Sunday, September 12, 2010

This is WHY

Far better it is to dare mighty things, though checkered with failure, than to take ranks with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory or defeat. ~ Teddy Roosevelt.

Gardening - growing your own vegetables and preserving them - is fraught with hard work during the season. After the growing season, in the winter, when the dead sunflowers stand for the birds as the only remnant in the snow of the summer garden and harvest, is time to revel in the previous years crop and plan for next year.

I believe that all gardens should be called 'Victory Gardens' like they had in WWII because us home gardeners suffer defeats and have unwarranted bumper crops.

With all of our planning and good intentions, the garden is still in the hands of fate and Mother Nature. Like Forest Gump says, "You never know what you're gonna get."

Personally, we try to fit gardening into an already busy life with full-time jobs, a teenage daughter, renovating a house, and ailing parents. Finding time to spend planting, pulling weeds and preserving is our greatest challenge. Yet, this year we managed to fill our freezer for the coming winter, and (I'm gonna be honest here) sometimes I open the freezer door just to look and see what has been accomplished. There is great satisfaction to be had, a feeling of triumph, seeing all of those vegetables lined up on the shelves waiting for a warm winter's meal.

My mother has been buying cherries and apples and pears from the Amish this summer and canning them. The other day, she took me down to her basement to show me all the jars lined up with the fruit in them. Only someone that preserves food would apprecitate what a beautiful sight that is, and how it fills you with a feeling of accomplishment, pride and security.

I say security because having food on the shelf, no matter what your bank account says, gives you a feeling of security. I am not a doomsday person, but what if the Arabs got ticked off at our country over, let's say, someone publicly burning the Quran, and let's say they decided to hike the price of oil to $200.00 per barrel, and let's say the trucker's here in the US couldn't afford to deliver food to the supermarkets anymore, or that what was being delivered was quadruple the usual cost? I know that we live in a stable country, but stranger things have happened. All I'm saying is that if we have a problem in the food chain, I'm gonna be trading some frozen tomatoes and green beans for Mom's canned pears and the economy can work itself out. It's one less thing to worry about.

Thank goodness we have grocery stores for the years when our best plans have not worked out. Last year, our tomatoes got blight and we lost almost the entire crop and I felt guilty paying huge prices for inferior store tomatoes. This year we had a bumper tomato crop & will probably enjoy them fresh-frozen until next summer.

By the way - see the previous post about freezing tomatoes - you core them and freeze them whole and the skins slip right off of the frozen tomatoes when you hold them under warm running water. Frozen tomatoes are a wonderful, time-saving alternative to canned tomatoes.

We lost our zucchini and yellow squash plants two years in a row. I know, you're astounded because they're one of the easiest plants to grow. Hey, if there's a way to screw things up . . . Last year, my husband decided to run the rototiller through the garden to cut down our weeding time and cut a swath too close to the plants, who - unbeknown to us - apparently have a shallow but expansive root system that was cut. Not weeding by hand cost us our zucchini. This year was a similar story: the zucchini and squash were in an isolated part of the garden where the snow peas stood in the spring, and my husband decided to hit the weeds in the empty part of the garden with RoundUP. The zucchini and squash apparently got some over-spray and all died. Next year, I will be weeding the squash and zucchini by hand so they are out of danger and away from my husband's good intentions. I have threatened to plant a chair in the garden to guard them.

We will also be buying sweet corn from the supermarket this year. We knew we would be too busy and hard choices had to be made regarding the workload we took on. Corn is a lot of work, and we have a large Amish community nearby where we can buy fresh corn should we decide to freeze it. This year, we skipped it.

We have never grown brussel sprouts and decided late in the season to plant some from seed. The plants came up, but we were too late to get any sprouts from them. It's good to try new things - even if they don't work out.

And speaking of crops that don't work out, we planted onions two years in a row only to have them rot in the ground. I'm pretty sure that our garden is too low and wet for them - which is great for most of the other plants, but too wet for the onions. If we want to grow them in the future, we're gonna have to construct a raised bed.

On the other hand, just for fun, I planted a variety of decorative gourds and pumpkins this year and the garden is loaded with fall fun. These are low maintenance and all you need is the seeds and plenty of room to let them ramble through the garden. I will use them for decoration and be able to give some to my friends at the office and we will be learning to make pumpkin pie from scratch (under my mother's supervision) and will probably post that exciting escapade online for you.

We had so many green beans this year that we froze all we could possibly want and gave away all our family and friends wanted, and still have them hanging in the garden. Last year, I pulled the plants as soon as the harvest was over, but let them stand this year. I am going to use this years leftovers as seeds for next year. Possibly show you how to do this in another post.

My husband grows hot peppers every other year to pickle and the plants are currently heavy with the yellow, green and red fruits, so he will soon be picking, cutting, pickling and canning his peppers for the next 2 years. We'll post this process as well if he's willing to share his secret recipe.

Our garden would be a lot more predictable if we spent the time in it that we should, grooming and weeding and doting on our plants. Someday, I hope to be able to do that. The past couple of years we have gotten our seeds and plants in as we could and hoped for the best - spending very little actual time in the garden. We were embarrassed by the weeds at times and surprised at how well the plants did in spite of our neglect.

Stay tuned & I'll try to post more the next few weeks as we continue the harvest.

Meanwhile, she exits saying, "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

(I'm laughing all the way to the FULL freezer.)


  1. Gardening is so important. I agree that food on the shelf regardless of how it got there is a sense of security. Food is our life and it is what we need to survive from day to day. Since we have to eat daily in order to sustain ourselves I believe that we should eat the best. Gardening is one of those ways we can eat high quality food.

  2. An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a friend who has been doing a little homework on this.

    And he actually bought me dinner because I discovered it for him...

    lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for
    the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about
    this matter here on your web site.