What might have been

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, it might have been.” – John Greenleaf Whittier.

I’ve been slowly cleaning up the garden for the fall.  I’m doing it later this year than I do most years because we had our first frost so late this year.  I’m always a little frustrated when I have to fill the compost bin with what “might have been”.  Just think of all the pounds of veggies we might have harvested had these had a little more time and sun light to ripen!

Growing Popcorn

Every year we try to experiment with something new in our garden.  Sometimes we love the new crop, other times we learn that none of us like it and it never makes it back in our garden.  This year’s test crop was popcorn!  We have grown sweet corn for years so we decided to give popcorn a test drive this year.  We were really happy with the results and will grow it again if for no other reason than for the novelty of it.  So here’s everything you need to know about our popcorn test.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that popcorn can’t cross pollinate with sweet corn or field corn.  You need to plant it in an area where it is isolated from your other corn corps (or your neighbors).  We planted 4 short rows in a corner of our yard over 100 feet from our other corn crops.  Popcorn has the same growing needs as sweet corn, good fertile soil with plenty of nitrogen and water.  I think our crop suffered a little from lack of nitrogen as it was planted in a new bed we were using for the first time this year.

You leave the ears on the plants until late in the season.  The ears should fully ripen and dry before you remove them from the stalks.  We then shucked the corn, removed all the silt we could and set them on an old window screen in our garage to dry for about two more weeks.

Once the ears are dry you can remove some of the kernels from the cob and do a test pop.  The first time we tried this we only got about half the kernels to pop so we let the ears dry for another week.

Once you are happy that the corn is dry enough you need to remove it from the ears.  This was kind of a trial and error process for me.  I tried several different methods resulting in sore fingers and a big mess.  I finally decided that the best method for removing the kernels was to simply rub two cobs together.  This was the fastest way to get it done but it also made a mess.  Popcorn was flying everywhere and the cat was having a blast chasing kernels across the kitchen floor.  Next time I think I’ll set out a big blanket on the floor to try and contain the run away debris.

You will have some debris in your container full of popcorn.  I read a suggestion that if you pour the popcorn between containers a few times in front of a fan this will remove most of the junk.  Make sure you do this one outside or your house will be full of corn silt.

We like to keep our popcorn in the freezer to help keep it fresh, so we put ours in a mason jar and stuck it in the back of the freezer.  It popped up very well and was really quite good.  Much better than the store bought versions.  The variety that we planted was called yellow hybrid, from Mountain Valley Seed Company.

This year was just a test run to see what it was like and to see if we could grow it well in our garden.  We dedicated about 20 square feet to popcorn and got 2 pounds of finished product.  It really was kind of fun and the kids got a kick out of it.  We eat a lot of popcorn around here so it won’t last long but it really tastes great and I know there are no pesticides or other chemicals on it which makes me feel even better about it.  Next year we hope to double the amount of space we have for popcorn and we are going to plant it in an area that had peas this year so the nitrogen content in the soil should be better.

 

As I mentioned before we will keep growing popcorn if for no other reason than the novelty of it.  It was fun to grow and harvest and taught the kids a lot about where their favorite treat comes from.

The Great Pumpkin Hunt

Most years we can’t bring ourselves to cut up our home grown pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns.  We usually try to leave them in storage for later use during the winter.  So we try to buy pumpkins from a local grower.  I have mentioned a few times before about the great corn we buy from a local farm.  This year we decided to buy our pumpkins from their road side stand.

They have this fun little roadside stand that is on the edge of their farm ground.  I was actually really surprised by all the different types of pumpkins and squash they had to sell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we can’t grow it ourselves we always love to support the local farmer.  You really can’t get much more local than these guys, they are just a little over a mile from our house.  They are situated in one of the last semi-rural areas left in the Salt Lake Valley.

 

I’m curious, what are the local farms like in your area?

 

Fall Images

Fall is in full swing here at Stoney Acres and the yard is coming alive with color.  You’ll notice that the predominant fall color here in Utah is yellow, we do get some reds as well but for the most part yellow is the color scheme for most valley trees in Utah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not everything is thinking about winter, these fall planted peas are just getting started.  They will be protected by a hoop house soon but for now we are letting the bees do their work.

 

This is the last hold out from summer on the rose bushes.

 

 

 

Another hold out from summer is this holly hock still doing it’s best to bloom through the frosty weather.

 

October setum is one of our favorite fall plants, they take almost any type of soil and need zero care, which is always a plus for flowing plants on our place.

 

 

Corn stalks always pull double duty around here as fall decorations, they will stay up until it’s time for the Christmas decorations to go out.  Happy Fall!!

Freezing Peaches

There are very few things that come from the garden that are better than a perfectly ripe, juicy peach.  And in my opinion there are very few things worse that come from the garden than a mushy brown canned peach.

Mrs. Stoney and I both can’t stand canned peaches, so for years we have only eaten peaches when they were in season, which in Utah is from mid August to late September.  The only problem is that we never really get to eat our fill because at that same time we are overwhelmed with melons and raspberries from our garden.

We tried canning our own peaches and although they were a ton better than the store bought cans, they still weren’t what we were looking for.  We wanted that fresh grown taste to top our breakfast or fill our cobblers in February.  We finally found what we were looking for when we started freezing our peaches.

Some day we hope to make enough space in our garden for our own peach tree but for now we have to rely on the farmers market to fill our needs.  We buy our fruit from McMullin Orchards a fourth generation fruit farm located in Payson Utah.  We love McMullin’s fruit and we love that they are local.  Payson is only about 40 miles from our house so the fruit doesn’t have to travel far to get to us.  Click here if you would like to visit their web site.

 

Freezing peaches couldn’t be easier.  First be sure you give the peaches time to ripen.  Even local farmers have to pick their fruit a little early in order to have it ready for the weekend markets.  We usually give ours at least a week to ripen , the disadvantage (depending on how you look at it) to this is the house fills with the smell of delicious fruit and we find at least a quarter of what we buy ends up being eaten before it ever gets a chance to be frozen.

Second you need to be sure to clean the fruit well.

Third we blanch the peaches for a few minuets in boiling water to release the skins.

Next remove the skin and slice the peaches into small pieces.  We usually cut each peach into 8 to 10 pieces and then remove the pit.

We use two different types of containers for our peaches.  About half go into glass pint jars.  If we had the space we would use jars for all of our peaches, we prefer them to plastic because we like to avoid the chemicals in plastic bags and containers when ever we can. But jars take up a lot of space in the freezer so we usually only do 8 or 10 jars.

We pack the jars full leaving a little head space to give everything some room to expand when it freezes.  We then fill the empty space with a little water.

The balance of the peaches go into freezer bags with just a little sugar depending on how you like them.  It is important to think about your serving sizes when you do this.  One giant gallon size bag full of peaches becomes a huge unusable chunk of peach flavored ice.  You need to fill each bag with just what you will use in a setting.

Freezing peaches this way preserves the flavor and texture a lot better than canning.  But only plan on freezing what you will use in 6 months to a year.  They will only last that long in your freezer.

Our favorite way to use these peaches is to get a bag out and let it defrost only till things start to get a little soft.  We then eat them in this partially frozen state either by themselves or as a topping for cereal or cottage cheese.  They are delicious!  If you let them defrost completely they will resemble the texture you get from a can and can be used in cooking or baking.  The flavor will be much more intense because it hasn’t been cooked out of the fruit as it is when you can!

**As with any of the preserving advice given on Stoney Acres you need to follow the up to date preserving methods.  We have had success with this method but you should always purchase a recent copy of  a canning guide, for example “The Ball Blue Book” and follow the directions closely.  You can also get advice from your local extension agency.  Please do your own research and get advice from your local experts, don’t just rely on our advice.

Monday Harvest Update 10-24-2011

Fall has definitely arrived this week at Stoney Acres.  Along with it comes a huge drop in the amount we get from the garden.  In another week all we will have to report on our week harvest will be greens and carrots.

Lettuce was the highlight of our week.  We have started harvesting the lettuce in the cold frames.  I anticipate we will be eating salads 3 or more times a week now.  As you can see from the picture we have 5 types of lettuce, plus sorrel and someNew Zealandspinach.

Popcorn is another winner for the week.  This was the first year we have grown popcorn.  We “shelled” it all the other night and ate our first batch!!  More to come on growing pop corn later this week.

While we were working on cleaning up the garden over the weekend we discovered a couple of small heads of broccoli that we had missed.  That was a tasty surprise.

Also this week we got a couple of good pickings of raspberries.  We have some really cold weather coming in a few days that I think will finally put a stop to their production.  We also had some strawberries, a few tomatoes and the last two yellow squash.

 

Here’s this weeks totals:

 

  • Raspberries – 2 ¼ lbs
  • Strawberries – 1 lbs
  • Yellow Squash – 1 ½ lbs
  • Tomatoes – 2 lbs
  • Cherry Tomatoes – 2 oz
  • Lettuce – 1 lbs
  • Broccoli  – Not weighed
  • Popcorn – 2 lbs
  • Eggs – 23
  • Total –  9.75 Lbs

 

That brings our total for the year to 679.75.  Check out what other gardeners are growing this time of the year at Daphne’s Dandelions with her Monday Harvest Series.

First Frost!!!

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later and finally it did.  We woke up this morning to the first frost of the season and it didn’t mess around with just a little frost.  The lawn was covered and by noon today most of my warm season plants will be toast!!

I think it is interesting how frost works.  I was up at 5:45 am to go for a run, it was cold but no sign of frost.  It wasn’t until I took my son to school at 7:30 am that I first noticed some frost on the lawn.  By the time I got back 15 minutes later the lawn was covered!

I’ll have to bring in the last of the pumpkins to ripen off the vine today because as you can see the plants will be gone as soon as the sun comes up.

This frost caught me a little off guard,  the weather forecast said we would only reach 40 last night so I really didn’t worry about it.  So the tomatoes really weren’t covered very well.  Oh well we have been living on borrowed time for weeks.  This frost is nearly 3 weeks behind schedule.

I didn’t even put the lids on the cold frames!!  Actually these lettuce plants will be okay.  Lettuce and most other greens are pretty hardy but no more laziness for me, lids on the cold frames every night now!!

Not all plants hate frost.  Frost will improve the taste of this Tuscan Kale which is super hardy and will last unprotected in the garden for a couple more months.

I don’t think the chickens were all that happy to wake up to this cold.  Time to get out the sweaters girls!

So I guess today marks the official end to the 2011 summer gardening season.  Now on to the fall and winter crops!!