Taking Stock after the Summer of Rain

Canned pickled cayenne, sweet peppers and chow chow, sitting on my pantry shelf.

A summer of record rain fall diminished our expectations for most of what we planted this year. Now, with unusually cold weather this week, we are bringing in the last of our crops.   Even with less than what we planned, we have enough. What’s more, after my husband completed the chicken coop and we successfully raised fourteen hens, we now collect fresh eggs every day from our chickens.

Instead of the nightly watering rituals that we kept up each summer since we moved here to Greenville in 2009, in the summer of 2013 we did a lot of sitting inside watching the rain wash our gardens away.  There actually was a short spring season with strawberries, cabbage and even artichokes, before the heavy rains really got started. We also managed to have a short fall growing season with some drier weather. Last year our okra was washed away every time my husband planted some seeds. This year okra is one of the few fall crops the we have harvested, along with some broccoli, eggplant, and greens and lettuce, a variety of sweet and hot peppers, and sweet potatoes.

Canned Grape Juice

I made canned grape juice for the first time this year, since we did have an abundance of concord grapes. I made it two ways, with cooked juice processed with the boiler, and with raw grapes in the pressure cooker. They both tasted really good. The pressure cooker method was much faster and easier.

Even though we didn’t have the usual over abundance of tomatoes, corn, squash and melons, nothing that we did harvest went to waste. I still managed to put up quite a few quarts of tomato sauce and tomato paste, salsa and some tomato soups as well. There’s plenty of pickles, and pickled peppers. I also canned quarts of grape juice from our concord grapes for the first time.  And somehow my shelves are full of too much strawberry, honeysuckle, grape and fig jam.

Our freezers are almost packed with strawberries, cleaned and cut greens, some corn on the cob, sliced and shredded zucchini, cooked cabbage and string beans, baked squashes and stuffed tomatoes and peppers. With the fishing season also coming to a close, I can say that my husband caught his fair share of crappy, blue gills, bass and catfish.  

Coming up on five years here in Greenville, we are watching our fruit trees and asparagus plants mature. We have replanted our vegetable gardens each spring, but also look forward to the diversity of some perennials like asparagus, as we continue down the path toward self-sufficiency. But of course we really don’t know what to expect, other than that we will continue to get older and some of the tasks of gardening are becoming a little more difficult. Right now I am thankful for another year of enough, and the ability to share the bounty with family and friends during the holidays.

First I laid these strawberries on cookie trays on top in the chest freezer. Then I put them in vacuum sealed bags, so they didn't get squashed.

First I laid these strawberries on cookie trays on top in the chest freezer. Then I put them in vacuum sealed bags, so they didn’t get squashed.

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