Thank you so much to all of you who commented on Marianne’s passing. You are all such lovely, kind people. The three other Dashwoods are all doing fine and going about their chicken business. They are all getting new feathers after their molt, but still looking a bit scruffy. The coop is wrapped in plastic sheeting and all the winter prep for them is done.

We are stutter stepping our way into winter this year. One week it will be unusually warm and the next unusually cold, as if to overcompensate for the mistake of the warm week. Last week was cold. We had freezing rain, sleet, and snow. This weekend has been windy, but warm, and the week ahead will be warm. Well warm for Minnesota.

The Snow Ninja

In order to avoid public transportation in the midst of the pandemic, I have committed to biking to work through the winter. It is surprising how few layers one needs to keep warm while biking in the cold. The hard part about winter biking is learning how to ride on ice and snow. I am not riding one of my nice summer bikes. I dug out of the shed and tuned up my very first commuter bike and had spiked snow tires fitted to it. The bike weighs a ton on its own and with the snow tires it’s even heavier. I am used to going to and from work pretty quickly without a lot of effort, but the snow bike is slow and takes effort, and I have to pay attention always so I don’t wipe out on a patch of ice or a slushy corner. It’s exhausting and is taking some getting used to.

a few jars of elderberry jam

The garden, of course, is slumbering for the season. And what a great growing season it was! Long before her demise, Marianne gorged herself on elderberries and there were still enough for many jars of jam for me.

The green apple tree produced more apples than it ever has. We call her Bossy. She gave us 45 gallons of apples! James has made jars and jars of apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie filling. We made dried apple rings too. And, I am happy to say that while going through an old file folder recently of gardening articles I had saved from magazines long ago, I found the tags for the apple trees! So the highly productive Bossy is a Northwestern Greening Apple, an old variety that originated in neighboring Wisconsin in 1872.

so many apples!

The red apple that cross-pollinates is a Sweet Sixteen. It is a cultivar that originated at the University of Minnesota in 1977. It is supposed to be sweet and juicy, but for us it has only ever been mealy. It likely has much to do with it being crowded by the green apple and too shaded by the maple tree. But it blooms every year enough to pollinate Bossy, and feed the squirrels.

I managed this year to plant enough variety of green beans that I had a constant supply throughout the summer. From the early bush beans (variety: Strike), to the mid-season filet-type pole bean (variety: Fortex), to the late season monster pole bean (variety: Kentucky Wonder). For a while there were fresh green beans in everything. And now we have quite a few in the freezer to take us into the winter.

I tried some new dried beans this year and they did great! Arikara Yellow Bean. This bean is grown by the Arikara Tribe who now reside in North Dakota. It is good baked or in stews. James has yet to make any soup with them, but I am looking forward to it. They are a prolific bean, and pretty too.

Arikara on the left, Jacob’s Cattle on the right

I also grew Jacob’s Cattle, an heirloom bean that originates from the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. It is a beautiful speckled kidney-type bean great for soups and stews. This, too, was quite prolific. James promises to make some chili with ours.

We had great success with zucchini, kale, and carrots this year too.

Now that I have had a little rest, I am already thinking about next year’s garden. Very likely I will order seeds over Thanksgiving for for veg that it is hard to save seeds from—like carrots. Carrots are biennial and I don’t really have the space or patience to leave some fat carrots in the ground to overwinter and grow, flower, and set seed the following summer. I’m also on the lookout for some other interesting bean varieties, so if you have a favorite bean you really can’t get in the store, let me know!