Thursday, May 22, 2008

Growing Your Own Food

We have been pursuing our dream to grow and raise as much of our own food as possible for quite a few years now. We are still learning. There is always something new to learn or know. I want to do several posts along this line of thinking. Maybe I will reserve Thursdays for that type of post.... hmmm... Not sure on that one. I have a hard enough time remembering to do my Monday "Blessing" posts and my Friday "Tails" posts. I do want to keep this thread going though. I am going to reserve today to talk about gardening.

Gardening is not really rocket science. Some things need a bit more care than others, but most things will grow fairly easily. However, gardening does take work and perseverance. I have talked to many people about gardening and I get the picture that some of them think of gardening as tilling up some ground, sticking some plants in and going out and pick your dinner. That does not happen at my house, although it would be nice. This year we are going to try a different method of gardening in parts of our garden. I believe it is called the Ruth Stout method, but I am not sure, because I can't find the book right this second. =) She is an older woman who keeps a fairly large garden with little to no work because she mulches heavily.

Two years ago, I put down a thick layer of newspaper and then straw over it around my squash and cukes. The next year when all the little weeds started springing up in the garden before we planted, that area was bare. We had some several year old, big round bales of junk hay. We have put about 4 of those in the garden. We have another one out by the garden to spread and maybe 3 more up in the field. I know that hay is not recommended because of the seeds it can contain, but this is really old stuff, so we are going to try it.

Here is some of the lettuce varieties that we plant. I like to get a wide variety of lettuce for salads. I would also like to grow some edible flowers this year to grace my salad bowl and make it gorgeous.

The big bushy things you see in this picture are asparagus ferns. I let too many go that year. If you do not pick asparagus every day, you automatically lose some. I have never seen stuff grow so fast. Star is a big help in the garden. =)

You also have to be willing to be around critters. I am not a spider lover at all. However, I see all kinds while I am out there in the garden. They are really beneficial. This guy is huge. Thank goodness he was in the flower bed and not the veggie garden.

It is so fun to find the hidden fruit of your efforts lying among the stalks and leaves.

One of the things I want to do this year is be diligent to make a canning/gardening notebook. I canned a lot of pickles last year. I was not sure how many to do. We are coming down to the end of them and I am hoping they will last until I get cukes to make more this year. I want to know the details of taking this....

...and turning it into this.

I want to figure out how many quarts of tomato juice a bushel will make. Then how many jars of tomato juice do I think I will use. I want to write all of that down. Then I want to keep track of all that we can or freeze and how much is left when that particular item comes into ripeness the next year. I don't want way too much, but neither do I want to run out.

I have a cookbook (I am not sure that is the right thing to call it) that I absolutely love. It is the one cookbook that I won't do without. It is called The Practical Produce Cookbook.
The subtitle is how to Plant, Pick, Prepare and Preserve Produce. It lists almost all the items you would grow in your garden. It gives you planting tips and times. It tells you how to know when it is ripe and ready to pick. It shows recipes using that particular item. Then it tells you how to freeze, can or dehydrate them. It has been a lifesaver for me several times. If you click on the book, it will take you to our online store where we sell it. HEY... it's my blog, I can stick a commercial in. =)

Dehydrating is another wonderful option. We LOVE Vidalia onions. You can only get them for a short time in the spring and early summer. You can also grow your own sweet mild onion, although I have still not found one as good as a Vidalia from Georgia. I slice them up and then dehydrate them. (We also sell dehydrators) I recommend running your dehydrator outside, or on a porch or something as it will make your eyes water in the house (That is experience speaking). After they are dryed, then run them through a food processor or chop them up somehow. 50 pounds of onions will fit in a half gallon jar. They taste like candy and many get eaten right out of the jar. We use them in place of onions in soups, salads, casseroles, etc.

I would love to hear ideas that you have or use in your garden.


Teresa said...

Oh, Marci, this is just the type of post-thread I would love to read and NEED. I just came back from our local bulk food store and I believe I saw that book in passing. I think I'll pick it up next time.

It doesn't matter that my grandmothers and mother knew how to can hundreds of things b/c I was never taught alongside them. Mom had been taught to keep everyone out of the kitchen at canning time! Now I'm trying to learn from books, but I have a hard time learning something new unless I'm doing it with someone.

Think you might post step-by-step photos or even a video or two when you start canning? And thanks for highlighting the good reasons to keep a garden/canning journal. That's an EXCELLENT idea.


The Stricklands said...

Hi Marci!
I clicked on the book to buy it on your store site, but it wouldn't let me order. Keep me posted - when the book is available, I would love to have a copy. Mary :0)

TnFullQuiver said...

Beautiful Garden Pictures!!!! I can't wait until our gardens start producing this year!! I am looking for a nice dehydrator for later this summer. I already looked in your store and I like what I see. I will be back to purchase when I get the money together!
grace and peace,

VoiceInTheWilderness said...

I love your idea about keeping track of everything in a notebook. I've never been good at it myself, but my parents have done it for as long as I can remember. My mom keeps spiral bound notebooks for everything. Each day as they pick items from the garden, they record them. They can tell you how many tomatoes they picked last year, and of those how many were eaten fresh, canned, & frozen. Detailed stuff- takes some discipline to do it, but very beneficial and interesting to know.

Patricia said...

You always have such a bountiful harvest from your garden...Please post more on gardening hints and suggestions!