Today was a regular Saturday during garden season. My husband took the three middle girls to the garden to harvest what was ripe. I was dealing with a killer headache, a left-over goody from my week-long battle against an URI, an ear infection, and a sinus infection. (That triple whammy knocked me down for the last week, but the antibiotics are kicking in and I am beginning to feel better.) So back to my morning….I was dealing with my headache and trying to get a few things done around here when they came home with the pickings: 5 gallons of green beans, a two-gallon bucket of yellow squash, bell peppers, cucumbers and our first tomatoes, 2 gallons of carrots from Mr. Bill’s garden, about a gallon of potatoes, and a huge box of swiss chard, also from Mr. Bill’s garden. (I will introduce you to Mr. Bill and Mrs. Dot once I figure out how to upload pictures. I’m not terribly technologically skilled.)
I sometimes underestimate how much I depend on my girls for help in the kitchen. Today I sent my 16 year old off to help some friends. They have a sick newborn and he and his mommy have been in the hospital. The daddy was at home with their two toddler girls, and he was trying to get some recording done. They are musicians, and their goal this summer was to finish their album. So I offered the services of one of my girls to go help with their girls. I was glad she could do it, but I sure did miss her help in my kitchen!
The green beans were no problem for me–I knew exactly what to do with them! We got 13 1/2 quarts of green beans canned out of the five gallons picked. A lot of that picking was too big to use or had too much bug rot on them. We don’t spray our beans, and up until now we have not had any problems with more than the occasional bug. The rows that got picked this morning have already been picked at least five times, and I know the plants are about at the end of their run. That is okay–we have four other rows in full production and five rows that have not yet started. Today’s canning resulted in us passing the half-way mark for our goal. We wanted to get 208 quarts of green beans put up (that’s 2 jars per meal, 2 meals per week.) I now have 106 jars done.
The carrots were a new product for us to can. I wasn’t sure how to proceed, so I did what I always do when I have a canning question: I called Suzanne. Suzanne knows more about canning produce than anyone I know. She and her husband built their beautiful log home from wood they harvested off their land. She cooks on a cast-iron wood heated cook stove. They do have electricity, but she likes cooking on her cook stove. They also have a Jersey cow…and we are eager consumers of her delicious milk! Suzanne and her family have a huge garden, and she cans all kinds of things–to the tune of about 500 jars a year. Carrots, so I learned, are to be cold or hot packed and processed for 30 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure–the same as squash. I decided to do raw pack since we like a little life left in our veggies. (Squash should always be raw-packed.) We got a yield of 7 quarts of canned carrots out of our 2 gallons…not bad considering we had to cut all the tops off and clean them! (That job went to my two remaining at-home girls.)
You may wonder why I am canning and not freezing my vegetables. There are several reasons, actually: 1) because I have about 5 deer in my freezer still. We started with 10 and have been eating them all year. 2) I freezer burn everything I pack. It is a horrible problem, and I hate to lose my veggies to freezer burn! 3) the jars are a lot easier to see on the shelf, and my girls will have an easier time finding them than digging through the freezer for each meal. They are my meal prep helpers. 4) we lose our electricity a lot up here on the mountain. It would be really bad to lose our meat, but it would be tragic to lose our meat AND our vegetables. Besides, if we did have a loss of power and the freezer began to thaw, I could always pressure can the meat. It would be less tasty to pressure can thawed vegetables.
The potatoes are still waiting their time in the canner. As I write this, my lovely husband is organizing the cleaning of the potatoes. They will require a raw pack as well, and then they get 40 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. We have about 60 quarts of potatoes done. A friend of mine is drying her potatoes. I will be eager to see how they turn out. Perhaps we will need to get a really nice dehydrator for next year.
The swiss chard made a lovely side dish for left-over quiche and hamburgers. Saturday night meals can be fairly eclectic around here. I have a ton of swiss chard left that I did not cook tonight. It’s all washed and cut and ready to go, so we will bag it up for tomorrow or Monday. Swiss chard makes a nice side dish if you know how to cook it. I never knew how to cook any greens but spinach until I met Mr. Bill. The secret to good swiss chard is to cut it into strips across the the breadth of the leaves, making sure to get some of the stem, too. You must make sure the chard is very clean before you start–it is a dirt collector! Start some olive oil in a large pot (one you can cover) and add some diced garlic. Throw in your chard and stir it around. As it wilts, you can add more chard. Once you have all the chard you want in the pot, let it cook down a bit, lifting the cover to stir it every few minutes. Cook it until it is dark and tender. Serve it hot with some vinegar. MMMMMmmmm, good.
I only got a few loads of our laundry done. My older girls all do their own laundry and rotate responsibility for the family towels and other linens. I have the laundry of my husband, myself, and the three little ones. I usually get it all done on Saturday, but today I was a little busier than usual with our garden pickings. We won’t discuss my bathroom or the mountain of winter clothes that are sitting in my room that I keep promising myself I will tackle. I figure even if I don’t get to them right away, winter will come back around again. My veggies won’t wait. (I did clean my toilet–there are some things besides veggies that I just can’t let go!)
My husband ended up running a lot of errands today. He cleaned all the local stores out of wide-mouth canning jars. He netted us 21 cases of them….about 9 shy of what I think we will need before it is all over. I picked up all the jars Wal-Mart had the other day…about 10 cases of jars, but 8 of them were small-mouth jars. We were going to return the small-mouth jars, but I think I will hold onto them until we see if we can get all wide-mouth jars in their place. If you live in the area and wonder who made a run on the jars, it was us. Sorry. We are on a mission to put up as much food as we can for winter.
My husband also did another important errand today: getting some new white underwear for our three year old! Our young man has been potty-trained for quite some time, but he has been wearing some size 2T-3T character underwear. He is a big boy (not fat, just tall and big!) and his character underwear are getting too small. His younger brother, however, is very interested in the potty and in those cool underwear! So my husband convinced our three year old that it was time to give his younger brother the character underwear and make the move into white underwear–just like Daddy wears! Success! They came home with two packs of 2t-4t tidy-whities. I am thinking we will have a “passing of the underwear” ceremony.
It was a typical Saturday: lots of things done, and none of the ones I really hoped to accomplish. Oh well, one thing we know is that we always get another day to do housework in our Dailey life! (*except when Jesus raptures His church, and when that happens, I don’t think I am going to care if my toilet is clean!)