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November 26, 2022

One of the joys of getting a bit older is having the time to putter around in the garden. Below is my garden blog. This site also contains sections of recipes, feature stories, and how-tos about specific, and sometimes obscure, gardening lore.


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Friday, November 25, 2022

I didn't do any gardening yesterday or today and hadn't planned posting anything here. Then during the local news/weather, the weather person noted that he U.S Drought Monitor has now classified our area in the "Moderate Drought" category. We've had rain, but much of it has been like this morning when the sidewalk was wet with rain but a local reporting station only registered 0.01 inches of rainfall.

Drought Information
U.S. Drought Monitor
United States Weekly Drought Monitor
U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook
United States Monthly Drought Outlook
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook
United States Seasonal Drought Outlook
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U.S. Weekly Drought Monitor
Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook
Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook

Since I'm down to cleaning up our garden areas, the lack of rain may actually help things to dry out for tilling. But if it continues for long, it will play havoc with the water table. So far, our deep well is holding up okay.

Garden Tower Project

 
 

Thursday, November 24, 2022 - Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)

Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing Give Thanks:
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Butternut squashCutting up butternutsLike a lot of folks in the United States, I spend some time on the day before Thanksgiving Day partially preparing dishes for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast. I volunteered to prepare Grandma's Yeast Rolls and butternut squash yams for our dinner.

I noted yesterday that peeling butternut squash isn't an easy job. I do it (and did it again today) by boiling the butternuts for about ten minutes to soften their skins before peeling them under cold running water.. Doing so may negate the possibility of getting viable seed from the squash, but I saved some anyway. (Germination test in progress.) Boiling, peeling, and slicing the squash took about two hours today!

Huge butternuts with whited out thirteen inch rulerButternut pieces covered with brown sugar, a bit of nutmeg, and marshmallowsOur butternuts were huge again this year. Some were ten or eleven inches long. And since adding South Anna Butternut Squash to our usual Waltham Butternuts, we get some shorter but much fatter South Annas. I can't take any gardening credit for the large butternuts, as I didn't plant them. They came up volunteers in our old compost pile. The ruler that whited out for some reason in the photo at left is a thirteen inch ruler.

Once the butternuts were trimmed and cut up, they went into a large glass baking dish. I sprinkled brown sugar and some nutmeg on the butternut pieces before breaking large marshmallows on them.

I baked today's butternuts for about a half hour at 350°F. I pulled them out and added more brown sugar and a generous covering of mini-marshmallows. Another half hour in the oven and the dish was done. After letting it cool a bit, I covered the dish and popped it into the fridge.

Baked a bit More brown sugar and mini-marshmallows Done

I may add a few more marshmallows when heating up the dish tomorrow morning.

A Good Read

I ran across a really interesting story in the Washington Post about food production in the Netherlands. As an avid gardener and one time farmer, Cutting-edge tech made this tiny country a major exporter of food introduced me the Netherlands use of growing under glass. Photography and Video by Kadir van Lohuizen/NOOR, Text by Laura Reiley.

David's Cookies

Tuesday, November 22, 2022 - Grandma's Yeast Rolls

Grandma's yeast rolls1-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekIf you're looking for a good yeast roll recipe for Thanksgiving (or any other occasion), let me recommend our family recipe for Grandma's Yeast Rolls. The rolls taste great and there's an option for starting the rolls a day ahead and letting them do their first rise overnight in the refrigerator.

While not on our Recipes page, our butternut squash yams are always delicious and are also gluten-free. The link gives the briefest of recipes.

Barbara Pleasant recently shared her 2015 article, How To Cut and Peel Butternut Squash, in a Facebook posting. While I like most of Pleasant's writings, don't get the idea from the article that there's any easy way to peel butternuts. There's not!

New Printer

Canon TR4720 PrinterCanon Pixma 245XL Black Ink CartrideMy old printer died last week. As I'd stocked up on printer ink cartridges for the printer, I did some searching for similar models that might take the old cartridges. While the old cartridges actually fit in my new Canon TR4720 printer, its internal software wouldn't recognize them. So while I have a dandy new printer, I have three Canon 245XL and one Canon 246XL ink cartridges that I'm letting go for a song on eBay.

Incidentally, the new printer wouldn't connect via WiFi. That's okay with me, as the old printer's WiFi performance was agonizingly slow. I patched together a couple of old USB cables and am now in business again. The USB connection is far faster than the old WiFi connection.

Note that part of my purchase decision is that the new printer's form factor is exactly the same as my old printer. Of course, after the fact, my computer tech wife informed me that she ranks Canon printers as almost as bad as Lexmarks!

Seed Catalogs

Our rural route mailbox was filled today with 2023 seed catalogs. Our first print seed catalogs for 2023 came from High Mowing Organic Seeds, Fedco Seeds, and Totally Tomatoes.

High Mowing Organic Seeds 2023 Catalog Cover Fedco Seeds 2023 Catalog Cover Totally Tomatoes 2023 Catalog Cover

While I was tempted to sit and go through each seed catalog cover-to-cover, I instead just browsed them a bit. Since I'm not done gardening yet for this season and don't have our seed inventory done, browsing wasn't going to cost me any money. Both the High Mowing Organic Seeds and the Totally Tomatoes catalogs were filled with lots of colorful photos. Fedco stayed with its traditional black and white motif with some nice woodcut illustrations thrown in. All three companies provide a digital version of their catalog for download.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, Renee's Garden, and True Leaf Market are some of our Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale. Renee's Garden True Leaf Market

Monday, November 21, 2022

Our Senior Garden - November 22, 2022Cart of pulled lettuce, geraniums, and oreganoIt appears that we're getting a break from the cold weather and high winds we've had for a week or so. It's windy today, but temperatures are supposed to reach the high 40s with some 50s the rest of the week. We'll still have some freezing mornings coming, but during the afternoon highs, I should be able to clean up our raised beds and get them ready for next spring. High on my to-do list is getting our garlic planted.

I started out today dumping our last two hanging basket plants into our garden cart. The Cora Cascade vincas had held up pretty well in the cold before succumbing to several hard freezes. In our main raised garden bed, I cleaned up the last of our lettuce plants. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was, finding the ground still frozen.

I took a peek under our row covers. Our carrots appear to have only pencil thick carrots. Our pea plants are just barely alive, but haven't fattened up any pea pods.

I moved on to clearing our herb bed around our shallow well. I was again surprised at how tough some of the oregano stems were. With a bit of effort, I was able to cut back the oregano using a pair of grass hand trimmers. The oregano and other stuff all went onto our compost pile. While I also cut back our two sage plants, their woody stems went onto our burn pile.

Hoss Tools

Saturday, November 19, 2022 - End of the Season

After an number of frosty/freezing mornings, it got down to 20°F this morning. With the morning low tomorrow predicted to be 15°F, I think that's the end of our gardening season. Everything in our main raised bed except some spinach looks zapped by the freeze, even the kale.

Main raised bed - November 19, 2022

With cold and winds gusting to 30 MPH, I'm waiting until weather conditions begin to improve on Monday and Tuesday to start taking out our fall garden and getting our soil ready for next year's garden.

Weather Underground Extended Forecast - November 19-28, 2022

Saving Lettuce Seed

Saving lettuce seedSomewhat cleaned lettuce seedI've ended up saving lettuce seed from five different varieties this year. I'd planned to save seed from the Crispino and Sun Devil varieties, and three other varieties bolted and I let them set seed (Jericho, Barbados, and either Majestic Red or Better Devil).

It was way too windy today to winnow the lettuce seed. I tried with one variety and ended up losing some seed in the strong winds.

The good news is that I have some seed saved from all five lettuce varieties. I still have some more seed to save of two of the varieties. I had to stop today, as my fingertips were sore from crushing the seed heads to release the seeds.

Chewy.com

Monday, November 14, 2022

Our Senior Garden - November 14, 2022Main raised bedAfter morning lows of 31, a snowy 29, 28, and 26°F, it was time today to assess what damage had been done to the supposedly cold hardy crops in our main raised garden bed. And a look ahead at local weather forecasts (1, 2) show a 12°F weekend morning in the offing!

We still have some healthy lettuce and spinach that have survived the recent cold mornings. Our large leaved kale varieties (Red Ursa, Judy's Kale) haven't done so well through the frosts, although our Vates (Dwarf Blue Scotch) kale looks pretty healthy.

I started to take a peek at our carrots and peas, but my anchoring of our floating row covers defeated me. I hadn't planned to take out either today, anyway.

I thought last night to turn off and drain our garden hose. I also started to drain our rain barrel, but found that I had already done so. Freezing hoses and rain barrels can cause some damage. Along a similar line of thought, I made sure our outdoor pets had thawed water. I also shared the last of the refried beans I'd made almost two weeks ago with them, although they ate them apparently under protest.

Larg leaved kale somewhat frost damaged Vates kale undamaged by frost

While I'm happy to still be gardening this late in the year, I'm growing concerned about getting everything cleaned up and our garlic planted before winter really shuts down gardening. I want to rototill most of our main raised bed plus our two narrow raised beds. I'll also need to mow a few rows in the back yard and collect grass clippings to mulch our garlic planting and the area where our early peas will go in the spring. And in the distance of some of today's shots, one can see that I still have two asparagus patches to clean up.

Best Buy

Saturday, November 12, 2022 - Snow

Our Senior Garden - November 12, 2022Our Senior Garden - November 12, 2019I knew there was snow in our forecast for today, but I expected only a dusting of it. Instead, we have three inches of snow on the ground, well over what was predicted.

Thinking this snow came a little early in the season, I looked back over fairly recent November photos. I only had to go back to November 12, 2019, to find a first snow so early.

While I'd hoped some of our frost hardy crops might survive the cold mornings predicted for the next week, the snow will probably take the rest of our lettuce and spinach. Our covered carrots and peas might survive. And our two rows of kale should thrive from the snow.

David's Cookies

Friday, November 11, 2022 - Veterans Day (U.S.)

Sage cuttings soaking in waterPollinated gloxinia budI took some more sage cuttings today ahead of our week or so of frosts beginning tomorrow morning. While I often treat cuttings with Clonex Rooting Compound Gel and pop them into sterile potting soil, I chose this time to try soaking the stems of the cuttings for a few days before they go into sterile potting soil (with the rooting hormone). We've used sage plants as corner markers for our large East Garden plot for years. Sadly, all of the marker plants got run or mowed over during the last two years and need to be replaced.

I've had a devil of a time trying to hand pollinate our gloxinia plants this year. I can't seem to catch them when they are dropping pollen. But I was pleased this week to see that at least one gloxinia bloom got pollinated and should produce seed.

If you grow gloxinias and want to give it a try, I have a page on Saving Gloxinia Seed.

2023 Seed Catalogs

I haven't received any print seed catalogs for 2023 yet in the mail. But a quick survey of our Recommended Seed Suppliers sites led me to downloadable versions of the 2023 seed catalogs from Johnny's Selected Seeds and Burpee. The Territorial Seed Company has its 2023 catalog online, but so far doesn't have a downloadable version.

While I appreciate the early digital catalog versions, I'm a bit old fashioned. I usually wait until I have a print catalog in hand before placing any seed orders.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Thursday, November 10, 2022

November 10, 2022 - Mid-day WeatherWeather Underground Extended Forecast - November 10-Today will probably be the last really nice day for working outside for a while. Our extended weather forecast from the Weather Underground shows killing frosts/freezes from Saturday morning on. While we probably won't have a freeze tomorrow morning, I went ahead and re-covered our row of Encore peas and added another piece of used Agribon AG-19 Floating Row Cover over our short double row of carrots. The material provides about four degrees of protection, but both peas and carrots are somewhat frost hardy.

Everything else in our main raised bed will have to endure the cold temperatures.

Peas and carrots covered Spinach and lettuce Kale Double row of Walla Walla onions for overwintering

When I took the shot of our double row of Walla Walla onions for overwintering, I was pleasantly surprised. The onions that had seemed rather spindly since planting looked pretty good.

Besides covering crops with row covers, I brought in seven butternut squash for our use. The rest, twenty-five in all, went to our local food bank.

We used up some of the lettuce I picked Tuesday for salads with one of our tomatoes in them last night, We still have two ripe tomatoes left in the fridge.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Tuesday, November 8, 2022 - Election Day (U.S.)

Turman Township Fire HouseOur Senior Garden - November 8, 2022I got out early on a lovely fall morning and voted. Our polling station at the Turman Township Fire House was quite busy. I had to wait about a half hour or so in line to vote. Obviously, that's lots better than folks in the last election that waited many hours in line to vote. One of the workers there said that there had been a long line waiting to vote when they opened at 6 A.M.. And it had stayed busy all morning. For a rural voting center, that's really something.

Looking at the Weather Underground's national radar image, it appears that most of the nation is having good weather for the election. Hopefully, that will spur turnout. There's a lot on the line this election cycle.

Lettuce

A lovely fall head lettuceOur fall lettuce (befpre today's picking)After having most of our spring lettuce bolt from hot weather, we're blessed with a wonderful crop of fall lettuce. I cut our last romaine and three head lettuce. I only meant to pick two of the head lettuce, but went too far in the closely spaced row with my picking knife. Of course, the spring lettuce going to seed wasn't good for spring salads, but it may turn out to be a good thing. I have five paper grocery sacks of different lettuce varieties in the basement waiting for me to harvest the seed off the stalks.

When I started our fall plantings in our main raised garden bed in some very hot and dry weather, I limited my expectations. But at this point, it appears that we'll get more fresh spinach before some killing frosts roll in this weekend. And our kale is regrowing after a picking and may be even sweeter after a frost or two.

A couple of disappointments in the fall garden are our fall carrots and Encore peas. I don't think the carrots are going to make anything other than some really tiny baby carrots. And so far, I've only found four pea pods on our Encore pea plants.

Our Main Raised Bed - November 8, 2022

But all in all, I'm pretty happy with what we've gotten and may get from our fall garden.

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Monday, November 7, 2022 - Pickled Beets

Beets in sink for final rinse
Cylindra beets

Pickled beetsI picked the rest of our beets yesterday. Having already frozen some beets, my choice yesterday was whether to make pickled or Harvard beets. Wanting to try something new, I went with pickling the beets using a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving my wife, Annie, gave me last Christmas.

Our beet varieties were Detroit Dark Red and Cylindra. While the Detroit Dark Reds are a standard beet, Cylindras produce a long beet, more like a fat, short carrot.

While washing off dirt from the roots and trimming the roots and leaves off the beets wasn't fun, skinning them was easy. After boiling twenty minutes, the skins slipped off easily under cold running water.

I cut the beets into small pieces and put them into the brine recommended by the recipe. Since this is an acid vegetable (from the vinegar in the brine), water bath canning for twenty minutes was recommended.

The whole process produced only 2 pints of canned pickled beets with a little leftover that went (after some serious sampling) into the fridge. Since I'm the only one in our house who willingly eats beets, the low production was okay.

War Story: When Annie was in the Cleveland Clinic in 2002 for nearly two weeks after life saving surgery, I ended up eating some meals at the clinic's cafeteria. On my first trip through the cafeteria line, I loaded up on pickled beets from the salad bar. When I got to the checkout, I found that salads there were sold by weight. Beets are heavy, and I'd prepared a ten dollar salad!

Political Note

From the outset of this site fifteen years ago, I decided to keep my political views to myself. Gardening shouldn't be political, just a joy to the gardener. Previously, I maintained a highly political site, Educator's' News, as part of my now freeware site, MATH DITTOS 2.

Tomorrow is election day across the United States. There are many issues in this election, some terribly divisive. Two that especially concern me are some politicians' plans for Social Security and Medicare. Rich, out-of-touch politicians are proposing cutting Social Security and Medicare.

We seniors worked to earn our Social Security. My earnings are limited to a teacher's pension and Social Security. So I take any suggestion of limiting or making Social Security and Medicare renewable every few years unacceptable.

I hope you'll consider these issues when you vote tomorrow.

Vote on November 8, 2022

Saturday, November 5, 2022 - Weather

After several nice days, describing today's weather as blustery would be a gross understatement. Temperatures are in the 60s, but the wind is a constant 30 MPH with gusts above 40 MPH. It's also cloudy and rainy at times. Once we get past today's lousy weather, we're supposed to have several nice days before the bottom drops out on temperatures at the end of the week.

Buying Guides

Gift Shopping Guide for GardenersShopping GuideWith outdoor gardening being a definite no-go today, I turned to updating our gardening buying guides. One guide, The Old Guy's Shopping Guide for Gifts for Gardeners, is one for non-gardeners shopping for gifts for gardeners. A second one, Shopping Guide for Gardeners, covers the more mundane essentials for gardening.

Inflation

I bought 9 volt batteries today to update the smoke alarms in our old house. That takes eight 9 volt batteries normally. I got a real shock when I saw that four 9 volt batteries, either Duracell or Energizer, cost almost $17 at our local Walmart.

When replacing the batteries, I found that I'd bought two sealed smoke alarms when replacing failed units two years ago. So I'm now shopping for a couple of new smoke alarms for our 110 year old house.

The volume of smoke alarms was somewhat due to the age of our old farmhouse and partly because one of our daughters would occasionally sneak a smoke in her bedroom. Even with the cost, I think the smoke alarms were a good investment. The only times the smoke alarms went off was when Annie or I (mostly me) would burn something in the kitchen.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Friday, November 4, 2022 - Kale Soup

Cooking down the kale
Canned Portuguese Kale Soup

Our Senior Garden and our dogsYesterday was kale soup day. I would have written about it yesterday, but fell asleep at the computer around midnight last night! It was that kind of day.

I'd brought in some frozen chicken and broth, whole tomatoes, peas, and skinless smoked sausage from our garage freezer to thaw overnight Wednesday night. But when I got up on Thursday, the kitchen seemed unusually cold. I checked the thermostat which was surprisingly set to 66°F. I wondered why my wife had set the thermostat so low before she left to visit relatives. I reset the thermostat into the 70s, but the furnace didn't turn on. In a few minutes, the thermostat had reset itself to 66°F! So I began checking circuit breakers, fuses, and replaced the thermostat's batteries to no avail.

A few calls produced a visit from a furnace technician from Cagle HVAC who replaced the faulty thermostat and cleaned the furnace as well. Thanks Reece!

While all of that was going on, I slipped out and picked a five gallon bucket of kale. I'd later pick another bucket of it.

This year's Portuguese Kale Soup started with two containers of chicken broth with bits of chicken in it plus a can of Sweet Sue Chicken Broth that had been on our pantry shelf way too long (but still had an expiration date of 2024!). Four onions and five garlic cloves joined a gallon bag of whole tomatoes I'd frozen last month for the soup.

At that point with the frozen stuff thawed and hot, I began the long process of washing, inspecting (for worms - found only one), and stemming the kale and throwing it into our twelve quart Tramontina Stock Pot. Such quality cookware has gotten expensive, but lasts forever and doesn't seem to burn stuff on the bottom. This batch of kale soup got a little less kale than usual. I had plenty more kale that could be picked, but I ended up nearly filling the stock pot with other stuff.

Eckrich Skinless Smoked Sausage

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Next in were two packages of Eckrich Skinless Smoked Sausage. At one time, that would have been two pounds of smoked sausage, but the packages got reduced to fourteen ounces each a number of years ago. I cut the sausage lengthwise twice and then turned it to cut again to produce half inch square chunks of sausage.

Then I began adding vegetables from our garden. A handful of kidney beans that had been soaked, pre-cooked, and rinsed went in with frozen pints of our early peas and green beans. I peeled and chopped six or seven of our spring carrots. Those carrots aren't storing well, so I'm really hoping our fall carrots produce a crop.

Last in were some red potatoes. Since the broth had tasted a little salty, I cut the potatoes into small square chunks to help absorb some of the saltiness.

Pressure canning anything with meat in it takes forever. I canned eight pints (75 minutes @ 10# psi) and seven quarts (90 minutes @ 10# psi). One of the pint jars didn't seal, so it got eaten as a late night snack last night. With what I canned last night and a few pints still leftover from last year, we should have enough kale soup to last us until this time next year.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2022 - Best Garden Photos of 2022

Our Senior Garden - November 2, 2022Best Garden Photos of 2022For the past ten years I've published a page of my best garden shots of the year. I considered changing the name of the series to "photos I liked" this year, as the shots aren't as good in my opinion as in previous years. For the sake of consistency, I left the name as Best Garden Photos of 2022.

My favorite photo of the season was of some volunteer dill in full bloom that came up in our herb bed around our shallow well. Even though they were volunteer plants seriously crowded by sage on either side, the dill produced lots of dill weed and seed for cooking as well as seed for re-planting.

I usually start our best photos file fairly early each gardening season. I add (and sometimes subtract) photos I like as the gardening season progresses. This year's offerings were limited by again not getting to plant our large East Garden plot. That area often produces a wealth of images of zinnias, melons, sweet corn, and tomatoes.

Kale Soup or Refried Beans

Refried beansNot remembering how much dry beans expand after soaking, I put about a cup of kidney beans to soak last night. I was toying with the idea of starting our annual batch of Portuguese Kale Soup today. The Seasoned Advice site suggests, "Typically dry beans expand 2-3 times their original volume when soaked." I think our beans outdid that advice. So now I'm thinking about using the volume of beans (too much for kale soup) to make some Refried Kidney Beans.

Feeling pretty lazy today, I went with the beans. When I finally do make our kale soup, I'll soak a lot less kidney beans for the soup.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Crockett's Victory GardenThe late Jim Crockett began his introduction to the November chapter of Crockett's Victory Garden, "I would have to argue that November is the most important month in the gardener's calendar because it's the month the soil should be prepared for the next spring's plantings." I agree with that advice, but often don't get the job done as well as I'd like. I tell about how we try to prepare our soil for the coming season and some other fall tasks in End-of-Season Gardening Chores.

Getting into some of our fall soil preparation is going to have to wait, as we still have several nice crops growing in our main raised garden bed. There's peas, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, kale, and onions for overwintering still growing in the bed.

Another apple pieToday started out cloudy and chilly. The sun finally came out in the afternoon. But by then, I'd committed to using the last of our apples to make another apple pie. I'm no good at making pie crust, so I used a box of Pillsbury Pie Crusts. I also followed Pillsbury's Perfect Apple Pie recipe, other than substituting brown sugar for half of the granulated sugar the recipe called for.

Getting back to gardening, our weather outlook is pretty favorable for a couple of weeks. I access the Weather Underground's Calendar View by using a link on their extended forecast page. Using this link will take you to the calendar view page, although you'll need to adjust it to your locality.

While long range forecasts aren't all that reliable, they do give one an idea about what is coming. We don't have a frost predicted until the end of next week.

Weather Underground Calendar Forecast

In the image above, the calendar view gives a long range forecast for about two weeks. Then it switches to climactic averages.

I think it's a pretty cool tool. But maybe that's because it suggested we may have at least two more weeks of growing season.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, Renee's Garden, and True Leaf Market are some of our Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale. Renee's Garden True Leaf Market

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