Squash-kins and Other Oddities

SquashkinsRemember how desperate this garden season was? How it just kept raining and plants kept drowning?

There for a while I wondered if I would have any produce at all!

So when I noticed a few volunteer squash plants growing in the garden – I let them stay. After all, at least I would have something from the garden – right?

I knew better.

Squash likes to cross pollinate.

In the back of my mind I was remembering the volunteer squash a few years back that looked like dinosaur eggs and was quite prolific. It took years to totally rid the garden of that useless and ugly ornamental.

But I was desperate this spring and I allowed them to stay, mentally glossing over the fact that they would probably go rogue.

This week buddy helped me harvest these volunteers.

And they are interesting.

We have spaghetti squash like pumpkins.

Pumpkin like spaghetti squash.

And my personal favorite – sweet dumpling squash pumpkins.

They’re like a sweet dumpling on steroids.

We’re calling it a “squash-kin” and think it’s kinda cool.

They’ll sure make interesting fall decorations and some unique winter eating!

Maybe going rogue isn’t so bad after all.

Frost Drill

I’m still gardening.

Isn’t that crazy?

Here it is the last week of October and I’m still picking green beans and peppers!

Not that we haven’t had our close calls. We had a couple of mad dashes to the garden at sunset to cover plants, pick remaining produce and once to cut back all the sweet potato vines – just in case.

Plants got nipped both times – but we’re still gardening!

The melons, squash and pumpkins are done.

IMG_1670I’d say we did pretty good!

Take that you varmint squash bugs! I won this year!

Now to try every pumpkin recipe known to mankind to use them all up.

The sweet potatoes were dug for the first time ever.

They too were numerous – and in some cases – monstrous.

Like this one…

sweet potato It almost looks like a human heart! It’s actually several grown together because our soil was too clay to give them room.

It made a massive amount of sweet potato fries!

And remember those cabbage, broccoli and kale plants I put in for a fall crop?

They’re still alive! And growing!

We had kale for several meals and fresh lettuce again. The cabbage and broccoli are making nice heads – but they need a little more time.

I’m not sure we’ll get it though – the forecast calls for a killing frost Friday night.

Grow little broccoli and cabbage – grow fast!

Maybe my amazing husband can engineer some cold frames or hoop houses?

Or maybe I should just let the season end – thankful it was the best garden we’ve had in years.

Or maybe I should make another new pumpkin recipe while I decide.

Yes,  definitely that one.

Mutant Gourds

PumpkinsA spotty frost finally wiped out the mess of vines that had taken over the lower half of the garden – leaving the produce in full view.

Instead of a giant game of seek and find – we now had a recovery mission.

I sent Angel Girl and Buddy in the patch on a beautiful fall afternoon to find and harvest all the pumpkin and squash.

They gathered over 50 sugar pumpkins and about the same number of butternut squash.

Oh. my.

At least our squash-loving wood chuck left us a few! Ha!

I guess I need to find some friends or we’ll be eating a lot of pumpkin pie this winter. 🙂

But that number was nothing compared to the real surprise we found under the dead vines –

Gourdsornamental gourds.

Millions and millions of them.

And we didn’t even plant them this year.

We obviously missed a few gourds in our cleaning up last fall and they seeded themselves and came up as volunteers.

We also obviously missed the fact that they were gourds when we were weeding. But then – it’s amazing how similar the leaves look to both pumpkins and squash. Really it is. 😉

But we are determined to not make the same mistake again. No sir.

We spent hours picking up gourds this week and composting them FAR away from the garden on the wood pile in the north pasture.

Pedro dumped over 10 wheelbarrows full of gourds.

We’re talking thousands of the pesky things.

At one point, as we were braving the cold north wind on our hands and knees picking up the mutant gourds,  Dagmar looked at me and said, “We’re never planting these things again, right Mom?”

Never again! Although if we miss one of these this fall – we may not have to plant them!

And if we don’t burn that compost pile in the north pasture soon enough, by next fall they may have overtaken it, too.

Oh well. We’ll worry about that next fall.

But for now we have free ornamental gourds! All you can use! Come early for the best selection and bring your own wheelbarrow! 🙂

So – How DO You Know When a Watermelon is Ripe?

how do know when a watermelon is ripeWe enjoyed our second – and final – watermelon from the garden last night.

Trust me – I sighed a big sigh of relief when I saw that it was ripe and had not yet gone to sugar!

So how did I know when to pick it?

I followed my friend Martha’s example – I thumped it. 🙂

Now I’ve thumped many a grocery store melon pretending to know what I was doing – in hopes of bringing home a good one. But they all sounded the same.

So when Martha thumped my first melon and proclaimed it done – I thumped it too. Then I thumped this melon that was smaller. I could hear the difference. The ripe melon sounded hollow – or full of water and echo-ey. The non-ripe melon sounded dull and full.

The reason I could never hear the difference in the grocery store melons was because all of those melons were ripe. I was trying to thump them to find a good tasting one – which doesn’t work.

I’ve been thumping this guy for more than a week now – just waiting for that hollow – echo-ey sound.

The stem was still green and attached and the bottom of the melon still looked white – but I heard that echo, so I picked it. Thankfully it was ripe and tasty. The thump test worked again!

So am I now a  “thumping” expert? Not even close!

Right now I’m just wishing for a few more watermelons on my plants so I can practice my newly-discovered knowledge!

Happy thumping!

End of the Season

It’s over.

A hard freeze last week brought the end of the gardening season for the year. This is always a little bittersweet. I’m ready to be done picking and canning and freezing – but yet I’m sad at the thought of how long it will be before we taste vegetables this fresh again.

Peppers We picked everything possible that afternoon before the freeze.  Now what do I do with a dish pan full of jalapenos?

For now we are eating them as poppers with almost every meal! 🙂

I’ve played with the idea of trying to can some in little jelly jars to use like the canned jalapenos you buy at the store. But that will need to wait for a day with a little more energy and creativity.

I really can’t complain though – how often are we still eating fresh poppers in November? I feel like we went into “post-season play” with the garden this year.

But instead of the going to the Rose Bowl – we got invited to the tomato bowl!

Ta Maters We picked every tomato that had even the slightest hint of red and brought it inside. As they ripened, we cut them and froze them.  Almost of these beauties are cooking on my stove right now in one last big batch of spaghetti sauce for the year.

We did save a few out for some more bruschetta,  salsa and tomato salad. We need to savor these treasures – it will be a long time before we taste anything this ripe and delicious!

Peppers 2The sweet peppers will go in the fridge and I’ll use them up fresh as quickly as I can. I’ll miss sweet pepper in my eggs and on my salads.

I still have a few apples on the porch and some patty pan and butternut squash from Mom waiting in the basement to be eaten – but for the most part – the harvest is in and the season is over.

The fence is down, the stakes and cages put away for another year, and the plants pulled up and hauled away.

The ground lays fallow and will be soon covered with snow as we sit inside all warm and cozy – enjoying the fruits of our labor.

But then – with those bitterly cold days of January – the first seed catalog of the year will arrive and we’ll start the whole process over again!

Gardening isn’t just a hobby – sometimes I think it’s an addiction!

I’ve linked this post up at A Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.

Happy Surprises!

A trip through the garden these days brings a smile to my face!

I love finding hidden treasures among the leaves! Like these cantaloupe…

melons

We’ve averaged about 2 melons a day for the last week and bumped up to 6 for a couple of days! We brought 10 of them to our family gathering over the weekend to share.  They have been so delicious!

We feel pretty rich having all-you-can fresh melon every day! Andsince new melons are still putting on – it looks like we may have melons till the first frost!

That watermelon is a treat! There were exactly 3 watermelons on the one remaining vine and we’ve been watching them carefully.

We ate one this week, and we have this one chilling in the fridge as I write. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

punpkin

As I was searching for ripe melons I was pleasantly surprised to find this beauty hidden in the leaves. I didn’t even think any pumpkin germinated – but there it was!

It’s leaves were so similar to the ornamental gourds that came up as volunteers that I didn’t  see them before.

A quick search showed at least 2 pumpkins on the vine. At least we’ll have a couple of pumpkin pies from the garden at Thanksgiving!

The second planting of sweet corn has been wonderful – so much better than the first planting was! We’ve had fresh corn every other night for the last week or so.  Yum!

And the best news of all – the tomatoes are finally starting to ripen! Slowly but surely we are getting some real beauties!

We have more than we can eat fresh – but still not enough to can – so I’ve been washing them and freezing them. When I have enough, I can thaw them and make my spaghetti sauce.

It’s not ideal – but as far as tomatoes go – we are well past perfect and into “just make it work”!

That pretty much sums up the entire garden season this year – far from perfect and into “just make it work”!

But right now I’m very thankful that I didn’t give up when things were so wet and cold this spring. I’m glad we persisted and kept replanting.

Now there’s another great life lesson learned in the garden!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” Galatians 6:9

I’ve linked this post up at The Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.

My Almost Harvest

I can’t believe it’s mid-August and I’m writing a blog post about my “almost” harvest. The really wet spring set us back  a lot.

Beans

My twelve green bean plants (the only ones that came up out of 3 rows – after replanting 3 times) finally have blossoms and are almost ready to produce some beans. (I’m salivating as I write this – I love fresh green beans!)

Melons

The first of the cantaloupes are so close to being ripe! But still – it’s an almost harvest. We do have watermelon that will be picked this week – there are only 2 on the entire plant – but I’m thankful for them both!

(Note the piece of cardboard sticking out under the mulch? That really did the trick to keep the grass down!  We need a another layer of grass on the whole thing – but overall – I am so pleased with how it worked!)

Corn

The sweet corn is coming – even though the stalks looked stunted and pitiful. It sure is hard to wait for that fresh corn on the cob – but we’re almost there.

I am really proud of the fact that that I still have recognizable corn and bean rows! The kids have done a fairly good job keeping up with the grass and weeds. By this time most years, we have to walk through some pretty tall weeds to find the sweet corn. (Not that it’s weed free – but at least the corn is taller and you can see the dirt between the rows! 🙂 )

Pepper

Finally! Something I can harvest! The hot peppers are loving this tropical weather and have really started putting on. The little ones make the best poppers in the world – pretty mild with just a little kick. The longer ones pack a little heat. Yum!

I wish I remembered what their names are – but since I replaced so many with whatever hot peppers I could find – I have no idea what’s out there right now. I’m just glad to have something to pick!

We also saw one Roma tomato that is almost ripe and 2 sweet peppers that are gaining in size.

It’s coming!  If I can just be patient a little longer, there will be fresh produce gracing my table and filling the jars on my shelf!

Please let it be soon!

For more garden inspiration, head on over to The Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.