Wednesday, September 16, 2015


I haven't posted much lately.  Two projects have taken up much of my time, and besides the garden isn't having a very good finish with the tomatoes gone. 

A litter of ten bunny rabbits can take up some time.  Not at first, but as they get larger they go through a lot of food, and the grow-out cage needs cleaning every few days.  They eat and crap a lot.  They've gone through 4 bags of feed since they were born, and I forage for them in the morning and the evening.  I've managed to cut down most of the willow growing on the levee for their dinner, fed them scrap foliage from the garden as well as any deformed cucumbers (and some that weren't).  A few weeks ago I found that they liked dogwood shoots, which grow at the edge of the woods.  They also enjoy ragweed, whose pollen causes me much misery this time of year.  

The standard time to fatten a bunny to slaughter weight is 12 weeks.  That would have been September 1 for these rabbits.  At 12 weeks they looked a bit thin and small for butchering, but then I don't have an experienced eye for this sort of thing.  Last year I bought a litter of 8 week old weaned bunnies and raised them to 12 weeks.  They cleaned out to a carcass of just over two and a half pounds on average, which is very typical. 

Well I started butchering rabbits a week ago and I won't go into the details of that except I try to make it a quick death.  They were 13 1/2 weeks old. I was more than a little shocked at their dressed weight - about 4 pounds on average!  I finished the last of them yesterday and now have a freezer packed with rabbit meat.  Next year I'll know not to trust my judgement.  I'll process one or two at 9 weeks, a few more at 11 weeks then the rest at 12 weeks, nevermind how I think they look.

Rabbit is a challenge to cook.  It is a very nutritious meat, high in protein and low in fat.  It is the lack of fat that makes it a challenge.  So what was the first dish I made from the freshly processed rabbits?   Rabbit liver.  Most people either like or actively dislike liver.  I stopped buying liver from the store many years ago because of my concerns with the excessive amount of chemicals put into the feed of an animal raised in factory farms, which is a shame because I really like liver.  The liver is the chemical processing center of an animal.  If you like liver, rabbit liver is one of the best, mild, great flavor, and the rabbit liver is huge for the size of the animal.  Two of them make a meal.  I made liver and onions, using one of the Ruby Ring onions from the garden.  The onions were just carmelized a little when the liver was ready.  This is much better than any calf liver I've eaten.

The rabbit muscle meat is a bigger challenge.  The preparation that has produced the best results for me is roasting the cut-up rabbit.  Here's how I cooked the first rabbit:  Potatoes, carrots and fennel pieces were coated with olive oil and thyme and roasted for 30 minutes in a large baking dish.  The rabbit pieces were browned in rendered bacon fat and dusted with rosemary.  Then onions and the rabbit pieces were added to the dish and the bacon slices laid over the rabbit.  This infuses the meat with delicious bacon fat.  After 30 minutes the pieces were turned over, the bacon put on the new side and roasted another 30 minutes.  The dish is easy to make, very rustic and completely delicious.  Now I need to find additional preparations that are as good as this one. 

The other project that has taken up much of my time is a new walkway behind the house, between the flower beds.  The original walkway was wood, and the frame was buried in the soil.  Of course it was only a matter of time before it fell apart.  The old walkway was dismantled, the posts dug out of the ground and the soil excavated.  On three sides a concrete edger was made after trenching and making forms.  I thought this was necessary since the ground sloped and the whole thing would try to slide down the incline if not supported properly.  The walk got the standard 4 inches of crushed stone, 1 inch of sand and the pavers were set in, then the gaps filled with sand.  A lot of work, requiring more patience than I have, but the results are very satisfying.   The back deck is my peaceful haven.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday September 14

The season is ending with a fizzle not a sizzle.  Tomatoes are long gone, cucumbers are mostly done, but the vines still produce an occasional cuke that I give to the rabbits.  The raspberries have some kind of disease and are not making many berries.  Mostly what's coming out of the garden right now are beans and okra, and the beans are nearly finished.  These are Millionaire okra.  The beans are a mix of Fortex and Provider.  The Marengo Romano pole beans have succumbed to rust.

It seemed like a bad year for beans, but so far 30 pounds have been picked, not bad from a 7 foot row of pole beans and two rows of Provider bush beans.  That's only 5 pounds less than I got last year.

There's still winter squash to be picked - Metro Butternut and Teksukabotu.  I don't know if they will be very good.  They lost most of their leaves to fungus and will probably not fully develop their sugars.  Some of the vines put out new leaves and that may help. The rest of the week will be sunny and I'll harvest them before the next major rain.

The chili peppers look like they will be ready soon.  Most of these plants are used for making chili powder.  The Joe Parker New Mexico in the front are already ripe, while the Anchos are a little behind them.   A week of sunny weather should do the trick.  The tops of the ancho plants were eaten by tomato hornworms.  Usually the parasitic wasps get them, but not this year.

To see what other people are growing, head on over to

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday August 31

It's the last day of August and I'm still getting plenty from the garden.  Snap beans are back big - I got 4 pounds this week and expect as much next week.  Here's the first picking from last week, along with a summer squash and okra:

That may be the last of the summer squash for awhile.  The lone squash plant has lost many of its leaves to fungus but it is showing some new growth.  Since I'm not a huge fan of summer squash I'm not real concerned about its fate.  The tomato plants were removed last week - too much disease - and the last tomatoes were harvested.  Most of them are Super San Marzano, with some Big Beef and a Granny Smith tomato, and of course more okra.

More beans.  The Marengo Romano are outproducing the Fortex about 2 to 1, but that may be a seasonal thing.  They are both tasty but I prefer the Fortex.

A few raspberries - Autumn Bliss and Caroline.  Most of the time I eat them straight off the vine while working in the yard.

And yesterday more beans.

The Calypso pickling cucumbers are nearly finished.  I've canned enough to last at least a year and starting last week any new cukes were fed to the rabbits, who appreciate them greatly.  From 4 plants I picked 62 pounds of pickling cucumbers and another 15 pounds of Diva slicing cucumbers from single plant.  So far this year nearly 260 pounds, a bit ahead of last year.  The tomatoes were a disaster, about 16 pounds from 4 cages, but the cucumbers took up the slack.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Late summer chores

I've never ripped out tomato plants in August, so this is a first.  The bacterial spot/blight that got into the plants during the rainy cool weather in early summer had gone too far.  I didn't want the plants to serve as incubators of nasty microbes.  A picture of the two cages of slicing tomatoes shows almost no foliage left.  I did manage to pick a few slicers before taking them down.

The Super San Marzano tomatoes developed a lot more foliage before they got infected, now most of their leaves are brown and they were also pulled up.  Since the weather improved all of the tomato plants started new shoots which show no sign of disease, but those shoots start at the top of the cages and are too spindly to produce any amount of fruit.  Before taking down the tomatoes and their cages I harvested about 3 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, mostly sauce tomatoes.  The beds look empty now, just peppers and sick looking eggplant.

I sowed Berseem clover in the former brassica bed about 6 weeks ago.  Most of it died. 

So in the former onion/garlic bed I sowed buckwheat as a cover crop.  It's doing better than the clover.

Crabgrass had taken over the squash bed.  I was hoping the squash would shade out the weeds, but the Teksukabotu plants have succumbed to a fungus and lost most of their foliage, giving the weeds an opening.

Well I got in their and ripped out as much as I could.  At least I can see the squash now.  The vines growing on the trellis are relatively free of fungus.  That shows the benefits of air exposure in preventing fungal infestations.

At least the okra are doing well, and the beans are producing again.  This is Millionaire okra, from Johnny's.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday August 24

The pole beans have started to produce again.  I got very few beans from late July until now and last week I could see that they had set quite a few blossoms, so here they are.  Fortunately a row of Provider snap beans picked up much of the slack in the interim.  These are Fortex and Marengo Romano.  I picked just over two pounds for the week. 

Okra is producing well too, a pound this week, as the plants have established themselves. I have two Millionaire okra plants, a recent F1 hybrid, and two Silver Queen plants, an heirloom okra.  The Calypso cucumbers gave me six more pounds but it looks like they are slowing down as the plants are showing some fungal problems.  Doesn't matter, the rest of them go to the rabbits as I've pickled all I'm going to pickle. 

This year the tomatoes are a disaster.  I think they have bacterial spot and the plants are nearly finished. There are a few more slicers to pick and probably several pounds of Super San Marzano that can be made into salsa.  Then I'll pull up the plants and burn them.  The eggplant hasn't done well either.  They just did not like that cool cloudy weather early in the summer.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Homemade salsa

It's time to can the first (and probably last) batch of homemade salsa.  It looks like it has become an annual summer ritual that happens as soon as there are sufficient tomatoes and peppers for a batch.  Slicing tomatoes have been a near failure this year due to the wet weather.  At first I thought the tomato plants were infected with blight, but now I believe it is bacterial spot.  Blight starts at the tips of the oldest foliage and works its way up the plant.  If the plant is growing vigorously it can stay a step ahead.  This is different, the infection will show up anywhere on the plant and will destroy the flower stalks as well as the foliage. 

Fortunately the Super San Marzano tomatoes were not affected until later in the season.  The plants are diseased now but a first bearing of tomatoes was unaffected. 

The other major component of salsa are the peppers.  I planted one jalapeno plant and a serrano plant.  Now this is where it gets tricky with raised beds and limited space.  I planted the hot peppers on the north side of the bed, assuming that they would be the tallest peppers.  In front of them I planted ancho and New Mexico peppers for chili powder.  This year I tried a new variety of ancho from Totally Tomatoes, Mosquetero hybrid ancho.  Turns out this is a very vigorous pepper plant, about five feet tall now, and shading the hot peppers much of the day, resulting in puny hot pepper plants.  The photo shows the many ancho peppers about half-sized on the plants.  Anyway, I had to buy some jalapenos from the store.

Then there are sweet peppers, which I like to grill, de-skin and add to the tomato base.  I picked these two Mama Mia Gallo sweet peppers.  They and another one in the refrigerator were put on the grill and processed into the salsa.  This pepper has great flavor, small amount of seeds, really like it.

In addition the salsa got two Tropea onions, a handful of chopped parsley and 5 ounces of fresh lime juice for acidity.  There were about 7 1/2 pounds of paste tomatoes.  I was trying for enough salsa to fill 7 pint jars, which is the capacity of the canner.  There was enough for 6 1/2 pints, so the half jar was set aside for the refrigerator and a 'dummy' jar set in the center of the canner.

Canning salsa is a lot of work.  Slipping the skins off the tomatoes, roasting the peppers and cutting the hot peppers and onions to a fine chop takes a lot of time.  It makes those bottles of salsa in the supermarket look like they are well worth four or five dollars. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday August 10

Biggest harvest so far this year.  That's no surprise, I dug up the potatoes last weekend and got 45 pounds of spuds.   The pole beans have slowed down to almost nothing, so I'm getting beans from a single row of Provider bush beans for now.  The Calypso pickling cucumbers again outdid themselves, but it looks like they too are slowing down.  That's fine with me, I've canned 35 pints of dill pickles and don't want to can any more.   The summer squash and Diva cucumbers are also producing well. 

The okra plants finally produced enough in one picking to make a quart of okra pickles with Serrano peppers.

More Calypso's, some beans, and a few strawberries.  The strawberries have been small and many are lost to birds or insects.

On Sunday I got a nice harvest.  That's a Grandma's Pick tomato in the foreground. 

Now over 200 pounds for the year, with the star producer being the five cucumber plants at 62 pounds.  In second place, the potatoes - 32 pounds of Red Pontiac and 12.5 pounds of Kennebec.  To see what other people are growing, head on over to