Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from picturesque New Jersey!
(Actually, this was in Pennsylvania. Figures.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Last Beets, New Brew

I pulled the final beet crop yesterday at the garden. After snapping their portrait, I removed all the greens for salads and sauteing and bagged the beets. Since they've been in the ground for months, I'm not sure how they'll taste. Maybe it's time to learn how to make borscht?

The marigolds are still doing their thing and I'm a little reluctant to remove the garden's final splendor. The pepper plant is still flowering so I didn't have the heart to pull that either. I have one bunch of escarole that's survived the frosts and harvestable. I pulled some leaves for yesterday's salad. Everything else was relaxing under a blanket of fig leaves, including some little lettuce sprouts.
In the kitchen we have a new batch of beer that we're drinking: Hopp'd Chipotle Ale. After tasting it for the first time last night, I think we're all impressed with our efforts. It has an up-front smokey pepper flavor, it's clean on the palette, and it has a warm-on-the-back-of-your-throat finish. A chocolate and coffee stout or porter is next.

We're gearing up for the holiday season here. We'll be kicking it off this weekend with a craft show at a friend's apartment in Brooklyn where I'll be selling some Mao Mao Kitty jewelry. Then it's Christmas shopping on Sunday (guess we'll miss Eagles vs Giants) and holiday baking next week for Thanksgiving. I've already seen Charlie Brown trees for sale at the grocery store and I'm thinking about locating our box of decorations. I love this time of year!

Monday, October 18, 2010


I picked the last two eggplants today in the garden. I also grabbed a handful of escarole and beet greens for a salad and noticed that I have some lettuce and spinach sprouting. I'm hoping some of that matures before frost. There isn't any frost in the forecast this week but we will be getting temperatures in the forties at night. It's time to start thinking about cleaning out the plot, adding compost, and planting garlic bulbs for next year.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kitchen Adventures

Some things are still blooming in the garden so I made myself a pretty little bouquet for the kitchen. (Yes, we have a green wall in there. The color is called celery.)

The hot peppers are still going strong so after reading an inspirational blog post (sorry, can't find the link) about making hot sauce, I decided to whip up a batch of my own. I seeded, deveined, and sliced a green bell pepper, 8 salsa peppers, and a handful of itty bitty jalapenos. I threw them into a saute pan on low heat with four crushed cloves of garlic, a chopped green (unripe) tomato, and the smallest amount of oil necessary to get a little sizzle. After everything got a hint of color, I put a lid on and added about a 1/4 cup of water and let them cook for 20 minutes. When everything got soft, I put it all in the blender with 3/4 cup of white vinegar, the juice of a lime, a teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and blended the mix until it was smooth and sauce-like. Then I returned the mix to a saucepan, tasted and seasoned it, brought it up to a boil, and decanted the mix into a sanitized bottle.

Besides feeling amazingly cool for having made my very own hot sauce, I now have a super delicious condiment to put on everything from chili to chicken to corn chips. This stuff even has potential in the cocktail realm but that's more Josh's area of expertise.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Collecting Pumpkins and Stretching the Harvest

Three additional pumpkins were acquired at a coastal Jersey farm last weekend.

Mao Mao inspected the minis as soon as they arrived.

Late ripening Mortgage Lifters are resisting late season blight and slowly turning pink in the garden.

There are a couple inch long cucumbers forming on these vines but they'll probably need some doomsday-type global warming for any chance of maturation.

I do think we'll have one last eggplant harvest this season. And yes, we still have plenty of hot peppers. See them hanging out in the background?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bird Alert

At the garden yesterday I spotted an unusual bird feeding on some of the dried up plants in one of the other plots. It caught my attention right away with its black face mask and bright yellow breast. I made a mental note to figure out who this fancy visitor was the next time I was in front of a computer. After narrowing it down, I'm identifying this guy as a Common Yellowthroat but I would hardly call him common for Jersey City.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What's Going On (in the garden)

I'm still harvesting beets...

and escarole...

and hoping for those late cucumbers to do something...

and threatening these final tomatoes with breading and a fry bath...

and rooting along these cute little guys!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

First Pumpkin of the Season, Money's Farm, Middletown, DE

Cowtown Rodeo, Salem County, NJ, August 28th

Monday, September 13, 2010

What To Do Next!

Thinking about relocating to the country?
Read this.
Planting an orchard?
Read this.
Making a pizza for dinner tonight?
Read this.

They're all on my To Do list these days.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pumpkins on My Mind

A nice visual list of pumpkins and winter squashes can be found here. I like to look at all the photos and dream about planting a pumpkin patch one day. Personal favorites? Boer, Futtsu Early Black, Goldkeeper, Jumbo Pink Banana, and (of course) Rogue Vif d'Etampes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Garden Harvest Update

Yesterday I stopped by the garden after work to water and harvest some things for dinner. I picked enough escarole and beet greens for a salad, I had a Mortgage Lifter ripe and ready, and I picked a few dark maroon figs for a sweet snack. The garden hot pepper plant has a dozen more fruits on it and the cucumbers I started two weeks ago are almost up to the trellis. Although the tomatoes haven't been terribly productive this year, there are some developing fruits that may or may not ripen by frost. To check your local frost dates, click here. Looks like my tomatoes have until October 20.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Last Days of Summer

First Pumpkin, Melick's Orchard, NJ

Josh and the Spotty Goat


Where are the peaches?

Mini Garden Harvest

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Today it's 68

Now that it seems like Mother Nature is pushing fall weather upon us, I'm starting to reflect on this season's gardening exploits. It was a funny year (again) with an early summer, a VERY hot July, and almost no rain. Now we're near the end of August and it feels more like the end of September. It's been rainy, windy, and no warmer than 70 the past two days. I can't help but think about pumpkins. In fact, I think they're going to come sooner than expected this year as well. When we were out and about looking for cars last week (actually two weeks ago) we passed several pumpkin fields and in all of them I saw orange peeking out from beneath the leaves.

My own squash pursuits failed again this year. First the squash vine borers chewed up my plants and then an army of pill bugs took over the destruction. I pulled out my last plant last week and called it quits. No home grown squash for me. I will need to move my operation to some fresh land for that dream to come true.

Tomatoes have also proven to be a struggle this year. Hot and dry conditions in July really beat up my plants. I got a few Mortgage Lifters a month ago and then the plants began dropping their buds. Now everything is rebounding slightly, but the cool weather may prevent them from doing very much. And once again, the cherry tomato situation has been a disappointment: very few buds have survived and when they do turn into a tomato, they ripen so sporadically that my harvest is usually 1 or 2 half inch fruits at a time. I should also mention that a nice Boxcar Willie tomato that I was waiting for to ripen was stolen at some point. Since I'm doing a little complaining, I mind as well mention that I have some late blight popping up now with a couple green fruits rotting from the bottom up. Two years ago I had more cherry tomatoes than I knew what to do with. Those were the days.

I should mention that the eggplant gave me two delicious little eggplants last week that we cooked up for dinner so it isn't all bad news. The hot peppers are also doing fine and I've managed to give away many of the ultra hot specimens. I've got a happy looking escarole and two happy musk melon plants. Last week I threw in a row of cucumber seeds and peas under the trellis. Maybe I'll get something out of them before frost. Another round of radish and bush beans also went in. I might try some more lettuce if this cool rain continues.

My plans for the fall are to amend the soil and to see if I can't find a way to treat the pill bug situation. I will try to plant garlic at the end of November for next season but other than that, the soil will be thoroughly worked and improved in time to rest over winter. Next year I might do all flowers over the summer. I seem to have the most luck with spring vegetables anyway. We'll see. If I get an impressive late season harvest of tomatoes I might change my tune.
Cha Cha Hard at Work

Eggplants, Peppers, Greens, and Basil

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Pony, Same Old Cat

It's very fast and very, very blue.

The sunset was pretty the night we drove her home.

No oranges or pinks that night, just yellow, silver, and blue.

Mao Mao got a bag to play in when we got home. I think I see a smile there.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Farm Show!

Over the weekend we attended the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show in northwestern New Jersey. It has become a summertime tradition for us and something I look forward to throughout the year. With all the car hubbub this year, we almost didn't make it. Luckily we pushed ourselves over the weekend and made time to get to the fairgrounds.

Blue Ribbon Duck
Fluffy Chicken (a very popular breed this year)

Exhausted Goats

Yup, It's A Rabbit

Top Down View

Bunny Palace

Flemish Giant

How To Ride A Pig

Side Saddle Works Too

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Green and Purple Things

Our once beautiful pony has been totaled so the search is on for an equally awesome ride. Is another Legend Lime in our future? It's too soon to say.

Eggplant #2 was in the cute purple and white stage last Friday.

This morning the little guy was considerably larger and more purple.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Getting Bigger

Eggplant #2 and Future Eggplant

Monday, August 2, 2010

Some Things are Doing Pretty Darn Well

While the tomato plants are yellowing and the squash plant might finally have had enough of my poking around in its vine, other members of my little garden community are beating the heat, the bugs, and the occasional dry spells. You could even say that two plants in particular are thriving.
One of many baby eggplants hangs from my little eggplant tree.

A very happy hot pepper plant might overwhelm us with spicy fruit.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Garden Delights

We've had the hottest summer on record here and today is the first day in a long time that has felt pleasant. In fact, today is so nice that I was able to open up all the windows this morning and let the breeze blow through the apartment. I also managed to walk to the garden and back without getting soaked with sweat. What a nice change.

Lupine perhaps? Whatever it is, it grows in abundance in the garden and is just coming into bloom.

Yellow Duo

The feral cat family was exploring all the possible uses for a small stone wall including seating, jungle gym, and bed. The three kittens (gray/white and black/white in front of mom and gray tabby behind her) are growing fast but they still know how to have fun. When I ran to grab the camera, they were in one big furry ball. The situation had settled down a bit when I returned.