It’s August! We’re already over a week into the month, and oh, what a start it has been!
I’m not going to sugar coat it… this past month has been stressful for me. We recently made up a list of all the expenses we have between now and butchering time, and it’s a hefty list. They dryer isn’t working properly, we need a new chest freezer, the van needed new brakes,… the list goes on. It’s harvest time, which means canning season. I’m excited, but it’s a struggle to not feel a little overwhelmed. Everything is ready much earlier than I anticipated, which means canning season started earlier than I was expecting. We had a weird (but good) July, and meanwhile, it seems the world is falling to pieces again. And on top of all of that, I’ve had a flare up of stomach issues that is really slowing me down.
Yes, it’s entirely possible that the stomach issues have been made worse by all of the things that have been on my mind. I’m aware, and doing the best I can to cast my cares on the Lord. I know the financial stuff will work out just fine. It’s a matter of patients and time. The early and bountiful harvest is nothing short of a blessing, I ended up getting time to relax during July, the world will fall apart no matter what I do, so all I can do is to focus on what I do have control over, and that’s right here in our home. And as much as the stomach problems are a pain (literally and figuratively), I’m working on my diet which I have been wanting to do anyway, and it’s the motivation I needed to make some changes. See? There’s a silver lining to everything.
But enough of the hard stuff!
We had our annual Independence Day party, and it was quite a success this year. Probably my favorite that we’ve hosted to date. I had a few weeks of downtime until the annual Tea Party, and I really thought I’d be busy working on building projects. In fact, I SHOULD have been busy working on building projects and other things, but I had completely lost my steam. We worked like crazy from March until July, and I was beat. I didn’t want to think about any of it. We worked on trying to get the house back in order, and we were beginning to harvest from the garden, and I just gave myself permission to rest.
I had been having stomach troubles on and off from about May through July. They were gradually getting worse, and it very much reminded me of a few years ago when I was dealing with all the same issues. I knew I needed to start improving my diet, so I was working on it some. Finally, I decided that I’d do another round of the Whole 30 once the Tea Party was over. We started two days after it ended. (Scott’s joining me, though he’s a bit less rigorous since he wasn’t struggling with the same issues.)
Anyway, the troubles were slowing me down quite a bit. I’ve had numerous days of just resting on the couch because my stomach hurt so much. Things seem to be on the right track since I’ve started, but I’m still having some issues that we’re trying to sort out. It’s possible that there’s something non-food related going on as well. My point simply being that I was sort of forced to take it easy throughout July. It was hard to slow down, but I really needed it. I was a little concerned about how I was going to get through harvest season, because I was beginning to feel really burnt out.
On the days I was feeling good, we worked on cleaning the house, preparing for the Tea Party, and just casually working on the gardens. The harvest was beginning, so we started to shift to eating largely from the garden. It actually worked out really well to start the Whole 30 when I did, because we are getting so much produce coming in right now. If I don’t know what to make for a meal, I just go outside and pick whatever is available and use that.
I was actually quite shocked at the early harvest. I went out one day to thin the turnips, and I ended up with a massive pot full of turnips. I had beans start to come in, peas were filling the fridge, cucumbers were piling up… honestly, I have used two or three zucchini. I need to just feed the rest to the animals at this point. I wasn’t getting outside to deal with them, and they would be huge when I’d get out there. I’ve been wanting to fill the produce stand, but not having the stamina for it. I’m hoping this week will be a turn-around point for me in that respect.
When I thinned the turnips, I realized I had only pulled about 1/5th of the entire crop. I still have to pull the rest of them! And beets, too. So, yes, it got a bit overwhelming. We had a few things on the schedule, so I couldn’t just dig in right away, and then to make matters worse, the BUGS. Oh my, the gnats and the mosquitoes and the flies! It’s been unpleasant to be outside. Even for my morning walks. It’s fine while I’m walking, but if I pause at all, the bugs come swarming. I haven’t been exactly enthusiastic to go outside the last two weeks. This past week was especially terrible.
The first batch of peas I planted is basically done. We got 24 half-pints out of it, plus lots of fresh-eating peas, and some that went over since I wasn’t diligent about picking. Note to self for next year: I need sturdier and taller trellising for the peas. The plants last longer when they are well off the ground. I was slow to pick the first batch of beans very well, so when we finally got around to picking this past week, I was probably a week behind. In one week, I probably picked about 2 bushels worth, maybe 3? That was a surprise to me. I gave a bunch to a friend and we put some in the produce stand.
I canned the first round of turnips, beets, and beans, and it’s such a joy to see things filling up the pantry shelf again! Yesterday, I harvested one of the sections of carrots with some help from Paul. I washed everything, and Adeline helped me cut them all up. Scott and some of the kids helped with the canning process. Lots of jars of carrots are on the shelf, and that’s just the first batch. I probably planted close to 4x that much? That’s good, because we use carrots a lot. I canned some in smaller pieces and some as bigger chunks for things like a quick stew or roast. I plan to try storing some in sand, but I need to get my supplies together, and I want to do that with the later batches of carrots. This first run was all Cosmic Purple Carrots, but I planted several other varieties yet.
The beans are exciting for me, because we’ll be able to pick once a week for the next month or two. We’ll definitely have enough of those for next year, plus I have enough to share and to sell. I really wanted to do pickles this year, and I still might be able to, but I haven’t been diligent about picking, and one of the sections I planted seem to be struggling. I do have plenty of watermelon on the vine, which makes me pretty happy. I love that I don’t have to buy fruit at all for the family during the fall. We’ve always got plenty of apples, watermelon, peaches, and grapes to keep us in fresh fruit!
My tomato plants look like they’re doing pretty well. I noticed my first ripe tomatoes yesterday, so it won’t be long before I’m having to deal with tomatoes. The cabbages are filling out nicely, and I should be able to do a lot of sauerkraut this year. The cabbage didn’t do very well last year. The heads were small and I didn’t do much with what I even harvested. I’ve picked a few peppers here and there, but now is the time when they usually start to really pick up in production.
I plucked the first ear of corn! It was the blue corn that I grew. I noticed the tassels turned brown and dry, and I wanted to see how far along it is. It was still yellow when I picked it. I shucked it, and a few days later, it was all light blue. I’m not sure if it only turns blue as it dries out or not, so I’m just giving it all some more time, and I guess I’ll see! The sweet corn is looking good, and the first of that should be ready for picking pretty soon. If memory serves me right, I’m usually starting to harvest that by mid-August.
The potato plants are all dying back, and I am just giving them a little more time before I dig them up. I don’t want to wait too long and then have them go bad because of bugs or too much rain. Some of the plants I have pulled have a lot of small tubers on them, and I kind of want to see if they’ll get much better. If the first plants I pulled are any indication of the kind of harvest we’ll get, it looks like we won’t have a shortage of potatoes this year! Praying that it’s a big one!
The sunflowers have been blooming here and there, and I love seeing them from the kitchen window. I haven’t cut more than a few yet, but I am hoping to go out and gather some for a nice bouquet soon. We’ll save most of them for seed for the chickens, but I’d like to have some bouquets in the produce stand, too.
The onions are developing nicely, but we’ve still got some time on those. The tops have yet to start falling over, and the bulbs could definitely get bigger. The ones I planted from sets (over by the barn) are the biggest and look pretty good! I think the garlic is about ready to be pulled. I’ve bene watching the tops for awhile, and I just noticed yesterday that all of the sudden, they seem to be brown. I plan to pull those this week.
It looks like I can begin harvesting the rest of the peas this week. I planted a second batch over by the barn. This was my first year doing any kind of staggered planting, and I am happy that I did it. We’ll have extra tomatoes, carrots, onions, peas, beans, and corn because of it.
The kitchen garden ended up being a bit of a flop. The chickens spent so much time ripping everything up. They threw the mulch everywhere which made it hard to weed, and made things weedier. They ripped up entire plants and ate things that weren’t for them. It was irritating, but then again, it is what it is.
I know it’s early in the harvest season, but it looks like we might actually be close to our food goals this year. We’re always striving to grow enough food for our family for a year, and every year we have come up woefully short. We have improved with each passing year, but I am pretty sure there will be a substantial difference in how much we put up this year vs. last year.
The one thing I really flopped on was the fruit harvests. I should have been more diligent, but we also ripped some plants up because we had to redo things. Our cherries aren’t really to production mode yet, and the one cherry that did well for us once died in the spring. We ripped out half the black raspberries in the spring (it was needed), so we ended up with a lot less. The strawberries were dug up and I didn’t get around to replanting like I wanted to, so we have a tiny fraction of the plants we did last year. And the chickens had a little too much fun with the ones I did replant. That’s okay, though. We did end up with a lot of mulberries. Not as much as we could have, but still, more than ever before.
The Bobcat Tractor got a flat tire in June, but we weren’t able to have it repaired until July. Thankfully, it was a relatively cheap fix. We’ve been using that to pull the turkey tractor around. Aaron helped me move the turkeys out to pasture the week after the tea party. We lost 3 after moving them outdoors, so we’re down to 7, but they seem to be doing well now. The pigs are getting large, and they are really going through the food. We’ve been feeding nearly all the food scraps to the pigs, and I’m actually relieved that we’ll have so many in the coming months, because I cannot believe how much food they have been going through!
The chickens are doing fine. We lost a few too many of the younger egg layers, but we still have about half the flock. I pray we don’t have any more issues with them. The kids lost a few of their chickens, and I’ll be honest… it was poor care on their part. They feel pretty terrible about it, and hopefully they will do better here on out. The big chickens and the ducks are doing well. The chick that hatched out has disappeared, and I fear a coon may have gotten it. The bunnies are doing well, and though we haven’t caught Sonic, he’s still hopping around and we see him from time to time.
Right now, I’m feeling just a little overwhelmed at the prospect of August. We need to order books for this school year, and I need to come up with my plan for the year (or at least the first couple of months). The house WAS in pretty good shape at the beginning of July, but it has kind of fallen apart since. We’re struggling to get back on top of things. I’ll be in the house more with the canning work, so I will have some downtime during the time while jars are in the canner when I can work on organizing and tidying up.
Any other homesteaders hate how messy the kitchen always is this time of year? Now I understand why the kitchen looked the way it did when we were in the process of buying this house. The jars were always on the counter because they were being used daily. I don’t know how to keep it clean without spending ALL my time in the kitchen. I’m usually so beat by the end of a day’s long canning session, that I can’t do much in terms of cleaning.
The kids have been more involved than past years, and it’s already making a big difference! But they are really going to have to step it up a notch to get us through this season with our sanity intact! There have been some pouting sessions about washing dishes and snapping beans, and people get mad about how often the floor needs to be swept, but we’ve talked it over with them, and they are beginning to take their chores a little more seriously.
I’ll have plenty of time for canning this month, but we’ve put a lot of summertime activities on the calendar for August. We’ve got to fit in all of the sleepovers and visits before September. I did my best to schedule things so that I have a few free days a week to be able to focus on canning.
I’m not sharing any pictures today because I’m having some issues with my cameras, but hopefully I’ll get to share some pictures of our harvest soon!
How have your gardens been doing? Let me know in the comments!
Love and Blessings~ Danielle