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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
we want YOU to think...if you dare...


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sleet and Potatoes

Enjoying more harvest ...
It's cold and blustery outside today  here in N.W. Ontario; the wind is up, sleet, rain, and chilly by any standard for September 22nd.
"Yes, dear,   I am,"  I say, being fearless,   " I am going out to dig potatoes" -- choosing the worst possible weather in the process of course,  as we mutually observe.

" I know what,"  suggests the smarter half, who is coincidentally and  smartly canning tomato sauce --and even more smartly,  canning spaghetti sauce and creating other wonderful tomato products in the nice warm house instead of being outside in the sleet, --- "perhaps you could wait for a warmer, more sunny day.An astute observation it is.
  Yes, the sky is black and ominous. Sleet.  Memories haunt the mind. 
Maybe I'm just getting edgy here, like I do every year.  Change of seasons and all that. "Lack of winter preparedness" syndrome.    Little wonder.  A few years ago we received two feet of wet snow October 1st. With  new whacko-weather smacking everyone,  why can't it snow on September 22nd too? 
Surprise. It can, and it does.  See above,-- sleet, ominous black sky and all.
I procrastinate, warily keeping one eye on the sky. The clock is ticking. 

She doesn't object strongly enough, so to save face  keep my promise,  I reluctantly shut down the computer and bravely get right out there wearing  a worn out hunting jacket  sophisticated high-society  potato-digging outerwear and mitts  insulated leather gloves, the heavy ones.  And a toque. The weird Canadian hat with built-in hat-head,  that's the one.   The wind is blowing.  Welcome to Canada.  I pull the collar up, pull the toque down over the ears. It is cold.  I survey the spud-patch.
 Four rows. Four long rows. 

Potato plants are funny things,  they turn partly brown when they freeze, but they don't really get serious about getting all brown or falling over until it's  wet, cold  and sleeting. Like today.  Why is that? You'll see.
It's an annual gardening conundrum, you can pull potato plants while the sun is shining and warm. Filch a few baby potatoes.  Shirt-sleeve warm. Nice potato digging weather. The plants are still strong and green, give'em a yank, and up come potatoes.
 "Look at that, is that a potato?"  *truth be known, it's...the size of a marble.  The small kind. Mini-micros.
"eh"...*sigh   How can that be??
 "They're not finished growing" would be the right answer. Not ripe.  That's why knowledgeable gardeners wait impatiently.  The juice in the leaves and the fat green parts of the plant are food energy, supposedly to be stored in the potatoes readying them to become  healthy, vigorous 'seed' for next year.   Surprise, in between times we interrupt Momma Nature's cycle. We dig'em up and bake'em, boil'em, mash'em, broil'em.... Pity the poor volunteered potato. We digress. 

No matter..we lurked  about, all summer, watching potatoes grow, ....until today.   Now it's cold and wet.  It's  late. Isn't that just the way life is?

 Now the potato plants are down and brown and soggy from the sleet and rain.
Potatoes brown and heading down in bone-dry soil

Everybody knows they break off. The ground is hard as rock, having been so dry--until last night, that is.  It rained and softened the top inch  a bit. It's not mud  yet, but soon would be if it  sleets, and rains a lot more.  The potato stems are soggy, but  topsoil is barely damp even while it's raining. Underneath it's still dry as a bone and yes, hard as a rock. Explain that one.

The Big Dig
With sleet and rain and cold inspiring the gardener, do the potatoes come out just pulling the plant?  Of course not!  The soggy stems  break off instead.  Loyal gardening readers could have won a hot baked potato or an onion betting on that one.     Now I have to dig for them.  Tool selection.   Fork? Shovel? Pick axe?   No matter which tool, some potatoes invariably get poked, stuck, chipped, bonked,  or sliced in neat pieces, almost ready for lunch.  

We have three different potatoes; Kennebec, an early white potato, Gold Rush, a white potato,   and Pimpernel, an heritage red-skinned, white-fleshed  late-season potato.

Pimpernel:  a red-skinned heritage potato

 Note the potatoes are even deformed because the ground is so dry and hard!

A sample of New Potatoes:   "Gold Rush"
Dig, dig....Is that a potato? Nope, it's a rock.  Keep at it.  Garden forks work better in hard ground, even digging for rocks.

Dig dig... Aha!....We do find a real potato. One potato.

a new  "Kennebec" potato--a BIG one.
I jest.  Actually I dug up a lot of potatoes.  Just like these.   Some real biggies too, I must admit...I wonder if the cookware back in the kitchen is big enough.   
The rows are still long.  I lean on the fork. Saved by Momma Nature again. The sun is starting to come out....coffee time.

Is that Incoming I hear?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Jack Frost and the Great 2012 Heap Update

Wild grape turning color on Eastern Cedar

It had to happen sooner or later.
That's how summer works, it's hot, dry, it rains, the wind blows, leaves change color, and it all comes to an end.
 It freezes. 

  Three degrees of frost  -3C isn't that cold--but it tends to end the garden season.  Doesn't that figure? Just when things are getting good.  Tomatoes ripening. Swiss chard getting big. Potatoes swelling,  Zucchini proliferating.   Enter Jack Frost.  Garden zip.

What about the famous heap?  This is a one heap of an update. Gadzooks!   Heap technology works.
2012 Heap Gone MAD

We pulled the pumpkins and spaghetti squash from the heap, and a few  odds and ends from the garden too.
Check out the loot from the HEAP.  Isn't this amazing?  One heap, yes, that heap,  the wild one,  the  one and only!

Spaghetti Squash (  102) and three kinds of Pumpkins (76)

Even T.T.T. (Tilly the Tall)  is so impressed she decided to stand guard. Well, sleeping or not, she's hard at it.   See?

T.T.T. guarding the Pumpkins and  Spaghetti Squash from the Heap

See the white pumkins? They're special, they were planted by the little  apple inspector. He hasn't seen them yet, and reportedly,   he has to get his pumpkin inspector's license first.

We even have the decorative type of pumpkins or gourds . See these?  Big, small, and weenie!  Striped and plain.  For comparative purposes only.   Nice desk decorations, but they certainly don't taste good.

 Maybe Uncle Mac over at the shed has some ideas how to magically turn them into some kind of  Unlikely gourmet fast food!

Decorative Gourds and Pumpkins:  Eat Not*
A necessary digression:   These gourd things taste terrible. So much for that idea, but they do look nice, don't they? Maybe we can store bent nails in them instead.
 Planting gourds anywhere in proximity to  pumpkins, squash or cucumbers in your garden is a terrible idea. They can cross-pollinate and your prized pumpkins, et al  can  turn out to be very bitter just like these pretty little things!  Good thing we learned that lesson the  hard way a few years ago --so  no, they were not planted  anywhere near the   Great Heap of 2012!

Now what?   Get ready for winter, of course! The heap is once again bald, all vines having been removed, so it will be modified and set up for next year. More organic stuff shall be buried in it to maintain the excellent soil quality.

Scientific conclusion:   What a great experiment!   Oops...I forgot...about the count.  It was wrong.    
 Come to think of it, truth be known ----...before THIS heap of loot was harvested, we had already given away a dozen or so new  spaghetti squash --and pumpkins too--- and still have  102 spaghetti squash --and 76 pumpkins under T.T.T.'s watchful eye......so yes, we can safely say:                 "Heap technology works! "

*Addendum:  A casual bit of information for  survivalists and anyone interested in  extended food preservation, ---it should be mentioned that in storage,  we still have a dozen spaghetti squash that remain in good condition -- left over from the 2011 growing season.  After a whole year, these squash  are still in good eating condition because they store  well --apparently for a very long time. 

Is that Incoming I hear?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Apples AND Tomatoes to Go

Raymond Alexander Kukkee

We had apples this season. Lots of apples.  How blessed we are. We know that some apple-growing areas had poor crops caused by weird, hot spring weather and late frost; but somehow,
 we  were not too badly affected.   The bears didn't get the apples, either, nor did the deer.  Apples and more apples,  we picked them happily, and they are all in great shape.
 No doubt about it, even our apple inspector was impressed! 

The Apple Inspector Approves the Apples
The apple inspector gave us the high sign.   Apples are cool.  
Even E.B.S. (Ebony the Short) and     T.T.T.  (Tilly the Tall), our resident pups, love to play with an apple--and munch on them. 
We had to digress a little, didn't we?

Now for tomatoes.  
We like tomatoes. Big ones, small ones, cherry tomatoes,  heritage tomatoes. Beefsteak, Manitoba, Tiny Tims, Sophie's choice--We like them all.   We use them both green and red.

 Check out the green in the greenhouse!   Not bad for one single plant! We have about 20 producing plants molly-coddled in the greenhouse just in case the weather is bad.
These tomato plants are organic--no fertilizers or sprays of any kind!

Green tomatoes --One plant in Greenhouse

Those are tomatoes IN the greenhouse. The tomatoes are indeterminate type plants, pruned, shortened and defoliated after the second or third set of flowers set fruit.  Not bad, 27 individual  tomatoes on one bushy plant  --at first count!

How about outside?  "Field" tomatoes ?  You mean the ones out in the garden?
 We have those  too! Check these out! 

Field Tomatoes ripen on the vine
Well, okay, you can only see a few in this photo.  There are many more.  They're ripening on the vine--at least until frost threatens.Do they look strange?  They are.
 The tomato plants in the garden beds have been defoliated to allow the tomatoes to ripen in the sun.  Normal, natural, healthy!   My resident genius gardener figured this one out.  Leaving excess foliage over the tomatoes invites trapped moisture, mould,  slugs, and other insects. In our geographic location in NW Ontario, in late summer we get very heavy dew overnight.
  Removing excess foliage allows the remaining tomato plant stems and leaves  to stay healthy and dry, discouraging mould, insects, and spoilage,  encourages  the plants to feed the tomatoes,  and the result is much  bigger, better quality fruit.

We do have to admire the creativity of Mother Nature too, even out in the tomato patch. This tomato is a curiosity,  just plain weird and huge.  It weighs in at:  1 lb, 9 oz.(  702 grams)  It clearly had no growth issues even if it's design is strange.  I bet a slice of this tomato would work fine on a bagel sandwich with that hole in the middle... 

A Weird Giant Tomato--not quite ripe..yet

Would you squeeze that one in a mason jar for winter instead? Make spaghetti sauce with it? Tomato sauce?  Salsa?    Would you want to?  Why not eat it fresh instead !  We'll let it ripen a bit more...

 Did you know that  green tomatoes will ripen on the table indoors  as long as they are  shiny when picked? Tomatoes that are very immature and not shiny, dull-looking-- will not ripen properly.

Here's what we do with our tomatoes each season. My resident genius makes preserves and a "few"  other things. Lucky me!
  • Canned tomatoes (processed in glass Mason jars)  (110 liters last season) 
  • Tomato sauce
  • tomato paste 
  • "Ketchup" 
  • Tomato soup
  • Prepared pizza sauce (includes spices)
  • Prepared spaghetti sauce (includes spices)
  • Tomato juice (plain)
  • Tomato juice (spiced, i.e. cocktail juice)
  • Salsa  (Using both green and red tomatoes0
  • Green tomato mincemeat  (Yes, mincemeat for Christmas tarts! )
  • Brown sauce (Similar to, but better than commercial "HP"brown sauce )
  • Hot sauce (including Habanero or other very hot peppers)
  • Barbecue sauce 
  • Enchilada sauce 
  • Bruschetta ( somewhat like a salsa)
  • Chutney 
  • Chicken wing sauce 
  • Creole sauce 
  • Seafood Cocktail sauce
  • Green Chili sauce 
  • Sweet & Sour sauce 
  • Sun-dried (dessicated) tomatoes
That's about it.   I may have forgotten  a few.   We may even freeze a few skinned tomatoes too, if we have freezer space.
No matter,  that's enough already--for now, ---at least until we discover some additional use for tomatoes.
Who knows, we may even want  to use that weird tomato if it doesn't end up in a bagel.

By the way, don't forget to save some tomato seeds for next year!  Check in with Uncle Mac over at the shed  to find out how! 

Is that Incoming I hear?

Photographs by the author.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Flash Fiction: Splash

Raymond Alexander Kukkee

"Just a  splash of  Vermouth in that, honey." she whispered, leaning forward. The ample breasts heaved.
She hiked her blouse strap back up her shoulder. "Dammit! " she said out loud, giggling.
The bartender watched, then tilted the bottle over her glass.
"Shhhsh" he said.  "My boss is watching, don't ruin the ambience."
"Just a little splash" she reminded him, with her fingers two feathers apart as he went to pour it.
She stuck a finger  in the glass and tasted it. "Just another little splash, honey" she said.
"Whassamatter, can'cha pour a little splash?" she asked wavering. "Just another little splash." 
 He poured.
 "Taste it, you taste it now", she ordered.
"Perfect!" he said, smiling, "it's perfect!".
 " You're hired,  Mr. Blaine,  start tonight!".  


Is that Incoming I hear?

'Splash' precisely meets Red's  M3 Flash Fiction Challenge at  a word count  of 125.

Flash Fiction: Lightning

Raymond Alexander Kukkee

Icy water spattered his back as he tightened bolts on the anchor. The ground shook, making the cables sing every time thunder rattled the sky.
"Get a move on, Bob, wind's up! "  the impatient foreman shouted from the truck.
 The sky darkened as the new cable swung eerily in the wind.
"We have to tension it!" Bob yelled. "It's too loose!"  
Heavy rain started, lashing the hilltop viciously.
"Damn you!  Forget it!   the foreman snarled. "Tomorrow!"
"She'll  come down if we don't tighten it!" Bob yelled, approaching the truck.
Lightning crackled, lighting the steel twisting grotesquely  in the wind .
Bob pulled the foreman clear as the tower crashed, flattening the truck cab.
"See?"  Bob said.
"I see now" the foreman said, shuddering. "Thanks..."   


Is that Incoming I hear?

'Lightning' meets M3's Flash Fiction Challenge precisely  with exactly 125 words.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Flash Fiction: Ashes


Raymond Alexander Kukkee

 He clutched the metal container tightly to his chest as the subway car rattled into the yellow-tiled station. The swaying made him nauseous.  He began to sweat.
"Fadniicker Street Station is the only one with  high-speed pass-through directly over the valley after rush hour". He could hear his father's voice.
 "The west end of the station, It has to be there, the 7:01,  promise me! Put me there!" The voice haunted him. 
"I promise!" he whispered vehemently, thinking out loud as the brakes screamed.  The door opened.
He stood motionless on the platform, waiting, but not for long. He loosened the lid. 
The high-speed west-bound carried the shiny metal container and dead man, spreading a cloud of ashes into the brilliant sunlight over the valley.

 Is that Incoming I hear?

 "Ashes" with a word count of  125 squeaks neatly into Red's M3 Flash Fiction Challenge limit of 125.

Flash Fiction: Dinner

Raymond  Alexander Kukkee

"Table for two?"  the elderly, wizened waiter asked graciously. He grandly tucked two maroon menus under his arm in anticipation.
"Table for four, actually" said  the lady in front, primping her hair haughtily. Her escort  silently skulked in the shadows .
"Do tell, Princess, and when shall the Royal  party be joining you?" the waiter asked kindly, choosing an additional two menus.
"Sir John and  his bimbo  shall undoubtedly be late, as usual," the woman sniffed "just in time to destroy my dinner as they always  have done..."
"As you wish,  your Majesty" the waiter smiled  wryly. "The Royal  table is waiting".
The man following grimaced and surreptitiously slipped a folded bill  to the waiter as he  returned the unneeded menus to the desk.


'Dinner'  at 125 words  precisely meets Red's  M3 Flash Fiction Challenge and the 125 word limit.

Is that Incoming I hear?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Flash Fiction: Check

 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee

"Check your gun, Mister?...'Ya gotta check it "  the weak voice wavered.
"I don't hand my .44  to anyone without  asking why".
"It's just a rule, this here hotel has rules, it's the finest hotel in  Dodge"
"I don't just follow rules, I  make it my business to  ask 'why?' "
"That is what I asked, isn't it...."
The clerk shrugged.  "I dunno,....that is, ...I dunno."
The .44 clicked and the clerk's eyes widened.
 "Then get outta my face, boy"  the unwashed man indicated the revolver.  He spun the cylinder.
"Please Mister, you don't have to do that".
 The man turned, an ugly scowl on his face.
The clerk gasped in relief as the door closed behind the dusty cowboy. 

Is that Incoming I hear? 

   "Check" at a word count of  122,   meets Red's M3 Flash Fiction Challenge word count limitation of 125.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Apples Galore

"Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits.
                                                           -- Henry David Thoreau, Wild Apples

Interesting that here we are, September 1st--and after a strange, weird, and late spring, our apple trees are actually ahead of schedule.
  How can that be?   The earliest of our apples were two weeks earlier than usual, and  normally late-season apples are now ready-- early. The crop?  Better than average.

 See?  Apples by the gazillions.  Some 50 gallons of  Haralson Red apples were picked today from a single tree.   The Harelson Red is a good multi-purpose apple.  A few late foundling grapes were rescued from the squirrels while we were out and about too.

Haralson Red Apples and a few foundling Concord grapes too

 We also picked the Sweet Sixteen apples.  A big, sweet apple that keeps well,  the Sweet Sixteen is a promising apple for our geographic area. Our Sweet Sixteen tree was stressed by weird spring conditions, and although the leaves were smaller than usual, the apples were bigger than in previous years .  See these?  They're huge!

Sweet Sixteen Apples--A big, sweet, crisp apple.

 It is strange the Sweet Sixteens  certainly were far bigger than usual. Check this one out!  The quality and size of the fruit was no less than amazing this year.  Not too shabby! 

A perfect Sweet Sixteen Apple
 Luke apples are moderately late, moderately tart, and fortunately, also a very good keeping apple.  Lukes can be stored for many months.   An apple with less juice, they are excellent for pastry, drying, and making apple sauce. The Luke is a large apple, at times over 4" across, and the trees are prolific in good years.  We picked a bushel of these delicious apples this season.

Luke Apples--Huge.

Then there were the September Ruby apples. Not a long keeper, they are sweet, delicious, and a prolific producer. The September Ruby makes wonderful apple sauce or juice too, great for eating out of hand, but much like the earliest Norlands, do not store well for extended periods.

September Ruby Apples 2012

Experimental apples:  The WendyCrisp.   If we didn't mind a hungry bear chewing a few of the best, ---the 'WendyCrisp",  a new, snapping crisp and sweet apple, our apple-picking might have waited a few days.

  The bear attacking that special tree "encouraged" us to pick the rest of the apples in a hurry to avoid any further tree damage. That made me very cranky.

The beautiful WendyCrisp apple grew from a tiny wild apple tree sprout found in the wilds, ---and is now a producing tree. The WendyCrisp  ripens in September, bearing  brilliant red,   sweet, snapping-crispy and juicy apples with a wonderful flavor. They keep better than most.  The size of these apples appears to be medium-but some large individual apples have been noted, which offers great potential.  We have yet to use  thinning or enhanced pruning techniques to optimize apple size.

The WendyCrisp apple

Other apples worth  exploring for this difficult climate are the Spartan,  Pink Lady, and McIntosh.

A friend of mine also  has a Yellow Gala apple tree in production;  the apples are large, yellow-green, sweet, and very good tasting. It, too,  looks like a potential grafting project!

I am also looking for a heritage Winesap apple which is reportedly  a late-producing apple. Would the wonderful heritage Winesap grow and produce in NW Ontario?  We certainly won' t know until we try!

Is that Incoming I hear?

Photo credits:  Photographs in this post were all taken by the author.