Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
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By Penny Stine
Thursday, October 13, 2011
OK, I know I already blogged about making a ristra, but Jan of the awesome garden went back to Rettig Farms on Orchard Mesa and picked a bushel of red chiles. She paid $11 for the entire bushel, and she said it took her about half an hour to pick them all.
Next she went to Wally World and picked up some raffia for $2. We got together on a Saturday morning and pretended we were at art camp. We made four ristras in about 45 minutes, using heavy-duty sewing needles, fishing line and a washer at the bottom for added weight and a washer at the top for hanging.
Ristras are great for looks, but they’re also great for cooking, although it will take months (maybe a year, even) for the chiles to dry sufficiently. Once they’re dried, I use them in chile, mole´, enchilada sauce, salsa, stew, pasta sauce… anything that needs a little extra zing. I keep a container of finely chopped red chiles handy so I can sprinkle them anywhere.
This little gizmo does a great job of chopping dried red chiles:
It's a Pampered Chef Food Chopper, which I had relegated to an upper cabinet because it was just easier to use a knife for almost everything. Using a knife on dried red chiles doesn't work. It sends them flying across the kitchen.
Our four ristras cost about $15 (just guessing on the cost of the washers), or less than $4 apiece. If you go to local farm stores, a single ristra is anywhere from $30 to $40. Plus, there’s the added crafty, art-camp experience. Since I have zippo creativity when it comes to making pretty, crafty stuff, it was actually fairly rewarding and tons of fun.
Rettig will probably have the red chiles until the first frost (unless someone goes and picks them all) so there is still time to have your own art camp experience!
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
There’s nothing like the crisp, fall air to make you want to plant your spring garden. Well, actually, it’s a tough habit to get into, but once you do, it’s so rewarding in the springtime to have early season crops coming up long before you’ve even planted anything else that it’s easier to do it the following year.
Last weekend, I got several beds cleaned out and fertilized, thanks to the compost from my compost bin. Then I broke up the heads of garlic and planted those, along with a few other seeds I wanted to try.
From experience, I know that spinach does really well here when you plant it in the fall. I found this purple broccoli that’s also supposed to be planted in the fall for overwintering, with an early springtime harvest. The cauliflower is also a purple variety, which makes me wonder if I'll be able to tell them apart, although from the picture on the seed packet, it looks like the broccoli doesn't form one big head, but makes a bunch of little florettes instead.
I actually bought the cauliflower seeds and planted some in mid-summer, hoping for a second crop. That was disappointing, as you can see by the itty-bitty cauliflower plant in a corner of what is now my garlic bed. (Which also has rhubarb in the other corner…)
I don’t know what will happen to my half-grown cauliflower in the next few weeks. I don’t think it will get big enough to form a head before it freezes. I planted some loose leaf cabbage in my other garden when I planted the cauliflower, and it’s also not growing fast enough to produce much of anything before November. I’m hoping they both survive the first couple snows and give me something fresh from the garden for Thanksgiving!
In the meantime, I've got a good section of this garden cleaned out, composted and planted for the spring.
I also moved some of my walking onions, which are already coming up in their new spot. (They're also coming up in their old spot, too, so I guess planting onions in the fall works, since that's what they're doing when left to themselves.) I've never tried either broccoli or cauliflower, but I know that both garlic and spinach do well when planted in the fall.
If you have the time and can make yourself get into planting mode, go toss some spinach seeds in the ground sometimes before it freezes. I usually plant later in October, but since I had my garden shovel for the garlic, I decided to plant spinach (and broccoli & cauliflower), too. Trust me, when you're eating spinach four times a week in May and June, you'll thank me!
By Penny Stine
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Every year as the garden winds down, it's good to reflect back on the season and think about what worked and what didn't. On one hand, I loved the look of my biggest garden this year:
Since it's in the front yard, it was fun to be able to show it off to the neighbors, who all appreciated how pretty and inviting it was. One even confessed to me that he took walks in my garden during the daytime when I wasn't around, which didn't bother me at all.
On the other hand, all these flowers crowded out the veggies, and anyone who reads my blog entries knows that when it comes to growing, I'm all about eating what I grow.
Next year, fewer flowers, more melons, peppers, kale, eggplant and beans. And I will pluck out all the baby morning glories when they start to sprout! Someone told me I'd regret introducing them into my yard and I didn't believe her...
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumn.
- George Eliot
While autumn is creeping into the valley, the high country is well into the throngs of fall.We packed the Jeep with mom and dad, sandwiches and a bottle of wine and headed to the Fruita Reservoir section of Grand Mesa National Forest. This is always my favorite place to view fall colors. A dusty dirt road with the occasional hunter and firewood cutters, this area always has the best of colors.
The aspens trees in this area don't simply turn yellow, they have a tinge of pink and orange in them. The oak brush turns all different colors from tan to red to a beautiful deep mahogany color.
Most of the oak brush and aspen were turning, but there was still a lot of green so next weekend should be just as good if the weather straightens up.
Pack a picnic and a sweater and head out to see the most perfect garden of all.
By Penny Stine
Monday, October 3, 2011
As the garden season winds down and you start thinking about cleaning out your garden, don't forget to create a space for planting garlic. I like to shop locally when possible, so I picked up several packets from Bookcliff Gardens (they have elephant ear, Spanish roja (which means red) and German red garlic. This is all they have, and they had a list of people who had asked for garlic, so if your name is not on the list, hurry on down to Bookcliff and get your bulbs.
I called around, and Valley Grown Nursery had a limited supply of garlic bulbs for planting (they had six left on Monday, Oct. 3) and Mt. Garfield Greenhouse didn't have any. Ann from Bookcliff said they may be able to order more if they sell out.
Garlic will sprout early, require little care and will give you the lovely garlic scapes (aka, the green tops) by June, which make the most delicious pesto imaginable.
If Bookcliff sells out, there are online gardening supply companies that sell garlic, and you've still got time. I don't think I planted mine last year until the first part of November.
I know, you're sick of gardening, but your taste buds will thank you next summer when you make pesto out of the scapes.