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Nothing signals the end of summer for me like harvesting the basil and dealing with the copious amounts of apples that are dropped on my doorstep.  Sorry Fall Equinox – around my little homestead, basil and apples means the beginning of fall.

This year, I volunteered with Out of Your Tree – an organization in Saskatoon that coordinates a group of volunteers to harvest backyard fruit trees in the city. I was able to harvest two Norland apple trees, a lovely medium-sized red apple that is good for eating or baking. I ate some fresh and then made apple sauce. Fortunately, foster baby LOVES apple sauce. He’s almost ten months old, and he socked away two cups of fresh apple sauce in about three days.

I also have two friends that bring me apples from the trees in their backyards. One is a Battleford apple tree, and the other is a grafted tree that contains four different varieties of apples (It’s a very cool tree because it pollinates itself. Most apple trees require another apple tree close by). And this year, my neighbour from two doors down also brought me a bag of apples. I’m making apple sauce, apple butter, and apple fruit roll-ups.

Then there’s the crabapples. I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the country, but crabapples abound in Saskatchewan. We decided to do what our friends do with their crabapples – juice them. I borrow this crazy contraption from my friend Jen, which extracts the juice from the apples, all without having to peel or core the apples. It’s magic. We use the juice as a concentrate. One part juice, two parts club soda, and a bit of sugar to sweeten it (if it needs it). It’s like a healthy soda.

Basil.  My all-time favourite herb.  We had a couple really cold nights with frost warnings last week, so I dutifully hauled out my old bed sheets, and tucked my basil and tomatoes in for the night, but alas, the basil took a hit of frost.  It didn’t entirely kill the plants, but black spots started to appear on the top leaves.  Still perfectly good for pesto, though.  Which is all I really do with basil.  In previous years, I’ve chopped some up and frozen it in olive oil cubes, but I still have cubes left from last year, so it all got made into pesto this year.

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I usually have a pesto making party with my friend Anita, but this year, we both have babies and couldn’t fathom making pesto while keeping an eye on two very active kidlets.  So we were going to make pesto on Tuesday night after the babies were in bed.  Well . . . I took a hit of Benadryl around 6 p.m., put foster baby to bed at 8 p.m., and sat on the couch watching Netflix for the rest of the night, stoned on allergy meds (it’s harvest season ’round these here parts, and it drives my nose crazy).  The next morning I checked my calendar, and saw that we missed our pesto party.  Anita thought it was on Wednesday night, and I was too drugged to remember it was on Tuesday.  We were thoroughly disappointed in ourselves, and resolved to hire a babysitter next year so that it gets done FOR SURE.

As for next year’s garden, which I’m planning already and super excited just to have my own little garden to tend and not 5000 square feet, I’m going to make some notes on this here blog about what to plant.  Because I know come January, I’ll have completely forgotten what I wanted to plant.

French Breakfast Radishes.  I cannot get enough of these.  They last forever in the fridge, are super crispy, slightly peppery and taste really good with a thin slice of Parmesan on buttered whole wheat bread.

Heirloom tomatoes.  Manitoba, Cherokee Purple, and Black Krim.  This was the first year I grew heirloom tomatoes, and it was wonderful.  I loved the Manitobas because they were bred for our prairie climate and were fantastic producers.  Black Krim and Cherokee Purple also produced very well and taste delicious.  I also planted Brandywine and Old German.  Old German was okay, and I got exactly one tomato from the Brandywine, which was tasty, but obviously not worth the effort.

Hard Neck Garlic.  Actually, I have to plant that this fall if I want it next year.  It did so well.  We got beautiful, large heads of garlic, and had no trouble at all with maggots or blight.  The soft neck garlic on the other hand . . . pathetic.

Paris Market Carrots.  I knew I would love this little variety the second I saw the picture on the seed packet.  They are an heirloom carrot that grows well in clay or compacted soil.  As my friend Clare called them, “Carrot balls!”

I think next post I’ll make a list of what I don’t want to plant next year (kale, I’m looking at you).  Also, I have to discuss the mint/vodka solution sitting in my pantry, and how I plan to spruce up the chicken coop before winter.  Ciao!

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