and preserving. So far I have put up dilly beans, cucumber dills, pickled beets and peach salsa. I have been harvesting and drying chives, basil, oregano, rosemary, dill and cilantro. The garden raspberries have started to produce and soon we will have red tomatoes. Along with all of the preserving, we are enjoying eating right from the garden.
Another season of small scale spring sugaring has come to a close. Today I finished boiling down the sap I have been collecting.e. This year was not the greatest season I experienced, but bountiful enough to continue the experience and reap the harvest. We had an early warm spell that accelerated the swell of the buds, when we had a longer stretch of good sap collecting weather (below freezing at night and above freezing during the day), the buds warmed up enough to "pop." When this happens the sap gets a bit cloudy and it can subtly affect the taste of the syrup. This too is when the tree needs the sap to form the leaves.
I did collect about 20 gallons, which equates to about a full 8-10 hours of boiling. I was happy with my yield this year - and the time commitment was manageable given other things pulling me in different directions this weekend.
I had opportunity to share what I have learned over my years of small scale spring sugaring with a larger audience as well. Check out my post on mothering.com to learn a little more:
Here are a few snapshots from short, busy and fun week in kindergarten.
In the lesson plans were: pumpkin investigations!
Monday: Pumpkin seeds (My garden was generous this year I grew 16 pie pumpkins - and I had a couple donations - so each student was able to investigate their own pumpkin. I brought home one 5 gallon bucket of pumpkin "guts" for the chickens - and two 5 gallon buckets of cut and seeded pumpkins.
Monday night: The kindergarten teacher (and husband) roasted pumpkin seeds, the kindergarten teacher also bandaged the blisters that she got from slicing and cutting the tops off of 18 pumpkins.
Tuesday: Roasting pumpkins. In class we roasted a crockpot full of sliced and seeded pumpkins throughout the day, sharing with the kiddos one way pumpkins can be cooked.
Tuesday night: Roasting pumpkins - I had two crock pots going at home roasting pumpkins overnight and during the daytime to make the most of our harvest.
Wednesday: Pumpkin puree and pumpkin smoothies. In class I showed the kids what part of the pumpkin that we make into pumpkin puree and we celebrated our efforts by making (and enjoying) pumpkin smoothies.
Wednesday night: Before we went out and celebrated our anniversary, I finished up making pumpkin puree from all of the baked pumpkins. I was able to put up over 26 cups of fresh pumpkin. (I freeze it in 2 cup servings in quart freezer bags.)
Another successful year of pumpkining at home and school - done!
Now I just need to make it through a Halloween on a Monday night.
If you are looking for some pumpkin inspired ideas, check out my recent post on mothering.com:
Oh August, a month of abundance!
This month is delivering an abundance of garden (work and harvest), preserving, gatherings with friends and family -and lots of lake time. We have been so busy, but in a full, rich and wonderful way. August, has its moments, but overall it is a wonderful time to be.
This is such a fun , yet busy time of the gardening season as progress can be noted every day!
Notes from my north-woods garden:
- I am continuing to harvest herbs, which I enjoy using fresh in our summer meals. I have been continuing to dry herbs in our dehydrator to use in the kitchen and for use in my soap making escapades. I am also making some herb infused vinegars.
- We are starting to find - and enjoy - ripe cherry tomatoes. I am finding other larger green tomatoes in the garden too.
- The pickling cucumber and pie pumpkin vines are spreading, flowering and starting to bear fruit.
- I am finding pea pods, which are getting eaten as quick as they grow.
- I'm continuing to harvest bunches of kale, which I am either using, dehydrating or blanching and freezing.
- And the raspberries! This is our third year of these berry plants and it is the first year we are harvesting a significant amount of fruit. We are picking every day - eating, freezing and I just made my second (and last) batch of raspberry jam.
How is your garden growing?
Our wild blueberry season is coming to a close. Today we hiked up our ridge so see how many more we could gather. The past few weeks we have come down with at least 2 quarts a picking, but today returned with just over a cup.
It has been a bountiful season and our foraging efforts have paid off. As we have close to 5 gallons of wild blues in our freezer!
We are grateful for blueberries - the homemade jam that will accompany our peanut butter sandwiches, the frozen berries that will add flavor and nutrients to our morning smoothies and oatmeal - and of course the memories that accompany sharing these experiences as a family.
Last week I got a beautiful flat of strawberries at our local farmer's market and I put them all up in jars to restock our pantry with homemade jam. Over the course of a day I made a batch of strawberry rhubarb and strawberry bluebarb jam (with just-enough harvested wild blues). I think I just might have to try to reserve another flat of strawberries this week!
I had a productive afternoon in the garden, kitchen and pantry. I harvested some herbs to use and to dry. When I was tidying up and taking inventory in our pantry I found some hiding pickles, salsa and canned tomatoes from last season. I decided to use up our canned tomatoes to make some ketchup - a family favorite, especially in the summer when we do a little more grilling. I also ground up the peppers I dried last fall so they are a little easier to use.
The season of harvesting, preserving - and enjoying the garden's bounty has officially began!
I spent a good part of a rainy day yesterday in the kitchen and pantry drying herbs, making ketchup from the last of our canned tomatoesI gathered my big first harvest of herbs. I collected some basil, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano and chives. After those were washed and drying I decided to go through the pantry, where found our last jars of pickles and four jars of home canned salsa that were overlooked in all
Our sugaring season was short - and not that sweet this year in Northeast Minnesota. We have had warm temperatures that told the trees to "think spring." The maples were starting to bud out as soon as I started to tap the trees. I collected sap with my kindergarten students for about a week and we only collected about 4 gallons before the sap started turning a yellowish tint (an indicator that the season is done). I wasn't even going to boil down what we had collected, but the weather yesterday was so beautiful - I needed a good excuse to be outside.
With such a small amount of sap, the process went quick. I am so glad I have the experiences of previous years to build upon, the process this year was quick, easy and fun. The 4 gallons yielded just under a pint of dark (late in the season) maple syrup. I am excited to share the yields of our efforts with my kindergarten students this week. (My own kiddos had their fair share of tastes along the way.)
It is amazing how quiet these images come across.
They are snapshots from a fun and busy week in kindergarten. Part of our excitement this week was cutting open the eight pie pumpkins that I grew in my garden this year. The kiddos helped dig out the seeds I then roasted them at home and brought them into share. I cooked the pumpkins (in crock pots) during the school day and the kindergarteners helped me to scoop out the pumpkin flesh and blend it into a puree. Today in class we made pumpkin smoothies - along with a lot of other full moon/Halloween excitement. We are all ready for the tricks and treats tomorrow evening (after we butcher the chickens in the a.m.) We are ready for the busy weekend ahead.