Thursday, October 11, 2012

Show and Tell: The Good & Not-so-Good

Before you read through the list of the things we did this summer, I want to be super-clear on the things we didn't do.  Because think what we will, we can't do everything.

1.  We (heads hanging low) hardly weeded our garden and it showed.  Somehow, most things grew up fine, but there were crops that didn't do as well and it was our own neglectful fault.  Granted, we were busy doing other things, but still, by the end of the summer, the garden was a mess.  While it bothered us to no end, it was what it was.

2.  Not only did I neglect the weeds in our garden but the ones in our flower beds were also given permission to thrive.  I go for more of a "wild" look in our flowerbeds anyway, but after this summer, I thinking cropped grass right up to the foundation is a much more attractive alternative compared to a few choked-out flowers amidst towering weeds.

3.  While I put up a lot, I didn't utilize as much of the fresh veggies as other years when it came to meals.  This wasn't because I didn't want to, it was just because chopping and prepping for dinner after you've chopped and prepped for preserving takes a lot more energy than I evidently had this summer.

4.  We didn't thrive this summer.  Instead of all our work and projects spurring us on and inspiring us to do more, they stressed us out.  Some of this we can explain (but I won't go into here) and did expect, but it has caused us to reevaluate the scale of our plans for next year.

Are you sufficiently depressed?!  Don't be!  We're not!  Sure, things this summer didn't go as well as we would have liked, but that. is. life.  There are seasons when we can't, for the life of us, live up to what we'd like to do or be.  We could get down (and stay down) or we can take another look at our plans, adjust and move on.  And that's exactly what we're going to do.

One of the other things I didn't do this summer was try as many new canning recipes as I usually do.  I stuck to the basics (as you'll see below), making those things I know we like and will use.  With one exception.  Last month, Mavis wrote about Apple Pie Jam.  I had some extra apples after making applesauce and made a double batch.  Then I made another double batch because, oh my stars, it is delicious.  So, hop over and print out the recipe (it's super easy), then scrounge up some apples and get busy.  One tip (courtesy of one of Mavis' readers) I will share is that if you let the jam sit (off heat) for 10 minutes just before filling your jars, the apple chunks will stay suspended in the jam instead of all floating to the top.

Harvest Tally 2012

15 quarts crushed and frozen strawberries
19 quarts snow peas, frozen
12 quarts blueberries, frozen (from my Great Uncle's farm out of state)
42 loaves chocolate chip zucchini bread, frozen
14 quarts canned peaches (Red Haven)
7 half-pints peach jam
2 gallon bags pressed and packed spinach, frozen
4 quarts zucchini, chopped and frozen
2 gallon bags pressed and packed Swiss chard, frozen
4 gallon bags bell peppers, frozen
32 pints tomatoes, canned
9 pints green beans, frozen
31 onions, braided
~30 bulbs garlic, braided
43 pints and 5 quarts tomato sauce, canned
28 pints grape jam
2 quarts straight grape juice, canned
2 grape pie fillings, frozen
182 quarts applesauce (142 canned and 40 frozen, Cortlands)
12 quarts broccoli, froze (from an Amish produce stand)
22 half-pints and 6 pints apple pie jam, canned
1 bushel sweet potatoes
2 bushel butternut squash

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  1. Hello! I've been reading your blog for quite awhile but have never commented. The last part of #2 brings me out of "lurk-dom"! That comment about clipped grass up to the foundation being attractive deeply resonated with me :) I strongly considered suggesting such a thing to my husband after the second summer in a row of towering weeds in the flower bed. I like flower beds but I just don't have time...or something.

  2. I'm going to make the jam. You sold me.

    Number 2---that's how I feel, at least once every summer. In fact, I was just a hair away from tilling them all up this year. But then I weeded them and decided I liked them after all.

  3. I have been canning for over 30 years and some years are just like that I think. I did real good the first part of the year until the 100+ temps hit then it was hard. Us old folks have a hard time with those kind of temps. Every year I say no more and then the next year I plant anyway. As long as you make something what's a few weeds? There's always next year!

  4. I'm with Jennifer Jo and Linda on #2. We've moved the grass back in when the flower beds used to be and never looked back. I focus my weeding time on the veggie beds. Also, don't forget to mulch those beds. Mulching really keeps down the weeds and saves water too.

    Thanks for all the canning and freezing inspiration. It's fun to see the inside of your freezer.

  5. #2 - we did it! We had this huge beautiful bed full of perennials and a birch tree. Well, the derecho was the beginning of the end for that flower bed. The tree was damaged badly, so it had to go. Then I realized that no matter how much I love my perennials, I just am not capable anymore of maintaining them. Sooo, that bed will return to grass come spring. It's mostly a good feeling...try it! :-)

  6. I gave up on flowers infront of my house too. I had some petunias and moss rose come up volunteer in an old washtub so I left them. I planted some zinnias and marigolds in the garden but that was it. It was to dry here to worry about watering flowers. And I'd rather spend time weeding my garden, canning, and of course :playing with the kids. :)

  7. a nice row of tiger lillies along the house hides the foundation, gives plenty of color and ease of upkeep. You only have to weed the year they are planted and then they spread and pretty much take care of choking out weeds themselves...and the nice thing is you can mow right up against them...looks like your garden did great inspite of the weeds...maybe the weeds helped shade your plants from the horrific hot summer we had :)

  8. My dear Jane: despite your insistence that you did not thrive or do as much in your garden as you wished you could, your food preservation list is very impressive. I am proud of you, both for going out of your way to put up so much delicious food, and for being so honest about your frustrations!
    Also, I see you got a bushel of sweet potatoes. We tried some experimental sweet potatoes this year for the first time, and in chilly MN, we got a LAUGHABLE harvest--about 100 thumb-sized sweet potato babies. The largest one was almost the size of a crabapple. Now, what do I do with THAT?! :-)

    1. I am laughing with you! are their skins? If they're nice, could you try roasting them like new red potatoes (and just eating the skins, too)? Or, how tedious would it be if you boiled them in water and then slipped the skins off to mash them (and freeze them- for muffins, pie, sweet potato black bean burritos, etc.)...maybe while you are watching a movie (like we do with shelling peas) since it might take awhile? Best of luck with them whatever you do. Was it the temps or your soil- what do you think?

    2. It's a combination of things that made them so silly this year, I think, but mostly it was the temps. I didn't dare plant them till the first week of June (cold soil), and the vines took off like crazy. But then, I was a bad garden mother, and didn't mulch, and didn't water (in the middle of a drought) and hardly weeded at all for the entire first half of the summer. Then we got our first frost before the end of September. So our season was so very short, not very warm, and very dry.

      I'll try again next year, and 1) warm up the soil with black plastic for a good many weeks before our last frost date; 2) WATER MY GARDEN when it needs it! 3)follow the advice I read about laying clear plastic on the patch around the vines to trap soil heat. Or, perhaps I'll try growing them in a tire tower, which is too hot for regular potatoes, but may be just perfect for sweet potatoes. Next year is another year. When you post your 2013 garden tally, I'll let you know how mine turned out!

  9. Hardly totals to "hang your heads" about!! Perhaps compared to previous years for you, but impressive none the less. With the months of extreme heat this summer for us our poor garden struggled no matter how much water I put on it, so I do have harvest envy : ) The one crop that did incredibly well was our zucchini, so like you we made lots of bread and those delicious chocolate chip brownies too!

    1. Thank you, Lynda, but we were hanging our heads about our lack of garden up-keep. We are VERY thankful for our harvest despite our neglect:-).

    2. Oops my goof, clearly it didn't hurt your garden too much : )

  10. I actually just made a double batch of that apple pie jam and it is one of my new favorites! I also tried Mavis' carrot cake jam and while I think it is not as good on ice cream - on a bagel with cream cheese it is great too.

    I am starting to put up more of the summer's produce and it is so fun to see what you have done!


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