2017 Harvest

Friday, December 8, 2017

Downsizing seed colection

Over the years I've been a real little hamster collecting every possible seed and making a huge seed base. Now things in my life have started to change and because of that, I'm forced to downsize my collection a bit. Soon I'll start renovating my basement to move in it and since this flat is what you could call a "tiny house" I'm forced to make a few difficult decisions. I'm completely aware of the fact that my collection will keep on growing, but I was thinking that with a bit of better organization and removal of the old seeds I could downsize and get much-needed space.

While I was cleaning my basement I found a bigger shoe box that I thought I could use as a seedbox and an old business card organizer. After dressing the box in wrapping paper, placing all my seeds in simple zip lock bags and throwing too old seeds I managed to downsize all my seeds to fit a single box.

All that was left were my tomato seeds that were taking too much space.
That's when I decided to use the old business card organizer as my new tomato seed organizer.

After removing all the plastic sheets and cleaning the organizer with a bit of hot glue and some old paper my new organizer got a prettier front side.

I've also added a bunch of blank papers that I've attached to the organizer so I could write down important information about my tomato collection.

A few tomato stickers and a wrapping foil to protect it from damage and my new tomato organizer was ready for use.

The best thing is that this new organizer fits perfectly to my new seedbox and I'm not using and more space with it.

I think even Srećko likes my new seedbox 😁

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Gardening year 2017 is over

After a very rainy November and me being sick I was almost certain I wouldn't finish my deep digging. There were 14 days of work left and I couldn't be sure I would have so many sunny days.
Although nature was acting like we were at the end of the summer with plenty of sunny days ahead and flowers still blooming like mad I knew this could change on a single night. 

I decided to speed up the work. Usually, I deep dig 20m2 a day but now I had to double the amount to finish on time. Digging was very difficult because the soil is already very very wet, so wet, that in fact in we got another rainy day I wouldn't be able to do any more work until spring. Well, I could maybe do some pots and glasses but certainly not deep digging.

On average I've spent 3 to 4 hours a day in the garden digging and besides of the digging and turning of the soil the thing that is the worst is the fact that when deep digging on a steep hill you have to constantly keep your balance on a wet soil using only one foot. After an hour or two, this usually ends with cramps in my calves. So I took with me my fateful companion "the chair" and took little 2-minute breaks every 15 minutes just to change the position of the leg.

I managed to finish all my deep digging in just 5 days and it was just in time. Just 3 days later we've got our first snow.

 The snow melted just a few hours later but still, I'm glad I managed to finish before it because it only made the soil even wetter. With finished deep digging this season is over and now we can start preparing for 2018. Let's hope it will be better than this year.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Racing with the snow

This gardening year has been a real challenge. After a cold spring and a very warm summer, these past few weeks of the fall have been very moody. We haven't had too cold mornings or afternoons, actually, the temperatures were very mild for this time of the year. What has been troubling us have been extreme amounts of rain. We got our monthly rain amount in just a few days and since then there hasn't been a week without the rain.
Of course, this has been making the garden work almost impossible.
I've started deep digging a month ago and up till now, I haven't made much progress. Most of the time soil was too damp to do anything and it was basically a struggle to even stand on the downhill beds.

To make things worse I've been sick for the past two weeks which means that I have not done any work and that my garden has been stuck half finished.
I still haven't removed the bean net which is a whole day work on its own and have still 14 days more or less of deep digging.

I have absolutely no idea if I'll manage to finish the garden because I'm still not feeling good and the weather keeps getting worse. Right now we're having cold days with lots of rain and wind but the worse thing is that the snow border is getting really close to our place and all I can do is sit and watch.

I did manage to harvest everything in the garden. Due to the warm but damp weather, I had to harvest all my tomatoes while they were still green because they began to crack due to the excess of water.
On the other hand carrots and cyclanthera have enjoyed this kind of weather and I've been harvesting them through the October and the first week of November.

The moodiness of the weather is best shown on our raspberries. They have been flowering and producing fruits in November. Yes, we've got November raspberries.

What worries me the most is that young plants that were supposed to give fruits next year in April are flowering like crazy. I have absolutely no idea if they will act normally during the winter and produce fruits in the spring or they will dry out during the winter like 2-year branches. If they start drying I'm afraid there will be no fruits in the spring and possibly I won't have any fruits next year. 

Right now all I'm hoping for is to get better and to have just a few more weeks of good weather and a chance to finish deep digging because if not the gardening year of 2018 will be a real struggle.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sun dried tomatoes

Extremely hot end of the July and the beginning of August did a serious damage to our plants. Almost all of them have dried due to the lack of the water and some have even been completely burned.
In all the bad things extreme heat and drought bring there is one positive thing. Sun dried tomatoes.

 Storing tomatoes for winter without cooking can be a very difficult task. Cooking kills that strong tomato taste we love during the summer. Cooking with fresh tomatoes that didn't get enough sun and warmth during the growing season to me is like cooking with rubber tomatoes. There is almost no taste in them. This is why we don't buy tomatoes outside of the tomato season(June- September) instead of buying we use sun dried tomatoes.
Every tomato variety can be dried and used as dried tomatoes, still, in my own opinion, there is no better variety for drying than cherry shaped tomatoes. All those small round tomatoes are perfect. They have enough meat, don't contain too much water like for example oxheart tomatoes which are very juicy and hard to dry. Also, they have a higher concentration of the "tomato taste"  once they are dried.
All cherry varieties are perfect, pear shaped, red, black, yellow cherry. Every variety based on cherry varieties is also great,  Reisetomatoe (brainy tomato) is perfect and strong tasted, basically, every tomato smaller than the walnut shape is perfect. Bigger ones need to be cut in more slices and when dried the middle slices have a very small skin part and almost no meat.

Left to right: orange dwarf tomatoes, balcony yellow, Reisetomate

The process of drying is really simple, tomatoes sliced in half or slices if bigger are placed on a metal baking tray, sprinkled with a bit of salt (not too much just to help the process of drying) and then they should be placed in the sun during the day. The higher temperature outside the faster they will dry. In temperatures around 38°C(100F) tomatoes will be completely dry in a two or three days.

After a day of drying

When completely dry place them in a glass jar and cover with oil. The type of oil depends on the type of taste you like. Using olive oil will give your tomatoes a touch of Mediterranean flavor and placing a dried chili pepper inside the jar will make them spicy.
Completely dried tomatoes don't need pasteurization, they will stay fresh and won't go bad in months.

Completely dried tomatoes could be too dry to eat even after the cooking or baking process so before using them you can soak them in hot water for 30 minutes or just use them for cooking and remove them before eating the meal.
The other way to store them for winter without the need of pre-soaking is not drying them all the way but until they loose all the water and the meat is dry(a day and a half). In that case, you pasteurization is needed. Still, because of the oil process can be done at low temperature and for a very short time.
Just place closed and filled jars in the oven at 100°C(212F) and keep them inside for 30 minutes. This way tomatoes can be stored up to a year without going bad.

This type of tomatoes can be used in every meal and in every cooking process. They will add that perfect tomato taste to the meal. Oil is also perfect for cooking because it keeps the tomato taste and adds a touch of the tomato to the meal even without the fruit itself.
Sund dried tomatoes can be dried in the oven also on 100°C with two fingers opened the oven door, and dried until they are dry but of course, that means your oven will be turned on for hours and will probably heat up your kitchen which in the summer isn't the option we like.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

We've got rain

Finally, after almost two months of dry and sunny weather, we've got some rain. In the past 3 days, we got over 70 liters of rain which places us back to the average rainfall month even though they were completely unbalanced. In the past 7 days, we also had the hottest day in this July with 36.2°C (officially measured), the second coldest morning with only 12°C and the coldest day with only 15°C.

Fortunately, there was very little hail so there was no damage to the garden, unlike some villages just couple of miles from me that were completely devastated by the hail that was sometimes the size of a golf or even tennis balls.
The rain came on Monday morning with a roaring thunder but without any wind. By the looks of it I was sure we would be hit with hail but as I said there was only few hail pods and that was it.
The amount of rain was nice, but it was still not enough after a long and dry period.

Luckily, the showers continued throughout Tuesday and yesterday so we even got some water problems like flooded yard.

After all the rain we got we woke up to a cold and foggy day like we were transported to the middle of September.

Garden is now completely wet and finally, my plants can recuperate a bit after a long and stressful period.

Like I said there is no damage in the garden, only a few tomatoes that fell down from the wind, but it doesn't matter because they will ripe perfectly fine at home on the balcony.

It is a great feeling to have a break from the constant heat.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Roe deer battle

Ever since we moved here we've always had the company of a few species of forest animals. It has been a perfectly normal to see rabbits running down the street, squirrels stealing our walnuts, dozens of different birds jumping around the garden and roe deer feeding on the meadows around us.
But in the past few years, roe deer have become a problem to the gardeners in our village.
Since there are no hunters in the village there is also no threat for them and they have started to run around completely free and unscared of anything. It has become a normal thing to see a roe deer with little ones walking just a few meters from the people. Over the past two years, they have learned how to jump over the fences and that is where the problems begun.

It's becoming almost impossible to keep them out of the garden. There is no fence high enough to keep them out. They simply stare at the fence and two minutes later they jump over without a run-up.
Once they are in the garden they start their feast.
They don't eat everything, no they have special vegetables they prefer. Beans are the ones that they adore. Every single young leaf they find they will gobble up, but only the young leaves. Pods and older leaves are left intact. This wouldn't be a problem if they came to eat once the plants have already made some pods. But usually they eat as soon as the plants start producing leaves and this means no pods.

Another favorite thing for them are beet and carrot leaves. It's the same story like with beans, they eat only the leaves, leaving the root intact.

Once they finish with this 3 vegetables they slowly turn to lettuce, amaranth, and blackberries chewing every single leaf.
And that is basically everything they eat. They couldn't care less for cabbages, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers which are left unharmed.

Of course, this situation is getting on our nerves so we try to prevent them from entering our garden. By our laws, we can't buy liquid repellents against animals because we don't own a certificate that we're in the business of professional gardening and there are no small packages for hobby gardeners so we have to use other methods which are more or less unsuccessful.
Some of our neighbors tried the oil trick dipping pieces of cloth in motor oil and hanging them all over the fence. It worked for a week or two and then they got used to it and started chewing again.
I've tried the old dog hair trick last year. Supposedly deer are scared of dogs so they avoid any place with dog hair. So last year I've filled little bags with dog hair, with I have plenty of having two dogs at home. It didn't work, probably because they are so relaxed they chew the grass in front of the yard with Nero barking just a few meters away. The good thing about the hairs was that in the spring birds used every single hair for their nests so I had to fill the bags again, but at least they were used for something good.

I've also tried making my fence look higher by sticking long branches and sticks inside it. This method worked for a while until they realized my branches were just branches. Now they don't have any problem with breaking them.

The next move was to make an ugly scarecrow(which doesn't scare crows at all) to keep them out. I've even places some bells on so it would make some noise while the wind is blowing. This is working for now, or at least I think it is because since I've placed my scarythingie there were no roe deer entering my garden.

Another thing I've noticed is that when I leave a barrel full of water in the garden they are always inside. Now someone would think poor little deer don't have where to drink so they enter the garden. Yeah, not true, they are just lazy. There is a creek just a few meters from my house with drinkable, fresh water and they are just too lazy to go there. Or maybe they are just using my water as an excuse to come and gobble my beans.
I'm hoping I will not find out the reason because eventhough I love animals and I love to see roe deer in the morning I prefer to see them away from my vegetables.