Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Looking back

This time of year is the perfect time to reflect on our year and what we've done.  My parents have always written a Christmas letter detailing what the family has done and this year was no exception.  I always find it interesting to see what my Dad has decided to write about.  This year I have apparently become a Hayseed.  I'm not sure what exactly this means in my Dad's mind, but it appears to be his way of saying that I have a big garden and chickens.  Mind you, my parents have had both as well.  Apparently this never occurred to them.

In any case, it has been a good year.  We did in fact get chickens.  I had been talking about them for years, since we were in 4H and our leader got her first 4 chicks.  J and I had said we wanted to get them and he had the plans drawn up for their tractor.  Somehow, when I got the call from my friend that the chicks were in, it all seemed to soon.  I got them set up in a big plastic tub in the basement.  The kids were beside themselves wanting to hold the chicks all the time.  The neighborhood all had to look and name the girls.  We fretted over Mary and whether she was going to make it.  She did wonderfully of course and now they are happily laying eggs and eating up all manner of leftovers and greens.

The garden was much more manageable for me.  The previous year I had done the major expansion.  My garden plan  was crazy and made it difficult for me to manage the garden.  This year I decided to go back to what I know.  I made 7 beds that are approximately 4x12 or so.  The walkways were lined with boxes from Hubby's computer business.  I started all of my own plants from seed.  This was not the first year for that, but each year it seems that I start more and more seeds.  I tried making seed tapes for my carrots and beets.  The carrots were a dismal failure, but the beets did well. 

We had a crazy summer for weather.  June was cold and rained 26 of 30 days.  Everything was behind and waterlogged.  The tomatoes got blight, but gave me a decent crop before completely succumbing.  The zucchini did exceptionally well, but the winter squashes did nothing.  Due to being ill prepared in the Spring, my peas got planted late.  That combined with our crazy June weather, left us with a much smaller crop of sugar snaps than we would have liked.  The bush beans, however, went absolutely crazy. 

I grew tomatillos for the first time this year.  They produced more tomatillos than I knew what to do with.  After making a green salsa, I decided that we probably wouldn't grow them again next year.  The lettuce loved the wet, cool weather and grew like gangbusters.  I grew a mix from Baker Creek that I really liked.  Morgan thought it was wonderful that Mommy grew a snack for her.  She spent the summer snacking on the lettuce whenever she was out.  The beets and chard did very well, with the chard still going up until last week's snow storm. 

I had a crop of potatoes that I didn't plant last Spring.  The previous year I had planted potatoes that didn't do as well as I would have liked.  Apparently I missed quite a few and I ended up with several hills of potatoes cropping up.  They did pretty well with all the rain we had and I ended up with 10 lbs of potatoes for my lack of work.  The onions did pretty well also, although we only had enough to eat fresh over the summer.  I also planted leeks that grew well.  They didn't get used as much as they should have and probably won't be planted again. 

The orchard expanded as well.  We added another peach tree and 3 more apples.  This brought us up to 5 apples, 2 peach and a cherry tree.  I also added 6 blueberry bushes in the back yard.  These did well, although they are where the kids play and 1 ended up a casualty of play.  The rest look really good and I'm hoping for a good crop of blueberries next year. 

I held canning classes for the first time this summer.  We made Triple Berry Jam and learned how to water bath can.  There was a second set of classes on pressure canning beans, but that was not as big a draw.  We'll see if there is any interest next year. 

In the fall I expanded the garden again.  This time with about 350 sq ft of raised beds.  This will allow me to continue on my quest to raise the majority of my family's fruit and veggie needs.  We've all really gotten hooked on our own veggies, much preferring them to anything else we could buy.

In the same vein, we've really expanded on eating locally this year.  We got half a grass fed cow from a local farmer, chickens from a local butcher and a pig as well.  Our milk is raw milk from a local dairy of pastured cows.  All that, combined with our own eggs, means that well over 90 percent of our protein sources are local and sustainable.  As my kids would say, they're from the nice farmers, not the mean ones.  Our little town started its first Farmer's Market, which was a huge success.  It was great to be able to supplement our garden with fresh, local, organic veggies. 

Its been a great year.  This is my first year blogging regularly and it has been a blast.  I'm looking forward to next year as well.  The list of things I want to accomplish gets longer and longer, but that's half the fun.


kitsapFG said...

You really had an awesome year and should be proud of the improvements and changes you have implemented for your family. Well done!

Meadowlark said...

Our garden year was the opposite... first year in ages that there was no frost between the last week of May and mid-September... and warm (ok, high 40s) in the evenings. Woohoo!!!!

Weird weather years always make me feel like I have a whole 'nother garden.

And even though it's not local, if you ever get the hankering for "Sunshine jam" I have the recipe! It's a pineapple-lemon jam that simply SCREAMS summer in the dead of February.

The Mom said...

Kitsap, thanks for the encouragement.

Meadowlark, it is amazing what happens in different parts of the country each year. The sunshine jam sounds delicious.

Teresa Bjork said...

Who are the "mean farmers"? I have many friends who are probably what you would call "corporate" farmers, even though they run family farms. They are the kindest people I know.

The Mom said...

Teresa, mean farmers in my kids mind, would be feedlot farmers. I'm sure they are nice people, we're more concerned with the treatment of the animals.

Daphne said...

I started more of my plants this year too. I did it because my favorite garden store where I usually got my transplants from closed down. The only problem with starting all my own transplants again (I used to do it all years ago) is that traveling becomes an issue. I can get someone to take care of them, but will they be alive when I get back? You just never know.

The Mom said...

Daphne, I have the same problem as well. This year I actually scheduled my vacation to fall before the seed starting. I seem to be scheduling my whole life around the garden.

Wendy said...

So many exciting things going on! I can totally relate to how invigorated you feel, and from my experience, the more you do, the more you want to do :). 100% of our meat and dairy is local, and part of it we raise ourselves.

My next goal is to do more with wild foraging, but that seems so much more daunting than going the Farmer's Market :).

The Mom said...

Wendy, I soooo want to take a class on wild foraging. It scares me a bit though. I'm scared of picking the wrong thing.

Karen Sue said...

My 2 or 7 cents on your year:
1)Yeah, a Hayseed..the title of royalty around here..congrats!
2)Chickens are not in my future until they are the hubby's idea and I don't see that happening real soon! It's a battle not worth fighting right now;4 kids and a dog stretches our livestock quota in this house!! So I'm glad for your chicken success!
3)Garden control was a good thing. I hold off a bit on expanding, although I know there really isn't enough garden space yet, but I'm wanting to rev up my dirt in the garden space I have now before adding to. For a soggy, different year, it was OK..a learning and building time.
4) I'd like to explore some more lettuce. Those little loose leaves, don't add up too much in my salad bowl. What do you find has a good yield in a small space? I'm thinking I should try some different kinds next year to discover what is liked and used.
5) I also need some onion help, as they looked not much bigger when they came out then when they went in!! Also curious about potatoes and how much space they take, as to where I might place them in the scheme of things.
6) I'm excited about your fruits and that is one of my goals for next get a small group of trees growing. I planted 2 blueberries and we'll see how they weather the winter. I have another place where I can get bigger bushes that I may add next year. But I'd love a couple of apples and a pear.
7)Canning-never done any but tomatoes. Mom got a canner this year and we did hot water bath several things. She isn't that experienced either, so I'm glad you are teaching classes for those who just need their hand held one time through. I'm guessing the $$difference in a canner and a pressure cooker may be a factor in which classes were more popular.

I've enjoyed reading your blog and I look forward to much more of it. Keep it coming! Sorry to ramble on. Not a lot of commentors on mine, so I hopped over to gab here!

The Mom said...

Karen, feel free to gab away!

Lettuces, I tend to like mixes. Last year I used one from Baker Creek Seeds.

Onion sets don't do well for me either, I have better luck with seeds or already growing plants.

Potatoes do pretty well in a barrel, so you could do that without much space.

The fruits have been an ongoing process, every year we add a few things. The chickens were similar. Hubby wasn't thrilled about the idea at first, but he got used to it.

I really enjoyed the canning classes. There seemed to be a big interest in the pressure canning, but when I was able to hold the classes, people were very busy with summer activities.

Come back and chat all you like.