Shifting Toward Winter

I love the way that green tomatoes when frozen on the vine transform into translucent orbs. My tomato plants were loaded with them after our recent hard freeze.

P1180890

Despite the cold temperatures, I managed to keep several green, leafy vegetables alive. This week I harvested the last things I’m likely to get out of my garden for the year: mesclun, tatsoi, and cilantro. I used a “spring soup” recipe to cook them up. Poetically, I probably used the same recipe to cook up the very first things from my garden this past spring. It’s a wonderfully adaptable recipe that makes a creamy sausage, potato, and vegetable soup, and it comes from one of my favorite cookbooks: Simply in Season.

kohlrabi

garden view November 2014

supper

With these greens harvested, I know my garden will shift more and more into a color palette of browns and greys as we move into the darkest part of the year. Still, I remember that there is beauty to be found in the muted colors of winter.

black cherry

And in clearing leaves from under the magnolia tree, I decided that the art bundle that I’d secured to the tree in March, 2013 had eroded to the point that I couldn’t re-hang it. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it next, but the pieces of it have weathered beautifully.

Art Bundle 1

 

Summer’s End

I’ve been enjoying the golden light filtering through the leaves of our maple tree.  Everything in the back yard glows as it either settles in for the winter or puts out one last burst of life before the killing frost.

The toad lilies have been blooming like crazy. I’ve got four varieties, and I always look forward to their blooms during the waning days of summer. And even as the weather cools, my garden continues to provide tasty things to eat. I planted lettuces, cilantro, arugula, and kale and they all continue to grow. I’m hoping they hold out for a little while in the colder weather. I also got my garlic in the ground, tucked in under some nice soil and ready to start my 2015 garden.

The whole thing was looking good:

Here’s a close-up of the sweet mum arrangement that the staff at work gave to John and I for boss’ day. I put it outside and the squirrels stole the mini pumpkins within a week. Boo, Squirrels!

Mums

And then there was frost…

frosty weeds

And my cat has decided to stay in his heated cat bed till it’s warm again.

Heated Cat Bed

 

 

Skipping a Season

Autumn has come to my garden, but I haven’t been here to see it!

I’ve been here, there, and everywhere, encouraged by an extra week driving the Mustang (my poor car’s been in the shop for almost a month!).

The last of the tomatoes are rotting on the vines (the ones that the squirrels aren’t eating), the tomatillo has given up the ghost, and the basil has grown gangly waiting for me to make pesto. The lima beans were ready long ago, but I have yet to eat one. Soon I’ll have lettuces and greens waiting impatiently for harvest.

Christmas limas

purple tomatillo

I treated myself to one more piece of glass garden art. Having taken art classes, I’m aware that you should never have a pair of something, so I decided I needed a cluster of three. The tall one in the back is the newest one.

three bits of orange

So where have I been if I haven’t been in my garden? First there was a retreat in Southern Indiana not far from strip mine land.

strip mine graveyard

Then it was Hamilton, Ohio for a two week art residency at InsideOut Studio. I stayed in a hotel with a great view of the Great Miami River and spent several afternoons walking on the bike path on the river’s banks. Autumn was just starting to approach and there were the first signs of color in the trees. There was also another fancy wind sculpture downtown that looked very similar to the one I discovered here in Evansville. On my final day, Hamilton celebrated Operation Pumpkin, a city street festival that included (among other things) a giant pumpkin contest. I’d never seen so many enormous, bloated, sagging mounds of flesh in my life!

My art residency required a good collection of old clothing, and one day on the way to the local thrift store I just happened to spot this on a side street:

first glimpse

Is that a ton of found object garden art and kinetic sculpture? It is! Right next to the Big Boy in Fairfield! I had the presence of mind to note where it was and went back later. There was a sign on the fence saying that they were going to sell their art at Operation Pumpkin. Oh joy! I took one photo, but was afraid of looking too crazy so I didn’t take more.

I did, in fact, purchase some great art from them. It was within my price range! I would have bought more, but I didn’t want to spend all my residency earnings on garden art. It was good because you can only pack so much into a Mustang.

The next morning, I returned to the welding shop, determined to get some additional photos. No one seemed to be around, so I walked up to the fence and started taking photos of all the awesomeness. I didn’t notice when the owners drove up, so the next thing I knew, one of them asked if I wanted to go inside the fence to take more photos.

I said sure. They had lots of art made out of bike parts, including ingenious wind spinners built from bike wheels.

I think she thought I was a little nuts. I tried to explain how cool I thought their art was and how I work for a place where this stuff would fit right in. In retrospect, they actually made all this stuff, so I think THEY must be as crazy as me.

I found a great newspaper story about them here.

On the way home, I stopped at Yew Dell Gardens, a botanical garden along I71 in Kentucky. I’d always seen the sign for it but had never had an opportunity to stop. It wasn’t the ideal day or season, but there were some nice things to see including wonderful gourds growing suspended along a tunnel and interesting varieties of toad lily.

And finally, here’s my new garden art installed in my garden.

mosquito

flower

 

Harvests and Harvesters

I got a chance to come back to Northwest Ohio at harvest time. It is a beautiful time of year, and I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it. It also happened to be the local Fall Festival with activities all around town including at the local historical society and an antique tractor show. I discovered it’s fun to take a camera to a tractor show.

I had a fun vehicle of my own. I was in a car accident that badly beat my car up two days before I needed to be out of town for work. The body shop fixed me up with quite a ride. I’ve sort of stopped apologizing for its ridiculousness. As a friend said, I didn’t choose the situation or the car. It also makes a pretty picture.

Mustang

 

The 2014 Reviews are In

Every winter, I peruse the seed catalogs, carefully reading the descriptions of all the fruits and vegetables and imagining the feel of summer on my tongue. I’m always up for a taste adventure, so I’m often won over by some new flavor sensation. If I’m lucky, it will be something that actually stands a chance of surviving in my garden.

Tomatoes are a particularly wonderful food to experiment with. It’s interesting to see how the color palette changes from year to year to year to year. The flavors change, too. I have a hard time deciding whether to stick with the varieties that I like or to branch out into new and exciting (though sometimes disappointing) territory.

This year I tried three varieties of the trendy new blue tomatoes that get their color from anthocyanin, the antioxidant that also makes blueberries blue. I ordered them from the source: Wild Boar Farms.

Blue Gold

Attractive with purple/blue on its shoulders. It tasted a little odd until it was super ripe and then it was pretty good but not stellar. Next year, it will probably lose its spot to a new experiment. The plant, like all the rest of the Wild Boar hybrids that I got this year, was not terribly vigorous, but I’ve gotten several tomatoes off of it. P1140662 Dark Galaxy

This was the most delicious tomato of the summer. When ripe, it had a spicy, complex flavor that John and I loved. It was extremely beautiful, too. I think this one will be back next year. Dark Galaxy Blue Chocolate

Like the Blue Gold, these are best eaten very ripe, and even then they weren’t my favorites, though I liked them well enough. These had even darker shoulders than the Blue Gold, which made a beautiful tomato from the time that they are green with black contrast to when they are a deep brick color that fades to black. As pretty as they are, I’ll probably give their place to something new next year. Blue Chocolate And returning again this year after a very successful summer last year:

Orange and Green Zebra

These cherry tomatoes grow and grow and grow and they have a great flavor (light and fruity), though it is hard sometimes to tell whether they are ripe. They get streaks of orange among the green, so they’re very attractive. They are on my all time great tomato list. Next year maybe I’ll take a break from them and rotate in another of my all time greats–or maybe not. Orange and Green Zebra Gypsy

These were my surprise favorites from last year. I’d gotten them as a freebie along with my tomato order and the flavor blew me away. I wasn’t as in love this year, but they did grow well and produced plenty of larger tomatoes. They’re still tasty and attractive and I’d plant them again. Gypsy Pearly Pink

Another great cherry tomato returning from last year. They’re fun and a little different. They have an interesting pearly sheen as they ripen from a pale to a deeper pink. They’re a little crunchy and flavorful and nice as part of a mix of tomatoes on bruschetta. The plants grew really well, despite early problems with aphids. Like the orange and green zebra, I’ll definitely keep them in the rotation of all time best tomatoes. Pearly Pink Garlic

I’d planned to do whole complicated review of the four varieties of garlic that I grew this year, but then I looked back at my review of last year’s garlic. There was one variety that I grew both this year and last, and it turns out that this year I loved it and last year I didn’t much like it at all. So, I guess it doesn’t really matter. It all tastes good. I get the small garden sampler pack from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, so I just plant whatever they send me and never have to decide.

Still, garlic is tasty and I have fun sampling all the complex flavor variations. Duganski Polish White Nootka Rose German Red And finally there is the basil. I’ve mostly stopped experimenting because I’ve discovered the varieties I like and have stuck with them. Of the six varieties I have in my garden this year, only one is new.   Basils Thai Holy Basil

Spicy, gentle, citrus & clove, complex. Perfect for Thai cooking but not as much for bruschetta. Too bad I haven’t done any Thai cooking.

Persian Basil

Lots of licorice, strong, sharp flavor. I like it and have had a lot with my tomatoes.

Corsican Basil

Pretty purple and green leaves. Stronger flavor of licorice, but smoother than the Persian. I’ve eaten a lot of this one this summer.

Genovese Basil

Spicy hot, more minty and not as licorice flavor.

Lime Basil

Extremely citrusy and refreshing. A couple weeks ago we had an amazing sorbet at the River City Food Co-op that was made with frozen strawberries, Earl Grey tea, and lemon basil. This would taste terrific in place of the lemon basil.

Lettuce Leaf Basil

Mild, minty basil flavor. Not spicy. Rich Sweetness And finally, melons. I got to try my second variety of melon back in August. Luckily they ripened before the mildew closed in for the kill. This variety is called Rich Sweetness. Yes, I got it partly because of the name. They are supremely beautiful melons, but I wasn’t blown away by the flavor. Still, they were fun little novelties that could actually succeed in my little space.