You know you are a homesteader when things like poop that doesn’t have to be composted excites you. Alpaca poo isn’t “hot” like other types of manure so it doesn’t have to be composted for six months. We filled a wheel barrel full of alpaca droppings and took it over to one of the raised beds to spread.
Now in November I had every intention of getting every bed cleaned out properly, covering them with compost then mulch for their long winter’s nap. A good kink in my shoulder decided otherwise. It would have been nice to have it all done, but it will surely wait for me, I decided. So, on the bed that we started putting manure on, I noted emerald green from the patch of otherwise browned kale, chard, and collards. Tiny Swiss chard leaves, two inches high were trying with all their might to grow. It certainly was an epiphany for me. If I cover the greens well with loose straw next year, I could be harvesting well into January! That is without the help of a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame. An easy way to extend the season.
Since I did not expect any more greens after November, I had been diligently snipping greens and freezing them. No blanching necessary. I have no desire to eat slimy food…ever. All you do is pack sandwich bags with greens, release the air, and zip closed. Put in freezer. Now, the next day it will be frozen solid. Don’t let it thaw! Just crush it between your fingers so that the greens are crumbles. When you need greens, crush the ones on top more and sprinkle handfuls into whatever you are cooking. Replace the rest in freezer immediately.
I have been putting greens in all kinds of soups, in omelets, scrambled eggs, on potatoes to be roasted, and in sautés. There are innumerable ways to use greens and the nutrients are especially desired this time of year. The perfect blend of calcium and magnesium to make it bio-available, iron, A, C, E, and K, full of anti-oxidants and cancer killing properties.
Greens are one of the foods that I would have with me if I were trapped on an island…along with margaritas. Is that a food?
314…..Items preserved so far this year. Still have much to do! I am expecting the best but preparing for the worst and if winter is a little lean, then by golly, we will have food!
Today, however, I have to go clean out the root cellar before I can fit anything else in there. (Now, mind you, it’s not a real root cellar. It’s one of those dark, creepy basements in a hundred year old house. It keeps precisely ten degrees cooler than upstairs. If I ever get a homestead with a real root cellar, I will flip out and do the happy dance.) Today, I am expecting to encounter piles of deflated squash that were so pretty that I had to store them to eat later but alas, we didn’t. A five gallon bucket of beets. Oy, what is it with me and beets? I preserve and store a ton of them but don’t even like them that much! I have some missing carrots in sand somewhere down there too. Who knows what preserves I have from last year because I just started stacking the new stuff with the old stuff. I have peas on that shelf and green beans over there. And more green beans up there and lots of “syrup” from two years ago (I have now mastered jam…). Today, we conquer and organize.
I made a spread sheet this year with the help of my computer savvy hubby. Tomatoes-40, Hot peppers- 4, Beets- 8 (what the heck?), Peas- 18….
I also listed how many I still need to can, freeze, or cellar. And a column for next year of how many are left. We ran out of tomatoes in February. Eek. We ran out of peppers in April. Not good. If I ever see another jar of canned zucchini…yuck. I’ll be better prepared next year to know what to preserve.
In the meantime, I will procrastinate just a tad longer and have another cup of coffee. The deflated squash will wait for me.
Preserving food for the winter is a smart thing to do. Whether a snow storm keeps you indoors or for some reason there is a tragedy and the grocery store is not available to you to buy food, you best have some stores. You could can, dehydrate, or freeze (though watch for power outages), and store root crops. I have plenty of posts on how to do so but where do you get the vegetables affordably? A case of vegetables at the grocery store would be cost prohibitive. I am farming a quarter acre but I will not have enough to eat now and get us through the entire winter. We better head to the farmer’s market.
- Ask for seconds. Ask the farm early in the day to save you the slightly bruised tomatoes to make sauce with. Or the apricots to can. Or anything that may be still good but it is not pretty enough to sell. You could end up taking home cases of plenty good produce!
- Ask how much a case of something is. If it is in season it will be cheaper. You may be surprised that it is not as much as you would think and you are supporting a farmer.
- Go at the end of the day and see what is left. Farmers don’t generally want to take things home.
- Seek out friends with gardens. Everything is usually ready at once! Farms come in all sizes.
- When at the market, don’t ask how much everything is individually. If you fill up a big bag or box with stuff then ask how much it is, you will get a better deal.
- Start a friendship up with people at the farm. Friends get deals, and making friends is always a great way to improve life even if you didn’t get anything! Be a loyal customer. Loyal customers get deals.
Now time is ticking! Best get preserving!