Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Best Day Ever

Susan and I spent most of Saturday in the garden and kitchen. It was great!

We started around 8:30 with a walk to get plums. This is our first time harvesting plums though we have known about them for a couple years. With two little girls helping us, we actually picked the plums, spilled them, and picked them up again.  But in the end, we ended up with enough to yield six cups of pitted ground plums. More on that later.

Walking back, we decided we better get into the tomato patch to get rid of bad ones and pick the good ones. It was hard to not notice some green peppers that were ready, so we picked those. Then we could see cucumbers and found quite a few small ones to make those little pickles.

After checking the carrots and picking a few of those, we moved on to green beans. As we were finishing those up, we noticed our broccoli was ready too.

Eventually we decided our other plans had to be put on hold so we could process a bunch of this food.

Susan made five pints of salsa creating her own recipe in the process. I don't know why we canned all of them, we should have just started eating one.

After cleaning a few of the vegetables, I spent hours watching college football while simultaneously pitting plums. I ended up with eight jars, some pints some half pints, of a tasty plum jam with allspice.

I also made a couple more quarts of pickles when I was done with the jam.  I postponed green beans until the next day, but managed four more quarts of beans out of this picking.

Susan and I were commenting during all of this how much fun we were having.  She even felt guilty since we had other things "to do" and we had put them on hold.

In reality, we were doing what we needed to do.  We were collecting and preserving food that would feed our family for the near future.  In the process, we got our excercise in and didn't even have to pay a gym membership.  Plus it was just the two of us with plenty of time to talk and visit.

Sure four cans of green beans and a couple jars of jelly could have been purchased in much less time for only a little more money.  We find that we enjoy the time together and feel good about the work we do in providing for our food.  Instead of going somewhere else to work all day, and then using that AFTER TAX money to buy food, we will continue to eat as much as we can that is grown, harvested, or hunted on the east half of the southwest quarter....

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Bountiful Harvest

Here is my harvest from yesterday.  Another good day in the old truck patch yielded green beans, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, and green peppers.  If only I didn't have a day job and four kids, the tomato harvest would be much better.  I bet as many as picked are already rotten because I didn't get to them soon enough.

I don't know if this picture does it justice, but a full size grocery bag is 2/3 full of green beans.  Again, my tardiness in harvesting resulted in a few undesirables, but I still yielded 7 quarts of canned beans and a four gallon bowl of fresh beans in the fridge.

Here are the good, or at least partially good tomatoes.  I'm running seriously low on canning jars, so I think there will be a lot of fresh tomatoes eaten in the next week.  Really wishing I had signed up for the farmers market!
 We have eaten quite a few cucumbers, and yesterday's harvest was substantial.  So I made 8 pints of pickles.  These are garlic dill, and half of them have a dried habanero pepper in the bottom.  We have a quart jar with a habanero that is ready to eat.  I am waiting for Uncle John and Aunt Linda to visit to open that up and see how well we like it.
This is my carrot harvest.  Funny, it looks like a couple more cucumbers slipped in with them.  Kind of like in the garden where the green bean vines are climbing the tomato plants and mixing in with the sweet potato vines.  Note to self, more spacing next year.

I am excited about this first harvest of carrots because it means my picky eater, Logan, will finally enjoy something we grew.  Grace is picky too, but likes a fresh carrot.  Definitely a side dish on tonight's diner menu.

The only thing ready that I don't have pictures of is our sweet potatoes.  They are still in the ground, as that is where they will keep the best until we need to eat them.  Next time I'm out in the garden, I'll snap a shot of them as they are bursting out of the ground they are so big.

We must truly be blessed with good earth, because after all the dry weather in June and July, we still are managing a bountiful harvest.  We don't want it to go to waste, so if you are nearby, come visit and I'll send you home with some.  The food tastes better when grown on the east half of the southwest quarter.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Freely Given, Freely Received

We spent $73 on seeds for our garden this year.  It was a lot more money than I would have thought we would spend.  However, we do seem to be getting our money's worth.  We have made 5 quarts of pickles, 4 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 9 quarts of green beans, and 7 quarts of tomatoes, and frozen 3 quart bags of corn.

That doesn't even count the vegetables eaten fresh or used in recipes directly from the garden.  For sure we have used 4 dozen ears of corn, 2 dozen green peppers, a quart of green beans, 2 dozen onions, 10 heads of garlic, 5 pounds of tomatoes, 2 dozen zucchini, and 2 dozen cucumbers.  I would say I am light on every one of those estimates.

In addition, we have bartered or sold vegetables, receiving $22 of value in return.  If I add up the cost at Kroger of the above amounts, the cost would be  $175.00.

That means that for our time and effort, we have profited $114.00.  Non monetary benefits include eating produce that has a greater quality taste, free of pesticides and chemicals, and learning more about the food we are putting in our body.  Plus, we are a little more in shape from the exercise of tilling and preparing the garden, pulling weeds, and picking vegetables.

But all who know me well, know that I can't leave well enough alone.  Just imagine if I could find a way to get the $73 worth of starter seeds at no cost to me.  Why my profit margins would sky rocket!  Let's see, how could I possibly manage this task?

Oh yeah, these are plants.  They freely give me their seeds at the end of their production!  So with a little research, (learning something new keeps the brain sharp right) and a little bit of effort, I am planning on saving my seeds to start my garden next year.

First up, asparagus.  Pictured to the left is the drying process for the seeds I discovered the other day.  I am particularly excited about this venture for a couple reasons.  One, most things I read say we mostly have non seed bearing asparagus being grown, so I feel lucky to have found one plant in our patch that was seed bearing.  Second, this patch was originally planted by Fred & Marian Worrell, my wife's grandparents.  They planted it around 1975 and we are still eating from it.  By propagating seeds from this patch, I believe that their great-great-great-great grandchildren will be eating asparagus as a result of their efforts.
Now this is a long term project.  I dried the seeds for planting in early 2013.  We will have to see how well it grows, and if it does well, we won't be able to harvest until spring 2015.  Progress reports shall be forthcoming as we continue to become more self sufficient here on the east half of the southwest quarter