Monday, September 6, 2010

Farm Report: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

In a "normal" year, those posts you see here wouldn't be visible underneath all the green.

That pretty much sums our garden up this year.  We started with a bang - great warm weather, decent rain - everything took and off.  There were vision of us being buried under mountains of tomatoes and chard dancing in our heads.  When what to our wondering eyes should appear, but lots of big, dark, black thunderclouds.  They filled us with dread. 

Sorry, my poetic side just kind-of took off right there.

June and July proved to be wet, wet, wet.  Good for plants for the most part, just not our garden which sits VERY low.

This is not to say things are all lost on the Little Farm.  Take a glance at "Harvest Count" on the sidebar.  We have been eating well and will continue to do so as the days grow colder.  Some of the new things we tried this year have also turned out great.  Then there is the simple fact that gardens, even if they don't bury you in beans every year, are pretty to look and are just good things to have around.

Here's some photos of how things have looked around here in the past few weeks.

The kale is just starting to grow well.  The swiss chard grew tall, but the leaves were full of brown yucky dots.

The tomato vines never made it up to the tops of the posts like we'd planned.  It was our first time trying to grow "walls" of tomatoes.  I liked the idea.  We'll try it again next year and pray for less rain.

Heirloom sweet peppers. These are delicious! None of our peppers have blossomed for weeks, but in the past few days I've noticed lots of little buds. Yeah!

Listrada de Gandia.  That's some pretty eggplant!

This is Farmer Ron's favorite plot this year.  From near to far: nasturtiums (for color and salads), Thai basil, Italian basil (on left), eggplant (on right), tomatoes.  The kids love to freak their friends out by walking in the garden and eating the nasturtium flowers.

Tomatoes, bush green beans (back left) and soy beans (back right).  The soy beans are one of Farmer Ron's experiments this year.  They growing great.   Now, I just need to figure out what to do with them.

Remember my infatuation with edible landscaping?  Here's what we got in year one.  I love the pole beans climbing the side of the garage.  So pretty and they've produced well to boot.  The littlest Young'un has eaten tons of snacks off these vines when she's taking a break from the sandbox.  They'll be more edible landscaping around the Little Farm next year for sure!

We've just planted some more lettuce, kale, peas, swiss chard, bush and pole beans.  Some of them will produce yet this year.  Then beans may be a bit of a stretch, but hey, we're "farmers."  We like to gamble now and then.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Canning Applesauce

Last Fall some sweet friends gave us a bunch of apples from their trees.  In addition to the apples, she also loaned me the use of her Victorio Food Strainer.  Oh my!  I loved the apples but the Victorio was a revelation.  I was hooked from my first spin of the handle.  Canning is already fun, but the Victorio makes it even funner (I know that isn't a word...I just like it.)  And, yes, I just said that canning is fun.  My sisters are laughing right now.

This year, I saved up my Swagbucks (I love Swagbucks) and used them to buy my very own Victorio Food Strainer from Amazon.  My very own...sigh.  When the box arrived, the kids just got out of my way...they knew I was so excited to get at that thing.  The Victorio my friend lent me was 20 years old and in great shape.  It was good to see the new strainer I took from the box looked exactly the same - no new parts made out of plastic as most things seem to be these days.  I'm hoping to use this thing for the next 30 years!

We broke the Victorio in by making 45 qt of delicious, pink, no-sugar added applesauce.  Yum!

These are the apples we started with on the back porch.  Please ignore the messy shelves of shoes and miscellaneous football equipment.   Another sweet friend allowed us to come help her get apples at her parent's house.  We ended up with 2 laundry baskets and 3 grocery sacks full!  I forgot to take a photo right at the beginning - thus the front basket is already empty.

Apples, well, part of them, washed and quartered.  No peeling or coring needed because the Victorio does it for me.  From here, these apples are put into a big pot on the stove with about an inch of water in the bottom and cooked until they are a bit mushy.

Here's the Victorio hooked onto our kitchen table.  The big white funnel on the top is where the apples are put.  The handle is on the right side. The applesauce comes down the funnel and through a fine metal sieve which is surrounded by the white thing you see above.  The sauce slides down the white thing and into the big bowl in front.  The silver/white looking cone on the left side is where all of the peels and seeds get pushed out the end of the sieve.  They fall into the small silver bowl I put there.  Clear as mud?

The cooked apples get dumped into the bit hopper on the top of the Victorio.  The red thingy is for pushing the apples down into the hole at the bottom of the funnel so a big corkscrew can push them along through the sieve.  Just in case it isn't clear, turning the handle turns the corkscrew.

The applesauce sliding down into the bowl.  Isn't it a pretty color?  Leaving the skins on while it cooks and goes through the strainer gives it the color.

This is the leftovers coming out the end of the strainer.  Isn't it so cool?  I think I love what's in this bowl almost as much as the applesauce.  It's so much faster to skip the coring and peeling parts.  When this bowl gets full, one of the Young'uns will run it out to the compost pile.

Canned Applesauce!
What a blessing!

Did I mention the Victorio is amazing with tomatoes as well?  If I can get my hands on a bunch of tomatoes (ours are looking a bit sad), I'll be making as much tomatoe sauce and soup as I can can.  (Just a little canning humor. Ha.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Canning the Bounty

It's been a busy several days around the Little Farm.  Busy in a good way, but busy just the same.  In the past week or so, I've spent about 20 hours in the kitchen canning everything in sight.  Well, maybe not everything in sight, but it sure seemed like it.  These have been some late nights, but I'm thankful to have the work to do and know it will mean good things for our family in the months to come.  Praise God!

Here's what I've been up to:
-45 qt of applesauce canned or frozen (mostly canned)
-48 c of apple slices frozen
-22 qt of apple pie filling canned
-9 pt of apple butter made and frozen
-30 c of green beans frozen
-8 qt of dilly beans
-15 qt of salsa
-30 c of corn frozen

See what I mean?  If you were a fruit or veggie around my kitchen, you went into a canning jar or a ziploc bag last week.

All this time in the kitchen meant lots of time for thinking which means I've got several blog posts rolling around in my head.  Stay tuned!