A blog about family, food and fun!

Tag: canning

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Time   It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year […]

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Well dear readers, week 2 of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge went off the rails a little bit. We had a busy week with sick kids and another family member was ill so I have not done the last 4 or 5 daily tasks from […]

Gardening Goals for 2018

Gardening Goals for 2018

Last week I posted a sort of list for our financial goals for 2018. Today I wanted to lay out some goals we have for our garden.  We learned a lot last year about where the best light is for our small vegetable patch and this year we will definitely be making some changes. This year is our third year working on the garden and every year we learn a little bit more and improve our garden space.

 

Some things that worked for us last year were squash, green beans and pumpkins.  Our pumpkins took up way too much space though so next year instead of planting four plants I will just stick with two and I am going to put them in the side yard so they can grow all the way down our hill. We loved our green beans and squash but I am embarrassed to say we did not eat all of it in time. Since we didn’t get enough each day to make a meal out of it or to freeze in a decent sized batch, some of our beautiful produce ended up in the compost bin.  We still have one pumpkin, two decent sized spaghetti squash, and a few tomatoes that slowly ripened on our window sill left but other than that everything is gone.

 

Spaghetti Squash!

 

My plan for next year is:

 

1. Organize my garden planning with a garden journal

This has been on my list for the past two years and I just haven’t followed through. I even bought a beautiful notebook and colorful pens to make wonderful drawings of all the plants we will grow but besides a few lists of what we planted (I think) it hasn’t been touched. I am pretty sure I wrote down what I planted at the beginning of the season but my notebook has been collecting dust since last spring so at some point in the next week I will get it out and start recording for this year. This year I want to have some simple diagrams of where we plant things for crop rotation and a better list of what grew where.  I absolutely love how organized Annie over at 15acrehomestead is. She has tons of great posts for organizing your homesteading projects. I especially love this one where she lays out how to plan your projects for 2018.

 

End of season harvest.

 

2. Plant enough zucchini, green beans and peas to freeze for the entire year

This one is a little ambitious. We did not plant peas last year so I don’t know how well they will do in our space but I am hoping to find somewhere they do well. We need probably two more zucchini plants for a total of four to grow enough for the winter. I am the only one who eats it so we don’t need a whole lot but the challenge will be getting it processed every day. Last year we got quite a few green beans but the way I planted them made them hard to harvest and we did not inoculate at all (whoops) so I think as long as we get enough plants growing at the right time and I stay on top of picking and processing them we will be able to produce enough green beans to feed us all year. I am really excited about the possibility of green beans from our garden next winter! It turns out they are the only green beans my son will eat and it was a sad day when I cooked the last of them and then he refused the ones I bought at Costco as a replacement.

 

English Ivy climbing our tree.

 

3. Remove the ivy from all of the trees in our backyard

We got a good start last summer pulling English Ivy off of the trees in our backyard and this year I would love to finish.  I would also like to remove all of the ivy off the ground which is doable but it will constantly grow back so it will be an ongoing battle. English Ivy is a horrible invasive species here in the Pacific Northwest and many of the trees in the greenbelt behind our house are covered in it.  If we don’t girdle the ivy on the trees near our house at some point the ivy will weaken the trees enough to cause them to topple over in a windstorm.  We have frequent windstorms in our area so the possibility is definitely real.  Every day I drive down the street behind us and look at these giant trees that are covered past their lower branches with a ring of ivy at least 3 feet thick all the way around. I know some day soon at least one of those trees will fall and completely block the road. I am really hoping that nobody gets hurt when it happens.

 

Ornamental plants in the front yard.

 

4. Continue to replace our high maintenance ornamental bushes with food producing ones

The lady that lived here before us densely planted these gorgeous ornamental bushes that are very pretty but require constant pruning and I am sure fertilizer.  They also require a large amount of water in the summer which is pretty wasteful to me.  The one thing I love about all of our flowery bushes is the healthy bee population they support.  All spring and summer our yard is buzzing with friendly bees that easily pollinate our fruits and vegetables.  The amount of pruning and watering they require is too much for us though so we are slowly replacing them with lower maintenance native plants.

 

Blueberries on our bushes.

 

5. Continue to keep our berry bushes and fruit trees in top shape

We love our fruit at this house! Last year we planted some raspberries, a pear tree, a blueberry bush and some strawberries in addition to the apple tree and blueberry bushes we already had.  At this point we really don’t have room for much else without a major front yard overhaul so our goal is to keep them healthy and producing throughout the summer!

 

 

We have really enjoyed having a yard for the kids to play in. The back is pretty steep though and requires some skill to navigate safely so this year will be the first year our son is able to walk around back there on his own.  The kids had fun helping me pull ivy last weekend and I introduced them to the cool space I found underneath a bush that could definitely be a fairy hideout.  I am looking forward to spring and seeing the yard come alive again.  What projects are you working on this year?

 

 

 

Blueberry Picking 2017

Blueberry Picking 2017

We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every […]

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 2: Jam Making

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 2: Jam Making

A few days ago I posted about our strawberry picking and how we froze and dried the berries.  We have been snacking on the dried berries all week and they are delicious!  On top of drying and freezing our berries we also made two batches […]

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 1: Drying and Freezing

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 1: Drying and Freezing

 

When my husband and I first started really looking into our food many years ago one of the first things we looked at was high fructose corn syrup.  We discovered it was really difficult to buy jam without out it so we decided to try making our own.  Since we lived in a townhouse with no yard we became huge fans of U-pick farms. For a few years we would make the trek out to the farm, pick a bunch of berries and then bring them home to freeze, make jam and sometimes dry them.  We stopped making jam about the time we had our second child because life got busy and we started to stray from trying to be more self-sufficient.  When we had our third child we strayed even farther and a few months ago I realized although we were cooking a lot of our own food still, processed foods had crept back into our diet. Our garden is still young and we do not have a lot of mature berry plants so this year I was determined to make all of the major U-pick seasons (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and apples).

 

Our excellent helper.

 

The closest he came to tasting a strawberry.

 

Last weekend we went strawberry picking with the younger kids and we had a lot of fun! The key is to go after a few sunny days so the berries are sweeter and early enough in the day that the fields are not so hot that you are miserable in the sun.  Our three year old is a total foodie and has inherited my love of fruit so she spent most of her time eating everything she picked.  Our son will not eat fruit unless it is cooked in something or comes in pouch form so he wandered around telling me about the plants and watching all of the people. It was great because both kids had fun in their own way and my husband and I were able to pick a couple of flats in a relatively short amount of time.

 

Our strawberries with a couple of honey sticks for the oldest.

 

The farm we went to had a little play area with shaved ice so after we picked our berries we ate a snack and some shaved ice. The kids ran around and played some more which guaranteed a nap for the youngest in the car on the way home. It was a great way to spend the morning as a family.  We are also firm believers in involving our kids in the whole food/cooking process so it was great to have them help with picking berries.  It was still relatively early in the season so the strawberry plants were very full of berries which made picking faster and easier than in the past when we have gone towards the end of the season.

 

 

The first thing I did when we got home was slice up our berries and fill the dehydrator.  Dehydrated berries need to be very fresh and blemish free so the sooner you get them in the dehydrator the better.  It also takes 8-12 hours (or more) so make sure you time it so you aren’t having to wake up in the middle of the night to pull them out.  For a long time we used a small dehydrator with a top fan that had been passed down from many people and worked okay but last fall my Dad bought me an Excalibur dehydrator for my birthday and this was my first time using it.  Man, there was a huge difference.  My fruit was much more evenly dehydrated and having a temperature setting with a timer seemed extra luxurious.  I even forgot to rotate the trays until well into the process and they still came out very evenly dry. Our old one you had to rotate every two hours and it still ended up taking way longer to dry out the food no where near as even. I highly recommend saving up for the Excalibur it was a completely different experience for me this time around.  I really wish I had bought the fruit leather trays so I could have made fruit leather as well but maybe next time. There is also a dehydrator cookbook that I would like to try as well.

 

 

Our strawberries came out of the dehydrator while our kids were eating breakfast.  It is important to check that they are dry before you put them into long term storage so that they do not develop mold over time.  My kids were hungry so I just put the not so dry ones into a small glass dish for them to eat and honestly they did not last until lunchtime since everyone was snacking on them.  My son actually ate a few pieces of dried strawberries which was a huge win!  I made 5 trays of berries and it filled about 1/3 of a gallon Ziploc bag. We are not huge eaters of dried fruit so it will be enough for us.

 

Look at those yummy strawberries!

 

 

While the fruit was drying I cut the tops off of more strawberries and placed them on a cookie sheet in the freezer.  We freeze them this way so that we can take a few out as needed for smoothies.  I leave them in there for a few hours then transfer them to a gallon Ziploc bag. We probably need three gallons of frozen strawberries to last us a year but we simply did not pick enough berries for that this year.  I froze two trays of berries and it made 1 1/3 gallons of frozen berries.  Next year I think we will pick 3, maybe 4 flats of berries so that we have enough to freeze three gallons and make some fruit leather.  It is always a learning process and I am really glad we are figuring out the kinks so that in the future we can know how much we will need.

 

My kids love smoothies so we have already eaten quite a few of our frozen berries and they were delicious!  With all of the recalls on frozen food I am really glad we have some berries stashed away for future use! About a year ago when Costco had most of their frozen veggies recalled I had to completely change how we bought our vegetables since we eat a lot of frozen peas, green beans and corn.  Every year I want to add to what we grow ourselves so we will no longer be reliant on store bought fruits and vegetables.  Stay tuned for our next post in the series about the delicious jam we made from our strawberries!

 

What foods are you replacing with your garden this year?