Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Getting Ready for Winter

l.- pickled garlic; middle-broccoli soup; r.-pumpkin pickles

It has been busy here around our little "homestead". We've been getting ready for winter, and putting up some food as well as putting the garden to bed. It's been a long week, but quite productive, although there were some disappointments along the way.

As you know, there is a critter we are trying to catch in out basement. He has been very happy were he is, and won't be caught. I guess I can't blame him - all that yummy food we've put away for winter has made it a warm haven for him. Until we catch him, we've got pumpkins, squash, 'taters, etc. all around the house in places I'm not happy with at all. It's made it difficult, so I'm canning and freezing things to get them out of here. I hope we can catch the invader soon, as I'd rather put things back down in storage than to have to preserve it all. It just tastes better fresh IMHO.

I did up some broccoli soup - 16 pints total. I opened a new box of lids, and it appears they weren't good, as the same amount of lids I got out of the new box was the same amount that didn't seal. We are only putting away 9 pints now. I know that I can reprocess them, but I don't know how it will change the flavor. Instead, we just had soup for dinner for the next two days. In my 20+ years of canning, this has never happened. Guess I was due for some humble pie :)

A good friend of ours sent up some extra garlic he won't be using, so we now have a nice 7" square priority mail boxes FULL of cloves that have been removed from the garlic head. These were ones that didn't pass his inspection to replant. With all that extra garlic (on top of what I have from my garden), I have a lot to experiment with. We've been eating garlic in everything these days, and now we've even tried pickling the cloves. I only did a test batch of 2 half pints, as I have no idea what to expect from the flavor. (from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving pg. 160)

I also tried a test batch of Pumpkin Pickles. (from Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving pg. 163) Everyone is anxious to try these, as the syrup the are packed in tastes yummy. The book said that it made 5 pints, but I ended up with 6 pints and a little extra syrup. We have very little waste from pumpkins, as we roast and eat the seeds as well.

The garden is now getting ready to be put to bed. We have part of it done, but still need to get out and finish it. We've covered the garlic with horse manure, straw and a nice big pile of Maple leaves. They will be nice and cozy over the winter. We put in 120 Bogytar, 108 Siberian, and 36 Bavarian Purple - all hardneck garlic. I'm hoping they do well. They went in a little later than I would have liked.

We also prepped our onion and pea beds for spring. They have been turned, and layered with horse manure, straw and some leaves as well. When spring comes, the manure should be pulled down into the soil by the worms over winter (in theory) and the straw will mark the rows. The leaves are piled on deep to hopefully prevent the soil from freezing solid, and will allow it to be workable in the spring. We'll pull both the leaves and straw off to allow the soil to warm a few days before planting. We'll be putting in 2 types of peas - a sweet pea and Carlin peas. The Carlin are a dry pea and is traditionally used for Pea Porridge. (Remember the ditty "Peas Porridge Hot, Peas Porridge Cold?")

The tomato cages are cleaned up and put away, and we've pulled all the stakes up that held the cages. Our cages aren't the flimsy ones you buy at the store, but are made from a roll of 4" x 4" fencing that is 4' high. We also picked more rock that decided to pop up during the season. Those things produce better than my veggies do!

We still have to finish off the garden, but all the time we put in now will save time in the spring, when we are anxious to get all those little seedlings in their new home. We also won't have to worry about getting the beds turned to get the earliest veggies in, as they will be ready to go. So many times we've run into problems and have missed putting in the earliest crops. We are trying to prevent that next year.

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