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Finding our lost Brussels sprouts

We're city girls.  We'll admit it.

We've progressed beyond bagging our Brussels sprouts from the bin at the local chain grocery store. We've been to the local farmers market. We know Brussels sprouts grow on a long stalk. And that's what we expected when we planted them last November.


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My new favorite cauliflower recipe

We've had a couple of glorious weeks of sunshine that caused the cauliflowers to race right into the bolting stage. They've all been harvested and eaten.  We're just waiting for some spare time to take out the leaves and stems to make room for something new in the garden.

Karen and I have slightly different perspectives on what to plant: she likes novelty -- rainbow or watermelon radishes or purple or gold cauliflower; I'm more of a traditionalist; the novelty varieties never seem to turn out as well as the originals.

Our first cauliflower of the season

We have purple and gold cauliflower blossoming in our garden this week. (We got the color pack when we planted in November.)
Nearly a week of sunshine has made everything grow big. Besides the cauliflower, the lettuces are thriving along with the spinach.  The brussels sprout plants keep getting larger and larger -- keeping pace with the cauliflower plants -- but there's no signs of sprout stems.
The red Swiss chard is coming along.  It's still small and slow, but seems healthy.
There's not much work to be done at this point. Mother Nature has kept a nice pace of rain so there's no watering to be done. The break in the rain and the arrival of sun means that weeds are starting to thrive, but not so much that we can't easily keep them under control.  There are bug holes in the lower leaves of our lettuces, but not so severe that we're inclined to break out the organic bug spray.
The basil plants are no longer thriving.  We've had temperatures in the low 30s,…

Reveling in a rainy garden

We'e been so starved for rain these past five or six years, I was starting to forget what it was like.
The past two months, we've had a series of nice, durable, gentle rains.  Heavy enough to soak but not to wash out. Frequent enough to foster growth, but not so frequent as to drown the seedlings. For us farmers, it's like having a self-gardening plot: we just have to go out every week or so and ooh and ahh over how fast everything is getting big.
Of all the gardens we've ever planted, I think this one has been the most rewarding.  The conditions -- timing, moisture, sun and season -- have come together perfectly.  We have plenty of mulch down so the weeds aren't even raising their heads.
We grew cabbage one summer (probably not the best season for that) and it seemed to take forever to see anything cabbage like. It's too early to see any embryonic cauliflowers, but the transformation from one week to the next is dramatic.
The lettuce is growing so well that we…

Winter planting in the garden

My first gardening experiences were in northeastern Oklahoma. There, the gardening season ended when the tomatoes quit producing.

By then, there was a nip in the air. The zinnias were stained brown and crispy. The nastursiums were shriveled and starting to be hidden by falling leaves. Crisp, juicy apples were filling the bins at the local grocery and it wasn't pleasant to hang around outdoors unless you were moving -- fast.

Cleaning up the garden for autumn

In September and early October, work to be done in the garden waned.
The tomato plants had fallen to disease and gravity. The lettuce had bolted. The deformed carrots had been pulled. The chives were wilting in the heat and the drought. The marigolds were more deadheads than blooms. It was the end of the road for the garden.

We'd kept up a steady pace of two hours of work a week in our small plot. But once the tomato plants lost the fight, there really wasn't much to do in the garden but clean up. Given that we'd planned a road trip for mid-October, we put everything on hold until this week.
We pulled out the remaining tomato plant tangled in its cage.  We picked up all the tomatoes we could find in the mulch.  We'll have volunteers next summer without a doubt, but we did what we could to limit that.  We pulled out the old salad greens, but there's signs of self-seeding.  Looks like we may have more arugula.

Harvesting the butternut squash

We worried about when to harvest the butternut squash. There's no greening, yellowing, reddening, deepening or other particular sign of ripeness once the squash grow to a certain size. Google Extension Service suggested harvesting before the first frost.  In California, that would be the day before Never.
In Nature's wisdom, the plants told us. The huge green vines that had sprung up on their own, just turned brown and shrank back on their own, leaving six heavy butternut squashes dangling from their red and yellow net bags. (We'd strung them up to keep them away from the wetness of the earth and the mouths of the snails.) We cut them down and divided the harvest.
My first butternut squash, I simply seeded, roasted and scraped the flesh from the shell. Butternut is bland, a lovely gold color, but -- yawn -- not much flavor.  But it was fresh and home grown. That imparts something wonderful to it, if you have the stillness and focus to be aware.