August 25, 2022

Summer Mantra

Pick, process, preserve
Pick, process, preserve
The mantra of my summer days is
Pick, process, preserve

While our August weather is signalling the approaching end of summer, the garden is not. Even heat loving vegetables don't like our intense southern summers. When it begins to cool down to the upper 80s°F (upper 20s°C), things tend to make a renewed effort at production. That means that picking, processing, and preserving are all still in high gear. With the goat kids now sold or weaned off their mothers, I have lots of milk to deal with too, which means cheese making season is in full swing.

Our day starts early. We eat breakfast before sunrise and get out to the barn as it's getting light. Dan tends to the poultry and feeds the bucks while I feed the does and do the milking. Once the dishes are done and the milk strained and refrigerated, I'm off to the garden with two buckets. I try to finish my picking by 9 a.m., because once the sun hits the garden in full force, it's too hot to enjoy it. The rest of the day is spent processing and preserving the mornings pickings for winter eating.

People tell me gardening and home food preservation are a lot of work. I calculate that during the months of July and August, I put in a good 40-hour week preserving our harvest and making cheese. That doesn't include regular critter chores, meal preparation, and an hour lunch break. I don't think that's too bad. And if I wasn't preserving our own food myself, I'd have to go work for someone else so I could buy all our food! Considering how prices keep going up and availability keeps going down (I almost dread going shopping nowadays!), I'm very happy to spend the time working for myself. It's a satisfying endeavor.

I think the key to not feeling overwhelmed is in coordinating my time. Some things, like figs, need to be canned as soon as possible after picking, but tomato sauce and pearsauce need slow cooking time. They don't demand constant stirring, just an occasional stir. For dehydrating, the produce must sliced or diced before going into the dehydrator, then there's a long wait time while it's drying. Cheese making too, needs time for the milk to culture and form curds. Pressing the cheese is another time chunk, and brining requires I keep track of the time. All of these jobs require keeping an eye on, but while I'm waiting for the next step, I can work on something else. 

How much to preserve is a concept that's evolved for me over the years. In the beginning, I did a lot of calculating. Then experience taught me that nothing about living, growing things is predictable. 

"Even though we're working toward year-round food production, I still preserve quite a bit. That hasn't changed, although I've given up on specific goals for food preservation.
'Initially, my method . . . was a pretty simple one. I considered how much of a particular food we eat each week, and then figured out how much we'd need on hand until next year's harvest.'
“Food Self-Sufficiency: Feeding Ourselves,”
5 Acres & A Dream The Book (p. 67)

Now, we eat our fill of fresh foods and the remainder are preserved. I may end up with more than I need for the upcoming winter, but if the next summer's yield is poor, I'll have extra for the following winter too. Between that and expanding our fall and winter garden, we have the best variety we are able."
“Food Self-Sufficiency: Feeding Ourselves,”
5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel
So, as long as the garden is producing, I'll keep on putting as much of it by as possible. It will slow down as soon as the pears are done, but I'll probably have tomatoes until we get a good frost. Some years I only get enough to make pizza sauce, but this year I'm able to do some other things like tomato ketchup and tomato juice. It's nice to see the pantry filling up again.

How about you? What have you been up to this summer?


Rosalea said...

Once the dew dries off, (it's very dew wet, these August AM's) you'll find me with my 'picking pails', perusing the garden beds. It has been a great growing summer. Into pickles now, and very soon, will have enough ripe tomatoes to process. Garlic and onions are hanging to dry, up in the barn. The dehydrator is going full time; peppers and tomatoes to top our winter pizzas, and one of the first apple trees to ripen is starting to drop fruit. Apple time is here.

daisy g said...

No doubt your pantry will be full of wonderful things to enjoy all winter long. What a blessing.

Mama Pea said...

I nodded my head all through this post, Leigh. Well, except, of course, that my harvests are way behind almost anyone else's and I don't come close to having to deal with the heat you do. Rest assured, though, that my harvests/preserving have started and I just a minute ago jotted down three things that need to be harvested from the garden today. In a note I received a couple of days ago from a fellow blogger, she said, "It feels as if I'm anchored in the kitchen preserving bounty." We can all relate this time of year, can't we? But such a wonderful feeling knowing we are providing the very best of possible foods for our families. Preserve on, my friend!

Katie C. said...

Good your you! There’s a great canning group on Facebook just called “canning.” They only allow tested recipes but it’s a great place to ask questions.

Last weekend I processed 14 quarts of tomato chunks though I had to buy tomato seconds at the farmers market. Due to the heat and lack of rain, our plants just aren’t producing enough so I core and freeze the odds and ends until I have enough to make something later. The other day, I pressure canned chicken stock from a rotisserie chicken carcass and made Ball’s vegetable soup, 7 quarts. It’s a great starter because you can season it any which way when you open it. I did purchase a few ingredients because we don’t grown potatoes (I used red ones) nor corn. FYI, a regular frozen bag of corn is about 4 cups.

I’m looking forward to apple season … apple sauce, apple butter, chunks, ….

Katie C. said...

That was supposed to say, “Good for you!”

Leigh said...

Rosalea, I love the description of your day!

Daisy, and I have to keep reminding myself that it is such a blessing. It's easy to complain about what isn't doing well, but so much better to be thankful for what we've got. Every year its different!

Mama Pea, the neat thing about the internet is finding something going on garden-wise the year around. Your pickin' time is coming!

Katie, thanks! ;) Sounds like you've been wonderfully busy. I definitely agree about buying from the farmers market or a farm stand when home production is disappointing. Your stock and soup sound delicious.

Ed said...

We just got back from the rare mid-week trip down to our garden to pick. Today we picked about 15 gallons of shell beans and a half bushel of various other things. I guess I don't mind the processing and preserving as much as I did when I was younger. Back then we lived in an unairconditioned two story poorly insulated farmhouse that was an oven this time of year so most of our processing was under the silver maple tree off the front porch. It was hot and buggy work. Now I do it in my well insulated and airconditioned home and can watch television or listen to talk radio while doing so. Hardly feels like work that way.

Leigh said...

Ed, 15 gallons of beans! That's a WOW.

I'm glad I do my canning on my back porch summer kitchen. It really helps keep the heat out of the house.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, the garden was largely a bust this year due to a combination of heat and being gone more than I had intended. The black eyed peas produced gang busters (as they always do), but that seems to be the only big winner this year. The Sweet potatoes are still somewhat promising and the daikon radishes look healthy, but that seems to be about it. Here is to hoping the Fall and Winter Gardens' are more robust.

Leigh said...

TB, yes, the heat. I've discovered that even heat loving vegetables don't love it in the 90s and above. They are much happier in the 80s. Our August temps are more to my garden's liking that July, so things seem to be improving here somewhat.

I hope your fall and winter gardens thrive. I take it you won't be traveling as much. I've thought maybe my gardening break ought to be July and August instead of the dead of winter. And that's where a greenhouse would help.

Annie in Ocala said...

Your harvest and preserving sound great! I've not tried for summer produce this summer. A few things happen thru established fruit trees an shrubs but I am now planning fall/winter garden type goodies... I don't can anything this time of year but freeze and dehydrate things then can what's needed soon as the temps cool down enough. And the kidding starts at the end of October. I do have one goatie girl I separate her kid and milk 3 x a week for drinking milk. Might get more serious about cheese making come fall. Several years ago I expermented with some hard cheeses with various success but moving back home here with limited kitchen space I been happy with yogurt and soft easy cheeses... Times are indeed changing!!!

Nina said...

Our tomatoes are just starting to ripen. I might have enough to start canning them in small batches, on Monday. Cucumbers are producing again, because the horrible heat and humidity has eased off. Sadly, the plants are at the end of their life cycle, so we're thankful for every extra cucumber we're getting. Not enough planted to pickle, but enough to not have to purchase cucumbers all summer! The summer was weirdly hot, and we don't have AC or a place to can outside, so I'm busy freezing fruit to make jams later in the autumn, when it's cooler outside.

wyomingheart said...

Looks like a busy time for all of us, but we get a rest in where we can get it! Just put up 5 dozen corn, so along with the 5 dozen we did earlier, we have a sweet amount of winter goodness waiting for us! I do get extremely tired this time of year, but when I go in the cellar, and see all those beautiful jars of home grown treasures, well…it makes my heart sing! We are going to be covered up in beans next week, but I’m so thrilled that we had much success this year! The sweet potato squash has taken awhile, but we now have 5 beauts coming on…thank you! Have a Devine week, Leigh!

Leigh said...

Annie, fall kids! Lucky you! I just can't seem to catch my girls early summer heats. I'd love to split kidding into spring and fall because I'd love to have year around milk.

Nina, canning is definitely a hot sweaty job. I had to replace my freezer earlier this year and the new one, which is basically the same model as the old, is smaller! Nice to hear your garden is doing well now. My experience with our cucumber is the same as yours. I'm wondering if I should have planted some late for fall harvest.

Wyomingheart, you know, I've never done corn like that. What a treat come winter! My sweet potato squash has been slow as well. Nice to hear you've got some good ones to store!

Goatldi said...

I hear you loud and clear. I am in end of the third garden if we include the small four raised beds of 2020 Spring. I am still in beginners learning mode. What are the planting seasons and do they occur with any consistently or is it roller coaster heaven? Also as in the years past I find myself enlarging the number of beds and concentrating on soil composition. How I water and so on. I figure by the time I get this one figured out I will be dead or an amazingly learned individual.

No matter what I view it as a learning experience. I make an effort to not view it a failure but a lesson. I also cut myself slack in gotta do and grow it all. I have decided that since I am the only two legged creature on the farm I need to determine what is alright to obtain from outside sources be that from a farmers market, another homestead or a small gardener in town. I need to triage what I will outsource and what I won't. Example I will breed my goats again as I prefer raw product and love the time I spend making cheese, yogurt and soap.I will however pick up those veggies I don't have the room or time to grow at farmers market.

I am going back to dehydrating to preserve some things and can others. I also have an expanding list of what grows well in my area and what doesn't. It is all a learning curve and that is part of the fun!

Leigh said...

Goatldi, I'd say your second paragraph is the heart and essence of "an amazingly learned individual!" Everything is an ongoing learning experience, isn't it?

Chris said...

That's so true Leigh. If you're not working to grow and preserve your own food, you're working to pay for someone else to do it. If you're blessed with green thumbs and a desire to be outdoors, then I know which one I'd choose.

As I'm deciding my financial future, with the changes that happend last year, I'm hitting the study books. I'm longing to be in the garden afterwards though, and often counting the hours I can be. The benefits of growing your own food though, is you're stewarding the land with a vested interest.

Stewarding the land, means you take care of it. Not just for the food production side, but for the beneficial relationships that make it possible. Like with polinators, mycorrhizal fungi and insect predator relationships. It's stacking functions and increasing the overflow.

Leigh said...

Chris, over our years of living here and trying to become food self-reliant, I think the most amazing realization I've come to is that I'm not just growing food, I'm protecting and nurturing the soil ecosystem. Even more profoundly, I'm part of that ecosystem. It is an awesome responsibility.

I know you understand that, which is why I also know the decisions you are facing are not without struggle. I pray for an amazing outcome for you and your children.

CK said...

That's an amazing revelation to have Leigh. It's so much bigger than what we initially start with. But we have to start somewhere too. Thanks so much for your prayer. I'm happy to receive them. Spiritual food is my nourishment too. 🙂