Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Coming Along

The last few days, looking at my shelves and peering into my freezers, has shown me that I've done a lot so far. 1 gallon of local broccoli for winter, over 3 gallons of pitted and frozen cherries, plus five cans of cherry preserves. 8 jars of cucumber pickles, 9 small jars of fireweed jelly (sort of), a gallon and a third of blueberries, 1 quart of raspberries, a pint-ish of cranberries, half a pint of my own peas, 2 cups of zucchini, some grapes and peaches.... All this, of course, it just "so far". I haven't even started preserving carrots, celery, or anything like that. I do still want to can more things. I haven't started preserving tomatoes at all. Or the rhubarb. I've been freezing it just until the weather turned a bit cooler and was more favorable for standing over a hot pot of boiling water. That time is rapidly approaching.
It's still quite hot in the evenings and everyone's been talking about how inverted the summer was. Usually July is our hottest month and August starts off rainy and ends chilly. Well, this year it was July that was cold and wet but August is turning out the be gorgeous. Chilly at night and in the mornings (I left the windows in my bedroom open last night and that was a mistake--I didn't want to get out of bed this morning because it was so chilly!) but the days and evenings have been pleasantly hot. I hope that this last bit of summer really pushes my garden into overdrive. My cherry tomatoes have started ripening (I have a recipe in mind for some of them!) and I've got another couple of zucchinis growing. My pumpkins are getting bigger, and I've been collecting some nice fat peas every couple of days. I'm still holding off on digging up my potatoes, giving them as long in the ground as possible to grow big. The herbs need to come inside, though, and I've been trying to remember to cloche the celery at night.
This week is turning out to be crazy, though. Softball ended last night and I only went to one of the two games because I had to get other things done. (Glad I went, though, because it was fun!) Trying to organize berry picking trips, and taking care of the cat (his antibiotics finished last night, but he's still limping from his injury), normal household chores (I had to water all of my garden buckets last night and as the watering can was filling up I was frantically running around to put the clean dishes away then load up the empty dishwasher again, rushing outside to water and fertilize in between--I sat down for a grand total of ten minutes, to eat dinner, from just after lunchtime until 10:00 at night) and trying to get everything organized for our trip on Sunday. As if all this wasn't enough, two good friends are having birthdays this week so two evenings will be spent celebrating them, and I need to get gifts. (My best friend's birthday was two weeks ago and, as we both always do, I still haven't ordered her present. It's ok. Last year I got my birthday gift from her when she came up for my wedding...six months after my birthday. It's how we roll.) Don't worry, any gifts I get will totally fit with my principles. ;) And these are happy things. Busy, but I wouldn't miss out on them for the world.
You'd think I'd be more organized, with so much going on, but no. I keep thinking, "And on this night, I'll get such and such chore done!" but either it doesn't get done, or I realize I have something else going on that night.
Not that this is a complaint, mind you. I love being this busy. I love getting to see my friends this much, and knowing that I'm going on vacation next week gives me that little push to fight against my natural lazy tendencies.
Even if I wanted to complain, Shane worked a 17 hour day yesterday, and will probably be working about the same today. With that comparison, I feel decadently lazy. Poor guy! All this on top of being sick, too. But water samples wait for no man, I take it. He called me at about 10:30 last night from his office phone, and he still wasn't done with work. When I said how much it sucks he shrugged it off and said, "At least I get paid for all this time." And for him, too, having the trip to look forward to, and knowing that he gets to come home in time to celebrate our friend's birthday on Saturday (a friend who has been out of town all summer) helps immeasurably.
It seems like I've done so much, but there's much, much more I need/want to do. As impossible as it seemed last year, I need more canning jars. I have plenty pint size jars (I think--there should be more out in the garage) but I could use more half-pints and quarts. I knew I had more quart jars but couldn't find more than a couple. Well, last night I got out a bunch of stuff to make scones (I tried a new flavor--walnut & chocolate chip, AMAZING!) and realized that I've been using them to store things in. Like my chocolate chips. When I looked in the cupboard I found one more holding some dried fruit way in the back, and one more holding some pasta. Ah-ha! I've transferred those dry goods to other, non-canning jars. (On the rare occasions I buy juice, I buy the organic stuff in glass jars and save the jars. They're super handy for holding dry goods from the bulk section and with the labels ripped off it's easy to see when I'm running low on something.) I figure the quart ones will be best for most of the rhubarb, since what I tend to make rhubarb into is either pie or crisp, and that requires a lot of rhubarb. For just the two of us, I use pint jars for tomato sauce. I'm hoping to can at least 15 jars of tomato sauce this year. Six last year got us halfway through winter, and that far only because we rationed them. If I do get 15, I'll probably end up wishing I'd put up more like 20-25!
I did discover something forehead-slappingly simple, though. I thought I needed to get a food mill for ease of making tomato sauce when I saw online someone mentioned using a blender, then straining the tomatoes to get out the seeds and skins. Wow! Why didn't I think of that before? I know, I know, blenders use electricity and food mills don't. I'm sure I'll get a food mill at some point, but I was dreading trying to find someplace to put it in our tiny and already overstuffed kitchen. Besides which, I'll be canning tomato sauce with a friend so it will be efficient in that way. We're going to wait until after the hunting trip, hoping and praying that my tomatoes ripen before then so that we can use them as much as possible and supplement with the (expensive) farmer's market tomatoes.
Finally, I want to organize the freezers better. I'm hoping that I can make the fridge-freezer for produce, and have the other one mostly open for meat and fish. This depends on whether or not we get a moose, of course. It might end up being a moot point. But even if we come back empty-handed, we still need to figure out what exactly we have in the depths of our freezers, and eat it. I found some caribou jerky the other night that I didn't realize we have. (I'll probably dig it out to bring on the road trip.) What else might we find back there? So that is one of my projects, most likely for after we get home.

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