“For days Mother and the girls made jellies and jams and preserves, and for every meal there was huckleberry pie or blueberry pudding.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy
Around the Garden
Oh, these August days. August is the time when everything starts to really bear its fruit in the garden. The zucchinis are overflowing, the beans need to be picked daily, the carrots are ready to be processed, the wild berries are ripe and ready for picking...the summer earth is giving all she has before the cold weather starts to creep back into her soil.
Preserving this harvest brings a special joy to me. It takes time, it takes work, and it takes patience, but the knowing that I am preparing something that will be such a blessing in the winter is such a gratifying feeling. The labor of preparing the food for preservation; the peeling, the snipping, the washing, the cutting- it is a gift to my family, a way to save the happiness of summer to get us through the long winter months. I know that placing these foods on the table will bring smiles, conversation, and nutrition, and I am proud to be able to give that gift to them.
This year so far we've been able to preserve:
1 quart of frozen wild raspberries for oatmeal in the winter
1 quart of frozen strawberries
10 pints of jars of jam and jelly (rhubarb, strawberry, and raspberry)
16 quarts of pickles
5 quarts of carrots
1 quart of refrigerator pickled peppers (and at least two more coming soon!)
1 quart of chopped rhubarb
We've been able to keep up with the zucchini and beans, which means I'll need to plant more next year. Beans were something I was really hoping to have a large supply of in the winter, but my plants have begun to yellow and slow their production. I was lucky enough to have a family friend give us some more bean seeds since we couldn't find anywhere to buy any anymore, and they've now been planted with the hopes of a late summer harvest. I'm sure I'll be preserving some zucchini soon too, though I know I still have some bags in the freezer from last year to use. Oh well. They must be saved!
Our peas are about done, as are the greens, and we'll be planting a fall harvest of those a little later. We just planted some more radishes and carrots, all of which are up! We also did an experimental planting of zucchini. It will be interesting to see if the plant can grow large enough to bear fruit before the frost. The celery is still going strong, and we've been picking stalks here and there to add to our foods. I'm not sure how to preserve that yet, so I've held off on picking it all. Peppers are growing, though it's not the harvest we were hoping for. We have some ideas on things to try differently next year to try to improve their growth like avoiding planting them in a spot where the tomatoes will drown them out.
The tomatoes will be ready very soon! We have one orange one on so far, and once they start, we will be busy! Our plants are just loaded with tomatoes, which excites me so much, as I can't wait to make salsa, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato soup! What a wonderful treat that will be to have those preserved for winter!
We've really had fun digging out potatoes- it's like a treasure hunt as we pull the hay back to try to find one! I would guess we've harvested around 10 lbs so far, and there's many more in there! B giggles and laughs every time we find one, and sometimes she picks some little ones that she shouldn't, but it is so much fun to dig them with her. At least...it was until last time....
"We've got to go!"
There are lots of creatures in our garden that I'm not too fond of. I mean, I really don't enjoy seeing a 2 foot copper snake staring at me when I water the tomatoes, or seeing a mouse scamper between the rows ahead of me as I walk. But, those are things I live with. I can get past it. I don't like it, but it's part of the garden and it is what it is. But....our newest guest was so unwelcome that we couldn't get past it. Literally.
B and I were digging out potatoes, and she had just found one that was shaped like a gun so she was joyfully pretending to shoot it off into space making her "pew pew" noises. She excitedly giggled as I pulled back the hay to show her a large potato waiting for us when all of a sudden I felt the pain. I looked at my hand to see a stinger stuck in my finger, and though I knew what it was, it took a minute for my brain to process what had happened. This is the second time I had been stung in our garden this year, and it was surprising that this was happening again. I mean, I haven't been stung by a wasp or a hornet in at least 15 years. To get stung twice this summer in the garden was really strange.
As I looked down at my hand, I noticed what was happening in the hay around me. Swarming out of the hay was a huge group of wasps, all of them landing on B and me. When I realized what was happening, that I had been stung and that they were now attacking us, I started to yell for D, grabbed B who began to start screaming and crying, and ran to the garden gate. When we got out, I pulled off B's dress and swatted the wasps underneath, but wasn't fast enough to stop one from stinging her. Then I started throwing off my clothes and got another sting in my arm from one that had been hiding in my cardigan. All I can say is thank goodness we have our garden in an isolated place because B and me were stripping down trying to get away from those wasps like there was no tomorrow! When we were finally safe, I told D about where I had been picking, and nothing could be more disappointing than realizing that we had left our bucket of vegetables in the garden behind us. No one wanted to go back and get it, so there it sat....
D really hates stinging creatures, and he was bound and determined to get rid of these villains who had entered into our garden home. When nightfall came, he and his dad suited up in full winter gear and D borrowed a beekeepers hat from his aunt as they approached the crime scene ready for battle. We really wanted to go naturally about getting rid of them....We wanted to save our potatoes and not destroy our soil! But, as soon as D started to get close to find the hole to dump in some soap water, they started to swarm. So, the spray came out. Now they're dead, the battle is done, and it's safe to go back...though we haven't been back yet.....
We're heading there tomorrow, though. :)
Life continues to be just a whirlwind right now as we start to adjust to all of the changes that are happening in our lives. We'll be moving out of the house very soon and into my sister-in-law's camper (thank you!!) at my parents' property while we start the house build. The plans for the house are in the final stages of preparation, and it looks like we'll be able to pour the basement in October and begin building in the first week of November. That would make our goal of being in by Christmas pretty hard to reach, but we will see how things go. There's no point in worrying about it now.
To add to our excitement, I've left my job as a brick and mortar teacher and accepted a position as a teacher at a virtual school. It has been overwhelming so far, but I know I'm really going to love it and am so thankful for the wonderful team I get to be a part of. They've all been really, really kind and welcoming, which makes this transition so much easier!
My dad continues to heal from his surgery and still has to be very careful to prevent from getting any illness due to his suppressed immune system. The healing, the immune system; it all just takes time. I know he'll be back to feeling like his normal self again soon. We are still so thankful for the donor and the gift of stable blood sugars that he's given my dad. And we are thankful to God who has made this a possibility and who has kept Dad healthy and healing throughout this whole journey.
Our baby girl is now 4 months old, and I just can't believe how fast her life is going. She is just such a sweet addition to our family and brings all of us so much joy. She laughs now, especially at her brother and sister, and she has rolled over a few times. I'm grateful that my job allows me to continue to nurse her and stay home with her, and I get to see her change each and every day.
There's always a lot going on around here, but though are hands are full, our hearts are too. We're enjoying these moments that we have together and reminding ourselves that this is a time in our lives that won't last forever. We are trying to find joy in everyday and focusing on what's ahead. No looking back. We're continuing forward on this Wisconsin homestead journey.
Until next time,
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