Despite Mark’s doubts, I had been convinced all along that we could leave our carrots in the ground all of winter if we covered them with enough mulch and were willing to dig through snow. I was wrong, leading to a desperate rush to dig what I could salvage from the already partially frozen ground (even under 8 inches of dead leaves) in mid-November. We had a lot of casualties: smaller ones frozen all the way through already; bigger ones that snapped when I tried to pry them up; lots that were severed by my careless shovel. But, we still had a good enough harvest for us. They’re all buried in sand in a wooden box in our basement. Apparently, this will help keep them crisp. We had very poor luck in storage last year (they were all floppy within two or three weeks), so anything will be better than that. Either way, they’re in the basement until spring since the 50 pounds of sand will bust out the bottom of the box if we try to move them now.
We use carrots mostly in soups and stocks, and sometimes roasted in the oven with a little butter. Recently, we’ve been trying carrot salad, which I never liked before when it was mixed with raisins, apples, and mayo dressing. Instead, we mix shredded carrots with a light dressing of olive oil, lemon juice or white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, a bit of sugar, and some chopped parsley. It’s summery, but sometimes that’s a nice break from heavier winter food. Plus, it’s nice to get to shred, rather than try to chop, the more impressively disfigured ones.
Filed under cooking, garden
Here’s a basic summary of what we were able to put up this year. The photos are a little off: we’ve been using things, so the shelves are already a little more empty than they were at their peak.
What we canned:
- 8 quarts peaches
- 10 quarts, 8 pints applesauce
- 3 pints apple butter
- 16 half-pints rhubarb-berry jam (we gave a lot away)
- 5 half-pints roasted red pepper spread
- 4 half-pints balsamic red pepper jelly
- 8 half-pints bruschetta
- 5 pints salsa
- 12 pints dilled beans
- 5 pints coriander pickled peppers
- 5 pints spicy pickled peppers
- 8 pints roasted red peppers (we lost one to the floor – what a mess!)
- 15 pints tomato sauce
- 12 quarts, 20 pints crushed tomatoes
What we froze:
- 15 chickens (most whole, some broken down)
- lots of pork (but we don’t really count that, since all we did was pay for it)
- 2 gallons apple slices
- 15 quarts green beans
- 2 gallons cherry tomatoes
- 1 gallon, 6 quarts sweet corn
- 2 gallons rhubarb
- 2 gallons chopped peppers
- 1 gallon broccoli
- 1 gallon, 1 quart kale bombs
What we stored:
- 2 bins potatoes
- 15 spaghetti squash (though I don’t think these actually hold very well, so they’ll probably go to the hens pretty soon if we don’t use them)
- 8 butternut squash
- too many sugar pumpkins
- 100ish pounds onions
We’re moving through some stuff pretty steadily (tomatoes, onions), and some other stuff hardly at all (rhubarb). We’ll take stock over the winter and adjust the seeds we buy to better fit how we actually eat.
We rake our leaves not really to clean up the yard, but to make compost. Our yard’s leaf litter should provide a few loads, or some good mulch material. We used a leaf blower on reverse to suck up and mulch our leaves, which helps everything break down much more quickly.
We were lent a great book on composting, Mike McGrath’s Book of Compost. I think it could be very generally summarized in three points:
- Keep it aerobic.
- Keep it moistened.
- Keep the carbon to nitrogen/brown to green ratio (30:1) ration in check.
Making sure you have enough carbon is probably the hardest part. We’re lucky because we have all our chicken bedding. Most animal bedding, according to McGrath, turns out to be an ideal mix of carbon and nitrogen, so it composts pretty much on its own. Actually, I stirred the coop’s bedding the other day, and the stuff near the water trough was already cooking. Dead leaves are another perfect compost material, and don’t need any nitrogen or carbon manipulation either.
One of the “treasures” left on our farm was a white plastic box/shell thing. We drilled holes in the sides and bottom, stuck some pallets in as dividers, and called it a compost bin. It’s handy, since we can turn the compost from one bin into another. The chickens like to check it out too. We’ve had a wheelbarrow full of finished compost already, and used it to mulch the garlic we planted.
Mark and I had our inaugural jack-o-lantern contest this year. He won handily, though neither of us would do well in any real carving contest. Oh well. The chickens will get my disaster and all our carving gook and seeds. Mark’s will get the place of honor on our front porch, where our lack of candles and neighbors will make his just about as widely viewed as mine.
Mark re-created our house in pumpkin. (That’s a headlamp acting as candle for the photo.) I attempted to scrape out some ghosts, but gave up after I took an eye out of two in a row. I’ll make a better showing next year.
We planted our garlic for next year. We bought about a pound and a half of seed bulbs from Seed Savers, which turned out to be about 100 cloves, each of which is planted by itself and will become a whole new bulb. Garlic is another of my favorite things to grow because, like potatoes, it’s got a wonderful element of surprise, and a real need for patience. These will spend the winter in the dirt, covered by a layer of mulch, will begin sprouting next spring, and will be ready to harvest some time in July. The cold weather they sit through is actually what causes them to produce all the cloves that make up the bulb. As long as the ground doesn’t freeze so hard that it heaves and rips their root system, which mulching helps prevent, they should be good to go.
Planting’s a relatively simple process: break the bulbs apart, and drop a single clove–with paper still on and tip up–in a hole about 2 inches deep. The ground was quite hard the day we planted, though it’s rained since then, so it was a bit of chore digging the holes. Other than that, the hardest part of planting was visualizing next year’s garden and where we want the garlic to fit into that.
An out-of-town wedding and frost warning on Saturday night dictated that we spent Saturday morning pulling the squash, pumpkins, peppers, and random watermelon or two in the garden. We left the leeks, kale, parsley, and carrots to fend for themselves, and they seem fine. We should be set on pumpkins for the year, and we’ve run out of ways to preserve peppers from this harvest and previous ones. After multiple batches each of pickled peppers, marinated red peppers, roasted pepper spread, and pepper jelly, we resorted to chopping and freezing, ending up with two gallon bags worth. Which is probably a gallon and a half more than we’ll ever use, but at least we have the option, I guess. Seems like we’ll be eating a lot of pumpkin bread, as well.
Mark and I had a wild Friday night this week making applesauce. Our tree is heavy with some sort of green, tart apple, and one of the parks my office maintains has some old, neglected trees that we were able to pull a few bags worth of apples from. The park apples ended up being fairly mealy and not so good for sauce, but our apples worked great. We splurged for the saucing and bought an apple peeler, which is hands down our biggest recommendation for anyone wanting to to do anything that involves peeling lots and lots of apples. A bottle of wine is helpful too.
We followed the Ball recipe for sauce, which is pretty straightforward: Boil down some apples til tender, run them through a food mill, add lemon juice and however much sugar you prefer, and process in a boiling water bath. We canned eight quarts of sauce and only made it through half of the apples. Plus, the tree is still loaded. It looks like we’ll be needing a lot of wine over the next few weeks.