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Climate Change

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Yeah, I’m going to go there. I can’t ignore the effects on us. The rain. It’s so different these days. The amount. The impact.

The garden is affected the most. Tomatoes were a mess. Mushy. Split. Not producing because of the lack of sunshine. The other indicator. The tromboncino. Which loved the extra moisture and produced far beyond what I could get in the past.

Monsters that grew in no time. Like this one that went from nothing to 3 1/2 pounds in less than a week,

This was a crazy year for our gardeners. Already there have been at least 10% giving notice of leaving. Many first time gardeners disappointed with the results of their labor. So many rotten vegetables, and out of control weeds.

As for other local input, we hear from our winery friends that their harvests have been less than stellar. No red wines at all from one of our favorites.

When I go to the local weather website I see we are less than one inch from the highest yearly total in the 21 years they have been recording the weather. 51.7 inches right now. 52+ in 2011 when we had a hurricane and tropical storm. We still have 20% of the year left and it is going to rain tomorrow.

As I take stock from my garden, and plan for the future, I have to account for these changes. What works now? Do I change what I plant? We have what I call a subtropical climate with intense rain. Onions can’t handle this rain. Melons rot and split. Only my cherry tomatoes did well this summer and all my heirlooms struggled.

The okra likes the climate. The rhubarb suffered. Cucumbers and zucchini, other than the tromboncino, rotted. The asparagus produced far longer than in the past, because of the excessive rain.

I am just a simple gardener. Not trying to make a living from the land. Imagine what these changes are doing to the farmers in the area. What do they plant? Humid, rainy days impact their livelihood. Washed out fields. Our Community Supported Agriculture has survived thanks to its size and diversity, but small farms with limited plantings had reduced yields.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore it.

And The Winner Is …

… black cherry tomatoes.

Not only did they win me two ribbons at the county fair, they also are the highest producer in my rain soaked garden. I have harvested close to 25 pounds of these flavorful heirloom tomatoes from two plants. Plants purchased last spring from TLV Tree Farm at the Clarksville Farmers’ Market.

This is the second year they have taken second place in the heirloom tomato category. It’s the closest I have gotten to that elusive blue ribbon, and the $35 special premium attached to winning it.  I just can’t get my other heirlooms to ripen early enough to enter them in the fair. Next year will be even harder as the fair is a day earlier for entries, and I barely had adequate numbers of my other vegetables.

I did put in seven entries and came away with seven ribbons. Two firsts, three seconds, and two fourth place ribbons. My first place winners were my okra, and I had the largest tomato. Not very large, a green heirloom variety called Aunt Ruby’s Green German. It was a pound and a half. It’s crazy. I only got a half dozen of them from that plant, so it will not be bought again next year.

As for other notables from my garden, this is the year that the Italian cucurbita moschata, aka tromboncino took over my garden. It’s crawling everywhere and giving me 1-3 pound squash every time I go there.

This is the latest one. 2 Pounds, 14 ounces. There are seeds only in the bulb, so they are sweeter than other summer squash if you get them before they become too large. In past years, friends have found hiding ones that have weighed as much as 10 pounds. Those with darker green skins are treated like winter squash, peeled and used in soups or in muffins and breads.

I have been making and freezing trays of fritters. By themselves or paired with corn, or with sweet red peppers, we make a batch, have a few with dinner and then freeze them stacked on parchment. All winter long I can pull out a sheet or two and have fritters as a side dish with dinner.

Here is one of my earlier harvests of the squash.

And these are the other major producer this year. My okra. Drowning in okra. I had a market pack with ten plants in it. They looked quite pathetic when I planted them and I expected many of them to die. Nope, they didn’t. Out of ten tiny plants, seven survived and are now six feet tall and producing like mad. I have made many fries, have sautéed them, made a hash, and am running out of ideas. I do donate quite a bit of these to the food bank every Tuesday as we get dozen of them weekly.

Last but not least, the heirlooms.

Not a great year. Many cracked from the excessive rain. I did get quite a few of Rutgers tomatoes. Those are the red ones with the cracked tops. The green ones were those green German variety. The two on the bottom right were from my Amish CSA and not from the garden.

But these were still my favorite. At the height of summer, they were large and sweet.

I roasted these. Spread out on a tray. Rolled in olive oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and oregano. Low temperature for a few hours. Like candy.

The garden is winding down. Just okra, cherry tomatoes and lettuces. A big basil plant and sage. Almost time to do my winter pesto and maybe spread some Tuscan kale plants in the corner to see how they do.

This summer was awful for the gardeners. Far too much rain, excessive heat when it wasn’t raining, and bugs galore. Still, I love the challenge and I enjoy my harvests.

The Buck Stops Here

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Literally.

Six point?

Down by our old garden. Actually for a while he was in it.

There are also two young fawns with him on this visit. The next time we saw him he had two does, and four fawns following him around.

He isn’t shy either, as he came within four or five feet of our deck.

He has been here most days. Some days he comes all the way up past the house, but he mostly stays down in the meadow.

Many more deer around the property this summer. They have to be dislocated from all the road construction down on Rte 32, and they are venturing into the properties north and west of there. Major amounts of trees have come down, and the woods are shrinking.

For us, we have less hunters in the area, as the farms are disappearing and the tree stands taken down. We will reach a critical point again soon, as the fields become barren and the winter sets in.  We can tell when they are desperate. They start eating the pine trees.

Deb Was Right

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Smitten Kitchen. My Go-To source for great recipes.

She didn’t disappoint when I had too many blueberries hanging around here.

Blueberry Crumb Bars.

Perfect from the fridge. Just like she said. Addictive.

I had two containers of berries from my CSA last week. I needed something simple to make. No need for the KitchenAid. Just a couple of bowls.

Mine was a little more “crumby” than hers, but it worked. After refrigeration, it came together as a sweet treat that satisfies without being really messy.

Time now to go look for a recipe to use the baking apples we got.

One-Eight-Two

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Yes, 182 pounds of produce. In one day. This week’s Food Bank harvest set another record for our community gardens.

That brings our yearly amount to 661 pounds after 9 weeks, with about 17 weeks left in the season.

Check out the large tromboncino being put in the truck for delivery.

I love those squash. They have no seeds in those long necks. They make great fritters and breads and muffins.

We had humongous amounts of curly kale, boxes full of them.

It is also the beginning of zucchini season.

Tomatoes? Not there yet. We all have many green tomatoes on our vines but nothing ripe.

And, carrots! Beautiful carrots. Did you know carrot tops make excellent pesto?

You can mix all sort of greens to make pesto. Add carrot tops, parsley, arugula and scallions to a blender or processor. Drizzle in olive oil. Mix in some parmesan and any kind of nut. Salt and pepper.

I know for our food bank deliveries, we wonder whether to include those tops. And, beet greens too. When someone has limited resources, these items may be difficult to use, but we decided to offer the option for those who want to maximize their yield from a vegetable.

Any other ideas for using carrot tops or beet greens? We can pass them along.

Back in the Saddle

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Yes, I know it’s been two months. Much has happened. Family things. Home things. Commitments.

Thanks to those who worried about me. I am fine.

Anyone want to cut our grass while fighting with the company to find a replacement for a failing tractor?

We did replace the out of commission car.

The most traumatic. Losing my mom to massive heart failure. One day, she’s OK. Next day. Life support. Five days later, an awesome lady left us. May was not a good month.

I had to step back and take a break.

I did do my commitment to amateur radio field day. There will be a review of the W3AO effort, as I did take many pictures.

I also updated my Farms page, to reflect the changes in the local offerings. I will miss Love Dove. Thanks, John, for all you gave us.

The blog is still alive, just recovering from all the chaos in my life.

Love you, mom, who gave me the AnnieRie nickname.

“Ramp” ing It Up

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It’s that spring ritual for me. If it isn’t asparagus, it’s ramps. If it isn’t ramps, it’s morel mushrooms. And, when they are done, it becomes garlic scapes. Etc. Etc.

I post every year about those fleeting specialties that grace our table in all their glory.

Ramps, last year, for example. That post also mentions the fresh morels from Jenny’s Market. Yesterday when I saw the signs on route 32 for the market, they highlighted the seasonal goodies like the mushrooms.

I have also written many posts on asparagus, and on garlic scapes, but today I want to show another simple preparation with the ramps that were still available at the Silver Spring farmer’s market.

Ramp pesto.

I found a recipe in Laurie Lundy’s amazing book on Appalachia. The book is called Victuals, pronounced viddles, according to the introduction. I also grew up hearing it pronounced at vittles. No matter, it is a very complete collection of recipes and their history in the Appalachian communities.

I ended up using her guidelines for ratios, but using what I had in the pantry.

4-5 ounces of ramp leaves. Three large bulbs. I blanched the leaves. Wrung them out after their ice water bath. Put them and the bulbs in the food processor with about 1/2 cup of pistachios. Added 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Poured in the olive oil while watching it emulsify. A little salt and pepper to taste. I used this pesto on pasta, and on flatbreads. Added it to an omelet with sautéed potatoes. Put a little on a freshly baked potato. I made it twice already in the past two weeks.

Ramp season is fleeting. They are wild, and not agreeable to cultivating.

An interesting fact I recently heard on the newest Parts Unknown. The West Virginia episode that premiered last week. The farmers in West Virginia are paid $2 a pound for ramps that are taken to New York City where they fetch up to $32 a pound. Talk about a markup!

We pay about $4 a bunch to the West Virginia farmers who frequent the Silver Spring market. Those bunches weigh about 5-6 ounces so they are getting around $12 a pound by selling direct to customers here. A big difference in price.

If you get the opportunity to buy from the local communities, they do far better than selling through distributors.

Now, I just need to head up to Jenny’s and get some locally sourced morels.