

I hate crab apples, wouldn’t you know it that I would have a tree that produces loads and loads of crab apples of every year. This year, the tree is not only loaded, it is in danger of breaking down from the amazing bounty.

The ripe crab apples are falling at an astounding rate but they are only about the size of marbles so it takes quite a while for any cow to get full from this tree.

Marble sized crab apples on the ground.The main herd of cows make a circuit past the fruit trees that drop delicious sweets. The plum trees have just finished dropping their fruit. The old winter apple tree on the far side of the pasture has begun dropping apples, the blackberries are down to the last few and the small crab apples are the current fruit that the cows crave.