The Year of the Garden

This was our best garden…ever.  Hands down.  And, funny enough, the epicness (it’s word, i swear) was in direct proportion to the amount of labor I put into it this year.  I know…so weird.

 

I started this garden in February, sitting hunched over seed catalogs making stars next to all the things that sounded good.  Then I had to go back through them and mark the most realistic ones that my family would actually eat.  I get caught up in that foodie thing where I’m like ‘yes, i will grow my own brussel sprouts and asparagus and I will serve them with nothing but a drizzle of expensive olive oil and herbs.’  Then my family looks at me funny and asks what we’re really having for supper.  So ya, it takes a few revisions to get us to what we are really going to grow each year.

 

Grow…please!

We started the seeds indoors in March & April.  They took over our eating nook and the house smelled like a greenhouse but it gave me great joy to see all those little green signs of life with their promises of abundant production.  As it turns out, those promises are pretty fragile.  I killed an entire planting of onions and half of the cucumbers before I managed to feel relatively certain they were going to make it to a life outdoors.

 

Most of the seedlings were planted out in the garden during the end of May.  Spring being what it is here in Oregon, it was hard to find a long enough stretch of days to let the ground dry out enough to plant them.  And when I did finally get them planted, I killed more of them.  Turns out there’s a certain amount of patience needed when moving seedlings from indoors to outdoors.  Your supposed to set them out for a few hours at a time, increasing the amount until they have had a chance to acclimate and ‘harden off’.  Huh…interesting.

You mean one day outside isn’t enough?

 

So, even with my not-so-green-thumb, we managed to have a pretty darn good garden started by the first part of June.  Between the surviving seedlings and seeds I planted directly in the ground, we were off and running.  And so were the weeds.  Oh, how I hate weeds.  No really…they are the bane of my existence.  And I read somewhere that you shouldn’t rototill because it stirs up the dormant seeds and makes them germinate.  So what did I do?  I weeded our entire garden by hand.  We’re talking a 60′ by 50′ area plus the 60′ by 10′ for the berries.  It was a major pain in the hiney.  But, ya know what?  It worked.  The weeds were sparser and slower growing, especially once we got our soaker hoses lined out so we were only watering the rows of plants.  It went from a three hour job to a one hour job.

 

The beginning – if you look really hard you can see tiny green things growing.
Captain, there be plants here!

 

Soaker hoses are my friends.

 

It actually looks productive!

 

Second plantings of lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower…oh, and a faded scarecrow.

 

 

And as much as I complain about it, I really didn’t mind it too much.  I like working in the dirt and watching my efforts translated into vibrant plants and bushels of food.  If I could make a living off of working on our farm, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  I could live in work clothes everyday:  old jeans, stained shirts, romeos and a ball cap.  Huh…I sound like a dude.  But it’s pretty much true of me…I would be happy as a clam.

 

In July we were filling my big metal mixing bowls & colanders every day with good things:  lettuce, carrots, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, beans and berries!  It was time to start canning & freezing.  I have always put up our food in the freezer each year.   Corn, green beans, berries & applesauce…it all went into the 2 big freezers in the barn.  But this year I conquered my reluctance to tackle canning.  And I will say this…the first time I tried to can jelly, I felt like a blithering idiot.  Never have I felt that inept in the kitchen.  So many things to have to do at the same time!  And I never seemed to have any of it ready when it was supposed to be…the water either wasn’t boiling when it should have been or had been boiling so long it had evaporated below the necessary level.  The lids have to simmer, the jars  have to be warmed and then you have to actually prep the food.  I needed more burners on my stove and at least 2 more hands.

 

 

 

 

 

After a few frantic texts I got some much needed advice from my BFF, and queen of the canning kitchen, Shannon.  She gave me tips on how to heat the jars (in the oven, not on the stovetop) and how to prep the kitchen before even starting the canning process.  The next time I tackled it, I was surprised how much easier it was.  By the end of the summer I felt like I had beat my trepidation of the canning process and, dare I say it, was fairly competent at it.  Just don’t ask her about my ignorance regarding the curing time for dilly beans….

 

By the end of the season, we had jars and jars of pickles, pickle relish, hot corn relish, dilly beans, tomato sauce, pears, peaches, apples, applesauce, and a plethora of jams & jellies.  Yeah me!  To top it off, my wonderfully handy husband built me a canning shelf that fit perfectly into a crevice of unused space in our eating area.

 

Toward the end of the summer and beginning of the school year, I was just about over the garden.  With the fall season comes school, sports practices and an increase in my workload.  It’s a 24 mile round trip each morning to take kids to school and again every evening for practices.  So, weeding took a back seat to the rest of life and by the time we reached the end of September, I had all but abandoned whatever was left growing.  So I’ll never be a multi-season gardner…eh, oh well.

 

Done until next year.

Now it’s just an overgrown plot again but come February I’ll be reaching for the seed catalogs and drawing diagrams of where things will be planted and getting excited about it all over again.

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