Six Years and Counting
It’s six years and counting since we signed the papers on the homestead and moved in! Some days it feels like a lifetime ago, and I suppose, in some ways, it is! Two of the kids were born after we moved here and have known no other home, so for them, there was no “before” the homestead.
So much has happened in those years, and I’m very grateful that I’ve kept the blog up throughout that time so we have a record of much of what has gone on. The progress we make each year has been amazing and deeply satisfying. We’ve made a lot of aesthetic changes in 2021, and I am really loving it. From adding rabbits to pigs, cleaning up the yard (like the rest of the old coop) to building bunk beds, all the way to the new little shelf in the kitchen or the new tractor, things are really, really coming together.
The difference in our garden harvest from last year to this year is absolutely astounding. Not everything did well, but we’ve harvested so much more food this year than in the past. We’ve used more jars than ever before, and I still have a lot of canning left to do. Thank goodness that I purchased lids in bulk awhile back, because there are no lids available in stores this year. Jars are hard enough to come by. I’ve been trying to pick up a flat or two of jars whenever I can, just to be sure I’ll have enough to get everything put up this year. I’ve made a huge dent in the ones we own already, but with more applesauce, cider, apple slices, tomato sauce and more yet to preserve, I’m still not sure we’ll have enough. I think we will, but I think it’s going to be cutting it closer than I thought!
I’m very happy with how the garden setup worked out for us this year. Had I not had stomach troubles or gotten so burnt out after Independence Day, I probably would have stayed on top of the weeding, and some things would have done better and looked nicer. I also just sort of let things go after the lawnmower broke down a second time.
The biggest flop was probably the pumpkins. I never got much fruit set, and after examining the plants this afternoon, I think that Squash Vine Borer may have caused me a lot of problems. I had wanted to set traps, but never got around to it. I’ll have to make a point of getting supplies for pest control during the winter so that there are no excuses during the garden season next year.
Just today, I pulled all the remaining onions, got several gallons of cherry tomatoes, picked a couple of gallons of beans, gathered lots more sweet corn, picked and shucked the glass gem popping corn, pulled the remaining cabbage in the main garden, found tomatillos and peppers, grabbed the (very) few squash I could find, and Adeline picked a few large cucumbers. Oh, and we pulled all the remaining watermelon.
The shelves in the seed starting area are covered in onions, curing. I braided some of the yellow onions that had dried already to clear some more space for the freshly picked ones. And I have a bin full of tiny onions that I started from seed that just never took off. I’m contemplating just drying them out and using them as sets for next spring. I’ve never done that before, but some random mistakes from previous years seem to say that it should work.
I currently have watermelon on the shelf in the back entry to the house, and it’s oddly satisfying. I didn’t get as much of a harvest as I would have liked, but we don’t need to buy fruit for awhile! I had picked the first two melons too soon, but these are perfectly ripe and very delicious.
I spent a chunk of time during the morning sorting, washing, and cutting up tomatoes for freezing. There’s maybe 2 gallons in the house of unripe tomatoes that are ripening in the basement, but I was able to put roughly 8 gallons of tomatoes in the freezer. This was only possible, however, because I had taken close to 12 gallons out of the freezers the other day and made sauce. I really love my method for easy tomato sauce, and the freezer is an integral part of that job. It saves so much time!
This evening, I washed off the beans I had picked earlier, and everything is washed and snapped and ready for the canner in the morning. I’ve got to shuck all of the corn tomorrow, and get whatever is worth using ready for canning as well. Looks like it’ll be a pressure canning kind of day!
We grew some glass gem popping corn this year, and I’m interested to see how that all turns out. The cobs are so much skinnier, and they aren’t all that big. I’m guessing that’s mostly just the variety of corn, but considering which section of the garden it came from, I wonder if they’d have been bigger had I grown them somewhere else. I still need to let it all dry, so I’m just laying it in the dehydrator (without running it) to help it dry out further. (Mice make hanging it to dry a poor option in our old farmhouse.) I noticed quite a few kernels look cracked and like they almost wanted to pop already. Not sure if I should have harvested sooner or if anything would prevent that, so we’ll have to see how it all works out.
We picked a decent amount of sweet corn today, but most of these ears are smaller, so we’ll have to see how those turned out. I’m guessing it won’t be a lot of corn, and I’ll probably have to use the knife to remove the kernels, but I’m glad we’ve got a little more. There’s still some out by the barn, but it needs another week or two before I can pick the rest.
Most of the remaining cabbage is out of the garden, now. I brought a bunch of heads over to my friend, but the rest I’ll use for a final batch of sauerkraut. If we get anything else out of the barn garden, I’ll probably find some other way to preserve that cabbage. I’ll be doing this batch in the 1 gallon mason jar, and we’ll see how that all works out.
This past week was sort of strange for me. I felt very unproductive, but we got a decent amount of work done. I made two batches of applesauce, one on my own and one with my mom. She also helped me do a bunch of diced tomatoes, which we seasoned before canning with garlic and basil.
Adeline has been my right-hand girl lately, and she helped me make a big batch of salsa one of the days. It’s a little more watery than I’d like, but I think it turned out well, otherwise.
She and I took a day to work on doing some cleaning around the house, and we finally tackled at least one of the organization problems we’ve been having in the kitchen. For 9 months out of the year, we don’t really need to keep canning supplies in the kitchen, so we generally store them in the basement. But for those 3 months that we’re busy preserving, it all stays in the kitchen, and I’m left tripping over everything, because there’s no good place to go with it. We found a wire shelf on rollers that fits next to the basement door nicely. I was able to fit both canners on it, as well as several bins for all the lids, rings, and other supplies, plus, I was finally able to get the cast iron dishes up of the floor.
Scott has had some time off from work, and he’s been busy tackling odd projects around the homestead. The tractor needed it’s 50 hour first-time maintenance, so he and the boys worked on that this morning. They got rid of most, but not all of the scrap steel from the old coop mess, they cleared off the slab by the barn and got some of the equipment out of the farm yard. They got some roofing on the chicken tractor for the meat birds, fixed a problem on the Bobcat and got it set up to mow the trails and fields, they did some other vehicle maintenance, and there were a bunch of other random projects that needed to be done.
On Sunday, Scott and some of the kids picked a ton of apples from one of the neighbor’s trees, and Monday was a pressing day. A friend from work came over again, and they worked for hours on crushing and pressing the apples. There were a few good lessons learned in the process. We found that the inner band on the cider press actually works really well, and we don’t need to do the bags for pressing. It saves a step, and it appears to give a better press.
I helped outside as much as I was able to, but I worked on canning all of our cider, and I also worked on cooking down that first batch of tomato sauce. That, and I made lunch for the whole crew. Monday was a beautiful day, but the group got hot sitting in the sun and working. I thought it was so nice outside… it actually felt cool to me! But then again, I had 4 burners going on the stove, the oven on, and the Nesco roaster going, so the kitchen felt like a sauna. I’m sure everything felt cooler in comparison!
We had a few extra activities over the weekend. Friday we had a birthday party for Paul and one of the nephews, plus some of the kids did a sleepover. I basically spent the day just baking and cooking. Saturday, we had a party at a friend’s house in the afternoon, so we only did the salsa. Sunday, we went to Scott’s parents’ house after church and didn’t get home until mid-afternoon. I was so beat that I ended up napping for 3 hours. Meanwhile, Scott was gone, picking the apples for Monday. Monday morning, I spent running around, doing animal chores, washing jars for canning, and helping get everything ready for our cider pressing.
The rest of this week is looking busy, in terms of preservation and harvesting. I’m probably going to be digging up more carrots soon, and I have a lot of food to can that’s been pulled already. We’ve also got lot of outside activity coming up. It’s hard to have days when we’ve got to be gone from home this time of year, but I’m glad we can still make time to be with family and friends. I love this time of year, but I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks from now when things slow down just a bit!
What foods are you putting up these days?
Love and Blessings~Danielle
P.S. I just wanted to share with you a bit of what it looks like behind the scenes! The jars are beautiful when everything is finished, but much of my days on preservation look like these…
I envy you your beautiful jars of wholesome, home grown food! And I’m so glad you had a good year! (If I could vote for an animal to acquire next, I’d vote for an alpaca or two. They are so-o-o cute.)
Spring Lake Homestead
Adam would vote for a llama. The kids would probably be on board with an alpaca. Maybe when they’re a little bigger… Adeline would probably love making her own yarn someday.
Homesteading is such a good fit for your family! I love watching all the transformations :0)
Spring Lake Homestead
It really has been quite perfect for our family! Thanks!