I love the changes in color this time of year. The last few weeks, the kids and I have enjoyed taking drives and seeing a world of green turn into a rainbow of color. The soybean fields are yellow, and the corn is yellowing too. That which has been harvested now leaves fields of brown. The purple and white flowers stand in stark contrast to the green pastures, and apple trees are dappled with red and yellow. I love the flickering yellow on white of birch trees and the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges of the maples. The birds are singing new songs now, and the geese have joined the chorus. I’m still unprepared for the falling leaves, and I jump when one flutters across my path. I walk through the woods, I can here a crunch and rustle of dry leaves as the deer run away and the squirrels hop through trees.
My days of food preservation are dwindling down, and I’ve had a bit of a hard time getting much accomplished the last few weeks. We finally began our school work again, and so it’s been a transition into a new schedule. We still need to order some of our books for the year, but we’ve got enough to be working on that it’s okay if it gets put off a little bit longer. The kids are inside a lot more, which means more messes once again, and it’s a balancing act to try to get everything done.
Several weeks ago, a relative and reader of the blog sent us loads of gently used books, clothing, and canning supplies that they no longer needed. (Thank you!) We spent a day going through it all, and we were so grateful for such a blessing. The kids were each able to find books that they wanted to keep for their own shelves, and we have a bunch I still haven’t gotten put a way! The jars have already been filled with food for the winter, and the clothing most enthusiastically worn.
When we were unloading all of the boxes from the car, the kids were realizing how many books there were. They thought they’d brought all the books into the house, and when they realized there was another box of books, they exclaimed “MORE BOOKS?!” in sheer delight. The timing of this delivery couldn’t have been better. We’re at a seasonal change for clothing, the canning supplies is being used now, and the kids were appreciative to have new books to read and look at. It has been making the last few weeks a little bit easier on me. I actually had all six kids voluntarily sitting quietly in the living room reading or looking at books on more than one occasion. I’ve never had that happen before!
Lately, the food preservation that I have done has been focused on apples and tomatoes. Our trees are all picked clean now, but we’re still going to be getting more from people we know, and we’ll either press them into cider or can them in some other form.
We have a friend who has a pear tree that was in need of some pruning, and it was making it difficult for them to harvest their pears, so we offered to prune it for them, and they said we could have any of the pears we wanted. We took a bunch of pears home and canned pear pieces and made apple pear cider, but we also left some of the good pears for them and then brought apple pear cider back for them as a thank you. Today, we’re going to be harvesting more pears from someone else that asked if we wanted theirs, so I’ll be doing more of that soon.
There’s a neighbor that has an orchard that is allowing us to pick apples, so we are also going to be doing more harvesting from them soon, and we’ll be pressing cider to share, and probably making more applesauce and other preserves.
I’ve made two batches of tomato sauce so far this year, but I hope to do a few more yet. I’m not sure how many of my big tomatoes we’ll get as the plants are beginning to die back now, but there are more on the vines and I have some ripening in the basement, and also some in the freezer.
I found a good way to use all of the cherry tomatoes that I have been harvesting. I’m trying to be really diligent about picking them as a part of my “emergency plan.” Basically, I’m trying to be really diligent about not letting anything go to waste.
I have a recipe for tomato soup that I really love, and then I found one similar that uses cherry tomatoes. It’s so good! I made the base and just froze it because it uses olive oil in the recipe, but then I decided to try roasting the tomatoes, garlic, and basil without any oil, and that worked just fine. I can add the oil later. That way, I am able to can the base. My mom and the kids helped to harvest a bunch of that, and I got all of those that were harvested processed now. I could still probably pick more, but we’ll see what kind of time I have this week.
Mom helped us with several things last week. She watched the kids and worked with them outside for awhile while I worked on getting some things in check in the house. We diced apples together and she washed all the cherry tomatoes while I worked on getting garlic and basil chopped for the sauce I was making. And then we all felt like we were going to go blind because water from the tomatoes splashed out of the pans along with oil from the garlic, and it made a smoke that just burned our eyes. I felt like my eyes were bruised! It was akin to roasting hot peppers in the oven, only it didn’t burn our throats, too. Lesson learned…don’t overfill the pans! We canned the tomato sauce and some corn broth that day, but the apples had to wait until I had time to turn them into caramel apple jam.
I harvested the last of the corn recently, canned several more pints, and then dried the rest so I have more for grinding into corn meal. We picked a decent amount of beans last week, and I got all of those snapped and canned. We might still get one more round of beans, but they’re nearly finished.
I’ve found a few pumpkins and squash here and there, but sadly, not enough for us to have anything to sell. The sunflowers are finished, and I need to start cutting heads to save seed soon. The pepper plants are still going, and I’d like to dig them up before the first frost and try to extend their life a little longer this year. They were late to get going and are finally starting to produce more than just a pepper at a time. I’ve still got some cabbage growing over by the barn, and there are carrots that I’m letting get a little bigger.
The kids and I picked all of the Mexican Red Beans last week, and we put those into the dehydrator right away so they could finish drying out. I need to shell all of those yet. I was hoping it would have been a larger harvest, but it’s still going to be plenty for us, because I’m not using dry beans all the time anyway. We pulled the rutabaga finally, and I got that into a 5 gal. pail with sand. We’ll see how those do. I have some in the fridge that I need to do something with, but I haven’t figured that out yet.
All in all, things have been going well in the last several weeks. We’ve had some extra obligations away from home on top of everything else we’ve got going on, but now that eases up again. It’s time to turn our attention to the butchering we’ll do next month. We still have to peg down dates, but we’re looking at Saturdays in October. I’m not sure how many times we’ll butcher, but it could be 2-3 times, or we may even decide we need to do a 4th day. I have no idea how long it’s going to take to butcher one pig, let alone 2! A deer is easy enough, but it still takes plenty of time.
As of right now, there are 7 turkeys and 24 chickens still alive, plus the 2 pigs. We just purchased a large chest freezer, partly because one of our uprights are not working quite the way they should and we’ll have to replace it, and partly because we’re going to need extra space for all the meat. If Scott or one of the boys would shoot a deer this year, we definitely wouldn’t have had enough freezer space for everything.
There are a few other items we need/want to pick up before we do our butchering this year, like extra knives, a new vacuum sealer, and if we can find one, a good metal table to do a bunch of the butchering on (for stability and sanitization purposes). I should really start making a plan for getting the kitchen set up for the canning of any meat, and I will need to try to have the refrigerator empty prior to butchering so that we can let the meat rest before freezing it. Actually, we may need to get a new giant cooler in order to do it, but I might do the salt-water and ice method for resting the meat this time. We use our large one for chilling venison quarters while I work on the butchering, and that’s been a huge help, but it’s starting to fall apart.
After yesterday’s canning session, I’m basically just down to quart jars remaining to be filled, which is fine. We’ve got plenty of those for the things I still need to make. Broth and meat will all be best done in quarts for our family, and any more tomato sauce I do should also be put into quarts. I just hope I have enough lids at this point! Between all the potatoes in the basement, the food in the freezers, buckets with carrots and rutabaga, and then all the jars we’ve canned, this is far and away our best harvest year, and we didn’t even butcher yet. Now the question is, how close did we get to growing enough food for our family for a year?
This morning, my focus is cleaning the house, and this afternoon we’ll go do some stuff as a family to enjoy the gorgeous autumn weather! I hope you are all doing well, and Happy Fall!
Love and Blessings~ Danielle