Preserving the harvest

This is actually just a braggy post to show off some of the ways the DreadBrewer and I have been working to preserve – or even just use up quickly – the abundant harvest from our garden.

I am so pleased with our pressure cooker – it’s not exactly fast but it’s so nice to be able to can things from the garden that we couldn’t previously preserve. In addition to the green beans we canned last weekend, we made up a batch of 6 pints of caramelized carrots this weekend.

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Also pictured is a quadruple batch of our pesto (which we freeze, rather than heat process) and a batch of banana walnut muffins for the week (which we didn’t grow, but I’m proud of our productivity regardless).

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The girls had a good time watching me and DB work like dogs in the kitchen while they enjoyed a leisurely dinner.

I also made an enormous batch of my world-famous salsa, which means we are no longer drowning in tomatoes, merely keeping our heads above water… barely…

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And in a fit of adventurousness, we decided that we would try making a batch of okra pickles. “Everyone” says that even people who don’t care for okra like okra pickles. For these, we used a hot water bath to process them, as pickles don’t typically need pressure processing.

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It irritates me to no end that it seems like we pack our jars so full that they couldn’t possibly hold another okra or carrot or green bean and then, after processing, the veg floats up to the top and there is, like, another inch or two of space that we could’ve used. Any suggestions on how to avoid the dreaded dead space?

Next weekend I think we’re going to try our hands at canning tomatoes and beets. So it’s a good thing we’re going to work tomorrow, because I think we’ll both need a few days to recoup our strength.

LB and BIT Garden Photo Dump

I warn you – there is some cuteness overload about to be unleashed but I realized I had all these good pictures of LB and BIT in the garden and wanted to share them. I need to do a proper garden update soon (and I will, I promise!) but these were too fun not to share right away.

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Daddy requires close supervision while in the garden. I love her “official” supervisory pose.

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This calls for two supervisors. Obviously a very delicate operation.

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We actually got slightly more peas in the bowl than on the floor, which I consider a definite win.

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World’s largest cabbage. Well,   OUR largest cabbage.

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First green bean harvest of the year – BIT was very happy as these are her favorite vegetable.

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Going for a ride.

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Having fun playing around.

Okay, that’s all the cute garden pics I have of the girls for now. Not quite as many as I had thought but still enough to make me smile for the day. 🙂

Onions, anyone?

This past weekend was onion harvesting time here at BeerCat Brewing Farm (I think that should be our new name – or maybe just BeerCat Farm – given the amount of time we spend growing things versus brewing things).

And in true DreadBrewer fashion, we planted, oh, a million onions when a fraction of that many would suffice. Well, more like 200-225 onions rather than a million, but honestly, how many onions can a family of 4 go through in a reasonable amount of time? Especially when none of us particularly cares for raw onions?

If you grow your own onions, you will know your onions are ready for harvest when the tops start to flop over:

This is just one of our two beds of onions. We planted a lot of onions. 

This is just one of our two beds of onions. We planted a lot of onions.

Prior to harvesting, we consulted our many books on vegetable gardening and got many different answers regarding how to best harvest onions. Trim the roots, don’t trim the roots, brush the dirt off, don’t brush the dirt, do it in the morning, do it later in the day…. you get the idea. Ultimately, we decided we would gently brush off a little dirt, trim the roots, and do it whenever we had a chance (read: the girls were napping or actually entertaining themselves without whining).

This is the point at which I started to become overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of onions.

This is the point at which I started to become overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of onions.

After you harvest your onions and brush them (or don’t) and trim the roots (or don’t), they need to be put in a reasonably dry, reasonably cool place with good airflow to cure for storage. Some of the books recommended doing so out in the garden, but as one book actually written for the hot summers in the South pointed out, those recommendations are for onions grown in far more temperate and forgiving climes than ours. So we repurposed our new seed starting rack as our new onion drying rack.

Yep, That's a lot of onions.

Yep, That’s a lot of onions.

We then set up an assortment of fans to try and keep air flowing across the onions. The garage is less than ideal in terms of humidity and temperature, so we’re hoping that a constant stream of air will remedy that.

Just one of four rows

Just one of four shelves of onions

And we actually still have 20 or so onions out in the garden that we haven’t harvested yet. Their tops hadn’t fallen over yet, so we left them in situ and figure we’ll harvest them over the next few days to use fresh and to give away to neighbors and coworkers.

I’ve started perusing online recipes to try and find some new things to do with our bounty. We cook a lot of things with onions in them but have very few recipes that either showcase onions or use them in an appreciable quantity. I’m sure I’ll give onion soup a go soon, as well as trying my hand at homemade baked onion rings. However, if any of you has a killer recipe with onions – lots and lots of onions – please share. Otherwise we may have to ding-dong-ditch with onions instead of zucchini this year.

My main concern now, actually, isn’t even using up all of these onions. It’s figuring out where to put the 150 heads of garlic we need to harvest and dry in the next week or so. I don’t suppose any of you has a spare garage and a couple of box fans you’re not using, do you?

And thus it begins again

It’s that time of year again – time for seed starting! I don’t know if you remember, but we’ve actually added another four beds to the garden this year. Yep, we’re crazy. Totally nuts. Over-achieving, certifiable garden nuts.

The thing is it takes a whole heck of a lot of planning to fill all of these spaces with plants.

That's a lot of garden to fill

That’s a lot of garden to fill

And I am so, so, so lucky that the DreadBrewer has a passion (not to mention an exceedingly nerdy talent) for garden planning. Because if I had to come up with lists like this, I would throw in the towel and we would grow whatever crap plants they had at the local hardware store.

Plan 2016Not only does DB take the time – every year – to compare between his 20+ garden catalogs and 10 or 12 gardening books before deciding which cultivars we’re going to grow, but he also then organizes it based on plant, cultivar, where to purchase the seed, and when we need to start our seedlings. It’s mind boggling the effort he puts into this.

(In case you were wondering what I actually contribute to this venture, I fulfill the essential functions of kid wrangler, official tool holder, and manual laborer.)

Last weekend was our first big seed starting weekend. Alas, I remember the good ol’ days when we first started our garden and we had no small fiends running rampant and we got to do everything together. This year, the girls and I let Daddy have a few much needed hours of peace to start the broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and eggplant. He was supposed to start the peppers too but ran out of time.

Seeds 2 Seeds 3He was very happy.

And since all of his hard work means fresh fruits and veggies for us, we were very happy too.

If Mother Nature cooperates (ha!) and we can finally triumph over the voles (ha! ha!), his brains and my brawn should mean we have a pretty amazing garden this year.