Fall has made itself felt this weekend, and oh, how wonderful it is too. The high today was 64F (18C) with a lovely cool and refreshing breeze. The cicadas have stopped their buzzing but the crickets are still going strong and the geese are honking as they fly south. The cold and snow are coming!

Last night we had a gentle soaking rain that lasted a few hours. We needed it quite badly because we have gone from too much water in the spring to being officially in a moderate drought. It is rather disconcerting how quickly we went from wet to dry. The meteorologists, both local and national, are beginning to think that climate change is setting us up for this to become our regular weather pattern, shorter, warmer winter, wet spring, dry hot summer. Fall seems to be a toss up in the scenario at the moment. But it has gotten me thinking about what it means for the garden since the August blast of oppressive heat and drought scorched it badly and we had to water with the hose almost every day.

The two apple trees in the back garden, Walter and Bea, are still young but will eventually provide some shade. But shade isn’t necessarily what is needed because even plants in shade will dry out in the heat. I talked to Bookman about needing more rain barrels. Currently we have just one. And if rain barrels alone prove to be insufficient for water storage, I suggested we might need to think of an additional way to store water when we have it in abundance in spring.

But what we need to do most, I think, is work on creating good soil. Our garden soil is on the sandy side which is great for plants that need good drainage but bad when you have a drought because water does not stay in the soil even when there is plenty of mulch. We need compost and lots of it. We already compost everything we can but we don’t actively turn the pile to help it break down faster. We talked about the need to start being more proactive with the compost. It is a start but it won’t be enough because we can never make enough at this point to meet our needs. We’ll have to buy extra, at least for now. Also, good garden planning using permaculture methods I have been studying will help too. The soil will improve over time, but it can’t be rushed. Gardening is a perpetual lesson in patience.

To wit: mustard seeds. We grew mustard greens in the garden this year, a first for us. The variety we grew is called green wave and it did pretty well but we weren’t impressed with the flavor. However, when it bolted and we were gifted with an abundance of pretty yellow flowers waving in the breeze and attracting bees, we decided we would grow it again next year even if only for the flowers. Well now the flowers are gone and there are a bunch of dried seed pods. What can one do with mustard seed I wondered?

We have used black mustard seed in recipes before. I couldn’t remember what color the green wave seeds were. And then I wondered, how do you make mustard? You know the condiment that tastes so good on burgers and sandwiches and giant soft pretzels. Google revealed to me that mustard is made from — wait for it — mustard seed! I have since gotten a mini education in mustard seeds and the kind of mustards they make. American mustard is made from the very mild yellow mustard seed. There is the slightly more pungent brown mustard seed and the most pungent, black mustard seed.

Mustard is easy and simple to make and there are so many kinds you can make that I was astonished with the variety. I mean, in this house we have yellow mustard, stoneground, and dijon. But goodness, when you make it yourself, anything is possible!

I think the recipes talking about how easy it is assumed you bought the seed, not got it from your own garden. Yesterday I clipped off all the dry seed pods (and there are still quite a lot out there that is not yet dry). Next year I am going to have mustard sprouting up all over the place because even though I was careful, as I clipped I could occasionally hear a pod break open and the seeds falling down who knows where. It turns out I have black mustard seeds and whoa, are they tiny!

I started getting the seed out by trying to pop open one little seed pod at a time. There are about a dozen or so seeds in a pod and on each stem there are dozens of pods. Can you see how this was going to take a very long time? So Bookman decided there must be a faster way and found a YouTube video of a man explaining how to harvest mustard seed. He was at a large outdoor garden bench so had lots of room and it didn’t matter if things went everywhere. I was indoors at the kitchen counter so needed to keep things under control.

operation mustard seed

operation mustard seed

Here’s how I ended up doing it and it worked pretty well and went pretty fast. I used a mesh sieve over a bowl. Took a six to seven inch section of mustard stem and gently rolled it between the palms of my hands. This popped open the seed pods (no matter how gentle and careful I was some of the popping popped all over the kitchen and Bookman is going to be finding tiny black seeds everywhere for weeks I’m sure). In theory the seeds fall through the sieve into the bowl and the mustard chaff stays in the sieve. Of course it is not that easy but it worked for the most part. I still had to pick chaff out of the seeds in the bowl but over all it took less time than it would have if I had continued one pod at a time like I was doing when I began. So far I have about a quarter of a cup of black seeds. To make two cups of Roman mustard which looks really tasty to me, I need one cup of seeds. While grocery shopping Friday night I made sure to look for mustard seed in the bulk spice aisle and I saw both yellow and brown so if we have to bulk up the black with some brown seeds it won’t be a problem. I am so excited to try this. Has anyone made mustard before? If so, do you have a favorite recipe?

I also snipped off lots of dried radish seed pods from the garden. I haven’t gotten to work on them yet but the pods and seeds are bigger and will be easier to deal with. We make our own sprouts, you know as in alfalfa sprouts. Except we do broccoli and sometimes radish. Radish sprouts have a spicy kick to them that is really tasty. So we will save some seeds for the garden next year and then store the rest to sprout for sandwiches and salads.

Soon I will be saving flower seeds for next year — zinnia, bachelor buttons and calendula. And eventually I will be saving seeds from the pumpkins when we cut those up.

I was hoping the apples would be ready to start picking this weekend and they are close but just not quite. This week they will be ready for sure probably sometime after Wednesday. So you can look forward to me telling you about them next Sunday.