Well, it’s been awhile, largely because I had another big project that didn’t leave much time for my usual smaller projects… But the start of summer is a good time to start working on my regular projects again. And even if it’s a little late it’s not a bad time to work on figuring out what kinds of projects I want to do this year. I have a couple categories of projects I want to work on: the garden, food preservation, knitting and sewing. I also have a minor side project for physical fitness since I want to improve how far I can bike (makes it easier to get to some of those slightly too distant craft stores…).
Patrick got everything started this year so we have a garden! Like the map shows, the goal this year was to come up with a garden plan that would be easy to maintain since we’re going to be busy. Overall I think it’s been successful so far (the squash is a bonus from the compost we added to the garden). It looks like we might even get tomatoes from the garden this year! I have hopes anyway… No matter what I think I’m going to consider anything we get out of the garden to be a nice bonus. I have hopes for at least some beans and some good salads at least though. And if our peppers survive the nasty experience that was May’s weather (it rained at least 19 days in May!) hopefully we’ll get some nice peppers too.
If we have happy tomato plants I’m hoping to be able to can some small batches of tomatoes too. I’m going to see if that’s a nice easy option. I got a stand alone canner that doesn’t need to go on the stove, so I’m hoping doing small batches will be reasonable.
I’m also hoping that this garden will keep producing as is from now through frost. The tricky parts will be getting the lettuce to produce in July and August and getting the beans to produce in September and October. It’s worth a shot though. And when the potatoes are done that row can be either more beans or more lettuce in theory.
The front flower bed is a mix of flowers, and it’s kind of weedy. Luckily I got enough volunteers that it looks nice (mostly Jonny Jump Ups and Love in the Mist). I also got 3 volunteer tomatoes growing in the half barrel in the middle. I was hoping that would be full of Dahlias and petunias, so I need to decide if I’m going to leave the tomatoes, pull them up or replant them. Technically replanting them would be the best choice, but that would also take a lot of work and at least a decent chunk of time. I think for the moment they’re staying where they are and hopefully they won’t get too out of control.
I want to do a mix of canning, freezing and dehydrating. Hopefully most of it will come from the garden. Some of it will probably come from the farmers market. A few things might come from the Costco. I’d like to do another couple of bulk buys from the farmers market or from the pick your own place, but this year’s probably got too much going on for that. (it’s very much going to be a year of choosing my battles…) My goals include:
- Raspberry Jam – If I can find raspberries that is. I love raspberry jam but buying raspberries in a reasonable volume is tough and I can’t really grow my own until we have our house. Maybe I’ll just buy some packs at the Costco this summer. The prices aren’t amazing but making my own jam is still cheaper than buying it (at least cheaper than buying it if I want decent jam).
- Peach Jam – These I can get at the farmer’s market, and I think little Patrick is almost big enough I can escape for an hour or so to pick some up. And if not, the grocery store will definitely have enough peaches that I can make these from grocery peaches if I need to. And I found my grandma’s recipe so the spices will be right this year!
- Plum Jam – If we get some plums from Patrick’s dad in Erie I’m definitely making this again, it turned out awesome last year. If we don’t get plums from Patrick’s dad (for the same reasons as before) I think I can get plums from the grocery store or Costco. They have some plums at the farmer’s market, but the prices aren’t great.
- Tomatoes – I’m hoping our garden comes through for these so I can make a bunch of small batches of tomatoes (I like quart jars of whole tomatoes since they’re perfect for spaghetti (after a trip through the blender) or Eat More or a bunch of other things. Technically a big batch from bulk tomatoes from the farmer’s market is probably the most effective in terms of time and the prices are very reasonable, but I think it’s much more likely I’ll manage small chunks of time for small batches than it is that I’ll manage a big chunk of time. And hey anything that comes our of the garden will have a really great price!
- Salsa – Last years salsa recipe turned out pretty good. This year I’d like to make individual jars (and just put them in the fridge) of a couple types to try them out, as well as can the type I made last year. Pint jars worked pretty well overall.
- Hot peppers – Canned jalapenos were great, canned wax peppers were ok. So the plan is to make jalapenos if I can at all manage it. They were really easy to do so if I can do even a couple jars at a time it’s worth it. These are mostly dependent on what I can get out of the garden, but maybe if I watch for a sale at the store, it would be worth doing some from grocery peppers?
- Pickles – My grandma’s fridge pickle recipe remains awesome. My canned pickles were incredibly salty. Like insanely salty. So I’m going to try something else this year if I can pickles. I’m probably also not going to bother trying to get pickle cucumbers. There’s only one farmer’s market that had them, they were expensive, and I’m still not very good at growing my own. And research on the Internet suggests that if I use Ball’s PickleCrisp I can get away with regular cucumbers which are cheap and available anywhere. Hopefully I can get down to the farmer’s market for these since the grocery store tends to have gross ones that are covered in epic amounts of wax.
- Spaghetti sauce – Using canned tomatoes and putting them through the blender is a great way to get a start on spaghetti sauce, but it’d be really nice to have some pre-made. I’m not ready to figure out pressure canning with everything else that’s going on this year, so this will probably be frozen. I’d also like to do pre-made taco filling and some other stuff along these lines. We’ll see what we can do…
- Zucchini – At least for the moment I’ve given up on growing zucchini (curse you squash vine borers!) but luckily the farmer’s market has lots of cheap zucchini and I can freeze as much of it as I want. I usually grate them up and freeze 1 cup portions in sandwich bags that way they’re ready to go in zucchini bread if I want, and otherwise they can go in pasta sauce. Grated zucchini is a great way to fill out a pasta sauce and make it more substantial, with an added flavor and vitamin bonus.
- Peppers – Hopefully the endless rain and cold in May won’t prevent us from getting peppers this year. The last few years we’ve been really good at it. This year we planted a lot more green peppers, so hopefully we’ll manage a full year’s supply. I’d like to try freezing some as half peppers this year so we can make stuffed peppers this winter.
- Hot peppers – This year we planted fewer hot peppers since we still have a lot of these from last year (which is impressive given how many hot peppers we go through…). Hopefully we’ll manage a decent year’s supply of jalapenos this year. We stuck with jalapenos since we haven’t used the wax peppers fast enough and we always end up with way more habaneros than we need.
- Green beans – Here’s hoping this is the year where I actually manage to freeze lots of green beans. Growing green beans is easy. Harvesting, replanting and freezing the green beans is hard. I can always get a bunch at the farmer’s market for ok prices, or at the grocery store (for ok to expensive prices) but I should be able to grow and process these from the garden. Hopefully this year’s the year…
- Pesto – I like to grow basil and freeze my own pesto. Patrick banned the basil this year since sometimes it’s a hassle, so we’ll see if I manage this. It’ll depend on whether or not I can find a reasonable source of basil. Maybe the farmer’s market? The grocery store isn’t too reliable for basil.
- Cherry tomatoes – This will depend on whether I get cherry tomatoes! My cherry tomato plant is the saddest looking tomato plant… I suppose I can always do slices of full sized tomatoes if my cherry plant fails me. These were super useful last year so hopefully I can do them again. I suppose if my plants fail me there’s always the Costco. Having these on hand would probably make processing Costco tomatoes worth it…
- Catnip – I have an entire Catnip hedge. All I need to do is cut some down and stick it in the dehydrator. This produces really awesome catnip that the cats love. So…I just need to see if I can manage that…
So those are most of my food and garden plans. I’ll save my sewing and knitting plans for next time…