Sunday, October 31, 2010

Going Nuts

The house we bought this spring was built in 1889. Needless to say, it could use more insulation. We're loosing a lot of heat from the attic, so we've decided to raise the level of the attic floor by 8 inches and blow in insulation under the floors to add to the small amount of insulation already there. Here Matt's set the floor boards on the right side back on so he can work on framing the left. Once we have it all framed, we'll remove the floor boards again to blow in the insulation.
Here are the old square nails that have come out of the floor boards, placed in an old chimney plug.

In order to raise the floor we have to do some cleaning out of 'good junk' that was left to us by the previous owners. All the original windows are up there. We're holding on to those for now. There were old ratty rugs that needed to be tossed. There are old bricks from when the previous chimney was replaced.

However, the oddest thing was a large barrel full of walnuts. The previous owners told us about them and that they were reluctant to get rid of them. In doing the wiring for lights in the ceiling of the second floor saw walnuts in various places in the walls, so we imagine the mice are transporting them around the house. That's enough motivation to finally get rid of them, but having to move them around the attic multiple times was another good reason. Finally when it was moved, walnuts would come out of the bottom.
We ended up tipping it over on its side so we could shovel out the rest of the walnuts more easily. We shoveled them into 5 gallon buckets to carry them out of the house. We did at least 5 buckets full to empty the barrel. Here is the barrel tipped after a few bucket loads were taken out.
The bottom of the barrel only had a part of a piece of wood, and then was lined with burlap. It reads WW & SON, ARLINGTON, MASS.

I did crack one open and there was still meat in it. It was very hard to crack and I'm not risking eating unknown aged walnuts.
The previous owner said 50 years, but I'm wondering if they might be older because of the way they were packed. Any guesses? The walnuts went out to the compost pile where we put the weeds. We'll watch to see if the squirrels are less picky than we are.
We're also wondering about the purpose of a barrel full of walnuts. We have a history of the property deeds which is rather confusing to read, but in one part it mentions a tannery being on a connected piece of property. Maybe walnuts were used in tanning? I know they are used in dying wool. Now we're trying to think of a good use or display possibility for the old barrel. Any ideas?

Post Script: At the post-trick-or-treat gathering at the neighbor's house across the street, she said the walnuts were probably from the trees near her house. I guess someone stored them away one year with plans to husk and shell them and never did.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Harvest Monday 10/25/10

This week I got over 2 more pounds of tomatoes ripening from the green tomato box.
I picked 8 oz of kale, including some red kale that leafed out. It overwintered from the previous owners garden, went to seed,I saved seeds, and now it is producing again.
I picked 11.5 oz of leeks, 6 oz of chard, and 1 pound of brussels sprouts (not pictured).
Now that the garden is winding down, I'll sometimes share what we're eating from what we saved from the garden. This weekend we roasted our first jarrahdale pumpkin. It was a 15 pound one. My husband cut it in half.
Then we quartered it and scooped out the seeds. I roasted it in the oven for over an hour until the flesh was soft. This photo is before it was baked.
The flesh was good, not stringing, not too strong either. The only downside was the seeds. They looked wonderful, but some how different. When we roasted them we found they were too tough.
We roasted apples and onions after the pumpkin was done and used them all to make soup with a stock made with apple cores and pumpkin scrapings. It was all pureed to a smooth soup. We had plenty for a gathering of 8 adults and 12 kids and still some left over to freeze.

Total this week: 5.08 pounds
Total this year: 441.69 pounds
You can see what other gardeners harvested this week at Daphne's Dandelions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Snow Flurries

Yesterday I saw a few snow flurries as I went to work and they persisted into the afternoon. However I was still surprised to find a dusting sticking on parts of the garden this morning. Here is some on the bok choy and then the cold frame. It seemed to slide right off the kale and brussels sprouts.
It is interesting how they stuck to the rows more than the paths.I'm wondering when the ground freezes. I need to harvest carrots and beets before that happens but would rather store them in the garden as long as I can. Winter isn't too far away.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Harvest Monday 10/18/10

On Monday I harvested all the peppers. In all it was a disappointing year for peppers. The high heat in mid July caused all the blossoms to drop and then the next set didn't have enough time to fully develop. I picked 5.5 oz of hot peppers and over 1 pound of green peppers. I cut and froze the green peppers. There were a few tiny eggplants as well. I strung the hot peppers to dry.

Also picked one pound of golden beets on Monday. I roasted these to make beet gnocchi.
With the garden clean up on Wednesday I picked all the beans on my pole beans. I didn't do well picking these as green beans. We found the ones I did pick to be tough. So they went to seed. You can see the container full on the left. I picked kohlrabi. And one brussels sprout plant had been broken mid way up and wasn't doing well so I harvested the whole thing along with other sprouts that were beginning to open for a total of 8 oz.
I shelled the beans in front of a movie on Friday night. They weighed 1 pound 6 oz, though they will weigh less when they dry.
In the wet rain on Friday I picked 2 oz of carrots and 6 oz of bok choy and a 3 oz of a chinese green that looks similar to chicory. They all went in a stir fry. I'm happy to have the success with bok choy now because in the spring it bolted and was so eaten by the slugs that I didn't get to enjoy any.
Tomatoes continue to slowly ripen in doors. They are in a cool closet. I brought 5 pounds down that had turned color and we had a large pot of fresh sauce made with them on Saturday night.
Total this week: 9.15 pounds
Total this year: 436.62 pounds
You can see what other gardeners harvested this week at Daphne's Dandelions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


We've had a frost every night since Saturday (10/9). Last night's was the hardest frost yet. I went out this morning to photograph some of the beauty (and the destruction).

Here's an over view of the garden from the back porch.
Here's the beauty of the frost.
The frost on the kale almost looks like snow.
On the carrots it is like a white outline.
On the brussels sprouts it looks like crystals.
It accentuates the different textures of the weeds.
It is a sugar coating on the marigolds.
Now for the destruction.

The end of zucchini (and the peppers, eggplant and basil too).
And most interestingly, the stems of the marigolds seemed to have been ripped open by the freezing of the water inside them.
This afternoon the marigolds, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, beans, and basil all went to the compost pile. Everything left in the garden is frost hardy to some extent. Before we know it it will be snow covering the garden.

Post Script: Here's the after clean up photo the next morning. I've left some of the sunflowers for vertical interest in the winter garden. You can see some of the rows of winter rye beginning to green up, especially the row in front of the brussels sprouts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Farfalle Wedding Quilt

A good friend from college got married in April, just as we were moving to our new house and so we weren't able to attend the wedding. I knew I wanted to make her a wedding quilt but it took a while to get settled before I was able to. This quilt was mostly made in the month of August, however it took me a little while to get it in the mail to the recipient so it is only showing its face here on the blog now that I know it is in her hands.

I got the idea from Ashley at Film in the Fridge and you can see her version of this quilt here. She calls it Flying Farfalle after the pasta shape.

Basically I sewed strips on the corners of white squares. I had three color piles: blue, green, and red/purple. To make sure I had variety, I sewed from one color pile onto the corners of one third of the squares. Then I divided the squares up again evenly and sewed blue, green, or red/purple on the other side. I laid out the squares at random, just moving things around so no two same pattern triangles touched.
I made a stripe down the back with the fabrics I used for the colored corners on the front.I machine quilted for the first time, and you can see my diagonal lines aren't in the least bit straight, but I think it goes with the funky angles of the bow-ties on the front of the quilt.
I bound it with the green paisley you see next to the colored blocks. It is a lap quilt and measures 47" x 70". I like the design a lot and may even make a queen size for our bed someday.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Harvest Monday 10/11/10

This week shows the slow down in the fall garden. Last week was 70 pounds, this week I only harvested 4. That includes 2 pounds of tomatoes that were picked green last week. These began to shown color this week and were added to the harvest total.
I harvested our first Brussels Sprouts this week, over one pound. They were good but should be even better now that we've had a few frosts this weekend.
We enjoyed a soup this week with leek, kale, beans and tomatoes from the garden.
The scarlet runner beans came in before the frost. They yielded 8 oz. They were planted experimentally amongst the tomatoes and grew up along the frame the tomatoes hung from. They did fine there.
I picked the last of the basil on Saturday night before the first full frost. It weighed 7 oz. I froze some and the rest we made into the last pesto of the year. Also picked 7.5 oz of carrots that night for another soup which also used kale and pumpkin from the garden.
The only frost-tender plants left in the garden are the peppers and eggplants. I've been covering them when the frost has threatened. However the forecast for this week is frost every night for the next 4 nights. So I'll be harvesting the last of the peppers and eggplants later today. You'll see them in next week's harvest totals.

Total this week: 4.48 pounds
Total this year: 427.47 pounds
You can see what other gardeners harvested this week at Daphne's Dandelions.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hoop House & Winter Greens

I wasn't content with just my little cold frame in such a big garden for winter crops. The cold frame is full and I had more seeds I wanted to try to get to grow in the winter or sprout in early spring. In the cold frame I have, mache, mizuna, kolhrabi, lettuce, claytonia, beets, carrots, walking onions, spinach & arugula.

I had tatsoi outside the cold frame but it has been mostly eaten by slugs.

So I'm trying out the mini-hoop house idea. We went the cheap route, and bough 1/2" pvc pipe. It came in 10' lengths and was cut in half to be 5 feet. We got a long piece of threaded rod that fits inside and my wonderful husband cut it into 1' pieces.

Those 1' pieces went in the ground about 1 1/2 feet apart. We weren't exact. Then the pvc pipe went over top.
I already had some row cover which is currently being held down with the few stakes I could find and some rocks. We may use some clear plastic left over from a painting project to cover it more when snow comes. (Notice the forest of kale behind. We're not lacking for hardy greens)
Here's what went inside.

Transplanted Seedlings:
Bok Choy
Red Kale

Red Cabbage & Dandelion Green (not pictured)

Mizuna, Tatsoi, Purple Mustard, Chinese green onions, Chinese Cabbage, Sugarloaf Chicory, Spinach, Mache

This is all an experiment. I know it's too late for seriously starting seeds in my area, but maybe some things will sprout and over-winter and we'll get an early spring crop. If some things are successful, then maybe we can expand (and plan better) next year.