Friday, July 31, 2009

Purple Pepper

This little guy is making himself known in one of the outdoor beds. So excited for my rainbow peppers to start making an appearance. Here's hoping I get some orange and yellow and red ones too! But no green. Blech! (Sorry Kermit.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Feeling Rather Pickled Myself

The cucumbers in and out of the high tunnel are ready. Bill picked nine pounds on Monday and by Wednesday they were begging to be picked again. I got about 10 pounds, although some were too big for pickling anymore. That's okay, my husband is plenty fine with cucumber snacks.

It's been a few years since I pickeled, and I had forgotten how FRUSTRATING it is. You see, the little package of Ball pickling mix tells me to cut up 7 pounds and prep 8 pint jar. Well seriously. No way.

I was able to get HALF that quantity into seven jars. And it took all the hot pickling syrup I had. So I guess I'm a really bad pickle packer. (Hmm...I think there's a Seuss book there.)

What am I supposed to do--carefully place these chunks in the jar one by one like puzzle pieces?? When I woke up this morning I saw that all my pickles have floated to the top of the jar, leaving like an inch of juice below. Arrgh!

Anyway, I quit at 7 jars because I was packing them about 11:30 p.m. last night when I remembered my boiling water canner only holds six jars at a time. And noooooo way was I saying up to boil two batches. The extra jar went straight to the fridge.

But seriously, I'm assuming most canners hold the same quantity as mine. So why wouldn't the Ball recipe be designed to produce batches in increments of 6?? Would seem a bit of a waste to run that canner for 15 minutes with only two jars.

And another thing, local grocery store which shall remain nameless.....why, oh why, wasn't the pickling mix with the rest of the canning supplies in aisle 1? Or maybe the pickle aisle? Or the spice aisle? Or even the produce department? What mysterious logic says, "Pickle mix. Yeah. That goes with the Jello."

Sunny Days

'Cause who can resist a good sunflower picture?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Apple Bagging

Also not from the high tunnel, obviously. These apples are bagged to protect them from pests.

DJP over at the Vegetable Garden gives an extensive explanation of the apple bagging process, so I'll refer you to him. He's a former extension staffer and was an early pioneer of this bagging technique.

The UW Extension also has an apple bagging video on its site.

Monday, July 27, 2009

They Might Be Giants

Onions in the high tunnel are H.U.G.E. huge.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


These bright red beauties did not come from the high tunnel, but they did come from the extension's organic gardens. I picked a good bunch and hardly made a dent. Soooo pretty.

Friday, July 24, 2009


The cucumbers look healthy, but there's not much worth picking yet. These are pickling cukes, destined for vinegar.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Fingerling

Okay the potato plants are still totally flowering, but I just had to sneak a peak at what was hiding underneath. Pulled this nice large fingerling out this morning. I'd say he's ready! (But I'll let his brothers and sisters be for a while.)

Was a little fearful when I reached in to get him 'cause the bees were sure plentiful this morning....

Rolling up the sides lets all those helpful critters in.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Tale of Two Tomatoes

Our high tunnel tomatoes aren't really any further along than anyone else's this summer. It'll be a while before these three paste toms are ready to eat. All the plants are big and healthy thought.

The real test will be to see how late we can get tomatoes this fall. These plants fall in the tiny and might-not-make-it category. Can you even see that poor naked little stem about an inch in front of the stake??? We have a whole row of little cherry tomatoe buggers like that. If they make it, we might be harvesting in October. How cool would that be?

Live, little plants, live.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Radio Broadcast

Tune in this Thursday, July 16 at noon (central time) for an internet radio program on hoop houses.

This week’s spotlight will show small-scale farmers how hoop houses can extend the growing season. The program will cover the uses and benefits of hoop houses; different structure types; how to manage crops, fertility, pests and weeds; and the economics and marketing of hoop house crops.

Host Jeff Birkby, outreach director for NCAT’s ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service project, will be joined by NCAT horticulture specialists Tammy Hinman and Andy Pressman.

Hinman holds a Bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University in horticulture food crops and entomology and a Master's degree in food system studies from Antioch University. Pressman has a Master’s in sustainable systems from Slippery Rock University. He is a certified permaculture designer. Hinman and Pressman both have market farming experience as well as experience building and growing in hoop houses.

Featured on the Green Talk Network, this is part of a weekly series on sustainable agriculture, running through early October. Archived files of each show will also be available on the ATTRA Web site.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Potato Blossoms

The potatoes have been blooming for a little over two weeks now, so we should only be two or three more away from harvest. The potato plants outside the high tunnel are also blooming, but they aren't nearly as tall and bushy.

Maine's Potato Blossom Festival starts today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lady Beetle Eggs

Organic gardeners should be able to recognize these eggs. These elongated, yellow eggs on the underside of a leaf are lady beetle eggs. They are good and we want them in our garden.

This will be especially important in the winter and spring because we want lady beetles to eat the aphids that will try to attack our salad greens.

Monday, July 6, 2009

High Water

Alright! We're one step closer to a drip irrigation system. The high tunnel has its own water!

The Extension folks installed a "backflow protected automatic draining freezeless sanitary yard hydrant." How's that for a mouthful?

The water line to the hydrant is buried four feet deep. Come winter the hydrant must be operated at full flow, through the diverter, for a minimum of 30 seconds before and after each use to drain the hydrant and prevent freezing.

Here's the spec sheet with lots of details on our yard hydrant.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Insulating the Foundation

The folks at the extension did some real heavy labor this summer and insulated the perimeter of the foundation. This insulation prevents heat loss inside the structure via the soil. It will also keep the ground warmer longer, further extending our growing season.

From this view you can see some of the insulation . The vertical sheets go down to a depth of 16 inches. Under that are some horizontal sheets 24 inches wide, extending out from the high tunnel.

The l-shape with the insulation is something that Michigan State tried. They went out four feet but we didn’t have room for that on a couple sides.

I've read about growers installing a solid wall about three feet around the perimeter to prevent heat loss and add to the thermal mass that can absorb solar heat. But as Bill explained to me, we're not set up for that as we don't have the rocks or concrete to store thermal heat.

I also read about someone else who insulated down four feet and loved the results. Bill agrees that deeper would have been better, but the Extension doesn't have access to a backhoe to make that reasonable.

Still he says, "When it comes to insulation I guess you could always do more."