November has arrived, and we still have daytime temperatures in the mid-80’s. I think this is the last gasp; it looks like next week, temps go down to the 70’s, and nighttime temps start to firmly lodge in the 40’s. It’s about time, and it sure would be nice to see some hint of rain.
The garden is moving on, mostly according to plan. I’ve had a few failures. Something completely eviscerated the beets and kohlrabi, and I’ve had a terrible time germinating spinach this year. The cabbage I started and planted out (an Italian Savoy type) has not fared well, and in that space, there are volunteer potatoes coming up (which isn’t a bad thing). I have more seedlings in the greenhouse of all those things, as well as chard. I’ll plant those out this weekend. I’ve also re-seeded in several places in the beds.
I’ve had a tip that I should order garlic directly from Filaree Farm next year. They do have a lot of varieties, all organic. I would like to support a CA farmer, but I am unable to find anyone that will sell directly to me. If you know of any, please share the info.
I’ve ordered new asparagus crowns from Renee’s. They won’t ship until March. Our old asparagus bed was badly situated - not enough sun - and so I’ve prepped a new space over by the chicken coop and the apple tree. I’m going to have Tom build me a long, narrow raised bed, and then I’ll fill it with not-quite-finished compost from the pile in the chicken coop. I’ll let it sit until the asparagus crowns arrive, and by then it should be ready and fluffy. Asparagus needs a rich, loose, well-drained soil. I’m hoping this new bed will work well.
I’ve been working on my plan for next year. It’s a good time to do this, because the summer successes and failures are still fresh in my mind, and with everything planted out for winter, I can see where best to place the 2019 crops. I use a drawing on graph paper, and work it all out there. I’ve decided not to plant melons or corn next summer - we just don’t have room. Trying to get crop rotations perfected also makes things a little difficult.
I’ve also been thinking quite a lot about what I want the goal for next year’s garden to be. As you know, we pick a new goal with every new year. 2018 was the year of soil; I wanted to do things that improved it, and I think we’ve succeeded (more on that subject near the end of the year). But what about next year? It’s important to have that in mind, or else I get burned out and lose sight of the big picture.
I’m also trying to figure out what to do with my recent college education. It’s become clear to me that though I am a complete plant nerd, it’s the cycle of things that really excites me. The systems. The way everything fits together. It wouldn’t be a delightful garden without insects, for instance. And the produce wouldn’t be as abundant and delicious without all the soil life. These things are all connected, and I want to study that. That’s Ecology, and every job I look at in this field requires a degree in Environmental Science or Ecology or Restoration, and I can’t get that where I am right now. So I have some decisions to make.
With the cooler nights, I’m feeling like cooking more substantial meals. It’s time to start making braises, and stews, and bean soup. I have also been making gratins - layered, thinly sliced vegetables with a garlic-infused cream sauce, and a dusting of gruyere. I’ve discovered that it’s possible to make almost any kind of gratin. Our latest involved butternut squash, potatoes, and Lacinato (dinosaur) kale. Use a mandolin for slicing (or if using greens, just tear them into pieces), simmer the cream with minced garlic, use plenty of pepper and salt, and don’t forget to butter the casserole dish. Use 2-3 lbs of veg to 2 cups cream. Some sort of sharp hard cheese grated on top, maybe 1/2 a cup. Bake at 350 for an hour and a half. Delicious, warming, and filling. Good for lunch the next day, too.
Tomorrow, I will give the carved pumpkins to the chickens, after cleaning out any spilled candle wax. They will absolutely love them and peck at them until they are gone, and all the vitamin A in the squash will give the eggs (scarce though they may be at this time of year) a lovely orange yolk.
And oh yeah, the great autumn leaf collection has begun. I do not collect the ones that fall on my garden (though sometimes I move them around a bit), but the ones that fall in the street or driveway get moved into the chicken run, or the compost pile, or the pathways between veg beds. It’s always a lot of sweeping, and I’m thinking of eating my words and buying a leaf blower, albeit an electric one. I hate them. But it might save my hands some aching. (We all have to make concessions as we get older, right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Better to garden longer, no matter how much I have to compromise on the noise factor.) If you have one that you like, please pass along recommendations.
What’s happening in your garden? I’d love to hear all about it.