A Summer Well Spent


It’s a warm, sunny, October day here in Wisconsin.  Cooler temperatures are on the horizon, but for today we will enjoy the warmth and sunshine for yet another day.

As I reflect on my summer (which I realize remains a mystery to readers as it’s been months since I’ve posted) I feel thankful and satisfied with what was accomplished.  I set out with a vague goal of preserving more food this year than I ever have before.  I knew that I would grow some of that food.  And that I would buy some of that food from farmers.

You might be wondering what has been grown, purchased and preserved this year.  As a matter of fact, I was wondering that same thing this morning as I pulled out a jar of peaches and thought how nice it would be to have an inventory of some sort.  Here is a list–with and without amounts–of what I worked on this summer.  I hope it inspires other urban gardeners to try some preserving.  Nothing here is exotic or difficult to do, just good ol’ jars of food and stuff in my freezer.

60-ish jars of jam:  rhubarb-vanilla, strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, peach, peach-vanilla, blueberry
6 cups chopped frozen rhubarb
12 quarts of peaches in medium syrup (my son’s favorite!)
2 gallon bags of frozen blueberries
8 quarts frozen strawberries
strawberry fruit leathers and dried strawberries (these were gobbled up a while ago, I don’t remember exactly how much we made)
5 quarts cherries in almond syrup
4 pints cherries in wine
2 pints dried cherries
1/2 gallon cherry wine
several bags chopped, blanched kale (for winter soups)
4 pint jars dehydrated chocolate mint (for tea)
6 pints mint syrup (for mixed drinks, sweetener)
3 pints cherry wine syrup (to pour over a pound cake)
pesto (we keep eating this, I’m not sure how many we made)
kale pesto
1/2 pint jar dried chamomile (for tea)
several containers cream of broccoli soup
several containers creamy carrot soup
several containers eggplant supper soup
dried thyme
dried oregano
dried parsley
6 quarts garlic and honey dill pickles
7 pints bread and butter pickles
6 pints spicy classic dill pickles
4 pints tomato sauce
4 pints marinara sauce
4 pints tomato salsa
6 pints peach salsa
dehydrated apple rings
dehydrated tomatoes
8 pints applesauce
3 pints cinnamon applesauce
8 loaves zucchini bread
12 heads of garlic
gallon bag of frozen kale cubes (to throw in smoothies)
gallon bag of frozen beet green cubes (to throw in smoothies)

Meanwhile, we’ve eaten countless salads and tomato dishes out of garden.  We’ve eaten mountains of kale chips.  My kids have a habit of eating raw beans, peas and carrots straight out of the garden… in fact these things never make it in the house.  Every day we look forward to our raspberry snack, straight off the canes outside.  We put fresh herbs on all of our meat and fish, make salad dressing with our herbs and use them in mixed drinks.

This year we enjoyed fresh garden onions for the first time.  We made fresh juices with our celery, cucumbers, kale, parsley and other fresh garden goods.

It’s the second week of October and we still have much to look forward to.  There are tomatoes on the vine.  If a frost threatens, I can pull off the green ones and let them ripen indoors.  Until then, bruschetta and salsa awaits!  And probably a few more BLT dinners (our favorite).  Celeriac is ready to harvest and be transformed into a delicious soup.  Leeks are large this year and ready to be used in a leek and potato soup, as well as other applications, such as our Christmas ravioli filling as we’ve done in the past.  There is plenty of swiss chard and kale, the latter of which will continue to grow until it gets very cold.  Raspberries continue to ripen each day and the eggplant has hit a stride that I find hard to keep up with at this point.  I have such good luck with eggplant.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in this year’s garden is the lemon tree.  So many big, beautiful lemons!  They are turning yellow now and will be perfect stuffed into a chicken for roasting or in salad dressing, on fish, in tea, or on my favorite lemon garlic pasta recipe.  What a blessing to finally get some lemons off that little tree.

I garden in a small city sized lot.  I squeeze a lot in to my small space.  Not everything grows, not everything is a success.  That’s okay.  I’ve learned much from my garden failures.

At the beginning of the season I prayed over my garden as I planted it.  “Dear Lord, if it is your will let this garden nourish us this year.  Make it grow!”  God delivered.  I’m not a perfect steward of these blessings (oops, I’ve had to toss a few things I let go past their prime in the compost), but thankfully God doesn’t withhold His blessing just because I make some human mistakes.  I’m so glad He gives me the opportunity to keep trying and keep learning.

So, for now, my larder is full!  Praise God.

Dwarf Meyer lemon tree has been working on growing these lemons all summer.

Dwarf Meyer lemon tree has been working on growing these lemons all summer.

The lemons are beginning to turn from green to yellow.

The lemons are beginning to turn from green to yellow.

I picked these today--October 8th--our tomatoes continue to produce late into the season.

I picked these today–October 8th–our tomatoes continue to produce late into the season.

Celery root (celeriac) is ready for the soup.

Celery root (celeriac) is ready for the soup.

In this part of the garden, I have (from left to right) celery root, leeks and Swiss chard.

In this part of the garden, I have (from left to right) celery root, leeks and Swiss chard.

Marigolds and nasturtiums finishing out the season.  They have added so much color.

Marigolds and nasturtiums finishing out the season. They have added so much color.

My daughter is picking raspberries.  As you can see, my garden is still full.

My daughter is picking raspberries. As you can see, my garden is still full.

Plenty of herbs are available for flavoring meats, soups and sauces.

Plenty of herbs are available for flavoring meats, soups and sauces.

This garden bed is still going strong with strawberries (I admit they've taken over a bit), walking onions, celery, broccoli, carrots, kale and tomatoes.  October 8th and it is all still looking great.

This garden bed is still going strong with strawberries (I admit they’ve taken over a bit), walking onions, celery, broccoli, carrots, kale and tomatoes. October 8th and it is all still looking great.

The strawberries have really multiplied, as you can see from this view.

The strawberries have really multiplied, as you can see from this view.

Every day we enjoy raspberries.

Every day we enjoy raspberries.

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2 responses to “A Summer Well Spent

  1. Totally Amazing, once again!
    Thanks for this writing and for the photos……
    this entry was well worth the wait!
    Love and Best Wishes, Dear Daughter.

  2. Oh my goodness Ang, you really have put up a lot of food from
    your garden. It will be so nice in the winter, when you are trying to
    get ideas for meals, to have so much to choose from. You truly
    are an inspiration and reminder for us to put away some of the goodness
    of summer ~ it doesn’t last very long, and tastes oh so good later.

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