We are thick into the season where the garden literally takes over our life. No matter how much the weeds have taken over, garden produce for the year has gone from the trickle of strawberries, to now a full out invasion of peas, beans, broccoli, cabbages, as the raspberries wind down. The tomato plants are heavy with green orbs that look as though they may blush any day. Then life outside the garden and kitchen will virtually shut down. The cucumbers as well look like they will be ready to be pickled by as early as next week. I’ve never grown my own pickling cukes, so I don’t know how long that season is. I know very little about it. Last year we were given lots of cucumbers by some of Knut’s cousins who had excess in their garden, and the fermented dill pickles I made were to die for. I could sit and eat a whole jar if I let myself. I knew right away I could no longer go back to store-bought. The garden has ruined me for yet another food that I no longer want to buy.
I am so joyously ruined. Silje jokes that I’m ruining them all for life because they will never be satisfied with normal food and will be forced to garden as adult. I tell her it’s all a part of my evil plan.
Since we enjoyed the canned peaches and pears we did last year, I ordered even more this year, along with a big case of blueberries. I must have made that decision on little sleep, because during this thick season of processing what we are growing, cases of peaches and blueberries are coming into my house too, and each day has a full load of work in it.
Everything smells amazing. I know a lot of people are advising me just to freeze it all. I make myself can it, because 1)I never get to “leave it for later” processing stuff in my freezer. There is never a good day to do it in the winter. 2)We grow our own meat as well, and I reserve as much freezer space for our meat chickens (and we will have turkeys this year in our freezer as well!) I simply don’t have freezer space to spare. Plus canning requires no electricity to store, (no danger of losing hundreds of dollars of food during a midwinter power outage!) and it’s just done. There is a reason homesteaders love canning!
I haven’t gotten myself to can the beans and peas yet. I think I will keep freezing those, but they don’t take up much space. I bought a huge, top of the line pressure canner to can vegetables and meat the spring before my car accident 2 years ago. (Fruits, jams and pickles can usually be canned in a simple water bath. Low acidity foods like most vegis and meats need a pressure canner to be safe. Consult a Ball canning book for safe canning standards.) The pressure canner still sits in it’s original box as I cannot lift it with my bad back anymore, and will have to do those projects when Knut is around, though he has his own full load of chores this time of year too. He’s putting up hay for the first time this year. Some will go for a trade with a neighbor for some wool-sheep any day now, and the rest will be food for our sheep this winter. I may have to wait a few more years for my boys to get stronger muscles and maybe they can help me.
(Can I just say Knut is having a blast putting up hay? He gets to use old machinery his grandpa used, as well as borrowed some from a neighbor, and he just grins from ear to ear when he’s doing it. He’s been stealing the 3 older kids a few times to have them help throw the hay bales unto the cart, or off the cart into the barn. They are slow, and come inside sweaty and scraped up but they absolutely love working alongside their dad.)
So anyway, the cases of peaches stacked on my dining room table are still pretty rock hard. I’m pushing myself to wait a day or two before I process those. So in the meantime, I’m trying to get the blueberry processing out of the way as much as possible, and have delegated shelling peas and snapping beans to the kids. With a couple of afternoons of haying, and a bit of garden management, I’m still making them do a half day of school in the mornings. They just function better when they have things to do. Plus there are some subjects like botany, and entomology that is studied better in the summer. Most of their work is independent, but they will often sit at the kitchen table as I’m working and ask me to help them spell out words and such.
I am making blueberry syrup for pancakes, in these adorable little 1/2 liter Weck jars. I tried out a creamy blueberry pie recipe, that Knut didn’t really like. Well, he liked it, but he is a big cheesecake fan, and every time he took a bit of the yummy baked cream, he kept thinking how much better the pie would be with cheesecake instead of cream. He is a spoiled boy, but I love him. I think I’m going to try a blueberry peach jam recipe I found on Pinterest next.
I do complain, though the fresh produce is fighting me on that. It’s hard to complain with the smell of pies are in the air, and jewel colored mason and Weck jars start lining up my cold room, and there’s a visible progress and storing up going on here. Sunshine, blue skies, the smell of roses, and hunting eggs in the coop (the Copper Maran likes to hide her eggs in the corners, not in the nesting boxes) are all apart of the daily life around here. So while our to do list is long, we are noticing the sun going down earlier every night, and there’s this great momentum with it. It’s hard to complain with abundance, as weary as it gets.
Truly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my kids sneaking peas, or running out to the garden to pick out a snack. If I had one piece of advice for anyone looking to “put up” some food for winter it would be this: wear very comfortable shoes. Whew.