Moving it back a bit

I went up again to NE South Dakota/SW Minnesota in the last couple of days to secure a place to live (at last!) and to meet with my employers.  We decided with so many key people on vacation (or about to take one) and the relative difficulty I’ve had in finding housing that we’d push back my start date to after the Labor Day weekend.

While I’m rarin’ to get up there and start work, there’s so much to do with getting the house down here packed and cleaned, finding a renter, having a market board meeting, and just getting my head (and the rest of me) into the new space (which can’t happen ’til the 1st of September anyway), that I’m breathing a little sigh of relief.

I got back yesterday a little before noon and then headed out to the gardens to harvest.  I was only gone two days, so it wasn’t too bad (some lunkers in the squash and cuke patches, as usual)–not too bad, that is, except for the tomatoes.

Late blight is in full progression in the tomato patch–many fruits are developing those black, sunken patches and the foliage dying off exposes the rest of the fruits to sunburn.  It ain’t pretty.

Last week I got a full 11-gallon tub of good fruit from the patch (had to have H help me load it in the truck); this week it was about half that.  I should at least have enough to make a decent final delivery of tomatoes to the CSA members in the coming week.

Maybe the plants know I’m leaving, but they’re pretty much all going to be dead and gone by the time I make my Vermillion exit.  We’ll have to build a big burn pile and dispose of the carnage that way.  Maybe I’ll pick a few decent-looking green ones first and see if they ripen without rotting.

Not knowing I was leaving, I laid landscape fabric on all those rows before planting, thinking it could be kept in place and used again next year for winter squash or melons–but I think it’s probably wiser to tear it all up and dispose of it rather than risk the blight fungus hanging out in the covered soil.

The cherry tomatoes are in a different spot and are doing well enough.  There’s leaf spot in that patch, but the plants are hanging on.  The peppers are fine.  The eggplant plants themselves look OK, but a lot of the fruits are developing brown patches, so besides flying tomatoes, there’s plenty of flying eggplant.

Winter and summer squash patches are great, though.  There’s a number of spaghetti squash starting to cure in the field and those summer “Papaya Pear” squash just keep pumping out those sunny yellow fruits.  Delicata also look decent.

Cukes have been found by the beetles, but they haven’t done irreparable damage as yet.  I’m still pulling quite a few slicers out of the patch (though nothing like the two dozen a day in the height of their vigor), and the little picklers keep pumping out a respectable number of cukes for the crock.

Of the crops that will be staying in the ground for now, I’ve got a lovely double row of parsnips that can be dug either in the late autumn after the frosts, in in the spring after the thaw (or both). The shell beans, which looked none-too-healthy when they first came up, are starting to form pods, but it’ll be a small harvest.

There’s melons in a couple of spots, and I don’t know that any of them will be ready by the time I go–perhaps there will be enough ready on one of my return visits to bring one or two to each CSA member.  The Peruvian Purple potato plants are still green and lively, so it’ll be later September, I think, before I get a chance to dig them.

Leeks are happily sizing up–two rows of them.  There’s still some badly-munched kale that, if it survives, will put on some much cleaner leaves after frosts kill the cabbage worms.  There’s a few chard plants, too, and a ton of sweet and lemon basil–some of which I’ll harvest for drying and for pureeing and freezing before I go.

Not sure exactly how I’ll be filling those last few cases of canning jars, but I’m hoping to at least get one more batch of tomato soup before the plants go south (and I head north).

After that, it’ll be a matter of whatever falls on my lap–certainly some of those Papaya Pears and green tomatoes can go in a pickle, but the sweet corn season is just about done, so what I’ve got of that is probably what I’ll have. It’d be nice to find some pears or apples…

While the rest of my books are already packed, Putting Food By and the other food preservation guides are still on the shelf, so  I’ll spend a little time between packing and cleaning sessions to peruse those books for jar-filling inspiration.


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