This year, I had every intention of doing a better-than-normal garden—to save on money! to reduce our carbon footprint! to cut down on our pesticide consumption!—but it didn’t go so great. We planted green beans not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times, and even then, only bits and pieces of a few rows made it. We plodded along, picking a little here and a little there. It wasn’t nothing, but it wasn’t great, either.
And then we didn’t pick the sweet corn in time. (Alice was decimating the corn patch, but we thought she was just picking it young because she didn’t know what corn was supposed to taste like. Turns out, the corn was ripe.) Also, the peppers, basil, and tomatoes got frost-bitten (I planted too early, my bad), the kale got eaten, the tomatoes got a fungus, and the strawberries drowned in weeds.
So, all in all, it was a fairly ordinary year.
Rhubarb, chopped and frozen: 1½ gallons
Strawberries, sliced with sugar: 19 quarts and 2 pints
Strawberry freezer jam (4 batches): 9 pints and 4 half-pints
Sour cherries from our trees, frozen: 20 one-cup bags and 8 quarts
Sweet cherries (picked 33 pounds for a total of $61): 7 quarts canned with sugar, and 9 quarts frozen with sugar
Zucchini relish: 7 pints
Swiss Chard, steamed: 7 eight-ounce bags
Green beans, frozen: 36 quarts and 1 pint
Sweet pickles: 6 quarts and 2 pints
Corn (overripe), frozen: 28 quarts
Roasted Tomato and Garlic Pizza sauce: 25 pints, 1 half-pint
Blueberries (ordered from afar, 4 scant gallons for a total $80), frozen: 27 pints
Nectarines (4 bushels at $32/bushel): 41 quarts canned, 5 quarts frozen, 12 pint bags dried
Tomatoes: 31 quarts, 5 pints
Peaches, Glohaven (2 bushels at $32/bushel): 23 quarts
Salsa: 49 quarts, 6 pints, 1 half-pint
Roasted tomato sauce: 33 pints
Grape jelly: 9 pints (weak), 7 pints and 17 quarts (good)
Grape juice with (⅓ cup per quart) sugar: 6 quarts
Grape puree: 7 three-cup freezer boxes
Applesauce: 2 bushels Lodi for 40 quarts, maybe (I forgot to record this) and 2 bushels of Super Gold, Golden Delicious, and Stayman for 39 quarts
Oh yeah, and TWO BEEF.
*The children are at the age where they can be counted on to do much of the picking. My older daughter, especially, picked a huge portion of the sour cherries, green beans, and strawberries.
*Skip the fancy heirloom cucumbers and get one basic kind. Plant a lot of them, in a row (as opposed to mounds). And then do at least 14 quarts of sweet pickles. Because potato salad is so much better when loaded with tons of chopped sweet pickles.
*Hopefully we’ll have enough salsa! (My husband thinks we should reduce the garlic a little. I don’t agree.)
*Finally, we like our grape juice, because I’m adding plenty of sugar (in the form of a simple sugar syrup) to the jars before topping them off with juice.
*Next year, buy four bushels of Lodi apples to turn into sauce. It’s our favorite, now and forever, amen.
*The strawberries are slowly killing us. We can’t seem to stay on top of the weeds. It feels like a losing battle. Are we doing something wrong?
*I didn’t do any pesto because I had a bunch left from last year. Even had about a whole pesto torte left over!
*Our tomatoes, especially the juice ones, get hard white spots. A fungus, yes? They are still edible, and perfectly fine for canning, but they’re not the most attractive. Maybe we should plant in a different part of the garden next year?
*Peppers got nipped by a frost. Totally underwhelming.
*On recommendation from a friend, I planted Red Russian kale. It was delicious—so sweet!—but then it got utterly destroyed by some super-aggressive bugs. Oh well, the chard, at least, never wavered.
*Next year, watch the dogs—when they start stealing the corn, it’s time to pick.
*I LOVE BEEF.
This same time, years previous: the quotidian (10.24.17), our cracking whip, aging, boy in a blue dress, brown sugar syrup, love, the Tooth Fairy.
I'm losing the weed battle with my strawberries too. As for the garden, I scaled back this year because I've failed it so miserably in the past. The deer ate most of the garden to the ground in June, but I managed to bring it back to life and in October, am picking more tomatoes than I have all summer! The cucumbers never quite recovered though and my peppers just didn't do well – neglect? Not a good summer? Who knows. I'll try again next year.
can you explain your outdoor canning set up? I have a flat top stove so I'm afraid of canning anything in quarts. Thank you. Jan
Hi Jan! Years ago, my mother-in-law bought us an outdoor cookstove (it has two large burners that operate on a propane tank—here, like this: http://amzn.to/2yNYbi9). We just can directly on them, out on the porch/deck, to keep the heat out of the house.
I will look into this….thank you so much! Jan
Would you like some carrots for your freezer?? Partially kidding, but I could bring you a few. I've got to put some away this evening! We had a crazy good crop. I wish I would have let you know about our beans but maybe you don't like pole beans with strings. Harold's across the road daughter in law got about 4 5-gallon buckets from us. Now I tell you. 🙁 And yes, strawberries can beat you down. Speaking of horse manure, would we be able to get any from either of the places where your daughter mucks it out?? We would like some again, haven't put any on for about 3-4 years.
Sure, I'd take carrots! And as for the manure, I don't know for sure, but think yes probably. I'll ask my daughter and get back to you….
I'll drop some off this evening, Thurs.
Hi, I always love seeing this post, I think you did a stellar job even with your few difficulties. Wow, I'm impressed!
Thanks so much for sharing your life.
Janet- Woodway, WA
Have your family build you a little greenhouse for the tomatoes. I am certainly not a great carpenter, and I easily built a 8 by 16 foot greenhouse out of rough-cut 2 by 4's and greenhouse plastic. Although Karren is right about rotating crops, I consistently grow beautiful heirloom tomatoes in my little greenhouse year after year in Upstate NY, while all my friends are battling blight and other diseases. I stick some Suyo Long cucumbers in the greenhouse too, and they are great for pickling and plain eating. Use LOTS of horse manure on everything!!! Do you think you will eat the beef from two steers in one year? I am impressed! Wish you were my customer!!
I love JJs beef, too.
I had a good crop of "Armenian burpless" cucumbers this year- when every other variety bit the dust these produced for months. They make good sweet pickles–very crunchy. Watch out because they are also masters of camouflage; I definitely discovered some late that were the size of a small child (to the chickens they went)!
A couple of tips on the gardening. Never plant crops in the same spot they grew last year. You need to rotate them so the diseases won't build up in the soil, so tomatoes need to move on a three year pattern. The same with lots of other veggies.
To avoid some of the bugs, (but never all, unfortunately) interplant with companion plants that help. Marigolds are great everywhere in the garden, growing next to or among things the bugs are looking for. Their strong smell confuses the bugs and they can't find what they're looking for-sometimes. Zinnias and nasturtiums are great bug detractors too, and add lots to the appearance of the garden. Add herbs in everywhere too, for flavor and bug deterrents.