The Backyard

The Backyard

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bug Patrol - And They Are Pretty Too

Part of organic gardening is finding natural, non-chemical ways to control bug population. The typical methods are Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which is a method of incorporating plants to attract certain beneficial bugs to eat up the bad bugs and other natural methods, row covers, and a mirage of other home-type remedies; some proven, some not. Other folks use the very, very natural, old-fashioned barnyard method of poultry and foul. Chickens are the favored critter watcher... but they can scratch your gardens to the high heavens and back. Guineas and turkeys are another favorite and I imagine they too do their share of scratching. I find it hard to believe, but I could find NOTHING on the Web about my happenstance favored method of bug patrol -- my neighbor's peacocks! (my neighbor happens to be my mother). For several years now, I watched these georgous creatures make their daily rounds through my gardens every day, all summer. They'll spend hours roaming the perimeter of my property, hanging out on the arbor (what's left of it after the wind took most of it this winter), and on the horse manure pile. They like to be up high, and the manure pile attracts them most. If I wouldn't have fences around my gardens, they'd be checking things out in there too. And what are they doing? Eating. And Eating, and eating. They love bugs, and they certainly eat their share from my gardens. the most noticeable is the Japanese Beetles population. Each year when they start emerging, the peacocks consume them as quickly as they come out. Prior to the birds making their rounds, the beetles would devour my raspberry patch -- but I haven't seen that happen in years, thanks to my mom's fine feathered friends. The sad part is they like the beneficials too -- especially the brightly colored and beautiful orb weaver spiders. I used to get bunches of these spiders in my herb garden (it was fun "feeding" grasshoppers to them), but the peacocks have been eating them up too. So if you have a neighbor who has peacocks, and they are making their rounds in YOUR garden, let them! You may be pleasantly surprised in more ways than one.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Converting the Rose Garden to Vegetables

There will come a time in your gardening lifetime, that what is will change. The plants will "walk" away from where they originally started, some will die, and some will take over and entire corner of the garden. You'll come to really like a certain plant, and grow to dislike others. Some you will cuss until the cows come home, and others will serve a purpose. Some you'll throw away by the buckets, others you will baby to grow. Yes, even others you'll come to realize really aren't doing much for you, the wildlife, the bugs, bees, or the garden in general. Roses (hybrid tea especially) fit that category. Antique roses can be used for things like potpourri, rose petal sandwiches, and of course just to pick and get high on the scent. But roses, in general, are high maintenance, hard to grow, and in many cases, just don't serve much purpose. Thus, many of the 60+ roses I planted years ago slowly started dying and this year, they started to get dug up and are being replaced with vegetables. So this picture of the rose garden is "in process" to becoming a vegetable garden. Some of the roses are way to big to dig up, so I'll work around them. All in all, there's plenty of space to stick a couple vege's in. You can convert yours too!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Canning -- Trendy??

Check this out... a NY Times article about canning! Old becomes new again -- seems like everything repeats itself somewhere along the line. My mother and both grandmothers always canned and I recall shelves and shelves of all kinds of things -- beans, peaches, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, sauerkraut, peas, corn, and of course the favorite of all of us - chow chow. I feel fortunate to have inherited ALL of those two generations worth of jars. We're talking hundreds of jars in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And given the energy inefficiency of a freezer, I opted to can more this season (along with drying) and freeze less; thus, I'm trendy now! I also wanted to focus on my own organic food rather than depending on trying to find it in stores (and wonder if it really is organic or industrial organics). Some of my friends talked about wanting to learn to can -- its actually very easy as you'll read in this article. I always either open kettle (not really recommended) or hot-water bath, although I'm currently taking a class on storing food and will learn more in the next couple weeks about hot-water bath vs pressure cooking. I'll fill you in on what I learn!

Healthy Grocer Review

For my friends living in the Harrisburg, PA area, the Healthy Grocer is nothing new to them. But country bumpkin Chili only recently had the pleasure of actually visiting the Healthy Grocer for the first time. What drove me there was the need for "local" tofu made in Allentown, and only the Healthy Grocer carried it. I've purposely been avoiding this store 'cause some of their items are fairly pricey according to the on-line store -- but no pricier than most organic/natural food stores. And what did I find when I finally went there?! BARGAINS and VARIETY! Many of the things I've been foolishly mail ordering I found at the Healthy Grocer cheaper than on-line. Unsweetened Almond milk - .60 a carton cheaper; 8 oz. Dr. Bronner Liquid Soap - $1.00 cheaper. And the choices astounded me. There were aisles and aisles of products to choose from - I was quite impressed and will likely make the trek back when I'm in need again. Its only about 3 miles from my work -- definitely worth the detour every now and then. Very nice store. Keep in mind you out-of-towners, central PA lacks stores like this (and non-existent in Northern Dauphin county, 1 hour north of Harrisburg), the Healthy Grocer is THE place to shop for vegan/organic/natural food if you are looking for a good choice of variety.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Pile of Horse Manure and What Did I Plant?

My vacation week this past week was filled with planting, weeding, seeding, mulching and riding bike and kayaking. I never seem to sit still for a moment. But the one thing I realized I spend the MOST time on when I'm in the garden, is the compost pile. I like to call it, "playing in shit" (sorry to you folks who think of sh as a dirty word). The main reason for the pile is, of course, for composting. And composting requires constant turning; thus, I'm digging in it all the time. My pile is a good mixture of well-rotted manure, and some not-so-rotted or little soiled straw. The straw was separated this week and used for mulch on the entire garden. As I planted seeds, I followed-up with a nice layer of straw mulch on each side of the planted rows. Then there's the in-between-stuff -- kinda rotted, but definitely not straw. That was separated into yet another pile, called the "waiting" section. Waiting to go on the next compost pile - or waiting to use as fertilizer somewhere - maybe as mulch around a perennial or two (currants? raspberries?). It WILL be used, just not sure where yet. And the most rotted goes straight to the compost pile. All in all, there was a bunch of time spend on the manure pile this week.
And what did I plant this week?
Butternut squash
Amish Paste and Early Girl tomatoes
Revolution and Nardello Peppers
Cayenne and Jalapeno Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Corn!
Yellow Wax Beans
Green Beans
Tiger-eye dry beans
Black Beans
Cannelli Beans
Fennel Bulb
Pineapple Sage
Golden Sage
Annual Flowers for color - celosia, scarlet sage for the hummingbirds, snapdragons, and some sunflowers. Pictures coming.
I need a cherry tomato plant yet, then I think I'm done planting for a couple weeks. Cheerio!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Monarch Caterpillars - Starting Early

Last year, there was a post of milkweed at my front door. This year is no different - and quite exciting to discover the very tiny monarch butterfly caterpillars early in the season, munching away. There's at least a dozen of them. Where do they come from? Do they overwinter? Are there eggs? I have to brush up on butterfly education. Enjoy kids!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Snake in the House!

No, I'm not kidding! And Rick didn't even stop to get a picture of it - ha! Earlier this week, a 3 footish long, grayish-colored snake was seen crawling under our door stoop. It sorta freaked me out just cause snakes always do that to me. I told hubby there's a snake living under our back door, can he get in? I looked at the door and didn't see anyway possible he could get in. Well.... this morning I get up and head to the computer and there's a garden rake in the rec room. What? "Rick... what's the garden rake doing in the house was there a snake in the house?" "YES." What?!?!? "No, you're kidding me..." "Nope, I'm not. I was sitting at the computer about 10:30, and I turned around and there was this snake." Men typically don't freak, but Rick said he was sorta freaked. He said he didn't know what to do except say "F____"! There he was with a snake in the house 3 feet away from him. So he climbed on the chair, then walked across a trunk to the couch and headed to the basement to find something to catch it with. Of course the snake wasn't there when he got back. Shit, now what? But he came up empty in the basement, so he went to the garage where he got the rake and a tall garbage can. Luckily, he found Mr. Slimy curled up behind our computer. Of course it wasn't happy when he started agitating it to get it out of the house, but Rick succeeded at getting Creepy-eepy in the garbage can and sat it on the patio. When he told me this story, I headed to the patio to check out Scaly in the garbage can -- of course there's no snake in the garbage can. Rick was a little surprised that he got out of the can -- surprised like I was that he found a way in through our tight door jams. Slithery snake is safe and sound under his door stoop and awaiting the next visit with us in the warmth and coziness of our rec room. S.H.I.T.! I'm looking over my shoulder as I type this. I'm checking the floor every step I take. Yes, I'm freaked too! Did you know snakes can have as many as 25 babies? And they like to nest in cavities like rocks, and under stoney door stoops. So what to do now? Well, the typical remedies are moth balls as deterrents and they say to make sure you have no mice or rodents in your house. We don't (not with 4 cats!), so I'm not sure what the snake was looking for - maybe one of the cats? But I'll definitely be getting a couple boxes of moth balls.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Preserving Rhubarb

Thanks to the Survival Cooking blog, and of course the on-line class I'm taking on "Food Storage" (which actually is about stocking up for Peak Oil, but I took it to learn new tips on storing things I never stored before like sweet potatoes, and NOT freezing things), I tried drying rhubarb this year rather than freezing it and had great success. I dried a dozen huge stalks by cutting into 1/4-3/8 inch slices and stuck them in the dehydrator overnight at 115 degrees. By morning, they were crispy and ready for storing. I'll definitely have to do more though because 12 stalks once dry doesn't amount to much -- 1/2 a quart jar and most recipes call for 2 cups of dried rhubarb. That's a lot of rhubarb, but I have a lot in the garden waiting to be dried. I had my dehydrator over 10 years now and barely used it. I even have a book on drying all kinds of foods (including jerkys for hubby) and reconstituting them to use in recipes. And I'm just now getting around to actually using it. Geez... what was I waiting for?! The downside of the dehydrator is it's electric. The dedicated food storage junkies who double as food preparedness gurus when peak oil hits, would only use solar dehydrators or mother nature herself. Electric uses carbon, so in reality I'm leaving a footprint. ARGH! Maybe I can make up for it somewhere else?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Heavy Frost, Tuesday, May 19 - Lots of Other Stuff

Yup... its kinda late for a frost, but we had a dandy on Tuesday morning. I'm calling it a test and I got an A- only losing potatoes. The romaine lettuce looks as though it actually liked the frosty coating and is thriving. I purposely waited to plant my tender annuals 'cause of surprise late spring frosts and I'm SO glad I did 'cause I'd be crying about now. These things survived the heavy frost and some of them I'm already harvesting:

Sugar Peas
Snap Peas
Strawberry flowers

The photo here is the dead potatoes. But you know how everything happens for a reason? Before I surveyed the damage on Tuesday and didn't know I had dead taters, I stopped at a local greenhouse to get a couple herbs, and they had sweet potato plants sitting at the checkout. I was thinking about trying sweet potatoes (too), and decided earlier this year I had enough potatoes with the fingerlings and red potatoes (now history!). Since the sweet tates were only $3.75 for 25 plants, I thought what the heck -- I have the time and space I'll stick these in also and see what happens. Low and behold when I got home and saw the dead taters, I was thanking my intuition that made me buy the sweet tates.

Photo: sweet potato plants awaiting planting.

Other happenings -- every one of my 100 newly planted strawberry plants is flowering. It killed me, but I had to pinch every one of those 100 flowers off to give the plant the energy to grow a good root system, rather than producing berries. This is a common practice for 1st year berries. Boy did it hurt.

Everything else is just magnificent. Next up...drying rhubarb.

I signed-up for a food storage class and there's no freezing, but lots of dehydrating and canning. So I'm testing the rhubarb drying technique.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

67 Years in the Making

"One of these fine days, the public is going to wake up and will pay for eggs, meats, vegetables, etc., according to how they were produced."

J.I. Rodale, in Organic Farming and Gardening, May 1942

Is that profound, or what? A statement made 67 years ago and today is finally coming of age, so to speak. I'm currently reading Our Roots Grow Deep, The Story of Rodale, and while I only skimmed the surface, J.I. Rodale had more of an impact on the world than any of us could possibly imagine. I'm anxious to read the entire book because there's a distinct connection between his beliefs in organics to fitness (he donated the land to the velodrome!). He was a huge health nut and was fascinated by the human body, and loved to write to disseminate information to the public, thus, Rodale Publishing was born in the '30s. He's written hundreds of books and articles. What a guy - what a company. And its Pennsylvania based!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Couple Pics

Sugar Peas, Onions, broccoli, and potatoes.

The Blog header picture is flax in bloom. Aren't they beautiful? Hubby loves to take pics of flax -- they only open in sunlight. So cool. I often thought about growing enough flax to make linen. Hmmm... someday.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Family's Views on My Views

Blogs are all about being permitted to be opinionated, right? Well, it appears this here blog may be the BEST place to share my opinions and definitely not with my family. I fell into a conversation this weekend with my brother, my mom, my sister-in-law and her mother on organic food and the environment. It started innocently enough talking about grocery store chains and they liked PUBLIX and I mentioned I found organic chicken from home in a Florida Publix. The next question started the chain reaction, "why don't they sell it around it here?" And my answer was because the people around here (central PA, more specifically -- Northern Dauphin County) won't pay $8.00 a pound for chicken. "Why is it that expensive... and what difference does it make - I ate non-organic my whole life and seemed to be ok from it." MY TURN: "but organic isn't just about organic food.. its about the environment, and factory farms, and animal abuse in too-small containers and conditions, and the manure from factory farms, AND the agribusiness and over-farming of corn and soybeans to feed those factory farmed animals, and the huge diesel tractors polluting the air and" and so on and so on. The diesel part struck a nerve with my truck-driving brother. He blew all kinds of comments back at me... "so you think electric cars would make it around here? You think everyone should be self-sufficient (no, that's impossible I agree -- but look at the example Phila is setting... ), why do YOU drive a diesel car.?! HAHA. It's ok to pay $75.00 for free range turkey? " HA! " One thing led to another and yes, I was getting mad, but I stopped myself and just shut up. But they thought I stopped because THEY thought they put me in my place about my diesel car (they all laughed at me being a hypocrite). But the reason I stopped is because they have absolutely no idea what they are doing to the environment nor do they car much about it, and my views aren't going to change their minds. My sister-in-law's last sentence was "Its impossible to live like that (we were talking about self-sufficiency and getting a cow) with all our modern conveniences." WHAT!!??? She too could make changes that would make a difference, but there's absolutely no telling her or my brother that. What immediately went through my head after I shut up is how I could prove them all wrong - how can I become a better steward to the environment, but I'd do it quietly and not tell anyone. How can I live like Greenpa, how can I go off the grid, how can I become totally self-contained, how I can prove it can be done. I'm not mad at my family, just hurt that they simply don't think much about it, nor care - and think I'm an idiot for thinking the way I do. You should have saw the pile of raw prime rib meat on my brother's plate at dinner. I have to get back on MY horse and stick to my guns. Now, more than ever, I'm dedicated to being vegetarian, organic, and vow to continue doing my tiny part. Take THAT brother!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How Does Your Garden Challenge You

The garden, for many, is therapeutic - stress relieving. For others, its a plethora of challenges. Is that the case for you? Do you walk in the garden and say "look at those weeds -- oh the work." Or do you face the garden and its difficulties with that casual attitude and take it as it comes. I believe we all have unique situations, and your attitude, believe it or not, creates either a challenge, or we'll call it a "learning experience". I'm writing this because some days I look at the garden and say what the heck did I do to myself. And other days, I revel in the excitement of picking dinner, or taking my homegrown, organic vege's/fruit from the freezer in the dead of winter and say ahhhhh, this is SO good. Several folks I know are starting a garden for the first time this year (congrats!). That, in itself, is the challenge. What's my soil like? What should I PUT in the soil for a raised bed? Do I get enough sun? How big should I make it? What do it do first? Kill the grass? Rototill it under? What should I use for mulch? What do we want to plant -- there's so much - it can be overwhelming. But, hang in there - it will all come together in due time. Then there's the what to grow department - what a challenge THAT can be. I read there are over 7,500 (yes, that's THOUSAND) varieties of tomatoes. How the heck do you pick just one or two? Here's a link to help you understand the tomato family. You get the same thing on nearly all plants -- a plethora of varieties to choose from. I like herbs and have grown many over the years -- did you know there are over 30 varieties of thyme? The plant world is fascinating, and yes, quite the challenge. I've had my share of challenges over the years in all of the above and trial and error will overcome many of the challenges and you'll be an old hat in no time. This year I'm discovering new challenges every time I step foot outside - and that's another point I'm trying to make -- the challenge will always change and never stop. As you learn the tricks of the trade, new ones will crop up. For me, today? Rabbits seem to be in abundance. What's up with that? Maybe it's because my rabbit-killing cat died last year. Hopefully MoMo will take his place and start finding the baby rabbit nests like he did. (I'm sorry -- as much as I love animals and try not to eat them, nature has to take its course in killing off rabbits so they don't eat MY food!) Eliminating weeds without round-up is another big one -- the vinegar isn't working as well as I'd like. Digging out plants that serve no purpose, i.e., roses? Yup - they are being replaced with edibles - there's another challenge - converting an antique rose garden into an edible landscape. Gasp...I never thought my beloved antique roses would someday truly be "history." Yes, I'm ditching the not-doing-so-well roses and replacing them with food. Rhubarb is now in the rose garden, along with onions, broccoli, and I think the peppers are going in there also. The challenge of this? Making it look decent so the remaining roses are still attractive and fit-in with the vegetables. Part of me doesn't really care what it looks like - but the other part still has that formal rose garden mentality and it needs to be picture perfect. My food garden challenges this year are growing strawberries, potatoes, celery, and quonia for the first time. The strawberries, I can tell, will not be a problem because they are very, very happy in their new home and are already growing and spreading. The potatoes are quite happy too and up and smiling, but I think the summer challenge for taters is just beginning -- raking dirt around them, when? Why? And the quinoa will be a story all in itself. I've never known anyone (ANYONE!) that grew quinoa, nor celery. Did you?? So tell me your challenges.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Antique Garden Rake

When my 90-year old mother-in-law moved to her new home in assisted living, my husband and I had the pleasure of cleaning out her old home. I may have mentioned she was ultra frugal and saved and patched everything, seldom buying new unless the item was broke beyond repair. Some of the items dated back to the 1930s, not only historical, but a bit interesting to say the least. Last week, I used her not-sure-how-old garden rake and immediately noticed something different about it -- the handle was a full 9 inches longer than most garden tools today. You can stretch further under a bush, and get more out of single sweep - very noticeable in a days worth of work. A google search for long-handled antique garden rakes didn't turn up much, but it's certainly worth noting if you can find an antique garden rake, grab it -- it'll make your gardening more pleasant.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ready to Plant - Is it Time Yet?

I know most of you already have your seeds and tender annuals in the ground, but I traditionally wait until I'm sure mom nature isn't going to surprise me with a late spring frost that could wipe out my hard work of the past couple months. That happened several years ago -- I started a bunch of seeds, grew them under lights for a couple weeks, set them out and planted on a warm spring day, and on Memorial day, a frost wiped everything out overnight. Both my mom and I were devastated, not to mention the cost to replace everything. We live on the border of zones 5 and 6 and I've learned over the years to plant according to zone 5 because we near always get the weather for zone 5. The Harrisburg area (about 40 miles south of me) is a solid zone 6 and is about two weeks ahead of us in the seasons -- you can see it in the trees each year. They get the leaves before we do, but we get the color in the fall before they do. It's usually about a 5 degree temperature difference every day too. The kids are ready to play in the playyard, but I'm still going to wait until May 18 to plant. By that time I can rely on weather predictions of cold nights until Memorial Day. And what's going in the ground on May 18? Plenty:
Amish Paste Tomatoes
Early Girl Tomatoes
Nardello Sweet Peppers
Jalapeno Peppers
Cayenne Peppers
Another Sweet Pepper that I can't recall the name
Purple and green basil
and ALL the seeds:
Beans (yellow and green)
Dry beans (black, white, and kidney) (first time planting drying beans)
Quinoa (new this year -- it'll be interesting to see how this turns out)
Heirloom tomatoes
Zucchini (what's a garden without zucchini?)
And a couple flowers for the bugs and bees: snapdragons, marigolds, dill, zinnias, sunflowers.
I think I'm planting more, but I can't remember without getting the seed box.
I might be busy this summer!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Some Fun Stuff -- Crazy MoMo

Taking a break from gardening and biking, here's a couple shots of the Crazy MoMo. Her new entertainment is the Hummingbirds. The Pin Oak tree which is adjacent to the patio has always been the favored perch for the Hummers to stand guard over the feeder. It's now also the favored play toy for MoMo to try to catch a hummer. Have no fear though -- I really doubt she'll ever catch one. It's quite entertaining watching her when two or three hummers start buzzing her on opposite sides of the tree. Hummingbirds are notorious for being aggressive -- boy do they show it with a cat!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Growing Sweet Cicely

This herb is a bit uncommon and not often grown, but since my first seedling, I've been grateful for its uniqueness. Most of the herbs in my gardens were planted years ago for aesthetics and I've learned through the years - many by accident - what their uses are; opposite of why most folks plant herbs (to cook!). In my opinion, herbs are eye-appealing plants with varied leaf color, texture, and sizes, and are attractive landscape plants to add variety to your garden (think lavender). Sweet Cicely is one of them. It's fern like foliage grows to about 3 feet tall and gets beautiful white flowers with attractive seed pods following the bloom period. The scent is licorice-like. Given the right conditions, the seeds will reseed nicely and spread.. and spread... and spread. There are few plants/herbs that thrive in shade. Mint is quite common for damp shady areas, but Sweet Cicely is also an option, which is why I planted it in the first place. It actually took the place of the mint that was way too overpowering and consumed the entire space within a year. These shady plants are grown on the north side of my house in very moist mushroom soil and the sun never shines there. The plants thrives. So much so, it's starting to slowly creep along the back of the house and fill in the entire area. If anyone would like some seeds - I'd be happy to share. The plant also has numerous medical uses and yes, it can be eaten, although I've never eaten or used it medicinally. Its all about looks and ground cover for me, and Sweet Cicely fits the bill perfectly.

Update on the White House Organic Garden

The Obamas are our heros in more ways than one. For me, its the White House Organic Garden. How cool could that possibly be? A Pres, his wife, the kids, his staff -- all eating from the backyard - organically to boot. Last week was their first harvest of lettuce greens and that, my dear friends, is just the beginning of a season of very-local, sustainable food for them. You may find it interesting that a chemical company wrote Michelle asking her to consider using "conventional" methods of managing the garden and later in the letter they state: "don't encourage Americans to grow their own food, because it's not practical, and don't encourage them to think that organic food is somehow superior to "conventional" agricultural products" What?!? Michele is a very intelligent woman, and knows the meaning and value of "organic." Kudos to her and her staff. This has to be one of the best possible examples to be set for Americans and the next generation.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Milkweed and Broccoli?

Here's an odd combo -- but I'm letting it be. Milkweed, to many folks, is a weed. My view on Milkweed is its a beneficial native plant to feed the Monarch butterlies. It comes up late in the spring when it gets warm and often pops up in the most unexpected places. This year, its coming up smack dab in the middle of the broccoli patch. But I decided I'm sacrificing a broccoli plant or two, to be sure I have monarch breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Actually, I may not be sacrificing anything because the two may be quite compatiable. It turns out, Milkweed shoots (the way they look here) are quite edible, along with many other parts of the plant including the flower heads just before they open. Be sure to read the article in the link -- its an interesting tidbit about eating milkweed that I never knew. So let the milkweed grow in your garden. It truly is a whole lot more than a "weed."

And I have this crazy cat that can't sit still for a second. Her name is MoMo, and this is typical of her actions -- climbing whatever she can to get "high." She loves sitting in the arbovitae waiting for birds.

Freezing Produce - Recommended Reuseable Container

If you are looking for an alternative to Freezer Bags, may I recommend the new Freezer containers by BALL. They come in 1 cup and 2 cup sizes and are ideal for delicate fruits like raspberries and strawberries AND stack nicely in the freezer. Last year was the first I tried them, and the raspberries got few-to-no ice crystals on them. They thawed SO nicely, it was hard to tell they were frozen in the first place. These are choice freezer containers. This year, I’m stocking up ‘cause the freezer will be full! (Yes, we’re buying a small energy efficient freezer too).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Time Crunching - To Can or To Freeze

Depletion and Abundance, one of the most influential books I've read in a long time, talked about energy savings, being more resourceful, saving the environment and remembering how our grandparents lived. Remember how they used scraps of old clothes to make rugs, rags, and aprons? They had HUGE gardens -- and they canned EVERYTHING? That's the part I really wanted to get into this year - canning. But, I've already experienced the time crunch -- there simply isn't enough of it when you work a full-time job out of the home, unlike our grandmothers who spent most of their time at home. Right now the asparagus is coming in hot and heavy and there's nothing I'd like to do more than buy a couple pounds and can a couple quarts of it for this winter. (My patch doesn't produce enough to use my own). Time to can? It would take at least 3 hours from start to finish which includes cleaning it, cutting it to size, heating up, digging out the jars and sterilizing them, sterilizing the lids/rings, packing produce in the jars, and then hot water bath the jars. Oh, and cleaning everything up and putting it away again. And now the part that prompted this post - freezing that same bunch of asparagus. Time to freeze? About 1/2 hr. BUT, then there's the freezer part of which I wanted to try and get away from AND the plastic freezer bags which also are not exactly environmentally friendly, but super-duper convenient. Energy conservation makes more sense by NOT using a freezer, but when it comes down to time saved vs energy used, the time saved seems more valuable to us working stiffs. Maybe I can ditch the freezer after retirement? Maybe I can find a solar-powered freezer? (the Amish do it!). All in all, I love to can, and there's no doubt I'll do the tomatoes later this year (but they too can be frozen! hmm....), but time is of the essence.