It’s autumn! Granted, we’re a month past peak leaf-peeping season, but winter is still more than a month away. Happily, I didn’t let peak season slip past; I spent several hours across many days capturing autumn scenes in Pennsylvania farm country. The collection here represents my neighborhood at its best: rolling farmland that blends with undeveloped countryside.
You can find a slideshow that includes these images and more at Your Small Kitchen Garden blog. Follow this link.
I’m working in my home kitchen garden. It’s a gorgeous day and I string up a dozen or more tomato plants before I head in to prepare dinner. My plan is to return after dinner and pull the lettuce plants to make way for sweet potatoes; the lettuce has bolted and we’re not going to harvest more of it this season.
So, I leave one panel of my rodent fence open. This provides a four-foot long entrance through a 92 foot perimeter. I’ll be away for an hour or two. A critter that discovers the opening in that amount of time isn’t likely to do much damage before I return.
Cooking, serving, and eating dinner takes about an hour and a half after which I head straight out to my vegetable garden. It amuses me to see a rabbit on the hill about 12 feet from my garden fence; there’s often one there and sometimes two. I’m far less amused to see a second rabbit standing beneath one of my tomato plants.
OK, a rabbit got into the garden. It would take just a moment to scare it out through the open fence panel. But this rabbit doesn’t look scared. In fact, this rabbit looks like it has a tad extra rabbit stuck to its right front leg. As I lean in for a closer look—and we’re talking about eight feet between me and the rabbit—she hops away to the back fence of the garden and freezes, now 14 feet separates us.
But! During the rabbit’s first hop, I noticed that the “tad extra rabbit” I’d seen was a bunny. There are now three bunny faces sticking out of the lawn clipping mulch I’d spread earlier around the tomato plants. There was an unmistakable bulge in the mulch that someone had excavated to build a nest.
In past years I’ve reported about rabbits reproducing in my home kitchen garden. I really don’t mind when they do that. This is altogether not that! Rabbit Mommy and her three rabbit puppies had not been in my garden when I broke for dinner. I had pounded around among the tomato plants: tying strings to the trellises, wrapping strings around stems, pulling weeds … if the nest had been there, I’d have stomped on rabbit puppies.
In the scant two hours I’d been away, Rabbit Mommy had carried her brood into the garden, hollowed out a nest in the mulch, and moved in! I returned from dinner while Rabbit Mommy was serving up dinner to her offspring.
I’m starting to believe that rabbits in my neighborhood covet my kitchen garden not for the food it produces, but for the security that the rodent fence provides. The rabbits have learned that if they’re inside that fence, the only critter likely to bother their babies is me, and I’m a softie. They pass this information down from one generation to the next.
I suspect this rabbit family settled near my raised vegetable bed and waited to pounce. The first time I left a fence panel open, they moved in. The bunnies are already old enough that they could wander around on their own so I suspect they’ll move out soon. I’ll keep watch and when I’m certain they’re no longer in the garden, I’ll close up the narrow gap I left in the fence just for them. With luck, I’ll keep Rabbit Mommy from hatching a new gaggle (in my garden) later this season.
More of my posts about rabbits:
My home kitchen garden is well on its way which is weird because our last frost date is around May 23. With all the crazy warmth of late winter, perennials are weeks early and my soil is dry… seriously: it’s alarmingly free of moisture. So, for what I’ve planted, I’m watering regularly and looking forward to getting some mulch in place to help conserve what little water there is.
Because of the early start to the season, I feel casual toward the vegetable beds. I ignored them today and, to celebrate Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I took Nutmeg for a walk capturing blossoms along the way. There are so many gorgeous displays in the neighborhood that I ended up cutting them into a movie (at the end of this post) rather than putting each one on this web page. If you feel so moved, please have a look. The video is three and a half minutes long and features scenes you’d see if you came with me for a walk where I live.
Photos accompanying this post are from my neighborhood as well.
While I enjoy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, I always feel a bit out of place. My blogs are about growing produce and preparing it for meals. So, in the spirit of Bloom Day, I’ve started Post Produce.
On the 22nd of each month—one week after Bloom Day—prepare a post about produce from your plot. Then, find my Post Produce post, and link to yours just as you link to your Bloom Day post from Carol’s blog, May Dreams Gardens. Here’s more about Post Produce. It’s great to see the goodies other gardeners are growing!
While my home kitchen garden deteriorated from neglect (and nasty elements), I spent a week at the Garden Writers Association annual symposium. There, I had the great pleasure to meet Brenda Haas whom I’d known for more than a year on Twitter, but had never met in person.
Brenda manages a weekly online conversation called #gardenchat. At 9 PM EST on Mondays, gardening enthusiasts log on to Twitter and post questions and comments, creating dozens of wild, intersecting conversations. I always enjoy #gardenchat, even when the subject is ornamental plants, and it’s a great privilege to know its curator.
Brenda had scheduled a special #gardenchat broadcast to take place at the Garden Writer’s conference. For this, she did a series of interviews using Ustream.tv, and they went out live while a tweetup of garden enthusiasts took place in the next room. I was one of the interviewees!
The Youtube video embedded in this post is a big chunk of the conversation I had with Brenda at the conference. There’s a lot of background noise because there was a party in the adjacent room, but you can hear our conversation if you like. We talk about several of the topics I wrote about in Yes, You Can!
There has been a lot of fuss recently about turning front yards into home kitchen gardens and I’ve been making a lot of it:
During these months, I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of a new garden that appeared this spring in my neighborhood. Yep: it’s in a front yard. We walk past it occasionally on family walks with the dog, and I’ve watched the plants grow from seedlings into young adults. It warms my heart and I hope the homeowners expand their planting bed in the coming years.
My home kitchen garden is off to a horrible start this season on account of endless rain we experienced until mid May. I wasn’t able to plant anything because my garden soil was saturated. Seedlings I’d started indoors became leggy and weak, and I ended up planting lettuce on my deck rather than in my garden. Of course, just when the lettuce leafed-up, the rain stopped and temperatures soared into the 90s (Fahrenheit).
So, with my lettuce bitter and bolting, my brassicas failing, and my tomatoes and chili peppers still getting used to being in a garden rather than in seed-starting planters, strawberry season is upon us.
I grow enough strawberries for a bowl of cereal. So, I rely on local farmers to grow strawberries for me. As in every year, when the first local strawberries appeared at the farmers’ market, I cooked up strawberry shortcake and we had only that for dinner one night. Then life got in the way.
For two weeks, I had no time to process produce, and I feared strawberry season was slipping away. In fact, produce vendors at the local flea market had no local strawberries last Sunday, so by Monday I had worked up a lather about having missed out. I went in search of a farmer (with a farm stand) selling strawberries.
Where would you go if you hoped to find a farm stand with fresh berries? My thought: Amish Road. I’m not kidding (my son thought I was kidding); we live within about five miles of Amish Road. And… Amish Road runs through an area where several Amish families have farms.
The first farm stand I found was one road over from Amish Road, and it had strawberries. But strawberries quickly became a secondary issue for me. The farm stand sat behind a roadside home kitchen garden that would make most kitchen gardeners green with envy. Of course, an Amish family may grow enough produce to eliminate their reliance on grocery stores… and this family grows enough to feed themselves and to sell to passersby.
The woman running the farm stand pleasantly told about hassles the rains had caused for them, and graciously gave me permission to photograph the garden plot. I couldn’t do the kitchen garden justice! It was at least 200 yards from one end of the garden to the other, and about 75 yards from side-to-side.
My photos reveal that the vegetable-to-weed ratio in an Amish home kitchen garden favors the vegetables. The reasons are simple:
I love this kitchen garden and I admire the energy and intensity its Amish owners must have to plant it and maintain it each year.
Your Home Kitchen Garden’s sister blog, Your Small Kitchen Garden is giving away food! Food? OK, it’s giving away seeds from which you can grow food. The promotion started a few days ago and runs until February 13, 2011.
Neck pumpkin, Pennsylvania Dutch Crook Necked Squash, Long-necked squash… get them all through the Small Kitchen Garden giveaway. Actually, these are all names for the same squash. Plants are very resistant to Squash Vine Borer and they produce fruits that resemble butternut squash only generally much larger. In fact, I’ve seen neck pumpkins that weighed more than 20 pounds!
Neck pumpkins are common in central Pennsylvania, but I’ve never seen them in other states. When you buy a neck pumpkin at a Pennsylvania farmers’ market or a farm stand, there’s a pretty good chance the farmer will ask, “Making pie?”
I’ve used neck pumpkin in pies, and I’ve also served it in all the ways I serve butternut squash. Butternut squash is a tad smoother and it has a richer flavor, but neck pumpkin tastes just fine.
My neck pumpkins grew to about 12 pounds this year, but the seeds I planted came from a 20 pound behemoth. The giveaway includes enough seeds from one of my neck pumpkins for you to plant at least one hill of squash.
Also in this year’s giveaway are seeds from my crop of Andes paste tomatoes. I don’t know for sure that my tomatoes are of the Andes variety, but they match descriptions I’ve read and they look identical to photos of Andes. I started with seeds from some tomatoes a neighbor gave me, and the seeds I’m giving away came from my second year’s harvest.
I love these tomatoes. They are indeterminate and have performed extremely well in my garden… and they taste terrific.
The blue Hubbard squash is among the most beautiful of squashes. It’s exotic, and you might even feel that a whole fruit is ugly. However, the meat of a blue Hubbard runs from blue/green toward the skin, to yellow toward the center of the fruit. It’s gorgeous.
The meat is also delicious, having a squashier flavor than butternut; I like blue Hubbard for my pumpkin pies and other baked goods, but it would be terrific mashed, grilled, or baked.
It’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (read about it on Carol’s blog over at May Dreams Gardens), and my Home Kitchen Garden is under snow. When I limit my definition of “garden” to that plot of land where I plant stuff in the spring, I have nothing to share on this winter Bloom Day. However, I’ve always defined my garden as the entire collection of plants that I tend—wherever they may be.
So, this bloom day, as did Carol on her blog, I present my Christmas Cactus. This plant started as a cutting from my daughter’s cactus back in summer of 2008. So far, the only care it has received is watering. Oh, and I turn the pot from time-to-time. It’s kind of a practical joke. I imagine the plant when sunlight comes through the window the next day: “Hey! I thought I had my leafy stemmy things all pointing in the right direction, and now this?”
I love that you can see the anti-rodent fence that surrounds my vegetable bed in the background of the photo… and snow on the ground in front of it. The snow provides insulation for a thick layer of autumn leaves my kids raked onto the soil. The leaves will break down a little quicker now that there’s snow on them.
While there are no other flower blossoms in my home kitchen garden in January, I snuck in two other photos that were begging for attention. I hope you enjoy them.