I am adjusting to being a one-woman show after years of raising seven kids who were great at helping me harvest and process the garden produce. This would probably be easier if I wasn’t still growing enough in the garden to feed all of them! I did cut back some this year, but much like we still eat spaghetti for many days in a row after I cook, I am probably canning enough tomatoes and freezing enough beans to support a small army. Really, with only four people now at home, and three of those rather sporadically for meals, do I need two full size chest freezers? And multiple shelves of canned and dried stuff in the basement? Well, maybe, emotionally, both as a mother and a gardener.
Adopting an attitude of feeding my chickens on a gourmet, organic diet, I have overcome any hang-ups about wasting my abundance on them. I now look at it as the chickens helping me to keep things picked so that I will have fresh broccoli, cucumbers, and green peppers growing, and at good stages, when I am ready for them. It goes straight to the young egg layers, though I do spend a little time chopping the veggies open with a shovel in their pen, because the chickens eat them more readily that way.
But it is still a little tricky to decide when I am ready. The old method of picking everything a couple of times a day, en mass, was not working. I would even get some of it washed and a bit processed, but it seemed like I was having to take a lot back out to the chickens. That’s extra work. So, now, I’m trying a combination method. I am picking as I am ready for a certain item, but I am attempting to coordinate the timing so that I can have more than one thing in the queue.
For instance, this morning I put a bunch of dried tomato slices in jars, which are now sitting on the counter waiting to be vacuum sealed. With them at least that far along in the process, the vacuum sealing can wait for a more convenient time. In Idaho, anyway, dehydrated items don’t have a lot of moisture in the air to absorb, so there is less rush to get them enclosed. I don’t want them to collect dust, though, so I will do it soon. Maybe at the same time I vacuum seal the green beans that I put in the freezer yesterday.
Then, I examined some broccoli that was stored in the fridge and went out to pick more. I really love my Arcadia broccoli. It is a long season producer that usually gives me heads well into fall. I got the broccoli soaking in salt water before I went out to pick cucumbers.
There were definitely some huge cucumbers, but I also had plenty of the right size to slice for one batch of bread and butter pickles. With my unexpected onions from last year that I was able to harvest this midsummer, and the garlic I had harvested a few weeks ago, I was able to get the potential pickles in their ice treatment before getting back to the broccoli. I did take some time in between to rinse the broccoli off and set it aside, so it wouldn’t be in the water too long.
Now, I’m finally blanching the broccoli, hoping to be done with that before it is time to mix the solution for the pickles at 4:30. And, I did fit in vacuum sealing those dried tomatoes. Tonight, I still have some hopes of picking tomatoes for canning and getting those started promptly in the morning. I might have miniscule grandkids around to help with that, but their mom would be here, too.
It is true that I didn’t sit down for lunch. Who has time to eat with all of these fresh veggies around?! I did eat a smoothie and crackers while working. All in all, this new approach is working well, but it is a little intense. It helped to have an audio book to play when my hands were busy, but the house was quiet. When the girls got home, we discussed economics and communication while I worked. As for dinner, I am leaning toward cooking some rice, then getting some help with a stir-fry. It fits the goal of the day of processing as many fresh vegetables as I can.
Reality Addendum the next day: Right before bed that night, the dog got skunked again. The next day, it took hours to clean up (laundry, dishes, food) from the previous days efforts and finish vacuum sealing and labeling. I am tired like I had a race yesterday! But I still have some hopes of picking those tomatoes next and freezing some zucchini, too! I frequently forget that it really takes a day between major preserving efforts to get ready to do it again. 🙂