It’s a few days after the new year, but I’ve been thinking about what happened at White Pine Farm this year. Today’s entry: the garden.
The crop that has been most hit/miss in our gardening experience has been tomatoes. We have had some fantastic years with loads of yummy tomatoes. One year we made enough salsa to last two whole years! And other years we’ve had to yank up all the plants due to terrible blight. This was an above average year: some good tomatoes, enough for salsa, spaghetti sauce, and homemade ketchup, but not as much as some years.
I planted fewer zucchini plants this year: one squash mound with 5 seeds planted and 3-4 plants that actually come up versus the usual two mounds. This seems to be a more realistic amount of zucchini. I made a lot of zuke bread for the freezer and we ate a good amount of squash as it was in season. But given that we still have a number of zucchini pickles and squash relish from last year, it didn’t make sense to can even more. I didn’t, however, make this squash puree recipe that I made last year when we had too many zucchini. It is surprisingly good on pasta with pesto: more vegetables in one’s pasta dish without really realizing it.
The other squash, however, did amazingly well. Butternut squash grows great around here and I planted more this year. I think we ended up with about 2 dozen squash and almost all are in the basement. I need to come up with some more butternut squash recipes–and make them!–given all the squash. But I also planted more because the butternut squash stores very well and the chickens will eat them.
We try to choose at least one new vegie each year. Some are great (like butternut squash). Others bomb. This year’s vegie was cabbage. We cheated and bought some super-on-sale-starts later in the season at the local farmers’ market. We ended up with four green and four purple cabbage plants–and cabbages. I had forgotten how much I like cooked cabbage. Ron also found an easy sauerkraut recipe online (of course!) where you make a small batch in a single mason jar and store it in the fridge. No canning needed. It was a great recipe and both of us realized that we really like sauerkraut. The cabbage has also been impressive because it stores so well. We’ve had three heads in the basement for several months now and they are still fine. The outside leaf or two needs yanked off, but the rest of the cabbage is perfectly fine. Yeah for long-lasting vegetables like cabbage and butternut squash! We will definitely try cabbage again this year. They could also be fed to the chickens.
We also rototilled and planted a new bed of corn outside the garden fence. Our hope was that the fresh corn would help feed the chickens and thereby reduce their dependency on store-bought chicken food. The fresh corn did help, but we didn’t grow enough to make a real dent in their feed needs. We also barely weeded and watered the corn so the returns may have been significantly lower than a more cultivated and cared for crop. We will definitely try corn again, but see if we can increase the yield without a big increase in effort.
Given the epic house project, moving, and unpacking, I did less canning and freezing this year. There just (<– I hate that word) wasn’t time. We have fewer ziplocks of green beans, kale, swiss chard, and pesto in the freezer. Also fewer canned items, although I maxed out the tomatoes. It wasn’t in the cards this year.
I made a lot of jam with our berry CSA harvests. But given the house project, some berries went in the freezer and I didn’t get around to making red currant jam until early December. We love the berry CSA and would like to continue supporting her, but she’s pretty far from our current location. It’s now a bit of a hassle to go there once per week so we are seriously considering investing in berry plants for the farm. The returns wouldn’t be great for the first year or two, but the short-term pain would result in longer-term convenience.
I’m not sure if there’s ever a really bad gardening year. Some crops do better than others, some new vegies take off, others bomb. But part of the reason why we plant a diversity of species is to accommodate whatever weather or other whims might strike. Although I’m always a little tired of gardening and processing by October, in early January I start thinking about seed catalogues and what we might try out this year.