Apple-icious!

I would be remiss if I did not mention the bumper crop of apples we had this season.

We have three apple trees in our yard, that we didn’t plant, of course, but we have apples galore! Last season they were very small and few, and this season the branches are heavy, and the ground is full of apples, apples, apples!

It took me awhile to realize that each apple tree is different, mostly because it takes the apples awhile to turn red…if they’re the type that does turn red. For example, I believe one tree is Golden Delicious or Grimes Golden, and they stay light yellow or green. I didn’t realize until this week that they would never turn red and were scrumptious to eat off the tree. Jude especially likes them.

I believe we have one McIntosh tree, which is producing the most, and the most delicious, large red apples. They’re a little tart, and I make the most delicious apple crisp with them! 

The recipe is a cinch: 

1 baking dish full of cut up apples (probably 6+ cups)

For the crisp:

1 stick of butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup oats

1 white cake mix

Cinnamon to your liking

*Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. 

*Definitely eat with vanilla ice cream

I’ve made two crisps each weekend for the past three weekends. Tyler can’t get enough! And, I’ve given bags away: to my mom, to Aunt Lindsay, to Connie and Robert at the shop, and to my friend Beth.

I’m not quite sure what the third apple tree is. I think it might be Johnathans, as the apples are red, smaller than the McIntoshes, and also a little tart. Apples have been a welcome surprise this season!

The Season Ends: Tearing Down

It’s October, and the first frost came this weekend, causing the tomato plants to wither and look exhausted…and wet. So, it’s time for the boys to tear down their gardens.

This is always more fun than I expect… As we pull the stringy cucumber vines off their trellis and yank tomato plants out of the cages, the boys turn it into a feat of strength, an adventure. Their creativity kicks in and tomato cages turn into robot parts, the shriveled plants become weapons (of course). Before I know it, I have boys running all over the yard, engaged in imaginative play… and sometimes I have to dodge dirt clumps and rotten tomatoes. Really, I have to laugh and not be a task-master. This is what gardens are for! These moments become the memories.

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I always ask the boys – usually inside, later, after the games are over – what they thought of their gardens this season. I’m sure they feel somewhat similar year-to-year: they liked watching certain plants, and some were a bust. Here’s what they said this year:

Jude: “My favorite thing about my garden was definitely my cherry tomatoes because they taste the best. They’re my favorite tomato. And cucumbers because they grow fast.”

Morris: “I like pulling things out of the ground, the carrots, the radishes. The radishes I like pulling out of the ground. I like the peppers. I like the hot peppers because they were really fast to grow, and I liked to do dares with them and make people eat them. I like the green peppers because they’re big. I like being a part of things.”

Later, “I love that the kitty-cats love to lay in them.”

(He was referring to a hot pepper challenge between Cousin Quinn and Rex. Who could chew on the pepper the longest? Rex won. Quinn drank a lot of milk.)

Rex: “I liked that we had a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes. I didn’t like that my mint and chives didn’t grow. I enjoyed the hot peppers.”

So, they were mostly pleased with their gardens, although we have some things to work on… Next season I’d like to try some new, different plants, and I’d like us to grow more from our own seeds. We’ll see. Each season is different, yet familiar. That’s one of the charms of our gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes Galore!

August and September:  The Roma and Early Girl tomatoes are flourishing! There are three Roma plants in my garden and two early girls, and two Romas in Rex’s. One of Rex’s plants got so full of tomatoes it toppled over, and we’ve been gathering them from the ground ever since. We collect at least two bowl-fulls every week.

I give them away to Uncle Jess and Aunt Anne, to Grandma and Grandpa, and I make the tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad at least once a week. But it’s that time of year when everyone has had their fill, and they ask for them less. So, now I’m cutting them up and putting bags of tomatoes in the freezer for winter soups. Chilli is right around the corner. 

The cherry tomatoes are just plain neglected right now. They’re still producing, but getting tired, and the boys and I have grown a little tired of collecting them. So, they’ll be great compost for the next season of growing.

A Little Harvest Morris Waited For

Morris finally unearthed his carrots this week. We were pleasantly surprised some of them were the size of his dad’s fingers, which is much larger than we’ve ever grown before. We forgot they were there, until one night this week, Morris asked, “Can I pull my carrots now?”

“Oh! Of course!” I responded.

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And, he pulled, and out came about ten, decent-sized orange carrots. I told him they taste very different than carrots from the store…and he hasn’t asked to eat them yet.

We’ve also harvested many jalapeno and chilli red peppers from Morris and Rex. Honestly, we would can some delicious jelly if I had the energy. My energy has moved away from the garden and toward home projects, like painting the front door (red, of course!), adding shades and a curtain in the living room to prepare for the cold weather. 

Still, I can’t quite bring myself to ask the boys to clear our their gardens yet… I’m still holding on.

Final Cucumber Count

These are some of our cucumber numbers from the summer:

July 28 = 35 + 5 = 40

August 3 = 40 + 2 = 42

August 10 = 42 + 3 = 45 (All from Rex)

August 18 = 45 + 3 = 48 (2 from Rex, 1 monster from Morris!)

I have to confess that there might be even more than that, as I sometimes forgot to add them in. And,there were days we picked three and gave them away right away… So, 55 might be a better estimate. At any rate, they paid for themselves, and the boys love to pick them and marvel at their size.

Rex turned out to be the champion in numbers, and Morris championed in length.

Jude was the champion of silly.

Our Garden Spider

A lovely garden spider has made her home in our garden, specifically in my bed by the tomato plants. She started out the size of the end of my pinkie finger, and now, I estimate she’s grown at least five times her size. 

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Garden spiders visited our last garden, mainly our raspberry bushes. You know what you’re looking at by the bright yellow on the body, and the web has a vertical zig-zag pattern right down the center.

This lady is keeping some pests away from our tomatoes and enjoying it! Isn’t she cool?!

Other than her, nothing else has joined our gardens: no praying mantis, and thankfully, no horn-worms this year!

Snacks in the Garden

There are hundreds of ripe cherry tomatoes in the gardens. The boys don’t like to harvest them in one big batch, although I do as they split if they’re too ripe. The boys like to leave them on the vines, at the ready for an afternoon snack, or an after-dinner-snack, or a whenever-they-wander-that-way snack. 

My garden is flourishing, too. After we came home from a weekend get-away to Omaha, I picked 22 early girl and Roma tomatoes! I introduced the boys to the delicacy that is a garden tomato, sprinkling salt and pepper on them or eating them with cottage cheese. Plans for my favorite salsa are in the making, too…

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My Favorite Color is Red

Red! Red is popping up…and hiding everywhere in our gardens! There are dozens of cherry tomatoes free to pick every day now. Some of my larger, Early Girl, tomatoes have been added to the boys’ favorite BLTs. And Morris found one of his chili red peppers ready to pick tonight. Everyone took a tiny bite and then ran for the milk jug to calm their tongues. 

(P.S. Green beans are ready, too!!!)

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Goodbye Zucchini Plant, and Thank You

It’s time to pull out these giants, these givers of large zucchini. And thank you for your fruit.

Morris muscled his out of the garden, and mine came next. 

Our favorite zucchini dish this season was zucchini fries. Panko crumbs, parmesan cheese, and a little salt and pepper. Slice up the zucchini, dip in egg, coat in the crumb concoction. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. Basil mayo is a delicious dipping sauce.

Art in the Enabling Garden

It’s that time of year for Art in the Garden, thanks to Iowa State Master Gardeners. We look forward to it every year! We brought along Rex’s long-time friend Brianna and invited Aunt Anne, Cousins Jojo and Cassie, Aunt Lindsay, Cousins Harper and Calvin. It was a beautiful, cool night.

This year, the artist who makes the woodland creatures had some new additions: snakes! Jude picked out the very largest one, and Rex selected a small, knottier one. Morris picked out a cat with a very long tail, and spent his time painting it black and purple. Very cool, Mo!

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Rex didn’t feel like painting this year, but he did make me a lovely flower arrangement with wild flowers.

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Jude didn’t feel like painting either, but he make a wild flower arrangement and a very cool leaf critter. Check it out!

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The boys were really excited about decorating cookies, but there wasn’t a station for that this year… so, Rex found a comfy bench and read, and Jude goofed with Brianna and Rex.

Morris finished his night with an arrangement with very cool tiger lilies! Thanks, again, Master Gardeners!