04 September 2009

late summer fog and reflections

My family's farm is located on top of a hill (Crosby Hill) and sits on the edge of a ridge that cuts through this part of the state. The ridge cradles a tiny creek we call Bear. This creek bubbles along the local topography, cutting through stands of pines and oaks, before joining with the St. Croix River which forms a boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

Sometimes on cool mornings - and especially during the the dramatic shift between seasons - a pervasive fog forms at the bottom of our hill. This fog has been known to settle over our pastures and creep into our gardens. The fog brings with it a heavy dew that covers everything.  
Today I got out into the garden before the sun burned the fog off and snapped some photos. 

I guess I'm in a reflective mood today. I'm thinking about all of the things that went right with the garden this season, and all of the things that could have went . . . well . . . better. 

The first problem we have with the garden closest to the house, the one where we usually plant our tomatoes and beans, is blight. (Gasp!) I've read up on blight and I know that the only way to get rid of it (while not resorting to chemicals and other invasive measures) is to plant vegetables that suffer from it in a completely different location until it runs its course through the soil. 

I did that this year. The tomatoes went in another garden, but I let down my guard and planted a few potatoes in an off-limits area. (Maybe I'll get lucky, I thought.) 

I didn't. Or perhaps it's the potatoes who had all the bad luck.

I never realized how ugly a potato suffering from blight is. No wonder people in the middle ages linked blighted veggies with leprosy and the plague. (Yuck!) But here's the deal: as long as you cut off the blighted portions of the potatoes they are still edible. But these potatoes will not weather the winter and will cause havoc in the root cellar (i.e. rot and stink to high heaven).

Luckily, we spread out the potatoes between our three gardens so we will have many to keep. But enough with the bad, other things went well. I'm thinking about the zinnias I planted for borders. They are in full bloom now and completely gorgeous. The squash are ripening. I planted a French heirloom: Potimarron, which keeps beautifully and bakes like a dream. It also freezes well, if roasted first. 

Borage, a large flowering herb with purple flowers, was suggested to attract bees. I planted some in the spring and it went wild, but it did it's intended duty. All through July and August the garden was filled with the humming activity of bees. I've never seen so many varieties: large and small, streamlined and fuzzy. All intent on gathering pollen to brew their wild honey for winter. 

Looking back, I will plant borage next spring, but I will give it more headway. It tends to dwarf the other plants that surround it. 

This afternoon we will begin to pick apples. We'll be burning the midnight oil, making apple sauce, apple butter and crab apple jelly. Not to mention our sweet corn is ready to be processed and frozen for the winter. Phew! 

The canning and preserving season has begun!

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