Garden Update: Working the Onions

It is absolutely Amazonian out there this morning – not as in the on-line store, but as in the jungle.  Not hot (yet) but really muggy.  I had sweat running down my glasses just standing there picking beans.

vegetable gardeningThe Garden

 The morning haul today included:

  • The other watermelon.  I see no more of these swelling up: lots of flowers; no fruit.  But there are a ton of cantaloupes in development.  One is almost ripe.
  • Potatoes (some vines died two weeks ago). It’s time to harvest these plants now or they rot in the ground.  One did already.  I put the good ones in a box of  sawdust in the root cellar – er… uh… my office.  The sawdust (more like small shavings) draws excess moisture out of the skins and helps them toughen up for longer storage.  The plants with living vines will continue to produce potatoes until their vines die off in the fall.  Or until they drown like these did.  Had I known it would be so incredibly wet this year I’d have planted RICE!
  • A Patti pan squash – another will be ready in a day or two.  Then it will be a while; I don’t see any others developing yet.  Again: lots of flowers, few fruit.  The declining bee population makes getting a good yield tough.
  • MORE cucumbers.
  •  A whole mess of beans.  I stuffed a gallon bag.  I can blanch them for freezing later today or I might try canning these.  Should be enough for two or three pint jars here.
  • A few blueberries
  • And more onions.

Yammering About Onions

Onions curing for storageToday’s batch of onions will join the two dozen out on the porch drying.  They need to be under cover but where lots of air can flow. Of course, they would dry better if it weren’t 180% humidity out there. They stay outside for a few days to a week – just long enough for the leaves to wither; indicating that they’ve lost a good deal of their moisture.

Freshly harvested onions are tender and bruise easily.  Treat them like eggs.  Don’t try to brush off all the dirt yet.

 Then they come inside and get hung up in a cool, dry place to cure.  There are another couple of dozen (+) here.  It takes several more weeks to cure them.  Sometimes more: the ones that bolted produce a thick stalk that can take forever to dry out.  They’re ready when the stem withers up completely and closes off access to the onion interior.  This protects it from invasion by bacteria or fungus.

A couple of years ago we installed a small window air conditioner in my office.  Not for me, but to keep the electronics in the office from overheating and burning up.  Expensive stuff those electronics.  That it makes it more comfy for me is a perk.  It also makes my little office the best place to store our home-canned goods, potatoes and onions – since we don’t have a basement.  The dogs enjoy it too.  Commercial onion growers cure their onions in warm sheds: 80° or above.  But recent research indicates that any temperature between 68° and 82° works equally well.  I keep the office at 75°.  In the winter time it gets down around 60°.

 Everything from the braided batch of small red onions and to the right came inside this morning.  Not enough sunshine this year: the onions are all pretty small.  Onions are one of those things that grow for a certain number of days.  When they’re done, they’re done; they won’t get any bigger.  I pull them or they rot in the ground.  So I check them every day.  The ones that tell me “I’m done now” get pulled the others can go a little longer.  I stagger-planted so they would not all come ready at once.

 Once the necks have withered to parchment I can take them down, trim off the excess leaf and root material, peal off only enough of the outer layers of skins to remove the dirt (must not wash them) and put them in the bag at the far end.  Now they are ready to use.  Any that are imperfect get used first, the more perfect they are the longer they will store.

 If properly cured, the yellow onions will keep for several months.  The red ones maybe a month or two.  What we don’t use in those times I will dice and either freeze or dehydrate.

 There are probably another three dozen onions still in the garden that aren’t quite ready yet.  Soon, but not yet.

 The Kids

I let the kids play while I was working with seedlings out on the shop porch.

dogs, Janet, CochiseCochise was just trying to find a place to stay out of the fray.  Janet and Blondie were running around and wrestling.  Then Blondie came up and was knocking into me and staying close to the shop door.  I noticed that Janet spent a lot of time biting Blondie on her… cheeks(?) and ears.  I opened the door and Blondie scooted right in.  She’d had enough of that!

I made my first run to the garden with Cochise and Janet loose in the side yard.  They were fine.  Blondie has to be confined: she likes to slip out and run off.  I left her inside.

When I came back Janet was jumping on the gate and making it difficult for me to get in without her getting out.  So before going back out I put her back in her pen.  Cochise decided it was time for  a  nap and went inside.  I went back to the garden.

When I returned I opened Janet’s gate so she could run around while I worked on onions.  She stayed in her dog house and watched me.

dogs, Janet
Janet Pouting

I opened the shop door and Blondie came out.  She went out on the dock and looked over at Janet. “Wanna play?”

Janet remained sitting in her dog house watching.  “No.  No, I don’t.  You just go on and play by yourself.”


So, the gardening is done.  After last night’s inch of rain it’s too wet to mow or weed whack, so I guess I’ll do some machinery maintenance.  I need to install new knives on the chipper; I think I’ll start there.  But rather than making 20 trips to the barn and back trying to get the right tools, I think I’ll haul the chipper up here to the tools and work on it in the driveway.

Mom’s new drainage ditch seems to have worked very well in last night’s thunderstorm.  That’s a good thing indeed.

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