Overtime Over, Now the Real Work Begins
Now that overtime is finished, it's time to tackle the long list of things that I need to catch up on. The spring garden is done except for cucumbers and a few straggler green beans. We planted chard a few weeks ago, but grasshoppers or some other little critter wiped out all but eight of the twenty we planted. We are babying those eight plants and hope to have our first fresh chard with dinner in a week or two. The cucumbers are going wild. I picked about a dozen of the biggest ones a week or so ago and made bread and butter pickles with them last weekend. It was hard to estimate how many jars I would need as some of the cucumbers were the size of a small zucchini. I cut the bigger ones into spears and the smaller ones into chips but still had to cut the chips into quarters to fit them into the wide-mouth jars. I ended up with eleven pints of pickles from those dozen cucumbers. There's another dozen or so in the fridge and twice that many babies still on the vine. I don't think we'll need to buy pickles for several years!
We are re-working the raised beds for the next several weeks to make ready for the fall planting. The soil needs to be turned, some fresh soil and compost added, and every visible weed removed. When each bed is clean and prepped, we'll cover them with a tarp until time to replant. Covering the beds will keep windblown seeds out and any weed seeds we might have missed will hopefully be baked out by the July and August sun on the tarps. Weeding is the hardest part of gardening. Anything we can do to keep weeds to a minimum is worth it to me.
In September, we will replant with green beans, chard, lettuce, sweet peppers, hot peppers, bell peppers, broccoli and onions. I want to can the green beans and chard so the majority of the garden will be planted with those. What broccoli we don't eat fresh, we will freeze or use to make broccoli cheese soup which we will then process in the canner. What peppers we don't eat fresh, we will pickle, dehydrate or can and add them to the inventory.
I'm not a rank novice to gardening or canning, but I'm new enough to still be learn a little something with each project. What I took from my efforts in canning those eleven pints of pickles was that organization at the outset is the key. My kitchen is adequate for most of the cooking I do, but there is very little counter space. When you have very little of anything, you have to be extra careful how you utilize it. I was using three of the four burners on my stove and realized just before I was ready to start putting cucumbers in jars that I had arranged all my pots on the different burners all wrong. I had to back up a step, rearrange things more efficiently and then wait for things to heat up again. A learning process. By the time I placed the second batch of jars in the canner, I was on a roll.
I also pick up tips from others that I read regularly. Just this week, I found a useful little tip at one of my favorite gardening blogs, Country Living in a Cariboo Valley, in her post on Mulching Pathways. If you are interested in gardening or self-sustained living, check out Annie's blog. You will find her on my blog roll, or by clicking the link to her Mulching Pathways post above. I don't think you'll be disappointed.