May of 2013....I'm back!

 May 10, 2013:  Sorry about the year long silence on the Blog!  I am still alive and well in my Maine retirement and this month is the fifth anniversary of full retirement here. Life has not been dull for me at all this past year as Julian, Roxi and Cotton completed their move nearby in late December.  My daily routine has totally change with that occurrence.  Since then I have suddenly had a "full time " job working for Angelrox:  helping with production and shipping of the products ordered on-line and from the many, many boutiques around the country carrying the line of clothing. It
 has been a good way to spend the idle, non- gardening winter days.  But this will continue on year round so I will be juggling gardening and work for the family business all summer as well. It is so wonderful to have the family here and to be able to spend time with them each day.  We trade cooking duties and dinner locations regularly and whenever they have truck show, trade shows and other business events out of town I am on "Cotton duty."  The transition from New York to Biddeford Maine is going well for them and the business.  Soon they will be hiring local folks to do the sewing here as well.  I will certainly have more garden help both in planting
and caring for the gardens as well as eating the food.  Speaking of the garden now..... It was a more normal winter with cold, snow, etc. but no violent storms and April flooding so I am very optimistic about the growing year ahead.  I have planted many seeds as are weather appropriated so far, namely: carrots, beets, peas, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, chard, onions, radishes, turnips, parsnips, etc. The potatoes will go in this weekend as my tilling of the big garden has now been completed.  Some work was needed on garden paths and beds as well. The pictures here show flourishing rhubarb, garlic, pear blossoms, flowers and some seedlings emerging.
Some significant tree cutting had to occur on my property and the neighbors as well and I had a lot of wood now to cut and split for my firewood supply.  I went through the three cords I had ready for the winter as it was a long one.  Now I have to prepare and season next winter's supply. One picture shows some  wood stacked under the big spruce tree.  Julian bought me a cord of wood as I was running out and he also has a wood stove at his house so need to by some too. In a week or so we will both begin tackling the cutting, splitting and stacking of a wood supply for both houses.
I have run out of my potato supply in the basement..actually still have some but they are fully sprouted and will get planted instead of eaten.
I have gone since last August without buying one potato. I still have garlic from last year and certainly have more jam, pickles, and salsa left as well.  The asparagus is happening now and I just pick a lot today. Next will be some radishes but not much else for a few weeks.
Last year was not as strong of a harvest year, especially for  beans for drying and apples etc. I did have a great yield of onions, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, enough tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, etc. for salsa making and a decent yield of cucumbers for pickle making. My canning jar total was 300 jars though, down from the 450 of the year before.
Not much else to report right now as a catch up garden blog posting. I am happy, positive about my life and what this summer should bring to me and the family.

Harvesting is Happening!

 August 6, 2012 My 200 garlic plants have been harvested and dried. The stalks get removed and the garlic bulbs are ready for use and storage. If the salsa making goes well a lot of the garlic will be used for that as well as some for various pickled recipes. I will still have a year's supply left for regular kitchen use though.  One fifth of the biggest of the bulbs will be saved for planting next year's crop.  The planting happens in mid-October.  I still have many of the garlic "scapes" removed about a month before this harvesting and continue to use in my cooking. The garlic plants harvested without scapes removal had smaller bulbs, but I only missed a few scapes.
 It is time to start canning pickles!  This is the first harvest of cucumbers and so my first batch of bread and butter pickles will be made today.  Hopefully an abundant ongoing harvest will yield many, many jars of various varieties of pickles. I am somewhat worried about my tomato harvest as only a few are now starting to turn red and the plants don't have as many green tomatoes as I had expected.  Maybe if the summer last long and stays hot that will change and new tomatoes will keep forming. I will have plenty of tomatillos as usual for green salsa though. They self-seed and hence new tomatillo plants emerge all over the place.
 This year will be my best for onions.  I tried very hard to keep the onion rows weed-free and it has worked. I start with onion plants rather than "sets" or seeds. I believe this method is best and potentially yields the biggest onions. I have only harvested half my crop so far and as you can see the onions are quite large. They should keep well and be a major player in my pickle and salsa making.  I don't expect to have enough for a year's supply for daily cooking though. I better plant more next year!  I dug my first potatoes yesterday and was very pleased with the yield and especially the size of them. I have only dug one half of one of the seven rows and have about 12-15lbs., so if you do the math it means a very large harvest and a good supply for maybe the entire winter. Again I can report these potato rows receive a lot of care with regular weeding, bug patrol and the hilling of the plants this year. It sure made the difference.
As previously reported the strawberry jam making was bountiful this year. I can report good results with the blueberries as well. I am still picking them and still making jam. Blueberries are more versatile than strawberries so are used in several bake products. I have made scones, blueberry buckle and a blueberry crumble.  they taste great on cereal and can be easily frozen for future off season use.  The blackberries are now ripe and the quantity is huge on my plants. I need to begin some jam making with them and tackle other uses. Blackberries do not keep long after picking like blueberries so need quick attention.

The berries are the mainstay of fruit harvesting for me.  I do have a modest harvest ahead of some peaches and some pears from my young dwarf trees. The neighbor's peach tree usually brings me a bushel or so of peaches so that can mean pies, jam and canned peach halves. They are almost ready but look pretty small is size this year. It is a bad year for apples in my neighbor's orchard. I have access to these apples that really can only be used for cider and juice....or maybe some apple sauces. The trees are old and have not been taken care of for years and years so don't yield good apples for eating or pie making.

Garden is Looking Good

 POTATOES:  This bed is the best looking potato bed I have ever grown. It is weed free. Plants nicely hilled up and almost bug free.  Yes, for the first time I can easily walk the rows in ten minutes and squish any potato bugs I happen to find. The red potatoes are in the first two rows and are starting to bloom nicely. The picture doesn't show the whole bed but there are seven rows. Helen from the SBGC has helped with this bed a lot and Jennifer and 4 year old Jack from next door help remove bugs.
 SWEET POTATOES:  This long bed has 100 sweet potato "slips" planted in early June. The plants are doing well and it is fairly easy to pull weeds close to the plants and hoe the rest of the bed. In another month the plants will completely cover the entire bed. Sweet potatoes need a long growing season so won't be harvested until late September or beyond. I have had good luck with them in my garden and really love having a supply for much of the winter. Unlike regular potatoes you poke the slips into hole in a high ridge of soil. Other potatoes are planted as pieces of actual potatoes with "eyes" showing and placed in  a trench and over time as the plants grow you fill the trench and then hill up the soil around the plants. Sweet potato plants don't suffer with  potato bugs but last year near harvest time all the leaves were eaten by deer!
 ONIONS & POLE BEANS: This bed has two long rows of onions on the outside edges. I buy onion plants and the total number planted this year is approximately 300. I have had mixed results as to the size of the harvested onion. Usually they aren't very big but last a long time in storage. This year I am determined to keep the bed as weed free as possible and that should improve the size of the onions considerably. In the middle of this bed I have made a climbing structure for pole beans. I am sure they will be climbing well and heading to the top in another month.  Pole beans tend to be much longer beans than the bush variety so I am looking forward to this crop. In the other garden I have bush beans growing and also a pink tip yellow heirloom pole bean. Green and yellow beans freeze easily and so are a winter long treat. I also make Dilly Beans, a pickled canned product.
MORE BEANS & SUNFLOWERS:  This picture doesn't give you much to see but what is visible is the growth of the seeds planted less than two weeks ago. There are fourteen rows planted in this bed. Four of them are various varieties of sunflowers. The rest are various beans. The varieties include lima; black coco; pinto; cannellini; and red kidney beans. The limas will be eaten fresh but the others will become dried beans for winter use. Some friends wonder why I do the dried beans as it is quite a workout to process them. You let the beans stay on the plants until the whole plant is dried up and then pull the entire plant out of the ground. Then you have to, at your leisure, pull the bean pods from the plants. Lastly, you have to separate the dried beans from the pods. This is a good indoor project with friends or family helping though. I love having the varieties of beans and colors in old canning jars sitting on my book shelf. It is also a real treat to decide what bean to soak and then cook on a snowy winter day for a pot of soup or chili. Hence, I don't mind the work involved growing and harvesting them at all. I had a lot of help weeding and planting this bed from another Jennifer...Jen Comeau from my Union Church family.

Let The Harvesting & Canning Begin!

June 13, 2012
The mild winter and good spring weather has pushed vegetable, fruit and flower growth ahead by a week or so this year. No late frost hit my gardens either so all looks very promising for a bumper harvest.  I have been picking 1-2 lbs. of asparagus every other day for a few weeks now.  It is delicious and a few lucky friends and family visitors have gone home with some to cook if they weren't here for a meal.  The rhubarb is growing like gangbusters as well and that means PIE MAKING.   Twice I have made my big sheet pan of rhubarb squares for sharing, one for the Union Church coffee hour and then at the June garden club meeting. Each sheet pan is th equivalent to four pies. A few additional pies have been made for home use.  This rhubarb harvest may well continue all summer.  The asparagus will go on for a few more weeks and then I have to resist and let it all go to seed so it is rejunivated for next year's crop. Two years ago I added a third bed of asparagus to my gardens and so next year the crop should be larger expendentially when I can first harvest from that new bed.

In addition to the beginnings of lettuce, radishes and garlic scapes harvestings, the big garden news is the world of strawberries.  This crop looks like the best even and began about ten days ago...a week earlier than last year. I have now harvested over 22 quarts of them and there is no end in site. About seven quarts have been given away to lucky neighbors and friends and the jam making and fresh berry eating is going strong at home. I have made 15 jars of strawberry jam and 11 jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam to start the canning effort. I have six quarts on the counter from yesterday's picking effort so need to get busy making more jam.  Last year the harvest reached 40 quarts and I made over 40 jars of strawberry jam.

So far this gardening season I have been blest with some extra hands in my garden thanks to some garden club colleagues and neighbors, the Squires family. They are all going to share in the bounty and their help is so greatly appreciated!  Even with the various additional challenges facing me this spring, I feel I am on top of the gardening situation thanks to this help.  My challenges include the cataract surgery process I am going through.  Both eyes are being done and there must be a two week gap between surgeries. The second one will be done tomorrow.  I now have 20/20 vision for distance in my left eye and hope to have the same in the right eye after surgery.  I will need reading glasses for all work within a couple feet of my face but no glasses for beyond that point. I can now read the scroll line and scores on the TV from across the room...with my left eye. It certainly has been strange and somewhat limiting to have one good eye and one lousy one for the past two weeks but a burden worth bearing. I have worn glasses since I was a little boy so it will be quite a change for me.

The other challenge is also a long range blessing.  As reported in the last blog entry, Julian, Roxi and Cotton are moving to Maine. They have bought a house in Biddeford about five miles from me on Ferry Road and are in the process of preparing it for the projected late fall/early winter move-in moment.  So I am now cutting another lawn! Fortunately a riding mower awaits me when I travel to their place to tackle the easy project when they are not available to do it.  Some brush clearing was also needed and I try to help with other tasks when they arrive for brief visits and unloading of some of their belongings brought from Brooklyn. Roxi and Julian haven't been as available to help in my gardens this year because of this new adventure but I am sure in the long run they will be able to do alot more than their great efforts in previous years, as well as be able to help me enjoy feasting on the bounty from the gardens. I have given them orders to NOT plant a vegetable garden at their new place but help and enjoy the big gardens at Schlaver Seed Farm. Obviously, they are more than willing to do that.

Finally A Posting!

May 4, 2012

May is here and I have done no blog postings for nearly six months.  Well, it is a “Garden Blog” after all…. I will try to bring you all up to date now.  The winter was very mild and there was minimal snow followed by a warm spring so far with little rain. This has prompted early growth generally and little storm damage to anything.  So no complaints from me! I still burned a lot of wood in the stove over the winter but this kept the oil bill down even with the rising prices.  The winter was a nice, quiet time to hunker down, enjoy my new kitchen, soak and cook beans from the garden and enjoy lots of pickles, jam and salsa as well.  Last year was my best year for canning and also for sales of the results, yet the cupboard still has many jars left to take me through the summer until another harvest and canning effort.

My winter and spring had a fair amount of opportunity to be a good POPS to Cotton as he continues to spend stretches of time alone with me when help was needed for Julian and Roxi.  To my great delight, the Brooklyn family is moving to Maine later this year after buying a house in Biddeford, a mere four miles from my place.  Roxi and Julian are going to relocate Angelrox to Maine and jointly run the “family” business together.  See the new look of the website and enjoy: .  Hopefully Maine will prove to be a good base for the business and certainly a great place to raise Cotton and for all to enjoy a much different lifestyle and pace that New York demanded of them.  I couldn’t be happier for now I can see them all the time, share the bounty of my garden and help with the business as well.

Frankly, all the activity mentioned in the last paragraph is probably the biggest reason for my silence on this blog for so long.  A long of family goings on and the pending decision and the house buying process was capturing my attention.  Yet the gardening work continued and continues.  I have already eaten some garden fresh asparagus.  My 200 garlic plants are flourishing and moving toward their July harvest. Seeds are in for early cool weather crops like: peas; turnips; radishes; carrots; kale; chard; broccoli raab and lettuce.  I have many tomato plants, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers and other seedlings growing inside under lights.  The last full moon before June is tomorrow so the gardening world is wondering if we have already seen the last frost.

The dwarf fruit trees are in bloom or nearly so. I think I will actually have a lot more fruit this year than just some pears and a few peaches on those trees. Maybe I will finally get some of my own apples. The blueberry bushes have many, many berry buds and the strawberries are beginning to bloom nicely. When the rain of the last couple of days ends the onions and potatoes will be planted.

Since the snow was not an long enduring factor this year all the flowerbeds received a thorough early cleaning of leaves and debris and now are really looking as good as ever.  The magnolia tree has finished blooming as have the forsythia bushes but soon the lilacs will be in full bloom.  Here are a few pictures but expect more in later postings.

The year is ending....

December 16, 2011:  The year is rapidly ending and I haven't posted since early November. Well my excuse is I have been on the road!  Now that the gardening and canning work is done for the season I finally was not tied to the homestead and its demands. I made a long overdue trip to Los Angeles to spend some time with my oldest son, Benjamin. We spent some time in Las Vegas (no, I didn't win) and really enjoyed our side trip to the Hoover Dam and new bridge near it. Boy the water level was low, thanks to endless development in Nevada and their water demands as well as a dry year out there. Las Vegas was fun though and we did visit the Pawn Store made famous on the History Channel's "Pawn Stars" TV show.

After a few days back in Maine I boarder a train for a consumer conference in Washington DC and then traveled on to Richmond VA for a visit with the relatives there, especially the elders, Ruth and Ralph. After those day I returned via Amtrak to New York for some nice time with Roxi, Julian and Cotton.  We went to Rockefeller Center and saw the big tree, ice skating pond and some stores and went to the "Top of the Rock" for a breath taking view of New York City at night.

I returned after this ten day trip and did a second craft fair sales effort of my canned goodies and began the process of preparing for the Christmas visit of the whole family for the holidays. In the age of on-line shopping we all are ordering things to be delivered here and there has been a steady stream of trucks in the driveway: USPS; UPS; and FedEx!  The tree is up and the baking of cookies and other goodies is about to begin.

It has been a very satisfying year at the "Schlaver Seed Farm."  The garden did well with far more crop successes than failures.  The canning was a big success with a grand total of 436 jars put up!  Many items are in the freezer and a lot of potatoes, squash, garlic, herbs and onions are in storage. The freezer also has many bags of veggies and fruit. I am loving my new kitchen and living area and look forward to enjoying it together with the family. We will no longer be crowded at a table too small, the crowded walkways and kitchen area.  Part of the time will be spend shelling beans for there are still two bushels of dried bean pods to empty and then put the beans into jars.  I plan to make a big pot of chili this week before the family arrives using some of the garden raised kidney beans. I am sure I will end up with a full winter's supply of the three varieties of beans grown when the shelling is all done. The wood stovc is going strong and the wood piles are ready for whatever the winter weather brings us.

I wish all the blog readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Fall Surprises

November 4th:   October had several surprises here at the Schlaver Seed Farm.The biggest weather surprise had to be the record-breaking October snow storm. Right before Halloween 5 plus inches of heavy, wet snow hit, bringing down many branches still full of leaves and for many, but not me, power loss. An "extra" visit from the Brooklynites let them enjoy the snow experience here. As the pictures show below, one day Cotton was having his final fling with his sandbox and Hot Wheels jeep and the next day he was making snow angels with his mom.

Earlier this month my sister, Marcia, made her first visit here from her home in Michigan and kept busy shelling beans for me while catching up with family tales and news. David was able to show off his nearby condo to her as well.  He traveled to Notre Dame after she left for a long overdue visit back there and missed the snowstorm. A few remnents of the snow are still here as the nights are cold and the days are sunny but fairly cold.  The first hard frost only happened on the night befor the snowstorm that hit October 29th so it was a long growing season. When the frost hit the beautiful dahlia blooms ended their showy display.  Now I have to cut back the debris and dig all the tubers as well as the gladiola tubers for winter storage.  This is one of the several garden cleanup tasks remaining.

While I have had to wait several days for the snow to melt and the leaves to dry again so they can be gathered, I was able to borrow a powerful wood splitter from a friend. I had a big stash of cut logs from recent tree cutting and gathering so was able to tackle the splitting with this machine instead of the backbreaking wood of hand splitting with my trusty maul, axe and wedges. For four days I went at it for about 4-5 hours per day and now have about two full cords of split wood for next winter.  I need to now stack and cover it for the year-log seasoning process. I have plenty of wood already set for this winter. I put a small amount on the deck right near the door and the wood stove; another small pile in the garage near the ready-to-go snowblower and have big stacks in other nearby locations that I access throughout the winter. The splitter was still a grueling task for so many hours as many of the logs were big and some were in four foot sections so they needed to be cut with the chainsaw first to stove-sized length. I could not' be happier though, to now have so much of next year's supply in hand. I will be even happier when it is all stacked for that is a pretty big task remaining to be done.

November will be focussed on final garden cleanup and leaf gathering now. Many tasks remain such as protecting the strawberry and asparagus beds, and removal of the remaining plant debris. The only crops still in the garden are some leeks and some horseradish awaiting harvest. I continue to sell my jam, salsa and pickles and many beans are still piled up awaiting shelling. I made a big pot of chili this week using some of the recent bean was good!