10.06.2015

Putting By the Harvest

I put an extra quilt on the bed last week and even turned on the furnace one morning when we woke up to the house at fifty degrees.  But we are still keeping watch for frost, waiting for winter to arrive.  I have crested the ridge of putting food by and find the downward slope leaves enough time to write.

Foy Update: Canned Goods in the Pantry 2015
The canned goods in the basement pantry as of the beginning of October 2015

It was a wet spring, which caused flooding at some farms near by.  Our quarter acre with the house and garden are raised above the street level, a side effect of the house preexisting the road.  The garden only benefited from the constant moisture.

We more than doubled the size of the home garden by extending our three existing beds and adding a fourth.  Most of the added space was planted with potatoes.  It might be fair to refer to this year as The Year of the Potato.

Here's what the garden looked like full swing in August.  Next year I'll have to get out the step ladder when taking photos so you can see more detail.

Foy Update: Home Vegetable Garden in August 2015
Our home vegetable garden in August

If it hadn't been for the cutworms we would have easily had one of the best harvests I've ever grown. However, I was determined to get my plants in the ground before I started working on the farms for the summer and so we planted all the tomatoes on May 15th.  And then replanted them over and over again for the next couple weeks as critters cut them off at their base over and over again.  With the help of my lovely online community I learned that getting the tomatoes in the ground early put them in the path of the cutworms who do their cutting for a couple weeks before they pupate into uninspiring, drab moths.  Once I fashioned a bunch of yogurt containers to make collars around the seedlings, we had an effective barrier, and finally our tomatoes got growing.  However, by then we were farther behind then if we had waited to plant until June.

We still harvested quite a few tomatoes.  From the ten San Marzano type paste tomato plants, we yielded perhaps a bushel (45-50 pounds), part of which are currently stewing on my stove.  I tried a new kind of grape tomato called 'Five Star'.  They were quite expensive and quite disappointing in both yield and flavor.  I will be sticking to the heirloom 'Jasper' instead which I grew for the second year and produced lots of tasty, tiny cherry tomatoes.  The ones we didn't eat fresh were dehydrated and frozen for future use as sun dried tomatoes.  For Jeff, I also grew four 'Sun Gold' cherry tomato plants which are delicious, but suffered for their late start and they never really got going so the yield was low.  We also had some kind of blight going on.

Foy Update: Blighted San Marzano Paste Tomatoes 2015
San Marzanos looking a little blighted in late summer 2015

I knew I wasn't growing as many tomatoes as I wanted to put up, so over the last couple weeks I procured another two bushels of paste tomatoes and turned them into pizza sauce and enchilada sauce.  I would still like to make some Kingsolver sauce, assuming I can get another bushel from one of the farms.  That and some apples for apple sauce and I will be done putting up food for the fall.

I didn't try any new preserving recipes this year, rather I did all of recipes I have liked in the past.  I filled all my quart jars.  There are enough empty pints left to get by.  My only innovation was making raspberry/strawberry/blueberry jam.  I didn't mean to make it.  I was trying to half a recipe for raspberry jam, when I dumped a whole recipe worth of pectin into the pot of bubbling fruit.  So I dug around in the freezer and found a partial bag of last year's strawberries and some blueberries we picked in Michigan this summer.  The Rasp-Straw-Blue Berry jam turned out better than expected.

Foy Update: Bean teepee of 'Asian Red Noodle Beans' and purple hyacinth beans
Bean teepee of 'Asian Red Noodle Beans' and purple hyacinth beans

Both the refrigerator and chest freezer have been rearranged several times to make room for the zip-lock bags of pesto, bell peppers, green beans, red noodle beans, zucchini and dried tomatoes.

Foy Update: 'Adirondack Red' and 'German Butterball' Potato Harvest 2015
'Adirondack Red' and 'German Butterball' potato harvest

We have boxes of potatoes in the garage, probably in excess of 200 pounds.  I am enjoying having a pretty variety to cook.  I grew 'All Blue', 'Adirondack Red', 'German Butterball' and 'Kennebeck'.

Foy Update: Winter Squash Harvest 2015

This weekend I brought in the winter squash.  I grew butternut and spaghetti squash.  I'll be curious to see how long it takes us to eat them all.  If you follow me on FaceBook or Instagram you probably saw the boxes stored in our guest bedroom.

I regret not having room for sweet potatoes in the garden this year.  If 200 pounds of potatoes proves to be too much, I will be changing some of the garden square footage from potatoes to sweet potatoes next year.

And that's something I didn't hadn't fully grasp until just now.  I can write down how many pounds and quarts of each vegetable I put by, but I won't know if that was a good amount for our family until next spring.  This is the first year I may have grown more than our family can eat.  Or maybe we will have some of the harvest rot in storage before we can eat them.  That's my worst nightmare; do all the work of planting, tending, harvesting, storing and then have it go bad.

This creates a whole new dilemma.  I'm not sure how to store crops like potatoes, winter squash, onions and garlic for a long time.  In the past, we have always eaten the dry storage produce by Christmas.   I have been asking around and it seems like a root cellar would be great idea, but we don't have one.  I will have to make do with a detached garage, a warm basement and a guest bedroom that could be unheated.  I have fantasies about sectioning off the old coal shoot in the basement to make a cold storage room.  I feel like a serious gardener now that dreams include building a root cellar.

For my future self and those of you interested, I am going to end this post with a spread sheet of our harvests since we started gardening at this house (2012-2015).

Foy Update: Harvest Data from 2012-2015 for our home garden
Click to see enlarge

It's been a busy growing year and I'm excited to try going even bigger next year.  

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