Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Really Big Little Garden, Part 2

I began to have my doubts about our "little garden" the moment this pulled into the yard. Grandpa upgraded his small, blue Ford tractor to this great, red beast. There were few complaints from Dan and Henry though, and the ground was tilled in a matter of minutes.

Once the pumpkin patch was planted, we moved on to what was to be our main, family garden. This little patch of ground, on the southwest corner of our farm, has the richest, most fertile soil on the property. We have had success with nearly everything we have ever planted here. 

Having started nearly all of our veggies eight weeks earlier in the greenhouse, putting in the garden was an exercise in (near) instant gratification. It took just an hour or two one afternoon to set out the majority of the plants.

This garden was certainly small by our usual standards. Four rows of corn, instead of twenty. One row each of carrots, beets, lettuce, and peas, instead of four or more. Everything was scaled back, and it was quite pleasing, especially after Dan added two arched, wire trellises on which to grow the beans. 

Since we had room, and it was just for us, I decided to try a few new crops. The biggest surprise, by far, was celery. For some reason, I had it in my mind that celery was one of those plants that preferred long, hot seasons, growing best in places like Texas and Southern California. 

I am so glad I was wrong! From this point forward, as long as it's up to me, there will be celery in our garden every year. I had no idea it could have so much flavor!  

I was able to cut what I needed from the plants all through the summer and fall. And when it was time to plow the garden under, I simply cut off all the remaining stalks, washed them, cut them up, and put them in freezer bags. Easiest preserving I have ever done! All winter long, whenever I made soups or stews, I just scooped out what I needed from the freezer. 

I finished the last of the celery a couple of weeks ago, and that last serving was as flavorful as the first. This year I will double the amount that I freeze. It's that good!

The other big surprise of the season was our onions. We plant them every year, but this is the first year I have tried large, storage onions. We planted them from sets, and by late summer/early fall, they were huge! Those that I didn't use in canning pickles and relish, have kept very well through the winter months. If time allows this year, I plan to put up jars of pickled onion slices for sandwiches and salads. 

Even as we were setting out the plants last spring, we talked eagerly about what were most excited to harvest and eat. We laughed at the fact that all of this talk was making us hungry. There is no doubt that our kids enjoy living an authentic "farm-to-table" lifestyle.

As we wrapped up the planting that evening, looking with satisfaction on the work accomplished, we imagined the weeks ahead to be ones of relative luxury, with only the daily watering and occasional weeding to do.  It was shaping up to be the best year yet.