Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Farm Report

New Harvest

"Hey Tim, buddy! I loves me some dat sweet corn!!!"

Annie isn't kidding. She was running out to the sweet corn patch every evening and coming back with her own personal ear to munch on while I listened to Andy Devine on Wild Bill Hickock on old time radio podcasts. She really does love her sweet corn. Look at her face, and that tongue isn't hanging out because she's out of breath. She loves it.

Unfortunately, Annie isn't the only one out here who likes it. In fact, I had to fight like Billy Heck in order to have some for myself. Coyotes, Fox, Raccoons and 'Possums were all in there at night. So in a fit of frustration one morning, I decided to just pick the whole patch and be done with it. I took the wheel barrow and cleaned one row at a time.

I followed that row picking with one of the most valuable tools any gardener can have: A great big lawn mower with an attitude. Yep, Pick a row; mow a row. Pick a row; mow a row.

The corn isn't quite to the maturity I like best, but at least I got some for the freezer this year.

I've shown you how I do this before, but my 'new' method is soooo easy and good, I think you might need a refresher on my methods. Step A: husk the corn - CLEAN, no silks.

Step 2: Get out the old trusty Lee Brand corn cutter and go to town. Obviously from the picture you can see that it splatters a little. Don't do this where you can't clean up. These cutters are the way to go. Once set up, you never need to fiddle with it. Keep it sharp and keep your thumb away from the cutter.

Most important Step III: All the credit for this goes to my Sister, Beth. She said one day, "You cook in those bags, why can't you blanch sweet corn in them, too?" Well, you CAN! I put the corn - measured out with the same amount in each bag, into the bag and vacuum seal it. FIRST. Then, the whole bag and all goes into a pot of boiling water for the blanching treatment. (If you don't do this, the enzymes in the corn will make it taste starchy and 'ordinary' after a few months in the freezer. If you do blanch it, the corn will taste just as good as the day you picked it a year or more later.) After about 3 minutes in the boiling water, the bags come out and land in a sink full of ice water to chill and stop the cooking action.

Out and dry, ready for a sticky label and a trip to Freezer Camp!

As Uncle Red Green used to say on his TV shows, "It's just that easy." and it is.

While I was out mowing off the sweet corn, I got the bright idea that I could mow off the weeds around my wonderful onion crop, too. I set the mower deck up as high as it would go and down the row I went. It wasn't until my garden started smelling like a salad that I remembered I had planted my onions on a raised hill last spring. Yep, I sliced some of the great big ones the John Deere way. We used them as best as possible, but it does make for a big helping of humble pie.....

All in all, I'll have onions all winter. Remember, I have already frozen about two dozen bags of sweet white ones. They don't keep otherwise. My trusty potato fork is great for picking up onions without me having to bend over. Every gardener should have one of these.

I've never had any luck storing my onions. They always rot. Then, reading and talking, I discovered that you have to 'cure' them first. Who knew? So, another 'new' thing for this old gardener. I turned them upside down and they fit perfectly into the slots in this old pallet up in the greenhouse. This time of year, the doors are open 24/7 and I have shade cloth over the top. It seems to be the text book perfect place to do the curing step. In about another week or 10 days, I'll bag 'em up and take them to their wintering home where it is cooler.

See that red machine down there at the end? All the bare earth you see is what was that weedy onion patch a few hours before. I challenge everyone to try gardening without a powerful easy way to control the weeds and till the soil. I get the argument against tillers. If you run the tiller every night all summer, you're going to end up with concrete for garden soil. But I only use it maybe one time before planting/harvesting each crop. In the spring, I don't even do it then. Without a machine, I'll show you would-be gardeners who take up interpretive dance as their new hobby next year!

That white sprinkle stuff? Well that's DE into which I added new beet root seeds for my fall crop. I soak the seeds, then put them into some DE (or sand) and shake that up in a quart jar. When I walk down the row sprinkling the DE, the seeds spread right in with it - A little rake in, and Bob's your uncle. Job done.

The old beet root crop is now in jars on my pantry labeled 'Harvard Beets.' Easy and delicious.

It's mater and cuke season, too. I love eating fresh out of the garden.

But I know where I live, and eating fresh isn't possible here for about 9 months out of the year. This year, I'm trying a new twist with my tomato juice. I found my Dad's old Vita-Mix blender one day and thought to myself, "Why not?" That machine will liquify concrete, if you're curious, and you've never used one. I do this in the shop where Annie can supervise me.

After washing and coring the tomatoes, I put the 'whole hog' into that Vita-Mix and hit the switch. This is essentially a blender attached to a router motor. It takes no prisoners when it is turned on. Seeds, skin, pulp and all become pure smooth tomato juice. We'll see how it goes when I make chili this winter.

I really like Deli Garlic dill pickles - fermented the old fashioned way. First, I clean 'em and cut 'em into halves. Then they go into a salt water/vinegar brine with spices and dill and garlic. They sit under water (brine) for a week or two at room temperature until they are 'fully soured.' The brine will get cloudy and funky, then it will clear up. That's the cue to go ahead and jar them up.

Dahlias are my new favorite flower. Walmart/cheap. Beautiful. No scent.

This is why you need to prune your fruit trees. The fruit is always out on the far ends of the branches. Guess what happens?

Exactly! The weight of the fruit all the way out there breaks off your limbs. My Dad was a vicious radical pruner. He would always say that 'You can prune the tree where you want to cut it, or you can let Mother Nature prune it for you. You will do a neater, better job.'

Never the less, these plumcots are fantastic. (Good Neighbor Ron and I snuck into town where this little tree lives last spring and sprayed it - while the owner was at work.... We now have permission to prune as we see fit. It's all good. Guerilla orchard spraying is more fun though. Sorta like how a stolen watermelon is sweeter - or so I've been told....)

What to do with them? Since they were really clean and bug free, I just washed them and inspected for 'rots and spots' then put them into the steam juicer. Easy as pie.

I now have over 5 gallons of pure plumcot juice bagged and in the freezer waiting for better weather. I like oriental food, so an Asian Plum Sauce is high on my 'things to make with it' list.  What to do with the other 4.75 gallons? I'm not sure yet.

"Annie told me about O.J. being killed, Tim. He was here longer than me, and he was the King of Oakdale Farm," said Miss Kitty. I've always been amused that the bottoms of her feet are black. She's the one who lives in the shop with Annie.

'Wait! So, I guess that makes me the new Queen of Oakdale Farm, Tim. The King is dead, long live the Queen! It was sad, but he had to go sometime. It will be good to be Queen. You can pet me a little if you want - but not too much. I have my new position to consider, after all.'


And that's how it is for this month at Oakdale Farm. Hottern' the hubs of hell one week, after a cold rainy week the week before. Hurricane season is on us, then the weather will close in and start to get chilly. I'm already starting to shop for fancier dahlias for next summer's garden Aren't they pretty!

All is well at Oakdale Farm.