Sunday, December 28, 2014

Despite the Snow, Spring is Near

The Dannik Gardens crew enjoying a snowy afternoon on the south side of the greenhouse.

 Christmas has just past, and the gardens are blanketed by a deep layer of snow. The only plants we are tending are a few hardy succulents in the kitchen window. While we snuggle close to the fire, reading our books, playing games, or just dozing, spring seems far away.

And yet, with the coming of the New Year, we feel it drawing near. Every seed order placed, every pot and flat purchased reminds us; very soon, while the snow is still on the ground, our spring season will begin.

We enjoy visions of spring through the work of our young artists.

While the ground outside remains frozen, in the greenhouse we will once again dig our fingers into piles of soft dirt, inhaling its fragrant promise of new life. We will shed our winter layers and enjoy our own little tropical retreat as we fill seed flats and care for tender new plants. Before the first green leaf appears on any tree, our greenhouse will be filled with a full array of maturing plants, just waiting to be transplanted after the final frost.

Though the world outside our windows is cast in shades of white and grey, the colors of spring remain fresh within.

Yes, for us, spring is very near. We hope that you, too, are already dreaming of the first salad greens, tender peas, and delicate new potatoes. Dannik Gardens will begin offering shares for the 2015 growing season starting on January 1st. We are pleased to be able to offer half-shares, as well as several membership payment options.

Option 1:     Full payment by April 1, 2015--$500.00

Option 2:     Half-payment by February 16, 2015--$250.00
                                Half-payment by April 1, 2015--$250.00
Option 3:     Quarter-payment by January 7, 2015--$125.00
                     Quarter-payment by February 4, 2015--$125.00
                     Quarter-payment by March 4, 2015--$125.00
                     Quarter-payment by April 1, 2015--$125.00


Option 1:     Full payment by April 1, 2015--$265.00

Option 2:     Half-payment by February 16, 2015--$132.50
                                Half-payment by April 1, 2015--$132.50
With one harvest just put away, our hearts and minds begin to turn toward the one to come.
Wishing you all a blessed New Year! See you in the spring!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Sweet Finish

I'll admit it: my kids are becoming food snobs, at least where it concerns produce. Applesauce is one of their absolute favorite foods, but they won't eat store-bought. Not even if it's top quality organic.

This year our big apple tree was dormant. This was a huge disappointment, as we have not made applesauce for nearly three years. My kids wanted applesauce in the worst way.

Thankfully, a good friend generously let us come pick apples from her little orchard. We got enough for 70 quarts of applesauce and 15 pie fillings.

Processing apples, though simple, is very time-consuming. We had four large tubs of apples. If we started early in the morning, we were able to work up an entire tub in one day, usually yielding about 22-25 quarts of applesauce.

Everyone pitched in though, which made it all go so much faster. Undoubtedly, running the food mill was the coveted position. Even the littlest guy took a turn. And all of the children, except the youngest, got to be in charge of flavoring a batch of applesauce. Each is quite certain that their batch is the best.

The last batch of applesauce was canned about a week ago. The kids have already eaten seven quarts. I have no doubts that it will all be gone before spring.

Preserving the Harvest

I'll be perfectly honest. I don't garden because it's my life's passion. I'm just in it for the food. 

I do have a passion for providing my family with the healthiest, best-tasting food I can. Gardening helps me do this. As we plan our gardens each year, I am always looking towards what I can preserve for my family. 

 Although most of our greens were eaten fresh and raw, we did manage to prepare a good amount of Swiss chard for the freezer. It will add color to our meals and give us a delicious remembrance of summer during the long winter months. 

 A few weeks later, we moved on to canning pears. This year's harvest, while large in number, produced pears quite small in size. I was not looking forward to the process of peeling these tiny pears, especially since pears are one of my least favorite canned fruits. However, as they are one of my children's most favorite, I was determined to see it through. All I can say is, thank goodness for Pinterest!

I was able to find a canning recipe for "Depression Pears," which is simply unpeeled, canned pears in light syrup. I was skeptical at first. But, after a little more internet sleuthing, I decided it was worth a try. I canned somewhere around 40 quarts. Based on the fact that the kids devoured about ten quarts within a month, I think they were a huge success. 

Tomatoes came next. Thanks to Dan's ingenuity, we were able to extend the harvest of these beauties far into the fall. Upon seeing the forecast for the first hard frost, Dan built a hoop greenhouse right over the top of all of our tomato plants. With the use of a propane heater and thermostat, we were able to harvest over 400 lbs. by season's end. 

Much of that harvest was enjoyed by our shareholders. Happily, I was still able to preserve over 50 quarts of tomatoes for our family. Some I stewed plain and whole, but most of them were seasoned for Mexican or Italian dishes. There's not a tomato sauce out there than can match home-canned for flavor. Yum!

Slowly, but surely, our pantry was filling up. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

And Then We Were Done

As I have said before, Montana springs/summers come on like rollercoasters. Dan, the kids, and I went at a run from May through September, tending seed starts, tilling soil, setting out plants, moving hoses, and weeding, weeding, weeding. Did I mention weeding? As the plants matured and began to produce in earnest, our days became a blur. And then, as fast as it all started, it was done. Well, almost. 

A sudden week of hard freezes pretty much put an end to most of the gardens in late September. In the course of two days, Dan and the kids had harvested all of the pumpkins and winter squash, and the once lush, green gardens were plowed under, becoming once again blank palettes of dark earth.

I must admit, the suddenness of the change was a bit breathtaking. Yet, at the same time, it was a relief. The school year was already in full swing, and my roster of writing students was pushing 70. My own children needed my assistance most of the day as they engaged with their studies. I was more than ready for a break from gardening. 

With the soil turned, rich and black, filled with fresh organic material to break down over the winter months, our attention could more fully focus on the next phase: putting up the harvest.