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Food Everywhere

February 29, 2016

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That pretty much sums up this farmers life.  Growing, harvesting, preparing, eating and storing food.  A not so delicate dance of decrepitude, as food starts to decay immediately upon harvest and many times in the case of winter gardening, overnight after a hard freeze.  Sigh.  Where to begin?  It is a chicken and egg thing.  Humans have engaged in stopping the spoilage of food since they started eating.  These days we have it a little easier with refrigeration.  I have no desire to be off-grid, so you won’t find any tips on how to get rid of your freezer or things like that.  The grid we want to be off of is the supermarket food grid.  I for one believe that you’re not saving any power by not storing more food in a home freezer and instead buying food at the store.  No, we don’t grow everything we eat, but quite a bit of what we eat we do grow.  Preserving takes many forms, freezing, a bit of canning, dehydrating, and fermenting all play a role in addition to eating fresh for many months, and growing specific crops that store well with added preservation tasks.

Hull-less pumpkin seeds and butter from the freezer

Hull-less pumpkin seeds and butter from the freezer

Our personal food system has evolved quite a bit as I alluded to in my last post.  I grew up planting garden in May as soon as we could work the soil, then direct seeding everything just about, except tomatoes and pepper plants bought at the store.  Then you would wait, you might get your first lettuce salad mid-July and the first ripe tomato in late August in our location. Meanwhile you concerned yourself with the march of fruits coming on, and those were preserved into canned fruit, jams, jellies, juice etc.  I knew no one who dehydrated anything except Italian prunes when I was a kid.  If you had a dairy cow, you would be churning the bounty of grassfed cream to beat the band and freezing your butter.

applesauce

applesauce

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I still grow a big garden each year, the space has stayed the same but what we grow and how we put it by has changed the most.

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Instead of dining all winter on canned or frozen summer vegetables, we grow varieties of different crops that store easily in the ground in our location or are candidates for root cellaring.


We grow crops that are meant to be stored dry, like flint corn, winter squash and dry beans. No electricity needed.

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But, I think the biggest change in our preserving/eating habits has come about because we built a greenhouse for season extension.  I know it may seem silly to some to build a structure to garden in, when maybe a cold frame or some wire hoops and row cover would work, but we just don’t have the heat units here to ripen several summer crops that we really like, so for us a greenhouse made the most sense, it’s pretty disappointing to babysit tomato plants all season and then as soon as the fall rains come, bam!  Late blight.

Because it is serious garden real estate, we cram as many successions and different types of crops in the greenhouse as possible.  Tomatoes take all summer to mature, and they provide shade and a microclimate in the greenhouse for cool weather crops too.  In the photo above you see the tomatoes on the left and on the right a row of brassicas shaded from the hot afternoon sun and near the sidewall where a cool breeze blows.  It may seem counter-intuitive to say the brassicas inside get a little more shade with the tomatoes and lower light due to the greenhouse poly.  Make no mistake, it’s hot in there, but outside in the garden those brassicas might be in a real hot spot.

Another benefit of the greenhouse that didn’t dawn on us until reality slapped us on the face was that a greenhouse (as long as the doors are shut) is an excellent deer proof gardening space for some particularly sumptuous crops that eluded us for many years due to deer pressure.  The sweetest to come to mind, is strawberries.  Oh the joy, to have strawberries every week of the summer, instead of walking to the garden with colander in hand only to find that overnight the deer have eaten every last ripe strawberry!  The next part of that saga is that deer like love strawberry plants too as a chaser to their previous night’s strawberry drunk.  It smarts a little to have to stop at the berry stand to buy overpriced non-organic strawberries, when you already spent $$ and countless hours of labor tending your crop.

roasted tomato sauce

roasted tomato sauce

In all honesty I had wanted a greenhouse for years.  I had no idea how I would use it other than “to grow things.”

1996

1996

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mid April, 2015

Now it’s our everything garden space from late winter through to late fall.  We start our seeds in there, we start our first regular garden crops in there, and we use it as a hardening off space to transition tender transplants for their life in the outside gardens.  Who knew?

Next a peek in the freezers to see what we can see.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. quinn permalink
    February 29, 2016 5:51 pm

    I’ve been fantasizing about a greenhouse lately, and it was the thought of berries that pushed me to it!

  2. February 29, 2016 9:58 pm

    “not so delicate dance of decrepitude” Love it 😀
    I so want a greenhouse.

  3. February 29, 2016 11:15 pm

    Looking forward to peeking in the freezer Matron. Today is our first day of autumn and we’re facing a week or 10 days of mid 30s (hi 90s?) and more pasture dying off. Tomatoes are doing great, cukes almost over, onions coming on, pumpkins starting to harden, zukes nearly dead, autumn greens planted, the dog and the parrots have eaten the last strawberries and the cockatoos have eaten holes in all my big black figs. I HATE WILDLIFE!

  4. Carrie permalink
    March 1, 2016 3:39 am

    Yes, I too have greenhouse envy!

  5. March 1, 2016 5:45 am

    I am lusting after a greenhouse, too. Baby steps. Or Powerball, whichever comes first. 🙂

  6. Beth in Ky permalink
    March 1, 2016 6:40 am

    I talked to a guy from the Great Lakes region who said people there grew parsnips in a bed, once established they never tilled it, it just kept coming back and you harvest as needed. I know they drop seeds, but this sounds like a weed patch to me??? Have you ever heard of this?

    • March 1, 2016 7:35 am

      Beth, yes weed patch would be an understatement. They do reseed easily though, I have them come up everywhere since I save seed. I would think though, that they would run down somewhat and you would end up with misshaped roots. I use them mostly for feed, so I want the big roots or the work isn’t worth it.

  7. Karen permalink
    March 1, 2016 7:30 am

    More beautiful photos. Boggles my mind the incredible amount of work you do. You may hear it often enough, but thank you for being so willing to share your wealth of knowledge.

  8. thecrazysheeplady permalink
    March 1, 2016 8:02 am

    Wow!

  9. Bee permalink
    March 1, 2016 11:19 am

    No, let’s not look in the freezers — or at least, not in mine. It’s just a reminder that I still have two big boxes of meat scraps and one of lard to deal with before it gets too bloody hot to render fat. I’m tucking away the $ for a greenhouse this year; actually just need the clips and plastic, as I have the frame. Nice post, Nita.

  10. Adam McClory permalink
    March 1, 2016 12:19 pm

    I am fortunate to have a wife with a greenhouse! My wife sells flowers at the Moscow Farmer’s Market and uses the greenhouse (20′ x 48′) both for starting seeds and for season extension purposes. I continue to plot the eventual greenhouse takeover, but am patiently waiting until the time is right…….!

  11. christinalfrutiger permalink
    March 1, 2016 1:00 pm

    ditto Karen’s comment! 🙂

  12. March 1, 2016 2:07 pm

    We are planning the first series of gardens here and it includes more seasonal fresh eating. Yes canning continues but it is to get our first inventor in place. Meat, stocks, broths and the like. Of course tomatoes but as you say they can well and are so useful all year long. I am enjoying reading your blog posts very much. God Bless you and your family.

  13. JP Swift permalink
    March 2, 2016 7:25 am

    Matron, do you treat the strawberries in the greenhouse as you would outside or do you replant every year? Do you let runners set or clip them? On plastic or straight into the ground?

    • March 2, 2016 11:37 am

      JP, We treat them as annuals and replant every year in rotation. They are day neutral so they don’t really put out runners as much as June bearing plants, so we let them run. On plastic with drip underneath. Works great compared to my previous attempts at strawberries.

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