Closing Out the Summer – It’s Fall.

fall raised beds

Fall begins, astronomically for us, today, September 22, 2010, at 10:09 pm CDT. We had our first frosts at the beginning of the month, but the ground was still warm enough to ward off any damage from it to the gardens. However, the cold, nighttime low temperatures are now hanging on longer into the mornings, and the daytime highs now are not getting that high anymore – barely breaking into the low 60s (mid to high teens for you metric people). Even with the temperatures getting lower, and each day’s light noticeably shorter, there is still much to do with the bees and the gardens. Hives need to be winterized and bulbs need to be planted.

All the honey that I am going to harvest for human consumption has been removed from the hives (well, only one hive this season). Uncapped, extracted and wax filtered out, the honey now sits in neats jars – just waiting to be put on toast or baked into bread. With only about 40 lbs. of honey produced, we are not openly selling it at any locations in the area. We are mostly giving it to friends and family as gifts. Jars are making their way to places around the state and even around the country; Hibbing, Minneapolis, Chicago, and even as far away as Brooklyn, NY. It is looking like a few jars will be available in an auction for Junior League here in the Duluth area, too. If you are interested in getting your own jar or two of our honey, feel free to drop an email to honey@snowshoe-farm.com. We will try to hook you up with the sweet stuff.

Bulbs. It is time to plant your fall bulbs. This includes crocus, allium (including your garlic!), tulips, and irises to name a few. We have a small, tiered raised bed garden next to our sidewalk coming into the front of the house. We planted marigolds and various other annuals in it this year. There is also a monster ladies mantle in the front part of this garden. The diagram, above, is of this raised garden area. I planted nearly 100 bulbs in it, and I hope that with their bloom-times different, we will get bursts of bloom and color for a longer period of time next spring. The crocus should go first, followed by the early tulips with a late-bloom tulip and allium closeout. By that time, the other perennials in the garden should be doing their thing.

Taste Test and Judging

jumbo-cumber

We have been eating the corn, cucumbers, aji pineapple peppers and, habanero peppers. The results of our unscientific “taste tests” (also known as “meals”) is as follows…

Corn

The corn is sweet (there were red ants on each stalk), and tastes nice, but there have been a few draw backs. Low yield (to use corn-speak) – only one ear per stalk. Under the same low yield umbrella, the ear that does develop on the stalk, has poor kernel development with an irregular pattern. I will be planting something else next season.

Brand:
Seed Name:
Organic:
No, not even close.
Pests/Disease:
Good; attracts red ants
Care/Attention:
Minimal
Overall Rating:
“Meh” – will try something else next season.

Cucumbers

We cracked open the jumbo cucumber to reveal a fresh aroma of cucumber. Actually, all of the cucumbers we have picked have been delicious. The extra-jumbo-cumbers are not exactly fantastic eating, but the smaller, more normal, non-irradiated-looking cucumbers are far more tasty. And whether eaten fresh, in refrigerator pickle form or tossed into to a veggie stir fry, these cucs are good eating. This may sound like bit of a white whine, but the one noticeable annoyance is the seed size and quantity.

Brand:
Seed Name:
Organic:
No
Pests/Disease:
None; Excellent
Care/Attention:
Minimal
Overall Rating:
Excellent; would plant again

Aji Pineapple & Habanero Peppers

salsa makings

Started during last winter, both the aji pineapple and habanero peppers, obtained from Bayou Traders Pepper Mania, have been a long time coming. The aji pineapple peppers we actually grew in the house. On the window sill, above the sink, in the kitchen, we have a large pot of herbs growing. During the late winter, I pushed some of these seeds into the soil and more of less forgot about them. By early spring, the plant was about 16 inches tall, and was producing flowers but nothing else significant. By mid summer, we had lots of tiny, green peppers hanging on it. At the end of August, the peppers were maturing into ruddy-skinned, medium peppers. Very slow to grow in our less-than-tropical climate here in northern Minnesota, I would grow these again, and again, indoors. They have very slow-to-big heat, and can be quite intense. If eating just the pepper, raw, with nothing else (as I did to test them), have a beer or glass or ice milk near by; these peppers made me sweat a little, and that can be a hard thing to accomplish with peppers less than a habanero.

The habaneros were started in the house at the same time as the aji pineapple peppers. Early summer, I needed the window sill room for other things, and the peppers were moved out to the small six by six raised garden at the back of our property. The plants sort of took care of themselves, and I did little to intervene in their growth or progress. The yield was low, only three, small, bright red peppers; however, I would get seeds from the same place, again, with the caveat of just growing them inside. For the heat and intensity, these peppers are excellent. They will make your eyes water, your mouth burn and all the other things you would expect from a quality hab.

Brand:
Bayou Traders
Seed Names:
Aji Pineapple (Aji Yellow; C. chinense) and Habanero (Red; Capsicum chinense)
Organic:
No
Pests/Disease:
None; Excellent
Care/Attention:
Minimal
Overall Rating:
Excellent; would plant again

Winding Down the Season and Male Zucchini Flowers

honeybee

The honeybees seem to be going stir-crazy. The weather is hot and humid as of late — the bees seem to be expecting a massive amount of florae to be available for foraging, but the florae, nearly done with blooming, have something else in mind: fall and winter are approaching. The last day of August, and the deciduous trees’ leaves are turning orange and red; tamarack will be showing their fall colors, soon, too.

The bees are crazy. They are clinging to plants near the bee yard; spiraling around in the up currents of the wind; they were buzzing the hounds on the other side of the yard. Our neighbor, nearest to the bee yard, was attempting to do something atop his shed. He could be seen swinging wildly at the bees as they flew by him. I have told him countless times not to swing at the bee, but, being nearly 100% deaf, I doubt he heard me. Generally feeling, not quite bad, but more worried about him being irritated with the hives, I put into motion something I learned at the Eastern Apicultural Society Conference in Boone, NC.

Robert Frost, in his Mending Wall, was quite right in stating, "Good fences make good neighbors." Frost, probably and from a poetic license-standpoint, rightly so, left out the part about the gift of honey or food in general making for even better neighbors.

After I saw that Norm, our neighbor, was down from his shed-top, I pulled out a one pound jar of honey and walked over to his house. He was thrilled to get the honey. I am sure I will be giving him more once we have more. Melissa and I are hopeful in pulling the rest of the honey next week.

With the winding down of the growing season, the gardens are finishing up. Here is a run down of what was successful, and what was not:

What Worked?
  • Cucumbers
  • Pole Beans
  • Peas
  • Beets
  • Mixed Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Rhubarb (never seems to be a poor producer)
  • Raspberries (the older plants should be replaced – very small berries)
  • Black Currants
  • Buckwheat and Oats Cover Crops
What Did Not Work?
  • Zucchini
  • Corn
  • Radishes
  • Habanero peppers
  • Carrots – carrots planted this year, nothing, left overs from last year are now flowering – makes me wonder if carrot-honey is possible…
  • Leeks
  • Cabbage – the slugs, en masse, decimated them

The zucchini issue is, according to this, is a poor pollination issue of some sort. Apparently, my 60,000+ bees are slacking on the zucchini pollination. With the recent hot weather at the end of August and now into September, the vines on the plants are going nuts, but still, no fruit. I will try again next year. I suspect the seeds. I used the left over seeds from the previous year; and having not learned from the exact same happening the previous year, I used the seeds, again. New seeds next year. Even though I blame the seeds, it could simply have been a result of the extreme-rain we had while most of the flowers were in bloom.