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Managing the Stores

March 16, 2013

The gardening “year” starts here in late fall when I plant garlic.  But really there is no stopping and starting point in the gardening/pantry year, there is just continuity and flow of food and the work of food.   We can only plan so much if we are growing our own food, I have no idea what the apple year will bring.  We may skip a year.  Or we may have an abundance.  In an abundant year I process a lot of applesauce and it tides us over during the lean tree fruit years.


Last fall was a bumper crop year.  I still have boxes of apples that have stored all winter on the porch.  We have eaten apples til we are blue in the face.  Every week I go through the boxes of apples, you know, the one bad apple thing.  With a bucket nearby, I sort and inspect and look for any signs of spoilage, the bucket goes to the barn for Jane.  Jane’s grateful for a taste treat and I’m grateful for the symbiosis of the apple and the house cow.

Tomkins King

Tompkins King

In the scheme of keeping apples, with heritage varieties anyway, King is king here in the Pacific Northwet, followed by Northern Spy and Grimes Golden.  Every year it seems there is a flurry of spoilage activity in the boxes, and then by Christmas, all the weak apples have been weeded out and the pace of bad keepers slows.  This particular box had one apple with a soft spot, but the rest of the blemishes were merely cosmetic.  Sorry Jane, this looks like pie making material to me!

Jane fodder

Jane fodder

At a certain point Jane will get the rest, as they dry and shrivel and we tire of apple pie.  None of us care for dried apples, so I learned long ago not to spend time preserving things that we never eat.  Applesauce is more likely to disappear from the pantry here, so that is what I spend my energy processing in the fall.

As we are eating our way through the “great wall” of food on the shelves and in the freezers, it’s the perfect time for a reality check.  As in, “why on earth did I freeze all that kale, chard and spinach?’  We have been eating fresh greens gleaned from the garden all winter.  Or why didn’t I freeze and dry more Italian prunes.  I.AM.ALMOST.OUT.  Cilantro pesto is holding up, as is the roasted tomato salsa, but I’m totally out of hot chile sauce:(    So I will plant more hot peppers and make more hot chili sauce this year and I will worry over the prune trees from bloom to ripening fruit.  Such is the gardening life.

Italian Prunes

Italian Prunes

A lot of these foodstuffs are just about done, or past their prime and going to make eggs in the case of frozen greens, or milk in the case of Jane.  But the potatoes get a second wind that is a little more glamorous than livestock fodder.  I never can make the St Patrick’s Day “deadline” for planting potatoes since my seed potatoes won’t arrive until mid-April, but I did grab a few out of the eating box to chit, and they are about ready to go.  Not the prettiest, but they will do fine in a corner of greenhouse and bridge the gap a bit between the dregs of last year’s harvest and the new main crop.

Purple Viking

Purple Viking

So that’s the state of my pantry.  What do you wish you had more of this time of year? Or less of?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2013 5:45 pm

    Even with the three hundred pound harvest and 72 quarts canned, we still ran out of potatoes this year. I will be super glad to have them back in stock again.
    I ENVY your fruit trees! We lost ours in 2011 when the drought was so horribly severe for us. Replanting and starting from scratch!
    I am planning on canning up a lot of soup this year. It was the one thing we really lacked last winter, that I would have loved to be able to just pull from my pantry without having to take all day to create from scratch.
    Love your blog!

    • March 16, 2013 6:26 pm

      Oh my, look at your garden! We had a bit of snow tonight, and then sideways cold rain 😦

      thanks for stopping by!

  2. March 17, 2013 1:13 am

    I hope we have a better season this year, our three pepper plants rescued from the greenhouse and kept indoors are only now beginning to produce peppers, so we were not able to benefit from a glut in the freezer like you have or even dried ones. I would love to have more peas in our freezer over winter, but so do the pea moths. I really need to find an inexpensive way of keeping those blighters at bay. We could have done with more beans for freezing too, but even they didn’t do well last year and we barely got enough.

    I think we will be able to eke things out until our produce comes in, but only because we are away for a month and I can glean some greens from forest and field. We will have to work so hard and fast when we get back at the end of April, but looking at the weather with the snow still glinting and temperatures still rather low, then the ground is not going to be ready much before the end of April anyway. So for this next year, I am just hoping for more variety and the first spears from our asparagus since they should be ready to harvest this year.

  3. March 17, 2013 2:41 am

    Could you do a post on that wonderful looking applesauce? Love the life you live!!!

  4. March 17, 2013 4:16 am

    I wish I had more canned pork and chicken but that can be taken care of. I buy pork and can it in pints for the two of us. I work 2 jobs and these little jars can help make supper in 20 minutes for some dishes. I make mexican, stir fry, brown gravy & potatoes (with canned venison) BBQ, all kinds of stuff. And I wish I had more fruit. What we have is plenty of pears, which I should can more of I have (over processed in the past) we have just pruned our 5 apple trees (40 years old) to see if it will help any. I make a lot of jam from our plum tree and wild blackberries and raspberries, rhubarb. But we are 50 years old and don’t need the sugar! Do you think those italian prunes would grow in southern Ky. and do you spray them? I could can my plums but they could have worms and if I halve them, they mush up. Beth in Ky.

  5. March 17, 2013 5:45 am

    Time and energy. 🙂

    We are finding going to a steer every other year means really budgeting our use. As far as vegs, I store as much as I can every year. I can’t increase how much I grow as I can’t do more than I am now.

    But one thing I will try to do more of is make kale chips in the dehydrator and vacuum seal them in jars. I had some at a gathering last week, and they were wonderful. I’ve tried in the oven but managed to burn them.

    In the beginning we went through a lot of frozen strawberries. Then there were a couple years we didn’t eat many. So I cut back. Now we are back to eating them again. So I’ll increase those this year.

  6. March 17, 2013 5:56 am

    I will not make my St. Patrick’s Day traditional planting ! Woke up this morning to a layer of snow : )

  7. March 17, 2013 8:49 am

    We opened another jar of brandied pears last night. Oh, my dear lord. I am so grateful we finally decided to quit wasting fruit and start canning. I am postponing St. Paddy ‘s day potato planting until next week–I want the chits on my potatoes to grow a little longer; also I am having ladies to tea this afternoon, and I need to tidy the house first. The good saint will understand, I’m sure.

  8. March 17, 2013 11:01 am

    We were thrilled to be gifted boxes and boxes of apples from a relative’s tree last year. We dehydrated and canned almost all of them and they were amazing. We fashioned gift baskets for Christmas and they were very appreciated by our friends and family. Just this week we had a neighbor at our offsite pasture call us with the news that we had a steer jump the fence & get into his pasture. This nice man (whom we had never met – new property) corralled the steer for us & gave us a call. When we came to fetch the animal I presented him with a decorated quart of apple-pie filling along with the directions to make the dessert. What a delicious way to meet a new neighbor!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  9. March 17, 2013 11:13 am

    Our garden didn’t do great last year due to the drought, though I was eating fresh kale nearly daily. I’d be outside planting peas and spinach if the snow was melted from the raised beds… but it’s not. We’re zone 4b here and I probably won’t be able to plant anything for a few more weeks. I had a lot of things in the pantry that I had to give away (like apple pie filling) because it had flour in the recipe; this year I’ll be remaking my apple pie filling to be gluten free.

    I’m planning on planting some hardy kiwi, asparagus, replacing my plum and apple trees that died in the drought (we tried to keep them going… just too dry) and really focusing on planting veggies that my picky eater of a husband will eat – because I’ll eat anything. I am missing having stores of frozen berries this winter – again, the drought. Amazing how much a lack of water affects everything.

  10. March 17, 2013 12:54 pm

    Looking at your picture at the top of the post………estimate how much produce has gone through that gray enamel funnel?? Was it your Mom’s? I have several jars older than me (50) and really enjoy canning in them, & have no breakage with these old jars. Beth

  11. March 17, 2013 5:53 pm

    We could’ve used more apple sauce, definitely. Less JAM! Cripes – I’ve got jam coming outta every which way. Black berry, cherry, cherry lime, and on and on and on….

    MORE potatoes. I’m getting ready to plant hopefully in the next two weeks. Also – much more tomatoes for canned and diced tomatoes. I’d say I’ve got lot’s of processing ahead of me come August – September!

    Yeah – you should give us a rundown on that killer looking applesauce. Yummmmmm!

  12. Theresa Katuski permalink
    March 17, 2013 7:43 pm

    Let me be yet another follower that can’t get enough of your …. Knowledge, Experience, Insight, Instinct, and plain old Common-Sense! (seems to be a rare thing these days)

    I was born 1981, and still have a huge mountain to climb as far as “learning the ways of a successful BIG garden(s)”
    I need all the help I can get, and soak it in like a sponge!
    Thank you for all this great information; it is hard-won and precious. Nothing is more valuable than EXPERIENCE offered for FREE and with a SMILE 🙂

    Have you ever posted in detail about your cold storage(s)? Maybe a better topic for Fall.

    I wish there were seed packets available for perogies and cabbage rolls; wouldn’t that be something?


  13. March 18, 2013 5:10 am

    More red cabbage!

  14. March 26, 2013 12:59 pm

    I love this post. I’ll just be starting my seeds next week (tis the way of things here in northern Minnesota) and I’m already looking forward to the next year’s harvest. We have too much cabbage in the freezer from last year, but could have used about twice as many tomatoes. Whenever the significant other asked why a batch of soup was so good this winter, the answer was always, “home grown tomatoes!”


  1. Links: Grapefruit, Honey, and Maple + Jar Cozy Winners - Food in Jars | Food in Jars

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