The Weekly Digs #213

by Becky

In the Garden

In early Spring I planted our second garden area with a cover crop. and the kids have their gardens there. As the season went on, it became very apparent that the weeds were growing just as fast as my cover crop.

I weed whacked everything down last month, and both cover crop and weeds grew up again, making a very jungle like area! 

Cam and I ordered a flail mower to go on our BCS Tractor earlier this summer. And it was supposed to come in the middle of June, but instead we got it at the end of July! 

This week we got it all hooked up and running! The benefit of the flail mower over a regular mower is it can handle really thick and heavy brush whereas a mower could not. It also shreds the crop to bits, rather than just chopping it down.

So with the jungle area second garden, the flail mower came to the rescue, and I chopped everything down to just a few inches above the soil surface. It all went pretty well until the wheel fell off and I mowed over it, shredding part of the wheel. Luckily, it looks like it will still work and is just cosmetic damage.

Cam says the flail mower has pins to hold the wheels in and he was supposed to bend them before we started but he didn’t. So the pins jiggled loose and fell out, then the wheel did too. Oh well. At least it still works and  the garden over there looks better!

Once we harvest all the corn, I will use the flail mower on that too and see if it can shred it up and then we’ll leave it as a mulch.

In other news, it has been HOT and HUMID this week. The combination makes gardening a little less enjoyable but also helps us appreciate the times when the weather is nice. Here’s a recap of this week’s activities in the garden.

  • Started transplanting cabbages, violaceo di verona and January king
  • Planted lettuce in soil blocks and celery (celery is more experimental I’m not sure it will mature before winter but I will plant in a tunnel.) Winter density is the lettuce variety and Tango is the celery variety.
  • Weeded and prepped rows where potatoes were for cover crop.
  • Harvesting green beans, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, tomatoes, arugula, basil, and peppers.

In the Kitchen

I don’t know how I managed it this year but all my summer harvest came at once! I usually have some staggering and breathing room between preserving days but not these last couple of weeks. 

We have had huge buckets of all the veggies. And to top it off, when Cam went to pick up our Azure order this week they were offering 18 lbs of cherries for $25. Since I don’t have any sort of cherry tree (the sweet type don’t grow well here) and cherry jam is my favorite, I told Cam to get me some.

He called me back on his way home and said he got me four boxes or 72 lbs. It was a little more than I was expecting, haha! Since I was already drowning in veggies that needed preserving this was both exciting and overwhelming.

I also didn’t own a cherry pitter so we called all over town and found Williams Sonoma had a cherry pitter that did six cherries at once. Perfect. 

Over the next few days we made about 30 half pints of cherry jam. My first batch was too sweet for my taste but the second was just right. The rest of the cherries went into the freezer and freeze dryer.

I had a ton of tomatoes on the counter that were also going to go bad if I didn’t do something with them asap. Our freezers didn’t have enough room to even freeze them for later! So they had to be preserved in a different way.

I researched what I could do to preserve tomatoes quickly and settled on making tomato juice (recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving). You basically squish the tomatoes in a pot over heat to get them soft. Then run them through a sauce maker, heat it up to a boil, fill jars, and process in a water bath canner. It was super fast and easy.

The next day we harvested another 60 lbs of tomatoes from the garden. 

Cam saved the day and made 16 pints of salsa with only a small amount of help from me. It used up a bunch of the tomatoes, I was super happy because I got a night off, and he was happy because he got to make the salsa super spicy the way he likes it! 

We still have tomatoes on the counter but at least I feel like we are making some serious headway. We only have a few things left on the tomato list that need restocking in the pantry. 

BBQ sauce and ketchup are next. And we could probably use a few more jars of diced tomatoes. Luckily, the tomatoes appear to be winding down too so there will be an end to the tomato preserving soon 🙂

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