Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Garden Productivity

Thanks for hanging in there after my last post. I don't have close friends here to be able to talk to, so it really helped to get whiny feeling of tiredness off my chest so I could move on. And boy did I! I got right to work later that day and have been plugging away ever since, whenever weather allowed (downpour + kids = the suck). I have made so much progress! My garden now has filled, terraced beds, wooden paths to separate each bed into reachable areas, and some beds are covered by cloches to help warm the plants and soil for those heat loving plants that will be planted out soon. 

This weekend also saw the installation of a soaker hose system that I think will be really great. The garden area was too big to water all at once. The total length of the soaker system would have been so long that the water wouldn't have been distributed evenly and I didn't want to worry about some beds getting less water than others. I also didn't want more than two hoses going up to the faucet, which is attached to the house. So instead, I devised an easy system that attaches to my faucet with just one hose, but allows me to switch the flow to water one garden bed at a time. With only three (giant) garden beds, it's really easy to go out there and switch between the beds. It does mean, I can't have it set on a timer all the time, but going out to turn on the faucet, or flip the y-connector switch is super fast and easy, so I don't anticipate it being a problem. Plus, it sure is a big step up from what I've always done before - spending an hour plus watering by hand! While nice to be in the garden, it can be hard with the kids and everything else going on. I always felt that the garden never got watered quite as well as it should have, so I'm excited about this improvement!

In other homestead news, the chickens are laying really well, which has been great for this egg-loving family, except that Henrietta, my Black Australorp, just went broody over the weekend. 

If only fake eggs would hatch...

I'm still deciding whether I want to try to break her of it or let it just run it's course. Right now I'm inclined to do the latter, just because it's one less thing to worry about, but I've heard that one broody hen can inspire others. So if another decides to start sitting on the nest, then I guess I'll break out my wire cage and rig up a broody box to cool things down for them. 

I am also really looking forward to canning season! We go through a lot of jam in this house, so I am really glad I made so much of it last year. No real worry about running out, but I also don't think we'll have too much left over either, so that's exciting. Also, have you seen Marisa McClellan's (who runs the excellent Food in Jars blog) new book, Preserving by the Pint? I'm excited about it. I have checked out her first book, Food in Jars, from the library and it has some great looking recipes. It's on my amazon list of books I'd like to buy soon. Even though I have typically canned in bigger batches in the past, her new book focuses on making just a pint or two of something using the smaller amounts of produce and ingredients we get while on sale at the grocery store or something. While I don't plan to stop bulk buying fruit in the summer for my bigger canning projects, this seems like such a great way to use up the rest of that big basket of blueberries I got for sale at the store that week just before the kids decided they were tired of them. I also think it's a nice way to try out a little of something that I'm not sure will be popular or useful enough in our family to warrant a big sized canning batch. 

My remaining preserves. Not a lot since we go through a jar or two of jam per week.

In the same vein, Erica at Northwest Edible Life, recently wrote a really great post about some of the best foods to preserve. Although, as she notes, it is highly dependent on what your family eats, I found some of her suggestions for how to use that food to best advantage really inspiring! I'm not very good at just making recipes up by combining ingredients. I'm definitely a cook-from-a-recipe person, but I'd like to get much better at creating my own to better use up what I have. This post was really helpful and motivating in working toward that end. Especially since I have a pressure canner that I have been too intimated to get out of it's box and use! Canned meats weren't something I thought sounded terribly appetizing, but after reading that post, I just may try them out. 

So far it's been a busy spring, and I can hardly wait for the weather to warm up and my garden to really start growing. What's going on in your home this Spring?

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