And so it begins.
After spending the first half of the month nearly holding my breath to see if we’d get a harvest before….
Before the squash bugs & cucumber beetles wreaked their havoc…
Before huitlacoche began to bubble up out of the corn…
Before late blight took out the tomatoes…
And so on.
But we made it and all this work we’ve poured into it and everything is beginning to come to fruition and the harvest in coming in! Praise the Lord!
The pantry counter is spending most days loaded despite my best efforts to stay caught up. So far, I’m doing alright with most of it, save the yellow summer squash. Just this morning I contemplated chunking it up and feeding some to the pigs. Then I could feel warm & fuzzy inside about how well I’m keeping up.
•It was the third week of August that brought the first big load of tomatoes. This photo shows one evenings harvest! The bushel basket had 6 pounds of beans in it… the rest were tomatoes!
I’ve been freezing a goodly bit to deal with later, but otherwise I canned 3 different types of salsa to try, a few half pints of bruschetta, some sweet tomato sauce (in the most awesome, frugal, easy, and flavorful way to make tomato sauce EVER!! Recipe forthcoming….) , and I’ve also roasted and froze a few gallon sized bags of cherry tomatoes à la The Elliott Homestead.
•Heirloom Black Early Tomato. The first tomatoes ripening from the garden. Beautifully ugly and full of all the deep wonderful flavor you could ask for in a first tomato of the season. They are bearing well and have earned a place in my Tomato All-Star Line Up alongside the red & yellow varieties of Brandywine and heirloom cherry tomatoes. I have one reject- White Tomesol. They came on all at once and then were the first to fall to a fungal issue- black mold. I’m looking for heirlooms that slowly give out their goodness over the whole season.
•Not pictured, but I feel compelled to mention that I had IT happen.
It. You know, the whole hay mulch making more weeds that it prevented issue. Which is fine. I’ve walked through that fire and came to the other side and I STILL think it’s worth it!
Here’s why. I learned a couple lessons.
#1- Do NOT use last year’s hay for mulch. If you, like us come across a fellow wanting his barn cleaned out, great. Bring it home, pile it up and let it sit for another year so all those seeds have a chance to sprout and die outside of the garden. The older the mulch the better (unless we’re talking super wet & moldy- which is fine to use so long as you wear a mask.)
#2- Always get more than you need. IF I had had more hay mulch waiting in the wings, I could have easily and simply covered up those tiny grass seedlings and been done with it. But I didn’t and we couldn’t find any more. (Still looking.) What happens is that hay will settle and also start to break down. So while it looks like there was a lot laid down, it won’t be as much as you thought in a few weeks and if the light gets through… BAM. Germination.
Well the little weeds popped up at a very inopportune time… homeschool testing week and by the time I got around to dealing with them they were past the stage where they could be managed with a simple knock-down. The roots were established enough, they’d just come back (and did).
What we ended up doing is cutting out more lengths of the black fabric mulch and laying it down for a few weeks and that took care of the problem. That and bringing EVERYONE out to the garden for a morning to knock out the rest.
It’s been a couple weeks now, and really I need to be weeding again, but my wee one is mobile and a handful to manage and we have some weird feverish illness trickling it’s way through my gang one at at time so between that and the harvest keeping me busy, it hasn’t happened. That said, I went along for a drive yesterday and all the gardens I spent the spring envying while I was slipping in the mud in mine are all completely overgrown and awful looking. Mine was the purtiest and most weed-free on the whole trip!
Moving over to the (not so pretty) pantry garden….
Not only does the pantry garden not look like much, it doesn’t look like it has seen much improvement over the last month. Somehow, somewhere we are actually getting a bit from it… 17 pounds of tomatoes just this morning. A stray head of cabbage. A lot of what you see here is set to be ready for harvest over the next month or so.
The plan was that the Kitchen Garden would primarily feed us over the summer and the Pantry Garden would be the foodstuff to take us through the winter (presuming fall gardening proves to be a flop, which is looking increasingly promising since the cultivator is broken and they needed to be planted days and days ago.
Let’s take a quick stroll through it, shall we?
•Starting with the sweet potatoes, they should be ready quite soon. I *feel* like they should go longer, but apparently I planted them on 6/4 so today is about 90 days which means they need to be checked at some point this week.
•What parsnips that did germinate I’ll leave in the ground until after the first freeze to sweeten them up. A digging fork pops them right up just so long as it’s not in the dead of the frozen winter. My favorite storage plan.
•I won’t need to worry about storing onions this year. I swear I planted hundreds upon hundreds of onion seeds. 500? More? Knowing they wouldn’t all make it. This is what has been spared to me. Pretty pathetic. Rabbits. Oh there will be a fence and a plan next year- you mark my word!!
•There are potatoes in there somewhere. But don’t focus on the weeds please, there are potatoes!! I know because a chicken scratched at the base of a plant and I saw them! What a fight to even get to this point! I feel downright hopeful we’ll get a few meals of homegrown potatoes yet!
•Acorn squash. What’s up with the leaves? They’re not looking so hot are they? Trying to remind myself that even getting this far is a victory because though the squash are still small, I’ve never made it this far before.
•Overgrown pumpkin patch. Next to overgrown corn. This is NOT an example of how to do the 3 sisters. Unless you don’t intend to harvest or care for the beans & squash. Larger space or fewer seeds next time.
•The Corn-Leaf-Soil-Nutrient-Deficiency-Indicator is showing reddish-pink streaky leaves meaning we have a phosphate deficiency. Spot on since we had the soil tested in the greenhouse last month (which is right above the Pantry Garden) and the largest deficiency was phosphate. That one 3000 square foot area is going to need nearly 150 pounds of soft rock phosphate to be amended! It was a very interesting report. It seemed everything was very deficient or had excesses. We’ll be amending it according to the recommendations of The Intelligent Gardener and then sowing a cover crop of peas and oats.
Next year we’ll be planting the Pantry Garden in the greenhouse and allowing the Pantry Garden to be tested, amended, and cover cropped. The third year, it will be the Kitchen Garden’s turn, testing and amending the other two as well. The fourth year, we should be good to go and can hopefully maintain balanced soil by making yearly inputs instead in addition to withdrawals (harvest) every year.
•I believe that we could have had a better tomato harvest this year. Oddly enough, without a fence or proper staking, something is getting into the garden and eating all of the tomatoes. Hmmmm….. I wonder what it could be…..
•Let’s move on to a positive note. I.Grew.Cabbage.
Oh this is such a big deal!! It has been a goodly long while since I haven’t lost the heads to cabbageworms. Maybe it was growing purple, I could see them better on the leaves? Maybe it was the diatomaceous earth trick? I can’t be sure, but you can bet I’ll be trying them both again next year! Isn’t that the most beautiful head of cabbage you’ve ever seen?!?! Perhaps I’m biased.
• A tour of the Pantry Garden wouldn’t be complete without checking out the little raspberry patch. I mean, who knows, it just might be that the children have been too busy the last few days to scavenge every remotely pink berry from their spiny stems?
Not taking any chances or leaving any hope for an official harvest, I scarfed those bad boys like I was one of the ten and under crowd. And was glad you weren’t really there so I didn’t have to share! Ha!
LESSON OF THE MONTH
Learn to eat & grow food more seasonally.
I’ll be honest, as much as I love seeing a pantry stocked full of home canned goods, I love gardening and being outdoor and listening to the music of the bugs & the birds and sinking my fingers deep within the soil more. When preservation season hits, I feel a sense of urgency to really soak up all the sun and fresh air and warmth I can get before the cold weather makes venturing outdoors unpleasant. And I can’t because most of my time is spent indoors canning & preserving along with my regular necessary indoor duties of laundry and meal making. Of course, gardening into the nooks and crannies of the seasons would force the issue and give me no choice but to go outside when it’s irritating to find all the necessary clothing to keep my toes and nose and fingers from becoming frost bitten.
How did your garden fare last month?
Oh how I wish you lived closer! I was in your neck of the woods today, though, doing some apple picking at Legend Hills… anyway, the thing with gardening is that I like to plan and preserve! I’m really not good with the planting (ALWAYS miss the deadline) and weeding (feels like a losing battle) and harvesting (somehow I miss that deadline, too!) But I LOVE to can and freeze and blend and cook, etc., there is nothing better, to me, than to see a fresh produce become something norishing and if I could get it cheaper (FREE) from someone else it just makes the meal even better. However, since it isn’t high on anyone elses list of priorities to provide produce for my family of 9, well, I guess I will keep slugging thru gardening… meanwhile, I have apples to can! Bring on the applesauce, applebutter, apple pie filling, carmel apple jam, oh my… 🙂
Wow… Gardening/harvesting was over for us by early July. We are in SE TX. I’m in Southern Okla this weekend and was amazed when I found farmers still selling at the local farmers market. I wish we had a longer season.. It gets so hot so fast for us. I like fall gardening much better. We always have a better outcome.
So you’re in the crowd I always envy for getting all the garden goodies while all my plants are babies 🙂 Looks like the tables have turned, haha!!
I suppose you still win because you’re getting 2 growing seasons, lucky you! And as a bonus you won’t have to work your fall/winter garden while it’s 30 degrees with snow on the ground and a stiff 25mph wind 😉 Ok. You win lol!
Jennifer A says
This year we tried to use wood chips to mulch, and I think it would have worked if we’d had more, too. I need to harvest our sweet potatoes too, and get the rest of our fall seeds out. We’ve had some of the hottest weather all season in the last couple of weeks, which convinces me to stay indoors as much as possible! But I think it’s supposed to cool down some next week. Your garden and harvest look lovely! I wish I was getting a good crop of tomatoes, but my little Romas aren’t producing as many as we’ll need. And your cabbage is beautiful! I planted some red cabbages for the fall, I’m hoping they come up well. I also loved the picture of the garden with the colorful clothes on the line. Makes it look so festive!
Yeah, it was 90 here yesterday and I couldn’t bring myself to get much of anything done outside. Today was barely 70 and at one point quite windy, I had to put on a sweat jacket to work in the garden. Probably wouldn’t have felt so cold had it not been contrasted with such heat yesterday. Anyway, you know despite the chickens getting them, I didn’t think my Romas did too well this year either. Hmmm…. The heirlooms & cherry tomatoes are outperforming them mightily. Till now, I had been thinking that it was being in a different location… Hopefully, you have had a bumper crop of something else to make up for the deficit in tomatoes 🙂 Take Care Jennifer!
It’s fun to see how other gardens are doing. Most of our squash and zucchini came early so they’re winding down. I froze a good bunch of chunked or shredded squash/zucchini. We planted corn for the 1st time, 3 sisters style. It looked good but isn’t very tasty. Making lots of tomato sauce and salsa these days. Oh, a tip in case it helps others: I shredded zucchini into my tomato sauce – it used what I had, added nutrition and fiber without a noticable visible or flavor change.
I’ve been making a bunch of tomato sauce too- Silly me, I forgot to add any zucchini to it! That would have been such an easy and efficient way to have managed it. Thanks for the reminder!
I’ve got 40 old round bales in the back field! Free if you can come and get them! There is more than I can ever use in my own gardens.
Rebecca Newman says
Looks beautiful Quinn! I completely relate to you on the fact that it can be frustrating being in the kitchen from dawn to dusk knowing that these beautiful days are growing shorter and shorter and we ought to be soaking them up. I haven’t quite figured out how to get out there while also staying on top of the canning and milk production.
Speaking of milk production- I’ve been dying to ask- how has the whole 3 cows worth of milk going for you? Have you found some raw milk customers? I think of you almost daily and pray that you’ve found an outlet because the 5 gallons of milk our ONE cow is producing for us is…well…pretty overwhelming for me on top of all the preserving that needs to be done. I’ve been thinking about you.
Your tomatoes look lovely- especially that beautiful dark one. I love to have a variety of colors and they really do have their own unique tastes too! That cabbage is gorgeous too! Yay for cabbage! I just stumbled across a way to make saurkraut using cabbage and whey- I am going to do that as soon as I find which (of the dozens) of the books it was in.
I recently deleted almost my entire feedly account but I kept the few most special ones of all- and guess who stayed? You did. Gotta love ya Quinn.
I did see that I made the cut 😉 Yea!!! I almost didn’t want to read the post in case that wasn’t the case (imagine me squinting and cringing as I scrolled), but I so respect what you did, that I downloaded the Feedly app, deleted the bookmark, and am checking it only a couple times a week. Not quite as far as you took it, but I find that when I see there are 50 articles to read, I’m being much more selective about what I’m reading and am closing most of them without looking. You’re an inspiration!! And I’m spending less time at the screen 🙂
We’ve only got 4 members to our herdshare so far…but a couple have bought more than one share so that handles 6 or 7 gallons of milk a week. I need to do some marketing but the only place I could find the time to do that would be to take it from running these blogs. We’re in the middle of nowhere and I think we’re too far away for most people to be willing to drive. Bill is open to doing drops for a small gas fee, but has set a limit of at least 3 customers per drop. I think once we get those in place the ball will get rolling. There has been lots of interest and I think would be more if I wrote up some advertising on a few local food sites.
The problem with the milk right now is that we had 2 of our little deep freezers break and I’ve got the kitchen freezer stuffed.full. with beans, and quick breads, and cherry tomatoes. Which means the fridge is full of things I normally freeze (like bags of ground wheat) and so we’ve been dumping about half the milk straight to the pigs- no skimming for cream (AGH!!) We FINALLY got a new one a couple days ago and I’m going to work on organizing freezers in the morning so we can get back on track. (I say “finally” because, being a tightwad, couldn’t bring myself to pay retail for a freezer so I snagged a “like new” one from sears outlet for half price. The catch was it was 2 hours away so it’s been hard to get off the homestead for that long. )
Ok- so I just asked my menfolk ’cause I haven’t been paying attention…and our first-time cows are only giving about 2 gallons a day- each. Holly’s giving 6 gallons a day. So we’re not that far ahead of you and probably 2/3 of what you were figuring. Your Pretty Penny sounds like a champion! Sounds like it’s time for some pigs 😉
Blessings to you and your crew Rebecca!
LaRee Colburn says
Quinn, the gardens look beautiful!! And don’t worry, gardens are supposed to have weeds – at least some of them! You are to be commended for having such a wonderful garden with a big family to take care of as well! Great job. Its all a learning curve isn’t it? And then, every year is different. For us, this was not a tomato year, it was very cold and wet – so blight affected everyone’s tomatoes – mine especially! And now its very cold and threatening to freeze by the end of the week. At least I got enough tomatoes to can some salsa and some plain tomatoes. I’m so thankful that I’ve put up extra in years past – because the pantry is still stocked full of other “tomato” items like soup and sauces, etc. I agree that mulching with hay is the best – but the older it is and thicker it is the better! Sorry I haven’t had a chance to catch up with you lately – maybe with the colder weather I’ll be able to catch up on some of my blog reading and emails. Blessings and prayers, LaRee.
No biggie LaRee. As much as I miss hearing from my “regular readers,” I can’t bring myself to be too sad about it knowing that you all are properly prioritizing your lives and caring for your families. 🙂 I am sorry to hear that it wasn’t tomato year for you. It’s a sad thing not to have the best flavor of summer to enjoy in abundance. Of course, that’s just my opinion, 😀 I’m glad to hear you were prudent in past years and still have a full larder!
Can you believe we’re talking “freeze” already??! It’s crazy. Surely I’m not the only one that summer literally FLEW by for? I swear if the calendar wasn’t before me, I’d say it was mid-June. (I wish.) I found tonight that tossing on a sweatshirt and clipping the pasture with a scythe can make a body feel like it isn’t 60 degrees outside instead of 80. Maybe that will be my secret for squeaking out a bit more warmth from the year before the snow starts to fly. Take care LaRee and soak in the rest of the season 🙂
Oh Quinn your garden makes me so excited for your family. It looks lovely, even though you may not think so. I have to ask how you can bruschetta? To me it is bread and tomatoes and a good oil and cheese. Am I thinking of the wrong thing?
Nope, not at all. I found the recipe in the Ball canning book & it’s half pints of the tomatoes with herbs. I can’t bring myself to try it yet, what with fresh tomatoes still going strong, but I’m thinking it might be a taste of summer come February!! 🙂
It was lovely visiting your garden 🙂 You’ve done an amazing job & it all looks wonderful. We’ve always found the hay worth the weeds you get because here the moisture retention is so critical. I am looking forward to our summer gardening this year ( hopefully with enough water :). Thanks for sharing 🙂
I’ll bet you are looking forward to summer Renata! I can imagine! Ours was far too short and the air coming in the window and hitting my foot right now is getting chilly 🙁 I’m sure you’d be glad for a summer half as wet as ours was and if I could send it your way, I would!! It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one who thinks the potential for weeds with the hay mulch makes it worth it. Blessings to you 🙂
Aaron Haylock says
Hey Quinn, I believe your a perfect example of what we ought to be seeing more of in our society, its so easy to float the mainstream as a course of social integration. It takes allot of courage to step out in faith with gardening and living off the land. much respect to you and your lifestyle. hugelkuturs are another great way to transform any garden space into a living, breathing, and growing environment. they are allot of hard work, but will if done correctly last for a lifetime. will be checking up on you to see progress. God bless you sister.
Well that’s awfully kind of you to say so Aaron, thank you! Glad to have you here and thanks for sharing the ideas! It’s definitely something I’ll look into.
In Christ, Quinn