The Garden Report

In case you’ve been wondering, I am clawing my way out from under a mountain of produce.

I should have known what would happen, being an authentic farm girl and all…

I planted a little garden at my house this year, but I planted a much bigger one at my retired parents’ farm.  I chose to put the lower-maintenance items out there, believing I would need to do some processing and picking later in the season, but not routine “tending” beyond a couple weeding trips.

I can buy into the liberty garden concept: that producing our own food from quality soil is a better choice, and it certainly is more economical if it goes well, right?

I was also really looking forward to spending more time with my parents, and I wanted the girls to experience the farm more fully.  It is only a couple hours’ drive out of the city, but we do not go often enough.  There are acres of bush to play in, horses to ride and kittens to catch and tame.  It is beautiful, quiet and safe.  Time spent out there is always good for my soul.

I planted rows and rows in early June, but the weather was suddenly warm and dry.  The wind blew for three weeks under clear skies and not a single weed or seed sprouted.

My father, watching the bare ground out his window and watering every day, re-seeded green beans and carrots at the end of June.  He tended all the seedlings I had transplanted from my little trays.  This garden, that I had promised would not cost him an ounce of sweat, could not die under a retired rancher’s watchful eye.

Then, it began to rain.  Alberta received more rain in the last week of June than we usually get in a summer.  After that, it rained more.  Then the sun shone and things GREW.

Everything came up and grew lush and thick; the original rows and the new rows planted between them.  All those rows went into full production and I have been picking and canning and blanching and freezing and dehydrating ever since.  How exciting to have produced masses of amazing food!  But…

I am beyond stupid-tired.  I do not exaggerate when I say that there has been an extra 20 hours or so each week since August 1st that I have spent picking, scrubbing and boiling things in giant vats.  I didn’t really have an extra 20 minutes in each of my working weeks.

I am not sure why this surprises me, but it does explain a certain lack of enthusiasm on my Mother’s part.  She knew.

We did 40 quarts of tomatoes and we will do 40 more.  There are 20 pints each of green and red tomato salsa, about 24 family-sized frozen bags of green beans, a few beet pickles and frozen bags of beets.  I have  30 spaghetti squash and 12 pumpkins.  In August I pitted and dried four gallons of sour cherries and I’ve turned 10 gallons of apples into fruit leather (there are 8 more gallons in the basement that I’m working on).  We ate corn on the cob twice a week all month and I have another couple weeks of feeding left.  We have eaten snap peas, onions, fresh beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, purple cabbage and turnips.  This weekend I washed half the patch of carrots.  Observe the load in my van last Friday when we came home after our weekend work-venture.  This is the peak.

The idea of growing your own food is a stellar pursuit, but to truly feed one’s family is more than a full-time job from August 1st to October 31st… I expect I have put away only about 20% of the fruit and veggie mass we will need for the winter, but even for that small amount I’m not sure I can afford the cost of this workload in September – the month when my team needs their head coach to have her head in the game.

I will be gushing about the amazing taste and incredible dishes we have come up with (101 ways to eat spaghetti squash, anyone?).   I hope I will also be marvelling at a dent in our grocery bill.

Our house is full of fresh food that we grew ourselves.  We will be making a trek next weekend to the farm to clean up our planting ground and sit back and be thankful for what the earth has given us.  It is much to be thankful for, indeed.

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4 responses

  1. Pingback: The Garden Report | Paleo Digest

  2. I very much enjoyed your gardening story. I grew up on a farm in Iowa and everyone in our family had a garden. I spent the whole summer watching my mother can and freeze out of our huge garden. I remember being at my grandparents house for a sweet corn day. Many people sat around cutting the corn off the cobs, scrapping the cob to get the sweet juice out of it and then my grandmother in the kitchen handling the freezing.

    Since then I have lived in the desert for 29 years and have not been a part of that. But this year we made our first attempt to try to go veggies in a raised bed. We had mixed results. We had some success but mostly trouble with aphids. It was an experiment. We have a lot to learn. We could have tried to plant again for the fall here but since we were planning a trip and we don’t have sprinklers installed it didn’t happen.

    I think growing your own garden is a beautiful thing. We put those little seeds in the ground……add water and sunshine……. and they turn into massive amounts of food. It is truly amazing. I think more people should at least experience having a garden. It makes them appreciate the process of where food comes from and the miracle of it all. Well done……..good for you.

    • These are my childhood memories, too. I really don’t know how my mom did it all – she totally fed our family for the winter off the farm’s bounty, had small children, and worked part-time in town.

      Thanks, Brenda, and good luck with more gardening ventures in the future. It is a labour of love.

  3. WOW!! Growing all of our family’s vegetables is a goal of mine, but it may have to wait until retirement. 20 HOURS A WEEK!?!? I now fully understand my own mum’s chuckle when I showed her the plans for next year’s garden. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us!

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