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Biting off more than I can …

June 5, 2008

chew, weed, can, freeze – fill in the blank.

About this time of year, I get impatient.  When I’m on the tractor tilling the garden, it looks too small.  When I’m planting seeds, or weeding it looks way TOO big.  I change my mind about things about 10 times a day at least.  It always gets planted, and weeded and most of the time harvested and put up in some form.  I’m always amazed at how much food it takes for the three of us to get through the year.  Hundreds of pounds of tomatoes get cooked down into sauce, salsa and whole roasted tomatoes.  We eat literally several hundred pounds of potatoes a year, and that is just what I have started weighing, in an effort to keep track.  I take notice, because tonight when I opened a pint of roasted tomato sauce to make pizza, the aroma transported me back to last September, and believe me on a rainy day like today, I was missing last September and the smell of toms, garlic, onions and basil roasting in the oven!  Today, I cooked on the cookstove because it was cold!  Hearing about the latest salmonella outbreak on fresh tomatoes in I don’t know how many states, confirmed my belief we should be growing our own food.  I haven’t had a fresh tomato since December.  We always pick what’s left before the first frost and put them upstairs.  They are kind of bland, being a long ways from a sunny day, but I know it will be July before we eat another.  For us, by eating seasonally, we have more variety throughout the year, and by the time we eat the last of something, we don’t mind waiting until the next growing season.

What I’m adding in this year and worried about is planting our second greenhouse with crops for winter.  It has been a long time since I planted in both at the same time.  For the last 7 years, we have used them for winter housing for our laying hens.  The hens are gone now, and I’m wanting  to plant those greenhouses full. 

Greenhouse 2

Last November, we housed our turkeys in here for the last three weeks before Thanksgiving.  The bedding, and turkey manure is about 4″ deep.  I started watering in here 2 days ago, and when it is dry enough to work, I will till this in and then cultivate, as weeds germinate, in preparation for planting our winter coles and salad greens during July and August.  I’ve seeded the coles this week for this project.  According to my garden notes from last year, I transplanted all my winter cabbages, kales, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower by July 12.  Last year, I planted 1/2 in greenhouse 1, with the tomatoes and peppers, and the other half in the outside garden.  Our old dog died, and the other dog was too depressed too chase the deer.  All my outside cole crops were eaten by November!  I’ll still plant outside, and we have a new deer chasing dog – but I’m not gambling this year.  Besides when the weather is awful, and when the deer are the hungriest, that new dog (my baby) will be sleeping next to my bed!

So we’ll see if I can pull it off, a small investment in seeds, a bigger investment in time and maybe a for sure winter crop.

Greenhouse 2, before it had its cover,  1998 

Greenhouse 2, Three Sisters, 1998

We didn’t get the skin on that first year, so we just planted the space full and used it as additional garden space.  That was 10 years ago, I hope it works this year.

Cedar Waxwings just passing through.



13 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2008 10:41 pm

    That’s what those birds are! There were two on the feeder today and I didn’t recognize them and couldn’t find them in the bird book. Thanks!

  2. June 6, 2008 4:05 am

    The soil in your greenhouse should be wonderful for raising vegetables. It certainly looked awesome back in 98 – I tried the Three sisters planting a couple of years ago. Do you do that on a regular basis?
    It does take a lot of food for one family doesn’t it? We are trying to change our eating habits and eat more of what we can raise such as potatoes instead of pasta or rice. I know I can make pasta but time is always a factor. It’s easier to raise potatoes. We like them, just don’t seem to eat tons of them. They are doing great in the garden and we WILL eat more of them this year!

    What do you do with kale and collards?

    The cedar waxwings are beautiful!

  3. Kristen permalink
    June 6, 2008 4:30 am

    This is probably a dumb question….but how do you store your whole roasted tomatoes?

  4. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 6, 2008 6:07 am

    Laura, they are striking birds with a beautiful song. They were scouting their holly berry supply – we don’t see them too often during the summer, since they move to a higher elevation from here.

    Debi, I’m excited about planting in #2, turkey manure has a different composition than chicken, it has more long lasting effects in the pasture, probably because their digestive system is slightly different than other poultry. Studies have found that turkey make conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) like grass fed beef, just in smaller amounts. I have only done the three sisters twice, I couldn’t keep it weed free enough for me… None of us cares too much for pasta and rice type meals so it is pretty easy to “sell” vegetables at mealtimes. Plus, it gets us off the grain treadmill, too. Potatoes are pretty versatile in cooking, lending themselves to different recipes. Plus, they store easily.

    On the greens front, we would go broke buying greens to feed our teenager, she will eat a huge bowl everyday, so we eat a lot of braised greens, sauteed with garlic or onion, we use chicken broth for the liquid. The only greens I was exposed to as a child were boiled until unrecognizable and then boiled some more – I did not develop a taste for greens until I had some that were lightly cooked. We use the chard stems like celery, and discard (feed to the hens) the tougher kale stems. The tenderest leaves go into salads – we also eat a lot of huge salads with mixed greens and some kind of meat as a condiment.

    I love those birds, my daughter heard them, and lucky for us they decided to light in that dead tree top. We were excited to see so many.

    Kristen, that’s not a dumb question. I can all our tomato products. I can in different size jars according to how I plan to use the end product, and I don’t add seasoning except to the salsa. That way, I can add fresh spices when I cook and it keeps my options open. The hardest part of cooking for me is trying to keep it interesting and not cook the same old thing all the time.

  5. tansy permalink
    June 6, 2008 6:26 am

    i always feel like that right now…i’ve done too much! there’s not enough! but when it comes to canning time i’m always saying i need more! we feed up to 8 people here, 2 are teens, 2 are pre-teens so we need a lot of food. sundried tomatoes, there’s never enough of, ketchup goes quickly too. i finally broke out the dried onions and once my husband discovered how yummy they were, they were gone in 2 days. i have to hide and ration the dried products from him or he’ll use them up immediately. he doesn’t cook often but when he does, he tends to go overboard (while i cringe as i watch my hard work devoured in minutes).

    have you tried sunchokes? i love them. i leave them in the ground, cover the area with mulch for protection and dig as needed. they can be cooked like potatoes and are kid approved.

  6. Kristen permalink
    June 6, 2008 8:36 am

    Do you pack them in water or anything or do you just can them in the jars without anything else?

  7. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 6, 2008 11:02 am

    TANSY, wow, you have your work cut out for you – 8 people, Yikes. I feel guilty (not too much though) for metering out the food. If I think about the sheer responsibility of feeding every single mouth on this farm – I start talking to myself too much! So I try not to. It seems like someone always needs something, and if I walk to the greenhouse or garden and I feel eyes staring at me, I know I better go check water troughs. My DH doesn’t cook anymore, and I don’t work on my truck – fair trade for us. But he’ll eat a pie in nothing flat, and I think some of that stems from the attitudes he developed about food as a child. Food was just fuel or used as punishment, and I grew up grazing on berries and whatever I could find outside. No limits and no punishment.

    We love Jerusalem Artichokes, we do the same, they have always been here, so I have no idea what variety, maybe Red Fuseau. What kind are yours? Are the tubers large?

  8. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 6, 2008 12:03 pm

    Kristen, I wasn’t even thinking you might have tomatoes to can – since you probably live in a drier and warmer climate. Sorry – this is what I do: whole tomatoes are peeled and packed raw in their own juice, whole roasted tomatoes are peeled and roasted with basil, garlic and onion, and then packed in their own pan juices. For the puree, we like the roasted flavor and roast same as above and then run the whole mess through the food mill, cook it down to desired thickness and and then can it. This is a good time to make tomato juice or V8 too, because some of the juice will be extra. Make sure you are just adding small amounts of low acid vegetables, like the garlic and onions. To be safe follow the Ball Blue Book guidelines for adding acid, you can use bottled lemon juice or citric acid. Also stick to the processing times. I use my pressure cooker more because it takes less time, water and electricity to process, but water bath might be less intimidating if you haven’t canned much. It takes huge amounts of tomatoes to make sauce. But, if it is something that you buy anyway and have the time to do at home, it is cheaper and better quality than what you can buy, organic or not. Just picture food processing on an industrial scale and you will get what I mean… The barrels we use for grain storage and compost tea are actually 55 gallon drums that originally held tomato sauce. I’d like to see that can opener.

    This probably needs to be a post – since this is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope this helps.

  9. tansy permalink
    June 6, 2008 2:56 pm

    i have no idea what variety my sunchokes are…i bought a package at the grocery store 7 years ago, threw them in the ground and never looked back! from 6 tiny tubers, i now have a patch that is about 2′ x 12′ and growing. the tubers range from small (size of a golf ball) to huge (bigger than my hand).

    ahhh, the famous disappearing food act! we have that around here too.

    luckily, 8 aren’t here all the time. usually mostly in the summer, week to week when food is abundant. during the school year (for the older ones) we only have 8 here about 2 weekends a month and then it’s usually about 6. but still, yeah, it gets crazy!

  10. June 6, 2008 7:43 pm

    I always learn new things when I stop by here! CLA and turkeys? Who knew?

    When I was young we got a few cedar waxwings in town every year when the mulberry tree was ripe… even my mom loved them, despite the purple ‘bombs’ they’d occasionally drop on the fresh washing hanging out to dry.

  11. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 6, 2008 8:57 pm

    Tansy, that’s about the size of our patch too, we eat quite a few, and I always wonder if I’m depleting them, but they come back from even one eye.

    Still, 8 at any time is a lot of mouths to feed. That must keep you busy!

    Hayden, one of our egg customers had a good sized mulberry tree in their yard – from the mess on the sidewalk and the adjacent lawn, it didn’t appear if any had been eaten, even by birds.

  12. January 11, 2011 9:13 am

    How did your three sister planting turn out? I am going to do some trials this year but haven’t found a dry bean that vines yet…

    • January 12, 2011 7:33 am

      I didn’t like it at all, the beans kept the corn from pollinating properly, and the squash seemed to suffer from pollination issues as well compared to the same crops the same year in a row setting. I used Aztec half-runners – they did the best of the three.

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