Setting aside the fact that it is September already (eeeeek!), a fact I am not yet ready to face, the garden produce is definitely playing a dominant role in my life right now. The tomato harvest is ongoing and more abundant than we’ve every had. Yes we planted over 127 plants (I stopped counting at that point) but still we have a LOT of tomatoes. A. Lot.
In order to deal with the crop properly I put school off until next week. Well that wasn’t the only reason but it was part of my thinking. Some of the other reasons include a week of really nice weather, the chance to grab a few more play dates with friends, the fact that I only ordered my kindergarten books this week, my lack of file preparedness, the urgent need to make green tomato chutney…the list goes on.
Aside the from the tomatoes (I’ve currently put up 40 quarts with lots more to come), the green beans are doing well too. I’ve frozen a bunch and we plan to clear them out of the poly tunnel this weekend. Some are being dried and some frozen, this year is something of an experiment. Having never been able to grow beans successfully before we’ve had a really good crop and intend to plant more next year.
The whole garden this year has been a bit of an experiment really, we’ve been working with raised beds for the first time and adding in fruit bushes and trees that will hopefully provide abundance for us in years to come. We’ve also been experimenting with using plastic matting as a way of keeping down weeds. It’s worked really well and had the unexpected bonus of keeping drooping tomatoes out of the mud, reducing losses quite dramatically. When I compared it to the raised beds where there was no matting I saw a real difference in quality and quantity of tomatoes, especially after a rain.
The tomato plants themselves are looking pretty brown and wizened, but this has just created more space for the sun to hit the fruit helping it ripen on these hot early fall days. Indeed the weather has felt more like July this week than the beginning of September. Despite (or maybe because) of the humidity and heat, we’ve also had some really massive downpours. Our pond is full to the brim and the pig paddocks are spring-like in their muddiness. Luckily this doesn’t seem to have affected our garden adversely at all. The rhubarb is looking very abundant, which I’m thrilled about as I want more rhubarb jam in the pantry this year! We also have chard, onions and pumpkins bursting out all over the place.
The carrots are filling in nicely, though we planted them for an early October harvest so I’m not expecting them to be massive just yet. We’ve also planted a late season batch of carrot with the intention of covering them over when the weather begins to cool, I’ll be interested to see how this goes. The salad bed has finally gone over with lettuce going to seed, I’ll be stripping that out this weekend and beginning the process of refertilizing with some of our animal manure. The basil in this bed has done beautifully, I’ve been throwing it in with my tomato sauce and it’s been featured in some of our mediterranean style casseroles as well. There really is nothing like basil and tomato on a warm summer evening.
Though I’ll be sad to see the summer salads go (we’ve been eating our own since June) I’m really looking forward to planting in a fall crop of spinach. Again we are going to cover this over to give it a longer ‘shelf life’ in the garden and bring it along more quickly. That said if the warm fall continues it might do very nicely all on it’s own. I’m excited about the successional planting this year, we’ve actually managed to keep things going much longer than we usually would. We also started earlier this year, despite the terrible beginning with spring being so cold. Our tomatoes were out much earlier and as a result the crop is much better and the harvest earlier. I’m really seeing the value in bringing plants along in the polytunnel before planting out, we’ll do even more of it next year!
As we head into the fall season the abundance feels like such a blessing. The many, many (many) hours of hard work become so visible and, frankly, edible. This weekend Stephen mowed back the barrier of grass between the mixed orchard we are creating on the hill above the garden, and the garden itself. The grass had grown over a plot that had been originally ploughed for planting but hadn’t been needed so was more level that I would have thought. This barrier coming down gave me such a feeling of delight and achievement I could barely contain my excitement. Disproportionate I am sure to the actual event, I was filled with utter glee and joy as I stood by our new fruit trees (some of which are now bearing fruit) and looked at the unfettered view down to the garden and beyond.
If I can explain a little, I will certainly try. When we first bought this land it was just a mass of brush and weeds, hardly any diversity of wild flowers existed and there was no water, electricity or even pathway, let alone a house or farm. Together we stood on the spot where trees now grow, and imagined what it would be like to have a home and farm here. We pictured in our minds where our house would be, how we would clear back the land for animals, how we would grow food for ourselves and our lovely boys. Our faces turned up to the first warmth of spring we planted our dreams beneath our feet, and then we got to work with a spade, because sweat and digging is really what gardens are made of.
So as I stood looking down the field at our lovely grove of trees that runs down the slope to meet our vegetable garden, I raised my eyes to the hand built poly tunnel which makes so much possible for us; beyond are the pigs growing fat on the land and beyond that the chickens, cows and ducks, all growing strong on grasses, bugs and feed. I felt so much pride I thought I might just burst. This is my home, I couldn’t love it more.