Various economists are referring to this extremely slow “recovery” as The New Normal. Economy aside, I can’t think of a better phrase to describe our crazy summer of working, volunteering, gardening, and now a frenetic preserving and preparing for our next new normal. We have exactly one week left before Adam goes back to work full-time, for the first time since the kids were born. Starting August 30, we will have two full-time working adults and two full-time-in-daycare kids. To say I’m nervous is an understatement. I’ve been channeling some of that into preparing for winter as if we are about to be snowed in for 9 full months. (I wish!)
This weekend, we canned 50 lbs of tomatoes. After squirreling the kids away at Grandma’s on Friday afternoon, Adam came home and prepared a fortifying dinner for us:
Homemade liver & barley sausage, great-Grandpa Miller’s Great-Grandma Elwell’s secret recipe, with homemade ketchup, kraut, and new potatoes. And Surly Furious. Doesn’t get much more local or delicious than that. Next, we set up:
Lots of boiling water is involved in this canning business. Good thing it was 90 degrees and really humid.
When the steam cleared a little after 5 p.m. on Saturday, we counted our results:
32 pints of tomatoes
6 pints of spaghetti/pizza sauce
4 pints of ketchup
I didn’t spend that entire 24 hours canning, don’t worry: I took 8 hours off for sleeping. And I was on my own all day Saturday which slowed down the process a bit. Adam got the trim painted on the house while I canned.
Let’s move on to a garden update. I’ve not been taking the best care of this blog or the garden, so it’s changed quite a bit since I last took pictures of each plant grouping in June:
Here are the parsnips (and garlic) in mid-June. Here they are now:
Every year, parsnips look so shabby and pathetic for so long, that I always wonder if they will ever take off. We took the garlic out in late July and that seemed to really kick-start the parsnips, and the green tops are now absolutely huge. We’ll see how the actual parsnips look; we have at least a month to wait (I hope). Parsnip harvest begins with the first freeze.
My banana peppers in mid-June:
They didn’t look all that impressive. I also had two cauliflowers in there, neither of which turned out very well. I think the weather got too hot for them. Here’s the banana pepper jungle today:
(Also, notice the encroaching cucumbers on the fence.) Each banana pepper plant has turned into a huge, sprawling bush, so laden with fruit that their branches end up dragging on the ground when we don’t keep up with the picking. Seriously. I never thought that 11 pepper plants would be too many. But there, I said it.
Here are my cabbages in mid-June:
(And my thumb, apparently?!) I thinned these out two times after this picture was taken, and also harvested 4 cabbages. This patch was supposed to be cabbage and celeriac, but the celeriac never sprouted as far as I can tell. You can see the tiny cucumber seedlings in the bottom left corner. Here’s how the same patch looks today:
(Again, encroaching cukes) The tiny cucumber cage is directly to the left of this frame. I planted about 7-8 plants, and have been training them up onto the rabbit-proof fence fortress that surrounds the garden.
Finally, the green beans, which shot up astoundingly fast in June:
And the green beans today, which are just about done:
What kind of yield am I getting from my wee urban farm? I never thought you’d ask. We organized our basement freezer today, and here’s what we found:
11 quarts raspberries: we’ve already used 3, and ate a LOT fresh. This is about double what we got last year.
8 quarts green beans (also ate many fresh)
5 batches of pesto
So that’s the frozen stuff, and the canned tomatoes were listed at the top. What about the fermented stuff? Behold, I present to you… another personal failure:
We planned on building a root cellar this year. It makes SO much sense. It’s a huge walk-in refrigerator that requires no electricity. Two weeks ago when our main kitchen refrigerator was overflowing with fermented foods, we finally realized it just wasn’t going to happen. We found a small secondhand refrigerator, which we installed in the basement. New ferments added daily. The final tally is going to be so ridiculous that I can’t venture a guess right now. Here’s a clue: we’ve ditched quart-size jars in favor of half-gallons. And we keep buying more half-gallon jars. Today we started a gallon each of banana peppers, pickles and sauerkraut:
A root cellar has been downgraded to the “someday” list. We just have bigger priorities right now. Here’s one:
There’s my little guy, making his very first batch of kraut.