Friday, November 2, 2012

Summer's Bounty: Taking Stock of Our Farming Successes and Failures

Assortment of cherry, grape, and yellow pear tomatoes fresh from the garden.
 With our first wood stove fire emanating delicious warmth, I have finally accepted that summer is officially over. (Autumn's official start over a month ago is immaterial.) I still have vegetables growing in my garden specifically: leeks and chard — therefore it's still summer, yes?

Overall, our garden produced quite an abundance this year. Pounds and pounds of garlic and onions. (Enough to give away and also save for next year's planting.) Quarts and quarts of tomatoes, leeks as big as my wrist, enough basil to make a couple of pesto dinners. And our first attempt at sweet potatoes resulted in a pleasantly surprising yield.

Then there were some duds: low potato yields, an abysmal strawberry harvest, and my carrot experiment (planting saved seeds) was mediocre at best.

"Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches."  Presidents of the United States of America
Each fall I take stock of what we produced and start formulating plans for next year. There are a few plants I've given up even trying to grow, such as watermelon and cantaloupe. No matter how hard I try, the vines produce small, nasty tasting little melons. I'd rather just buy melons at market than waste space in my garden for inedible produce.

Then there are the ones I keep trying, despite poor results. Actually there is only one I keep trying: pumpkin. In 10 years I have never had a bountiful harvest of pumpkin. Gourds, yes. Lovely, edible pumpkins, no.

I did grow beautiful vines this year, with gorgeous, plentiful blooms. And they received great care: I hand picked all the squash bugs and egg cases, I mulched and watered, I talked to them, weeded them religiously. And, out of 8 plants three beautiful pumpkin ovaries proved themselves fruitful. Carefully, I draped the vines with their swelling beauties over a trellis in an attempt to keep them bug and disease free. I checked on them daily, and I waited. Sigh. One day they were gorgeous, the next all but one was rotten. Filled with frustration, I cut the darn thing down while it was still green and brought it inside. One pumpkin, the size of a duck pin bowling ball.

As the weather turns frosty, we begin our transition to the more inward self, the start of our hibernating season. It is a great pleasure to inventory our "take" for the year: frozen corn, spaghetti sauce, berries, peaches, garlic paste, basil pesto, applesauce, sweet potato mash, and chickens. Canned tomatoes, applesauce, and peaches. Root cellared potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and garlic. And the leeks, carrots, and chard still in the garden. The satisfaction of growing and preserving our own food is what keeps us plodding onward during those drippy, sweaty, buggy summer days.

It is time to take a breath, set garden plans aside, and enjoy the beauty and change the fall season brings. And enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Canned tomatoes....perfect for quick pasta dinners.

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