Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Carol Clark
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Cool fall air always takes me back to the farm for sugar beet season. Back in the day, the local farmers grew sugar beets for Holly Sugar. Of course, sugar has always been my favorite food group, and it was also my favorite crop Dad grew.
Nothing could top beet harvest . It was always the most fun. We kids, even when very young, were finally allowed to help. It was important work, as important as anything, and we were part of it. We were grown-up enough to help dad provide for the family.
The freshly tilled earth was dark and moist and smelled so good. We walked behind the dump truck with hooks and found every beet that the harvester left behind and threw
them into the truck. We are not talking about the beets we grow in our garden. 'These beets were huge tan beats with white flesh.
Everyone in the family helped, and mom and grandma would always bring lunch right out into the field so we didn't have to stop for long.
All the farmers were always in good spirits. The year's hard work was finally paying off. It was a good crop that brought good money so they could finally payoff those farm debts.
The highlight of harvest for us kids was riding in the cab of the dump truck with our load to drop at the beet dump. That's what it was called, "the beet dump." Long lines of trucks waited in straight lines at the entry of the dump which provided for a great social gathering of lonely farmers, so talkative after long summer days alone in the fields.
Finally, it was our turn to drive onto the big scale to weigh the full truck. I thought this was why dad brought me along, (the extra 50 lbs.) I figured I brought a lot of money. I didn't realize until I was older why they weighed the empty trucks on the way out.
Watching the dump truck tilt up and unload the beets onto the conveyor belt was the highlight. The belt took the beets all the way up to the sky scraper-sized hill of beets.
Then it was back home to join the other trucks loading more beets.
It was a sad day when I heard we were no longer growing those huge beets. Apparently, Holly Sugar found another area where the beets had a higher concentration of sugar in the white flesh.
From time to time I hear a local farmer talk of bringing sugar beets back to the valley. I figure they must have had as much fun as I did helping their dads make a living.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I discovered this year that tomatillos love the Grand Valley. We must have the perfect combination of soil, sunshine and growing season to make them deliriously happy.
My tomatillos were so happy they grew far bigger than I ever imagined, spreading far beyond their planting beds, overshadowing unsuspecting herbs and pepper plants and producing so many tomatillos that I ended up picking a huge bowl of them every weekend to make green salsa.
I probably made at least 35 pints of green salsa. I also canned at least 8 quarts of a stewed tomatillo mixture that included tomatillos, corn, roasted green chiles, squash, onions and garlic. I canned tomatoes and tomatillos together. I used tomatillos for green sauce in chilaquiles, enchiladas and pasta. I used tomatillo salsa as currency to trade for juicy red tomatoes.
Although I really wanted to use every last one, I just couldn’t. When we went on vacation, I took my brother an overflowing grocery sack full of tomatillos. When we came home from vacation, I picked another sack of tomatillos and took them to work to give away, since they didn’t freeze completely while we were gone. And then did it twice more before I finally pulled the plants out. I had to take a picture of the last basketful of tomatillos from my garden:
Of course, tiny little tomatillos fell to the ground all over my gardens and I threw the pulled plants (with more tiny little tomatillos attached) in my compost bin, which means I could have tomatillos sprouting everywhere next year. But I will be ruthless and not allow them to live where I do not deliberately plant them.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I’ll dig up a buried treasure in my new garden space and get a visit from the queen of England, too, who will be coming to borrow two cups of chopped tomatillos to try a new recipe. It’s always nice to dream…
By Laurena Mayne Davis
Monday, November 8, 2010
Penny Stine, queen bee of the Let’s Get Dirty bloggers, asked us to reflect on our gardening efforts from this season and write about what we plan to do differently in 2011.
As I was yanking out stubborn tomato stumps over the weekend, I outlined a three-prong approach. We’ll use the pitchfork in Grant Wood’s 1930 “American Gothic” for illustration purposes:
(Did you know the farmer was modeled after Wood’s dentist and the woman — spinster daughter? younger wife? It's a matter of some debate — after Wood’s sister? Lots of interesting background available at the Art Institute of Chicago, if you’re curious.)
Prong One: Soil. I will make it better for the plants’ sake and at the weeds’ expense. I mulch with straw and wood chips; I will mulch more. I compost now; I will compost more.
Prong Two: Commitment. After a dozen years of gardening at this house, I’m finally ready to commit to perennials. Heretofore I moved things around every year and disked up the entire plot every fall. Now I’m ready to stand down on disking in some areas for a permanent home for rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries.
Prong Three: Watering. This is related to my commitment-phobia of the previous entry. Disking doesn’t work with water lines. I’ve had open ditches. I’ve had sprinklers, and I’m tired of slogging through the mud and dragging around 100-foot hoses. There will be pop-ups. There will be drip lines. There will be the breaking of this news to my handyman husband sometime soon.
By Penny Stine
Thursday, November 4, 2010
My gardens all get too much shade, which is why I have three different garden areas in various parts of my yard, all planted in search of the elusive sunshine. The one interesting thing about a shady garden is that produce takes a long, long time to ripen and you end up eating things out of season.
Remember the watermelon that grew on my gate? I meant to pick it before I left for vacation, but forgot to do it. The result was I picked it on November 1 (it survived the frost) and we ate it on November 2. How cool is that to be eating home-grown watermelon in November? This is a yellow doll variety. I got the seeds from Bookcliff Gardens and even though I need to find a sunnier spot for it next year (which is why I'm killing more grass and turning more of my front yard into garden) it was a definite success. Extremely juicy and sweet in a nice compact little melon.
True, it would have been better to eat it when it was a million degrees outside, but I'll take what I can get.
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I was on vacation last week, but the night before we left, before I could actually pack for vacation, I had pick the last of anything that was still standing in the garden, since the weatherman predicted a freeze while we were gone. I got three baskets full of green tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, rosemary, broccoli, green peppers, red peppers, swiss chard, habaneros and butternut squash.
We had leftover chili that we could have eaten, but when my husband, the chef, saw all the fresh produce, he whipped up a batch of risotto from everything I brought in from the garden and whatever was still in the fridge. The result was beyond yummy. His ristotto had a little bacon, some ham, onions, garlic, rosemary, basil, tomatoes, dried tomatoes, Swiss chard and who knows what else. (I certainly don't, 'cuz I was picking tomatillos while he was making risotto)
I took my brother in Wyoming a gigantic bag full of tomatillos, put the green tomatoes in a brown grocery sack to ripen while we were gone and put everything else that didn't go in the risotto in the refrigerator to eat after we got back. Although my practice was usually to eat whatever I picked the day I picked it, I realize that most produce that I buy in the middle of winter was probably picked several days (or even a week) before it goes into my shopping cart and eventually onto my table.
I thought that would be the end of my garden. It wasn't, but more on that for another blog.