Apparently, it's not just me. This really does seem like the end of summer, and there was an article in the Daily News-Miner about it. It hasn't frosted in my area yet, but it's certainly been quite chilly in the mornings with the sense that frost is right around the corner. I've stopped wearing shorts to bike to work in and have instead been pulling on long pants and my fleece. Without gloves, my fingers have been getting red with the chill. So now is not only the time to enjoy the last of summer activities, it's the point when it really hits home that summer will not last forever. Snowy days are approaching, and fast.
I'm trying to do one thing every day to get ready for winter, now. Even something as small as freezing a few peas. Really, all I've gotten put away so far can be classified as "a few peas". This is my biggest single-day haul yet:
No problem with the varieties, however. I wish I'd marked better which ones were snap peas and which weren't, but I'm figuring it out. Only one of the three types of peas I bought does't have edible pods. I mean, all the pods are technically edible but you need to peel the inner flesh out from the Lincoln pods. The Alaska peas and the snap peas are both edible, and those are the ones Shane prefers to munch on. I'm liking the AK peas for their all-around utility. Edible pods, nice fat peas. But the Lincoln peas have much larger pods and, therefore, more peas. So I'm glad I got both of the varieties.
In the picture, you can also see three zucchinis. Small ones. Those are the only zucchinis I've yet harvested. Ugh. I've got at least one more (even smaller!) growing outside. But this is my most pathetic return on zucchinis ever. It must be something about this summer. Too wet and rainy, perhaps, although that wouldn't explain why some people around here are having great squash summers. Not enough sunlight where I've placed my zukes? Or something. Oh well. We'll just have to eat something else for the winter. I shredded those three zucchinis and froze them, which yielded about two 1 cup servings. Enough for two batches of zucchini pancakes, so I'll save those for a morning when I need a pick-me-up.
I do have some nice fat winter squashes growing. I think they're pumpkins, but I'm not certain because of course I forgot to label them. They're getting bigger than tennis balls, though, and I've been trimming off small ones to ensure the biggest ones will have enough nutrients to ripen. If I get three large-ish pumpkins (this variety is supposed to be about 7-9 inches long, I think) I'll be very happy!
I got two more beans (yes, I've been harvesting them in ones and twos) and these might very well be my last ones. My bean plants (all three of them) didn't do very well. Oh well. Buying beans won't be the worst thing in the world.
And I think I'm going to need to ask my mother-in-law for more rhubarb this year. Not that that will be a problem, I think. Unless she needs it all for more rhubarb wine. :) (It's tasty stuff.) When I got to L's house this weekend we'll see if we can harvest some more of her neighbor's rhubarb. I cut some stalks from my plants last night so I have a full quart-size freezer bag just from my own garden. (And since my plants are so young, I'm very pleased with that.)
All of the plants which are doing well in my garden this summer, with the exception of my tomatoes, are winter hardy ones. While the rest of the country is dry and baking, we're getting rain and cold. So much for beautiful Alaskan summers. I put a big clear plastic garbage bag over some of my tomatoes last night, but only some. Should I actually cut the bag open to lay over the whole plants, or should I leave it as-is so that it's still usable as a garbage bag later? I'm leaning toward cut it open.
My peas and squashes should keep going until it gets very chilly. Hopefully I've got about a month and a half for them to keep growing. My cabbages, too. I'll dig up the potatoes as soon as the plants start succumbing to the cold, and if I have to I'll find a place to bring my tomatoes inside and figure out what techniques I can use to ripen them. My celery is, amazingly, not doing too badly. I covered several of the plants in those milk-jug-cloches I made, so they're sort of topped with mini-greenhouses. They are NOT a fast-growing plant, so I'm really hoping that I can get another month or so of growing time out of them.
So what, besides gardening, am I doing to get ready for winter? Well, there's the foraging. I still haven't posted about the fireweed jelly I made, but there's lots of it. I already wrote about blueberry picking, and I have more blueberry picking trips planned. I haven't picked any raspberries so far this year, and it's getting toward the end of the season. The plants I saw didn't have that many anyway, and this week when I might have convinced myself to go out, it was miserably rainy.
I've got plans with a friend to make gallons of tomato sauce to can, and I keep putting by cherries whenever I can. I got bunches of basil from the farmer's market which I made into pesto and froze for quick and easy winter meals. It was tasty enough that I'm going to buy more basil this weekend, and finally use up what I've grown on my porch.
I've been airing out the apartment, but I haven't yet hauled out our winter things or the winter blankets. Those aren't needed quite yet. But when the door is open, if I'm sitting and reading I've found that having a light blanket over myself is lovely. And I've been wearing my nice warm slippers in the evenings. The fan, sitting in the hallway, seems like a bit of a joke now.
And there's always more to do. I'm trying to hold back the fear that I'm simply not doing enough to prepare for winter. I won't get it all done, I know, but I also know it won't be the end of the world.
If it seems like I'm focusing so much on food, I am. I suspect that this winter I won't be able to get to the store all that often. Shane will need the truck for commuting to and from work, so when he's gone I'll most likely be left vehicle-less. The more food I have stored away, the less of a disaster it will be if I can't get to the store for a while. And yes, I do have wonderful friends whom I could call on to give me a ride. But I don't want to be a burden to other people, either. Walking to the store wouldn't be horrible some days, but once it dips below zero I'm not going to want to do that terribly often.
I would like to see about cutting out the grocery store almost entirely. HG Market has veggie boxes all winter, sort of like a CSA only not from one specific farm. They try to get things as locally and organically as possible, which I like. (And yes, even in winter here there's some local food. Chena Hot Springs uses geothermal power and heat for their greenhouses, and there are several hydroponic "farms".) Shane mentioned a while ago that he wouldn't be opposed to ordering the veggie boxes for the winter, but we haven't actually sat down to talk about it. I'm hoping that we could do that, and then it would reduce my trips to the actual chain grocery stores to (I think) about once a month for grains and such. Or most likely, once every three weeks when Shane is home.
Little by little, I am managing to extricate myself from most of the conventional food system.
There is one week coming up which will sort of be an exception to my "one thing every day" goal. We're going moose hunting on Shane's next off-week, in two weeks. We'll be going down to the Kenai Peninsula with a friend, then out to Shane's family's cabin. Cross your fingers that we actually get something this year! We're running quite low on moose meat, and I am not looking forward to having to buy beef.
I will not be hunting, by the way. I'm going to visit with the family, and hopefully do some berry picking.