Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thursday July 28, 2011

      Today we harvested all the onions and layed them out on the potting bench to cure. There were many varieties of onions including red, white and yellow types. Some of the yellow ones were the size of softballs! We don't often think of onions as being something that is fresh or not fresh but when you slice into a freshly harvested onion it is suprisingly juicy and flavorful.
      After harvesting the cucumbers and summer squash today, we all worked on grating the squash for later use in "zucchini bread" for the lunch program. After being grated, the squash can be bagged and placed directly in the freezer without blanching first, so it is a quicker way to preserve the squash. We ended up with 6 bags, each containing 10 cups of grated squash.
      We have already been eating our fermented or "brine" pickles. They sit in a 5 gallon bucket by the refridgerator and we eat a  few every day. When I took some down to a meeting I had in the high school, Janie said it was the best pickle she ever ate! We added a lot of extra garlic so they are reminiscent of the good garlicky barrel pickles that delis used to sell. The barrel pickles that are now sold are just not quite as good.    
       We also spent quite a bit of time harvesting sweet basil, stripping the leaves and freezing it. We only did about half the row so we will continue on Monday. This is the third harvest from these plants and Karen is thrilled to get so much organically grown basil for her pasta pesto dish which is so popular during the school year.
      We also learned about Lepidoptera today. We learned to identify Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Cabbage Butterflies, Skippers and Monarchs. We saw the plants that are grown as host plants for their caterpillars and even saw a Monarch caterpillar. Butterflies have thin bodies and thin antenaes and fly in the day time. Their caterpillars create a smooth crysalis from which the butterfly emerges. Moths have bulkier and hairier bodies and feathery antenaes and usuallly, but not always, fly at night. Their caterpillars spin silk cocoons. Skippers are not moths or butterflies. They are usually brownish and fly with a "skipping" flight. They are not quite as hairy or bulky as moths and their antenaes are club-shaped at the ends. All of them are welcome in the garden not only because they are great pollinators, but also because they are beautiful. (Actually all caterpillars eat plant leaves. By the end of the summer, the Monarch caterpillars have chewed the milkweed plants down to their stems but I don't mind because that's why we grow them in the first place - to support and attract the Monarchs. Cabbage loopers and tomato hornworms  are not so welcome in the garden. See photo below)
      Today we said goodbye to Jacob and Edward who will be spending August in other ways. We truly appreciate all of their help and we will miss them!    -Celia

Looking Back

"Goodbyes are sad"  -Carly and Megan

"I am not a butterfly killer!" - Willie

"I can't wait to make pesto in our Garden to Lunch program" - Karen

"The garden has never looked better at this time of year than it does right now. Thank you to everyone who is helping" - Celia

A very friendly katydid that flew from person to person

A tomato hornworm covered in parasitic wasp larvae - thank you to the wasps!

Tiger swallowtail

Karen, Megan, Carly & Julia grate squash

Edward grating squash

A bag of grated squash

Grating, grating, grating

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday, July 25th, 2011

      Ah! My first day back after vacation! I was surprised by how much the garden grew, especially considering the heat. Everything looked wonderful and very well cared for. This group obviously worked hard while I was gone.
      Today we started by harvesting, as usual. We are being inundated with cucumbers and squash!! What a blessing! So while Karen, Colin and Ed went down to the kitchen to prepare the squash for freezing, the rest of us got to work on . . . PICKLES!! Everyone loves our homemade kosher dill pickles because there is nothing else like them. We use our own cucumbers, garlic, dill, and a chunk of hot pepper from the garden in each jar. It is very time-consuming work and while some harvested the dill, others peeled garlic or measured spices into the jars. Then everyone learned how to slice and then raw pack the cucumbers tightly into the jars. This was no easy task but everyone became quite skilled at it. In the end we had canned 25 pints and 7 quarts of pickles. We are looking forward to tasting them soon!

Looking back

"I can't leave my parsley! My babies need me!" -Carley (who is in charge of keeping tiny parsley plants alive through this fiierce heat)

"We're packing some serious pickle heat!" - also Carly

"I love garlic but I think I'm allergic to it" - Tamara

"Pickling is a lot of work! - But really worth it!" - Celia

"I love the sweet smell of vinegar" - Julia

 Tamara and Willie slicin' and dicin'
Julia working on packing pickles

Carly packing them tight!

Twin attached yellow squash. Colin says they look like running legs
(Run! Run! As fast as you can! You can't catch me - I'm the yellow squash man!)

The onions are huge!

Cherry bomb and Mesilla hot peppers

Honey bees collecting pollen on a sunflower

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday, July 18th, 2011

       Since Mrs. Martin is out on vacation, it was up to us to manage the garden without her instruction. We did go over a list last week of things to do, but  we still needed to make sure we did get as much done as possible. Willie, Tamara, Jacob and Edward all gathered cucumbers and squash to blanch them while Julia, Carly and I gathered the raspberries. I then prepared them to be dried while the basil was harvested and the garlic cloves were taken out of their paper-like outer layers and put into bowls. They were then cut up into about four slices per clove. The basil was then brought in and there was A LOT of it!! We will not be able to finish taking all of the flowers off of the basil today but at least it is one more thing to add to our list for Wednesday. We were also able to listen to something rather stunning and beautiful today. Trinity and her three friends came to visit the garden and one of them was able to play the piano. She taught Trinity and the others how to play Heart and Soul for about 30 minutes and then Trinity sang to it. She has an AMAZING voice, and with training, I can see a very successful career for her in vocal music (should she choose to strive for it as a career). All in all, this day had no limit to the surprises we found around every corner.               -Colin

      Looking Back:

      A smile makes you sparkle! - Carly

      My girl can sing like a bird! - Karen Flores

      I had lots of fun today. My friends and I had a chalk fight! and Edward's favorite color is blue. -Trinity

      She (Trinity) puts me to shame. - Megan

      Hoping for a storm. - Julia

      I think I'm allergic to garlic. - Tamara

      Basil Boy! -Willie

Working with the garlic

That's a lot of basil!

Blanched squash

Tamara and Karen Flores working with the basil

Edward, Jacob, Julia and Carly picking flowers

Laying out the picked flowers
                                                                  Harvested cucumbers

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday July 14, 2011

Today was a very productive day. We started by doing some basic garden tasks. Megan watered the herb circle, Julia and Carly harvested mint, Jacob and Edward harvested yellow cosmos and coreopsis for dye, and Tamara, Willie, Colin and Mitchell harvested the squash and cucumbers. Then we went into full production! By the end of the morning we had five quarts of sauerkraut started, a bucket of brined pickles fermenting, twelve bags of chopped and blanched squash in the freezer and four trays of peeled and sliced garlic in the dehydrator. Whew! Everybody really worked hard! It is so satisfying to work so hard, see the results and to look forward to eating food more delicious than what you can buy in any store.   -Celia

Looking Back

"Garlic is painful" -Carly

"Garlic is a sticky situation" - Megan

"Mitchell is a cowboy hat thief" - Willie

"I like pickles" - Tamara

"Garlic and pickles and sauerkraut, OH MY!" - Mitchell

"Carley has a creative approach to life" - Julia

"Pickling is awesome" - Colin

"We are manly professional flower pickers" - Jacob and Edward

"It is amazing to see what can be accomplished in one morning" - Celia

Julia and Carly harvest the mint

      Jacob and Edward harvest flowers for dye into their manly baskets!

Pickling cucumbers. Soon to be pickles!

Summer squash in many shades of yellow and green.

Mitchell helps to blanch the squash before freezing.

Colin makes sauerkraut.

The dill heads that went into the pickles.

Willie and Tamara peel, peel, peel the garlic.

Willie still peeling.
Garlic juice is very sticky and makes you feel like your fingers are covered in glue.

After peeling, the garlic is sliced and put on trays to be dehydrated.
Later it will be ground into the best garlic powder ever.
Julia and Jacob peeling away!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

      After some general garden maintenance that included removing weeds and water sprouts from the bases of the apple trees, we harvested more squash, basil and raspberries (and a few onions). The raspberries and basil went into the freezer and the squash went into the refridgerator until tomorrow. We also took the garlic that has been drying for a few weeks and trimmed the roots and tops and removed the outer, dirty layer of "paper" to reveal some beautiful white garlic bulbs.     
      We had another mini-feast at the end of the day. Julia made some buttermilk cheese that was so creamy and we ate it with multigrain chips and some of the leftover fresh-herb panir cheese that we made last week. Carly made some squash bread at home (with pecans!) and it was super delicious. Food always tastes better when it is made with ingredients that you have grown yourself!      -Celia

Looking Back

"I have intense garlic breath" - Karen

"Cucumber!" - Carly

"That's a lot of garlic!" - Colin

"I like cheese" - Mitchell

"Gardening is all about food" - Celia

The garlic is ready for trimming

Colin, Carly, Julia and Mitchell trim up the garlic
Celia hauling weeds to the compost pile

Carly and Julia with freshly picked raspberries

Beauty and abundance

Carly and Julia harvest a few onions

The finished garlic

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday, July 11th, 2011

      Today, we really started bringing in the harvest! We picked baskets of summer squash in shades of yellow, gold, dark green and light green. After cutting them into bite-sized cubes, they were blanched, then cooled and frozen for later use in one of Karen's delicious soups which are served on Wednesdays during the school year. Blanching is when fruits or vegetables are quickly placed in boiling water for a few minutes in order to cleanse the surface, brighten the color and reduce the action of enzymes that can cause spoilage. The blanched vegetables can then be safely frozen.
      We also harvested half of the row of sweet basil, stripped the leaves and put them in freezer bags for later use in pesto. Although tedious, the wonderful scent of the basil made the job pleasant. The raspberry harvesting started today and we put about two pints of red raspberries into the dehydrator. It is a key ingredient in our "Rose-Raspberry-Lemongrass Tea".  Cucumbers have also started, and peppers too! It won't be long before we have pickles!
      We had a bit of excitement at the end of the day. Just as we were getting ready to leave, several firemen in full fire-fighting gear and a policeman walked into the building. Apparently, the workmen who were installing our new water heater tripped the fire alarm while they were soldering some pipes. They were all very nice and seemed to take it in stride. One fireman agreed to pose for a picture. (see below)  -Celia

Looking Back

"It was a basily day. I can't wait to eat pasta with homemade pesto!" - Celia

"Pesto is good on pizza" - Megan

"Carpe diem! (Seize the day!) " - Colin

"Music makes it happen" - Carly
(I heard that those working on the squash in the kitchen were singing! - Celia)

"Cooked squash smells like grits" - Tamara

"When in doubt, squash it!" - Karen

"When I scream "Mitchell!" Tamara starts speaking Spanish" - Willie

Harvesting the basil

Megan stripping leaves from the stalks

Teamwork - and the air smelled so nice!

Ready for the freezer

What do we need to do here?

Carly blanching the squash
Cooling the squash after blanching

30 pounds of squash ready for the freezer!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday July 7, 2011

      The garden is thriving! The hot, sunny days combined with the deep irrigation is making the plants lush and beautiful. We picked even more yellow squash today and made seven loaves of beautiful and delicious "zucchini bread". I didn't realize that so many of our workers knew how to cook! As soon as they got the recipe, they all flew around the kitchen collecting what they needed and before I knew it the air was filling with the wonderful aromatic scent of cinnamon. Julia and Mitchell were even more adventurous - They took nothing but milk and lemons and, after much stirring and demanding of the milk to "Bubble! Bubble! Bubble! Bubble!" from Julia, it finally boiled and a beautiful white, mild cheese was created. Then Julia went out to the garden and picked many kinds of fresh herbs and sprinkled the minced herbs over the finished cheese. After Megan's careful tending of the zucchini bread in the oven, they were finally ready and we feasted on warm sliced bread and fresh herb cheese with multigrain chips. Ah! This is why we garden! At first Willie wanted to pick the grated squash out of his "squash bread" but realizing the futility of it, he ate a sample. It was love at first bite and he ended up wanting seconds, so we sliced up a second loaf. Willie prefers to call it "cinnamon bread" because he doesn't want to think about the squash and that is what it tasted like - cinnamon.
      We caught a ground hog today. It has been chewing the herbs, flowers and vegetable tops. It virtually de-leafed several pumpkin plants. It was one of the fattest ground hogs I have ever seen! Tamara named it "Chester" and it will be relocated.
      Tamara also helped me to inspect our six honeybee colonies. One died but the rest are in good shape. We even added a honey super to one of them. Of course, we had to sample some of the honey with our fingers while we had the hives open. Jacob and Edward worked on watering the herb circle which is not irrigated and was getting very dry. Toward the end of the morning, we all worked on cutting grape vines out of the apple trees. The little apples are already starting to get red.                     -Celia

Looking Back
"Normal is overrated"  -Megan

"Don't you dare hurt Chester the groundhog!" - Carly

"Always try cinnamon bread!" - Willie

"Beekeeping!" - Tamara

"The milk wouldn't boil!" - Julia

"Cheesemaking - add that to my resume" -Mitchell

Chester - caught in the act!

Julia stirring milk for cheese
Jacob & Edward, Tamara & Willie making zucchini bread
Tamara & Celia check the bees
Fresh herbed cheese and warm zucchini bread - Yum!!