Preserving the fruits and vegetables of summer

fridge pickels

It’s harvest time and I spent most of the past two weeks as my Grandma, preserving tomatoes, peaches, peppers and cucumbers for the winter. I sometimes wonder why I do this, since only two of us live in the house. It must be genetic–my Mom did a lot of preserving, too. Continue reading

The easy black magic of making compost

compost bin full

The bin may be full almost to the brim today, but in a week it will have decomposed enough to leave six inches to a foot of space, lots of room for a big batch of garden clippings. Compost is nature in action, turning garden refuse and vegetable peelings into rich crumbly humus your garden beds will love.

Compost is often called “black gold”. I think it’s black magic myself, although it’s more like dark brown, and there’s no magic required to make it.

It even works in winter.  We keep a plastic garbage can beside the back door where we dump the kitchen scraps on a cold day.  To let in oxygen and prevent anaerobic breakdown, it’s drilled with holes at about six-inch intervals.  Yes, sometimes the contents freeze and the process stops, but once a thaw sets in it starts up again. By spring we have a nice mushy mess of partially decomposed kitchen scraps to add to the big compost bins at the back of  the garden.

Compost is nature in action, with bugs and micro-organisms breaking down once-living things into healthy humus.  It happens on the forest floor all the time. The smelly manure pile on my uncle’s farm was compost writ large. It smelled earthy and strong, but not unpleasant– at least not a day or two after the latest steaming offering had been added.  I used to get bushels of the well-rotted stuff to bring back to the city for my suburban garden. Continue reading