Saturday, September 30, 2017

My Harvest Life - Episode 14: Fall Tomatoes

Year 1 - Fall Day 9

It's officially fall!  A delicious time of year, filled with apple cider, warm stews and tasty treats throughout.  Things are slowing down in the gardening aspect, with the weather starting to get colder and wetter.  Tomatoes are starting to ripen and the bean plants have been cleaned out of the garden with a final, small harvest.  Soon the potatoes should be ready to start prepping for harvest and the kale and spinach continues to slowly grow in the cold, wet fall weather.

Tearing out the Bean Bushes

As the bean plants waned in their production, I made the decision to finally clear them out of the garden and bag them up.  We got some tasty beans out of the plants, but I think next year I'm going to go with the pole variety and see if I can harvest more out of each plant.  In addition we've gotten a few small tomatoes, but many have stayed green, and are slowly starting to darken.  I also brought a few green ones inside to ripen on the windowsill and after a few weeks they're just starting to turn red.

Ripening Tomatoes and Last Harvest of Beans

There is a wide spread of tomato sizes, the small ones seem to turn red relatively quickly and I've gotten a few of those so far, but the big green ones are slowly turning red in the garden.  One lesson learned is that the twisty poles I got for the tomato plants do not protect them very well from wind.  We had some very windy rainy days for a while, and the tomato plants are all bent over and got damaged by the poles bending the main stems.  So they're a bit of a mess.  Next year I will build a sturdy wooden structure to let them grow in to give them a lot of support.

Struggling Tomato Plants

But some reddening deep inside!

I'm still learning how to prevent nature from destroying my garden, so next year I'm looking forward to better yields.  However, I've picked a ton of basil from the basement garden so far.  It's been growing incredibly quickly and I've been able to harvest quite a bit and take the extra basil to work.

Delicious Cinnamon Basil

The basil is quite delicious with a earthy flavor (cinnamon-y to some I guess?)  I've made some tasty drinks with it so far and blended some of it up into tomato soup, which was great.  That said I can hardly use all the basil I have growing, so I've given a lot of it away to coworkers, who were glad to take free, fresh basil.

Things are coming along slowly, I look forward to harvesting the potatoes eventually and am looking forward to seeing if the spinach and kale plants take root and start to flourish, as they're still struggling.

- Level 1 Gardener: Jace -
Next Episode 15: First Potato & Lunch

Saturday, September 16, 2017

My Harvest Life - Episode 13: Woodcutting Level 2

Year 1 - Summer Day 87

Well, it's getting close to the end of the summer, and with the cool fall weather I've begun to chip away at the wood pile, racking up that sweet, sweet exp.  Today I leveled up, and gained access to a new tool that lets me break apart the giant logs much easier.

It's called a wood grenade (or a splitting wedge as a less fun name) and I picked one up recently and it works great for massive logs.  Not that it makes it totally easy,  but it starts in the center of the giant log and you beat it with a sledge hammer until the log splits in half.  It was recommended to me by a coworker of mine who, in addition to being an awesome engineer, is also releasing a book in January on using hand tools, and is a phenomenal reference for useful tools powered only by aching muscles and sweat.

The Wood Grenade

After 3 Hits

Wood Rack #2

In addition I've also split enough wood that I needed to get a second wood rack started.  The rack is very basic, all you do is get four cinder blocks and lay them evenly spanning 10 ft.  I then ripped a 2"x6"x10' piece of Pressure Treated wood in half and used that as the base.  Then four 5ft 2x4s were placed inside the cinderblocks sticking up and voila, no nailing, screwing or any binding needed for a nice wood rack to keep the wood off the ground and let it cure.

Also the basement herb project is coming along nicely.  I overwatered it a bit and some neat fungus started growing, so I toned back the amount of water I was dumping down there and it seems to be a bit better.  The basil is absolutely thriving and the other herbs are all about evenly paced in growing slowly.

The Kale and Winter Spinach have also started sprouting, but the bugs have been at them a bit it seems as well.   They seem to be doing well in the cool weather, only the tomatoes seem to be lagging a bit and not ripening.  There are a bunch of giant green tomatoes, but none of them have turned red yet.  I've done some reading and it seems likely that the windy, cool weather we've had is the cause.

Things are slowing down, but it's still fun to get out and see things grow and I still have a bunch of wood splitting to do.  I'm looking forward to the quickly approaching fall and all of the delicious beverages and foods it brings.

- Level 1 Gardener, Level 2 Woodcutter: Jace -
Next Episode 14: Fall Tomatoes

Saturday, September 2, 2017

My Harvest Life - Episode 12: Death of the Vine

Year 1 - Summer Day 73

Today I murdered my Cucumber plants, brutally and quickly.  Not maybe this time, but for sure - they are dead.  It was intentional though, the plants had been suffering and dying slowly, but were still sprawling and choking out other plants.  My own lack of experience is the cause - if they had more room to grow upward and thrive, they would have done much better.  Next year I will give their descendants more room to grow upward and will plant fewer of the massive sprawling vines.

The Dying Cucumber Plants

Slowly I chopped away all the vines and leaves and untangled them from my fence and tomato plants.  They were starting to intertwine with the tomatoes and since the tomato plants are very healthy and doing well, I decided to end the cucumbers short time of being overlord of the garden.  I cut away all the plant, and ripped out the roots.  I also decided to work the ground a bit, adding some fresh, bottom of the pit compost and worked it into the stony ground.  Unsurprisingly the technique is called digging, and you basically dig rows across the land you want to work, turning the dirt over and mixing it in.  I worked a bunch of fresh compost in to help replenish the nutrients the cucumber plants pulled out of the ground.  There are 2 packets of seeds, some hardy Kale and a cold weather variety of spinach that should be able to grow before winter sets in.

Ripping out the plants and stuffing them into bags

Fresh Compost

The freshly tilled ground

Note the Onions that haven't seen the light of day in months

There was also one final harvest of the cucumbers with a bunch of small ones that we'll see how they taste!  The tomato plants also have a bunch of large, plump, green tomatoes, and I'm very excited to harvest them once they are ready!

The Final Harvest

 Plump Green Tomatoes

In addition the basement herb project is going along nicely.  It's amazing to me just how much faster growing and hardy basil is compared to the rest of the herbs.  The basil plants are already well set in and are growing steadily while some of the other herbs are slowly starting to pop their way out.  Notably I've only seen one tiny rosemary plant peek it's leaves out so far and two of the parsley have sprouted out of about ten.

The Herb Project

Cinnamon Basil

So today has been a little sad, it's tough to see the plants I spent so much time prepping for get ripped out, cut up, stuffed in a bag and stuck on the street corner.  Hopefully next year once I'm a level 2 gardener I'll be able to keep my plants alive and producing longer through the season.  The bean plants also look like they're starting to slow bean production, so they might be coming to an end as well.  Next year I do want to try pole beans, as they're said to produce per plant more than bush beans.  Those as well will require some poles to climb up, so I will adequately prepare for that as well.

Fare well first year cucumber plants, it was fun!

- Level 1 Gardener: Jace -
Next Episode 13: Woodcutting Level 2