Fall gardening: an unexpected pleasure *sigh* snatched from winter, as it were

Red-veined sorrel: this is such pretty stuff, isn't it?

Red-veined sorrel: this is such pretty stuff, isn’t it? I’ve only so far put it into soup, but I’m anxious to experiment using it in other ways, too. It’s a new addition to my herb garden this year. πŸ™‚ Have you ever grown it?

I’m at it again, trying to finish a quick post before the sun comes up. The house is quiet and dark except for when Merry, our old tortoiseshell cat with one purple eye, occasionally scratches at the glass back door. She is spoiled for an egg for her breakfast every morning, but I haven’t given it to her yet. I sat down to write, and by golly, I’m going to write! πŸ˜‰

Well. It’s quiet except for Scout, who is busy “thrashing about” (as my Dad would say) out on the sunporch with me. Every 23 seconds or so, I must get up and correct her. To wit: she drags a cereal box out of the trash: “no, no, Scout,” I pull it away from her and put the trash up. She notices Merry at the door, and scratches vigorously on the glass door at her: “Scout–no!” I move her away from the door and give her one of her toys.

She drops the toy, disappears for a minute or two, and returns with a piece of (cough) Amalia’s delicate undergarments in her teeth, shaking it to and fro. I get up (*siiiigh*) again, carefully extricate it from her sharp little teeth (must—not—let–it—rip!)Β take it back to the bathroom, stuffing it back into the dirty laundry hamper. Meanwhile, Scout has found a piece of packaging bubble wrap, and takes a couple of laps around the room, tossing her head and popping the plastic bubbles.

Finally she flops down on the floor next to me, making sure to lean heavily against my leg, and continues to chew on the bubble wrap. “Pop . . . pop! . . . pop . . . ” Physical touch is surely one of Scout’s love languages, as it surely is one of mine. We complement each other in this way. πŸ™‚ We are on the very same page, you might say, touching-wise.“Pop, pop, pop . . . “ Both of us love bubble wrap, too. But one of us is quiet this morning and one of us is not quiet.

I know better than to say “It could be noisier.” I wasn’t born yesterday, gentle reader.

Scout is tilting her head to say "It wasn't my fault. I just followed Mack down to the pond, through those weeds . . . !!" A good session of vigorous brushing followed this picture.

Scout is tilting her head to say “It wasn’t my fault. I just followed Mack down to the pond, through those dratted weeds . . . !!” A good session of vigorous brushing followed this picture.

At least it is quiet outside, though I have the window cracked open so I can hear the coyotes, if they start to howl and yip in the field behind our house. If this happens, I’ll step outside to listen–it’s such a wild sound, and it thrills me to my bones and marrow–and Scout, brushing up against my leg, will growl deep in her throat and maybe give out a tentative throaty bark or two.

Usually by the first of November, most everything outside has been frosted and frozen into a several-months’-long submission. The garden is frozen to a crispy brown, and only needs to be cleaned up and torn down and put to bed.

My hoop house doesn't look so impressive, but most of the two of the four beds in there are on their second bonafide crop since spring. The bed to the left of the center path was all heirloom tomatoes, now planted to edible flowers and root crops. The bed to the right of the path was all baby summer squashes, which were torn out and then re-planted to watermelon radishes, radishes, and turnips.

My hoop house doesn’t look so impressive, but two of the four beds in there are on their second bonafide crop since spring. The bed to the left of the center path was all heirloom tomatoes, now planted to edible flowers and root crops. The bed to the right of the path was all baby summer squashes, which were torn out and then re-planted to watermelon radishes, radishes, and turnips.

BUT THIS YEAR is different. While we have had one killing freeze, it didn’t kill nearly everything, and we’ve had weeks—weeks!!–of pleasant warm weather since. New Zealand weather, folks. Pretty near perfect: 70s in the daytime, 40s at night. We are, en masse,Β pinching ourselves–is it a dream??–but not wasting much time with that, either. There is just simply too much still to do, in the yard and garden department, here in Nebraska. I could easily go out and mow the yard and paths one more time, though I don’t know that I’ll do it. I can hardly believe it, but there are dandelions blooming and going to seed in the yard! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in November before.

I am still harvesting plenty from my garden and hoop house. Look at this beauty:

I love these things. :) Watermelon radishes, the first radishes. So good and so beautiful. And much more long-lasting than their small cousins.

I love these things. πŸ™‚ Watermelon radishes, the first radishes. So delicious and so beautiful. And much more long-lasting than their small cousins.

My conventional farmer friends are nearly finished with harvesting their corn and beans–they’ve been working out in the fields every night until very late–and many of them have cover crops of huge radishes and turnips growing vigorously in between the rows now. I eye those acres of lush green hungrily, not for myself, but for my chooks and piggies. I just know my livestock would love me foreverΒ if I had a few bins of those big babies squirreled away for winter. I might have to look into growing some next fall, myself. πŸ™‚

So. πŸ™‚ A bit more garden talk, do you mind? I started writing about my garden in my “fam and farm update” post earlier this week, and then realized that I had way too much to share to just tack it onto the end of that post.Β  In a few weeks, everything will be covered with snow/ice/frost and I’ll come back and remember these sweet days of Indian Summer, borrowed as it were, from early winter’s selfish grasp.

Have you wondered why winter is being so unselfish this year? She has only barely brushed her frosty fingertips across our place twice, and then relinquished her touch to give fall a few more weeks’ revel. I am so grateful. Maybe next year will be just the opposite, and there’ll be 6″ of snow on the ground by Halloween. You just never know.

These carrots were hard-won. My carrot seeds didn't germinate well, so I'm thankful for every one that my garden actually produced.

These carrots were hard-won. My carrot seeds didn’t germinate well, so I’m thankful for every one that my garden actually produced. I’m already planning how to get more carrots out of my garden next year.

My tomato plants were too large to cover, and they were nearly finished by the time it froze here, anyway. But I did cover peppers that are in my outdoor garden, and most of my edible flowers and more peppers were fairly protected in my hoop house.

I just mulched my pansies and violas with some woodchips, and they are blooming like mad.

I just mulched my pansies and violas with some woodchips, and they are blooming like mad. Aren’t they pretty? They do very well in cooler weather.

This window of pleasant weather after a freeze is a great time to sow lettuce into cold frames, or a few crops of radishes, or a row of turnips or watermelon radishes in the hoop house. Also it’s a great time to sow a cover crop (as my conventional farmer friends have done with the huge radishes and turnips), for the areas of the garden that are finished and need the attention.

The fun thing is, if you have a hoop house (a full-sized one like I have, or a smaller one, too) and/or cold frames to put into place in the garden, it’s easy-peasy to extend your garden season. Which is great news for a garden-crazy person like me.

You can even buy small kits for making your own mini-hoop house in your garden, where you can plant many of the annual crops I’ve mentioned in this post. They can also be used as protection for your cold-hardy crops–such as beets, turnips, parsnips, winter radishes, cole crops, etc.–for when the temperature dips below freezing. It’s not that hard to do. It keeps you off the streets. And it’s so worth it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to start buying all my fresh veg yet from the grocery store, when I can still grow a bit of it in my garden.

Though it’s NovemberΒ it’s possible to grow a lot of veg with these cool nights and warm(ish) days. It’s perfect weather, in fact, for these lovelies:

Radishes, naturally! French Breakfast, White Hailstone, and Pink Beauty.

Radishes, naturally! French Breakfast, White Hailstone, and Pink Beauty. Here they are in baby size.

Also growing in my garden and/or hoop house: watermelon radishes, beets, spinach, borage, many cole crops (including a new crop, kalettes), rhubarb, edible flowers of dozens of varieties, turnips, peppers, and leeks. It’s a perfect time of year to grow baby kale and lettuces, too, and actually I have some planted, though it hasn’t come up yet. We’ll see if I got it in soon enough! I am grateful to have quite a lot to choose from in planning and cooking our meals. πŸ™‚ Oh yes, and at least a couple dozen types of herbs, too.

Beautiful harvest of radishes: French Breakfast, White Hailstone, and Pink Beauty. Oh, I think there are a couple of purple ones in there, too. :)

Beautiful harvest of radishes: French Breakfast, White Hailstone, and Pink Beauty. Oh, I think there are a couple of purple ones in there, too. πŸ™‚

I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been selling specialty veg from our place to upscale restaurants in the city all summer, with a group of like-minded farmers in our area. That’s one reason I’ve been such a blogging slacker this summer. πŸ™‚

We call ourselves the Tiny Farms Group because . . . (wait for it!) we all have very small farms, compared to many of the farms in our area of the world. We have a great deal in common: we raise our veg in a sustainable manner; we don’t use synthetic chemicals on our crops; “manure” and “compost” and “cover crops” are musical words to our ears.

We also push our farms to grow through an extended season, using row covers, cold frames (ala Eliot Coleman) , low hoop tunnels, hoop houses and/or green houses. I’ve learned tons from my mentor Gene about farming and running my own business. It has been an awesome summer, and I’ve learned much more from him than I would have learned on my own, absolutely!

This experience has been a perfect fit for me. I enjoy growing interesting varieties of veg in great quantities and (alas) no longer have the large family at home to eat it all. I love making an income from our place, too. We’ve found a ready market in restaurants not far from us for unusual varieties of heirloom tomatoes and peppers, fresh herbs, eggplants, carrots, beets, etc., and my new favorite thing to grow and harvest: edible flowers.

The nasturtiums in my hoop house just get more and more plentiful and prettier and prettier!

The nasturtiums in my hoop house just get more and more plentiful and prettier and prettier! All parts are edible–flowers, leaves, even seed pods–and have a sharp, tangy, peppery taste.

Plus, it keeps me and the kids off the streets. No more late-night trips for Bryan to the local jail, to pay our bail, after a raucous night of reveling *siiiiigh*. He said it was getting old. I don’t blame him, really.

Since the kids and I started school, and since so much of my garden was nipped back by a hard freeze a couple of weeks ago, my farm offerings have tapered, anyway, and this actually is a blessing–not to the paychecks, but to my sanity.

One tired ole’ farm woman can only do so much, after all.

Do you do any season extending in your own garden? Are you pushing the limits, as it were, for your seasons? I’d loooove to hear about it in the comments below.

Viva le jardin*! say I.

Thanks for popping in–I appreciate you guys and gals!


*Long live the garden!


25 thoughts on “Fall gardening: an unexpected pleasure *sigh* snatched from winter, as it were

  1. Carrie Shepperson

    We have been so busy preparing for the arrival of two little Irish Dexter heifers the last couple of months, that I was unable to get a fall garden in AGAIN this year. Sigh and sadness, so I am quite jealous of all your lovely fall harvest. I just crack up at your Scout antics. My little Border Collie, Tucker, is EXACTLY the same way. Forever into the next item, and always trying to unearth something. I’ve read your blog for a little over a year now and just love it. Thank you for sharing your experiences with your readership.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Carrie, thank you for your sweet comments. Two little Irish Dexter heifers? That sounds like fun!! I’d love to hear more about them!

  2. rita

    I have a new thing you might like to try growing. Can I sense you smiling in anticipation? A goji berry bush. I came across two growing at the side of the road visiting my daughter last weekend. Such a gorgeous bush! They were about a yard from the edge of the road, which you wouldn’t expect, with winter slush and salt. I don’t know how they have survived this. But they are clearly very happy and healthy bushes. I have a pic to show you. Unfortunately, it’s both to close (to see the whole bush) and too zoomed out (to see the fruit clearly), but it does show the abundance of fruit. Searching to identify this bush, I didn’t come across any specimens that had so much fruit! I’ll send the pic in a p/m. I’m going to ask daughter to get me some seeds but I’ll get some cuttings next spring too. So excited about this!!

  3. Chef William Chaney

    We are in the process of clearing ground and planting fruit trees and many flower bushes that grow high along the fence line by the country road. The new garden is probably a couple of months away….We will plant a few must have items at this time such as more ginger and garlic. Glad to hear that you have mended your ways and given up the night life. What ever happened to Rubin and the kitchen remodel? Is he now unemployed.? Is the kitchen finished and if so, did I miss the pictures? Just wanted to know if I missed seeing the finished look. Our building project is just getting underway. The land is still being cleaned and we meet with the builder today. I am going to add a post about it sometime this afternoon…or at least that is my plan at the moment.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I suppose I ought to write a kitchen update one of these days . . we are plugging away at the kitchen, and have made a bit of progress, though it’s slow. Reubsy still comes for a day or two now and then. He’s weaning us.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      My hoop house is roughly 25′ x 60′. It seemed big when we planted it, but I’d love twice the space, now.

  4. cookinmom

    Man, that hoop house looks great with all those wood chips! Your garden looks prettier and prettier every year…must be all those wood chips! lol And, the flowers, WOW! That watermelon radish is my all time favorite. Grew them for the first time last yr and mine were sooo sweet! Great choice! I have eggplant, jalapenos, Anaheim peppers, Poblano peppers (ton) and green/red peppers all coming back with lots of blooms too. “Sigh”, I wish it was cool enough to plant what you do. It’s been in the 80 and in a bad drought right now but the woodchips are keep things alive! Enjoy your harvest!! Happy fall gardening! :0)

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Rose, in the past few weeks, I’ve been the HAPPY recipient of loads of chips from two tree-trimmers!! I’m so happy about that, even though I have quite a mountain in my yard now! Every day I haul a few wheelbarrows full out to my garden and dump them where I want. I’m hoping to get them all hauled before the snow flies. I’ll also clean out the chicken coop and add manure to all my gardens. Once I get all that and the woodchips piled on, the snow can fly!! πŸ™‚ I’m so sorry about your drought and heat. It was our year for plentiful rain, I guess. It’s still SO green and lush here, strangely.

      1. Rose

        YAYYY…for wood chips! You musta’ slipped those tree-trimmers a loaf of bread or two for the trade!! Lol Make sure you pile them on thick!!! I have a section of my garden in chips and a section not because the weeds go nuts and I can keep it under control. Now that I have the wood chip section weed free, I can add a larger section on this yr & concentrate on that section! All my raised beds are in wood chips too. It was so nice to go out and plant and not having to worry about weeds. You will be so happy when you can go out and plant in the spring and pulled just a few weeds! Glad you’re enjoying the weather!

        How’s the kitchen renovation?

        1. dramamamafive Post author

          Rose, oh you betcha I did! I just happened to be baking the two days when these guys showed up with chips, so they got warm fresh bread the first day, and caramel monkey bread the second day! We were all supremely happy. πŸ™‚

  5. Peter Kowpak

    Hi Amy,
    I am happy to report that I am still harvesting tomatoes and peppers from my small garden from my daughters house in town. My larger garden located on the outskirts of town has been retired for the season and my other daughter and I are adding composting materials to be tilled in in the next couple of weeks. She has her own landscaping business and has been adding grass clippings and leaves she has gathered up into it for tilling. We’ve been blessed with an extended growing season so that we can keep harvesting and canning different types of sauces to eat, green beans, beets, peppers and a plethora of cucumbers. We have found a technique for canning our peppers that keeps them tasty and crunchy as our freezer is stocked with a ton of peppers from the past 2 years. I will keep my garden growing until I am forced to harvest what is there when a freeze comes and kills it off, which in the past has been early to mid October. I had planned on trying some cold weather crops but with the success of the “normal” veggies and my declining health, that has been put on hold until next year as I am getting to the point of not having to put in extra work to make things easier for me, they are in place and ready to go. This year we have been making our own apple butter, apple sauce and pie filling from locally grown “seconds” apples to add to our canned supplies, what a treat! Well my youngest grand baby is in need of my attention so I will end it here and hope that the rest of the year is kind to you and your family!


    1. dramamamafive Post author

      It’s always so nice to hear from you! And you had me at “We have found a technique for canning our peppers that keeps them tasty and crunchy” would you share this? I’d love to hear more! I can’t believe it: you are still harvesting peppers and tomatoes? My tomatoes got frozen some weeks back, and the peppers got nipped just enough to stop producing. I finally picked every last one (two bushels full!) and pulled up the plants, when I realized that I wasn’t going to get any more new peppers off of them. Winter has got to come eventually . . . right?? I’m happy to hear how productive you and your daughters are, and how busy you stay with them all, despite your health challenges. You inspire me! Enjoy the fall, and winter when it finally comes, too. πŸ™‚

      1. Peter Kowpak

        Hi Amy,
        Yep I am still harvesting both peppers and tomatoes, we haven’t had a hard frost yet so until then, I still keep harvesting. We haven’t had any cold temps yet we are average right around 60’s in the day and 40’s at night. and I think my close proximity to Lake Erie and its warmer temps aid as well.
        As for the canning peppers, we slice them about 1/4″ wide, remove the insides, take equal amounts of white vinegar and water and bring it to a boil, we warm our jars in the oven at 250 degrees, we place as many peppers as we can in pint jars and pour the hot mixture into the jars, leaving a 1/2 inch of headspace and add 1/8 tsp of calcium chloride, put the lids and bands on them and let them sit out and seal themselves and voila they’re done! No water bathing is required as that would cook the peppers and make them mushy and avoid placing the jars in a climate that would allow them to cool to fast and not seal. We recently opened up one of the jars and rinsed them off and they are just as crisp and tasty as the day we canned them! I found this process from a video on Youtube ( isn’t technology wonderful?). I hope this helps you as I am more than happy to share what I know with everyone that needs and wants to learn. The next time I’m at the garden I’ll have to snap a few pics and share them with you! Have a great and blessed day!

        1. dramamamafive Post author

          Oh, Pete, thank you SO MUCH for sharing this with me. I’ve got peppers coming out of my ears and I’m going to try this. Where do you purchase the calcium chloride?

          1. Peter Kowpak

            Hi Amy,
            I purchased Mrs. Wages Xtra Crunchy at a local department store named Meijer but I’m sure that any place sells Mrs. Wages will carry it. I finally had to harvest everything in my garden this past weekend, it was 75 degrees and sunny on Friday, and Saturday it was 40 degrees and snowing, only in Ohio can you have the ac on one day and the furnace on the next LOL.

  6. Heather D.

    North of the 49th parallel, my zone 3 garden should be covered in a blanket of snow by now. We should be out tobogganing instead of strolling along the green grass! Carrots, kale, brussel sprouts, leeks, purple cabbage, and onions are still all out there growing. Some onions decided to shoot out greens ’cause that’s what the weather is telling them to do. I should clean it all up today because they say the snow is coming next week.

    Borage . . . of course, you harvest the lovely purple flowers. Borage has self-seeded in my garden since I first planted it 5 years ago. The bees love it. I should make a bed where the borage can have it’s way as it pleases so the bees know where to look each year.

  7. Sharon

    I came across your delightful web site and have enjoyed your bright sense of humor great information on bone soups and I read some things about your gardens that you are growing.
    Do you a specific recipe and information on Bone marrow soup? I took down your bone soup recipe. I didnt notice any information on beef bone marrow ?
    What do you think of using bone marrow in soup?
    Thank you again for sharing so much of your talents and gifts with all of us

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Hi Sharon! My, you just made my day with your sweet words. Humble thanks. πŸ™‚ I must admit that I don’t have any experience with bone marrow! I can only imagine that good bone marrow would be super nutritious, no matter how you get it into your body. It would probably make the soup very rich! I’d love to hear back from you, if you delve into the mysterious world of bone marrow soup! THanks again for your sweet comment.

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