The Garden – 2015 in review.

I’ve been puttering around in the yard for years, but last year got somewhat serious about growing some vegetables. We, and by we, I mean Rachel and the Big Guy, got the hedges in the front yard removed

and I planted hot peppers along the sidewalk edge. 20150806_113031

The driveway edge got broccoli and one tomato. Why I planted 6 hot peppers, I’ll never know. They did great, and we now have enough peppers to last well into the future. I used them in my tomato sauce and froze some. I’ve given jars of them away. I still have 3 pints and 6 half pints in the pantry. And half a jar in the refrigerator.20150912_09302020150913_081625.jpg

The broccoli did not form any heads. I found out after I pulled them all out that broccoli leaves are edible and can be used like other leafy vegetables such as kale. I will have to remember that for the next broccoli attempt. We do eat a lot of broccoli.

In the back yard, I built another raised bed20141115_132718 and put in 4 Rose de Bern tomatoes. They did very well, after I put up a 2′ wire fence to keep the chickens from stripping all the leaves off. It was amazing to watch the poor things recover from being only stems to fully leafed out in a week’s time. Then they really started producing. I also planted some cauliflower in the older raised bed but they got overshadowed by a volunteer Roma and a volunteer Grape tomato. We had a LOT of tomatoes. Sauced, canned, dehydrated, eaten fresh, they’ve been enjoyed.

I used a crockpot recipe for making pizza sauce. I think I had over 40 cups of sauce either canned or frozen. One cup per pizza. We usually have pizza once a week, so that’s worth the time.

As you can see, I had fun printing labels. Lid must match jar!

We got three cherry trees and three blueberry bushes late summer 2015. The chickens kept trying to dig up the trees so I put rocks around the base of them. I hope they survive the winter. They all had a good set of buds on them, so it looks promising.

The apple tree had a very productive year. So much so that we lost 2/3 of it to limbs breaking from the weight of the fruit. It was never ever pruned properly, it was just the tree in the back yard. We will be shaping it better this coming year to help it survive. I canned some quarts of just fruit and canned and froze a lot of applesauce. 20150913_212510Applesauce is the easiest thing ever to make. Put a bunch of cut up apples in the crockpot, let them cook for about 8 hours on low, run through the food mill. I put that in smaller containers since I am the only one that eats it. I tried crockpot applebutter also but it never got really buttery. I think I need to do a combination of crockpot and stovetop. The experiment of storing apples as-is in the garage is a fail. I need to find a better way to store whole apples. I do not have a root cellar.

The Brussels Sprouts were not the success that the 2014 ones were. I should have harvested them way earlier. The summer was not the right temperature for letting them stay on the plant until frost. They opened up too much to be nice tight little balls of flavor. Lesson learned. Harvest as soon as they are ready.

I put some bell peppers in large pots on the deck. Can we say fail? I got one pepper that was small and shriveled and rotted on the plant. I will try them again, just not there.

The raspberries that are growing in my front fenced yard are wild ones the birds planted and I transplanted. They do well. Too well. I need to pull up more of them since they are very invasive. I get enough of those to eat while they are fresh and still freeze enough to last a year or two. I’ve made raspberry curd from them in the past. This year I plan to learn how to make jams and jellies. I wonder if you can can curd?

The pear trees produced for us this year also. 2014 was a bumper year for the one tree. That was my very first attempt at canning. I got 11 quart jars and rationed them out so they lasted until harvest 2015. I only have 5 quarts this year but I also experimented with pear sauce and pear-apple sauce. Both are yummy, and will be done again. Just not in quart jars.

For herbs, I have chives growing in the raised bed that is part of the pond area. I don’t use those nearly as much as I could, but since I am learning to use more “real” food and less processed, this will change. Also, having a dehydrator may make a difference. I also planted 2 lavender in the “hell strip” between the sidewalk and curb.

The arbor vitae trees along the back fence were removed. 20150612_131253Two of the cherry trees are now along that line. The fence that was broken when the big pine tree came down in 2013 was finally replaced with stock fencing. 20150727_105602Thanks, Brad, for helping us with that. Couldn’t have done it without you!

We also added a rain collection system that is against the corner of the house near the new fence. Four 55 gallon drums connected, so we have water for the yard. It gets drained for winter.

Wow, we really did do a lot last year! Lots of plans for 2016. Fencing to keep the flock out of the people area, lining the pond with rocks – this has been needed for a few years, just not on my “round to it” list, get rid of the water iris that is growing around the pond, maybe raising meat birds, building a honey cow for bees, fixing/replacing the fence, getting cordwood ourselves and not paying to have it delivered, repainting the outdoor furniture, and growing new vegetables. More on those projects later.


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