08 October 2016

My New Stack!t Herb Dryer

The gardens are still lush, pretty and producing. I hate to cut things back, but the season is winding down and it is time to start cutting the herb garden back and preserving the harvest. Some things like tarragon are just now starting to put on blooms, so I will leave them for a little while longer, but the garlic chive seed heads, bay leaf and lemon verbena need to be harvested now.

Both lemon verbena and bay leaf are tropicals and need to be brought inside before a cold snap takes them. The garlic chive seed heads need to be cut now so that I can let them dry in a place where they will not drop their seeds before I can collect them.

While I was at Prepper Camp this year I purchased a nifty net hanging food dryer. It is called a Stack!t. It is great for drying herbs and other leafy things that my Excaliber blows around too much. The net sides and shelves allow good air circulation, and the zippered access doors make it easy to add or remove one kind of herb while not disturbing the rest. But the best thing about the Stack!t is that it can be hung by either end. There are D-rings and hanging straps on both ends, so you can collapse the whole unit, herbs and all and invert it, then hang it again from the other end. This way you can turn the herbs without handling them. Love it!!The only drawback is that Skittles thinks it is a toy for her and she bats it around and scales the sides like she is rock climbing... (bad kitty...).

Since Hurricane Matthew was on its way, there was a potential for the winds and rain to ruin some of
my harvests, so I have been cutting things back and drying all week. Yesterday the breeze was high, but the air was dry, so I hung the Stack!t from the eave of the house and let the breeze help do the drying. I brought the dryer in before the rains started yesterday evening. Today the dryer is hanging in the sitting room, snug and dry out of the rain. The lemongrass blades are already dry, but the bay leaves and the garlic chive seed heads will still be drying for a few days.

All in all I am very happy with my purchase. It is great for herbs and other leafy things, but I wouldn't recommend it for wet things like apple slices since it is fabric and would absorb the liquid and become sticky. The Stack!t has a nice storage case that can be hung on a hook or on a hanger in the closet. But here at Heart's Ease Cottage the Stack!t will be employed full time drying my medicinal herbs and culinary herbs until the frost comes!

01 October 2016

A Sabbath Walk Around Heart's Ease Cottage

Sabbath is a lovely time to stroll through the gardens and soak in all that is going on there. The east side gardens have grown to rain forest proportions. I almost feel like I need to break out my machete to get past the lemongrass planters on the veranda, but in truth I wouldn't touch a thing.

 I love all the lush growth, the late season exuberance lifts my spirits and I try to spend as much time as I can out in the gardens. Before long frost will take all my flowers and I will have to hold on to the memory of their bright blooms all through the colorless cold months ahead. But for now I will soak it all in and enjoy. The tarragon is getting ready to bloom. The late season wild asters add an ethereal shade of blue to the back of the herb garden. Both the rosemary and bay laurel are reasserting themselves now that the Black Eyed Susan flower seed heads are being cut out.

             Soon it will be time to cut and dry the garlic chive seed heads so that I can save the seed.

   The night blooming jasmine has finished blooming for the year and has begun to climb the chimney. I will cut it back soon so that we don't catch the vines on fire when we start using the chimney for the year. The bay laurel, (left side in the background), is 5 feet tall. It is a tropical so I need to take it inside before the first frost. I will cut the top 3 feet of branches, harvest the bay leaves and dry them, that will leave me with a plant that I can take indoors. I will also divide the lemongrass, harvesting about half of it and cutting the rest back to a more manageable size, since it is also a tropical and will live indoors for the winter.

The espaliered Granny Smith Apple tree needs to be cut back for the season so that the new fruiting spurs develop close to the lateral branches.Our Turkey fig has completely blocked the path to the three month pantry, I have cut it back already but it just put out more growth and there are figs on the branches so I will wait until the figs are ripe to remove the offending branches. Until then I will just push my way through when I need to get to the pantry! Skittles is making sure she gets in a s many of the photos as possible...

  At this stage in the season, the summer vegetable garden is winding down, the tomatoes are mostly done and many of the beds have been cleared for the fall garden. Our volunteer pumpkin has be allowed to run amok on the empty beds while we get the seedlings going for the fall crops. I have harvested and cured many pumpkins already this year. Several have been cooked and frozen or dehydrated into pumpkin leathers. We have given some away and we still have some growing out in the garden. I guess it is a good thing we use a lot of pumpkin!

As the pumpkins begin to ripen I prop them on a pot to keep the roly polys from eating into the bottom of the pumpkins. Once the neck dries and the vines die back I will cut the stems and put them in a sheltered place with good air circulation to cure for a week or two so that they will keep for use during the winter. A the moment, the vines are still putting on flowers and growing more pumpkins, some of the later pumpkins will probably not get ripe before the frost, and eventually we will need to clear the beds so that we can put in the late fall garden, but for now I will leave them and hope they will finish off before I need to pull up the vines.

A pumpkin blossom decorates the comfrey plant. Da has made me permanent beds for my medicinal herbs so soon the comfrey plants will be moved to their permanent bed now that the weather is cool enough for transplanting.

A dew covered Black Swallowtail caterpillar is munching away on the parsley. I plant about 50 parsley plants every year so that there is enough for juicing and for sharing with the butterfly caterpillars. I do have to inspect the parsley I harvest for juicing very carefully, so I don't end up running caterpillars through the juicer.

Well, Skittles and I wish you well and thank you for coming to stroll the gardens with us! Have a great day!

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