The garden is doing so well that I’m having a hard time keeping up with the harvest. I flashback to the days I was tilling the soil and struggling to plant my seeds and I can’t quite believe how much things have changed. The garden felt like a lost cause back then and I placed the whole mess in God’s hands. I told Ryan I thought nothing would grow and all the work would be for nothing. He assured me I would feel better when the plants began sprouting. He has much more faith than I, and he was right. The plants are huge, green and sprawling. Everyday I notice how much bigger the fruits and veggies look, or I discover something new growing beneath large, sun-soaked leaves.
I try to get the kids excited about helping in the garden by making the harvest a competition. This weekend, I grabbed a bag and began harvesting green beans on one end of the row, while giving the kids a bag and instructing them to start on the opposite end of the row. I kept egging them on with “Wow, I’m finding so many huge beans in these plants! I bet I’m getting way more beans than you are!” When we met in the middle of the row I went over and checked their plants to see if they did a good job harvesting. I teased, “Ooh, you guys missed some! Now these beans go in my bag!” They then ran over to the plants I harvested and, to my surprise, found a few handfuls of large beans that I missed. They added them to their bag. When I was sure all the beans were picked, I decided their bag was slightly heavier than mine and they were awarded the title of winner. In the end, I felt like a winner, too, since we had a fun time working together and I’d like to think I’m accomplishing my goal of instilling a love for gardening, healthy food, and the ability to work hard for the satisfaction of a job well done.
So what to do with all this food? Our diet is about 75% garden veggies these days. We’re eating various veggie concoctions at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Despite this, my fridge, counters and garden are still full of green produce. We decided it was time to step into the mysterious and slightly scary world of canning. I have yet to purchase a pressure canner, so water bath canning is my only option right now. For two days in a row I decided to kiss the sunny afternoon goodbye and devote hours inside the kitchen making pickles. I made 17 quart jars of pickles, a mere dent in the bags I have sitting in my kitchen, and 9 jars of dilly beans. Even though we have yet to taste these pickled veggies, I’m pretty proud of my accomplishment. The jars look so beautiful and symbolize all my hard work tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting, and now learning the process of preserving. I have much more canning to do and will need many more jars. And where to put all these jars? Hmmm, I feel another project coming on.
I did make a mistake in my garden this year. A really big, wandering, vining, soon-to-be-orange mistake.
In the beginning, our plan was to till a separate patch for growing pumpkins. By the time I got the tilling and planting done in the main garden plot, the last thing I wanted to think of was starting over and tilling another patch. Ryan was busy doing other projects and I didn’t want to pull him away from that. I had a little space at the end of my garden, so I put my pumpkin seeds in this space. Then, after I noticed a space where it looked like some cucumber plants didn’t come up, I decided to sneak in the remainder of my pumpkin seeds in this vacancy. Big mistake and one I won’t make again. I’ve learned one doesn’t “sneak in” a couple packets of pumpkin seeds anywhere. Those little seeds will grow into monstrous plants. Those monstrous plants begin to creep along the ground, invading other rows and getting all up in everybody’s business.
They devour their neighbors, blocking out their sun and air. I’m not sure if I can do anything at this point besides hope for the best, realize I’ve learned a valuable lesson, and purchase a machete to bushwhack my way in when it’s time to harvest tomatoes.
The pumpkins are very exciting to watch grow and hunt for under the broad, green leaves, but next year I’ll give them their own patch, full of large, open, neighbor-free space for them to creep, vine and climb to their hearts’ content.