I love the summer so much because I enjoy growing things in the garden and being outside in nature as much as I can. This was our first full year with our expanded garden space as well as the additional garden beds added all around our house and using our greenhouse in warm weather. And chickens! Who lay eggs! It’s been an amazingly fun summer for me because of all of this! I don’t know if others would think it’s so fun, it does require quite a bit of work to upkeep a large organic garden and some livestock even if they are a small backyard flock. But this type of lifestyle resonates with me and I work hard for its success.
Now we are officially in autumn with the bulk of the harvest coming in and preparing & planting the garden beds for fall/winter gardening under the hoop house and inside the greenhouse. It’s a joint effort, both my husband and I have a shared vision for all of this, we secretly want to be full time farmers because we enjoy it so much. Real farming is such hard work, though! I feel part of the homesteader lifestyle even living here in the ‘burbs once again since my mindset is always about self-sustainability. I have learned so many skills to enable me to be self-reliant these past 15 years living this way.
I’ve been doing all methods of food preservation throughout the season and especially my most favorite method of all – canning. Some people find canning tedious but I still totally love it – both water bath and pressure canning. Looking at my various shelves filled with jars of produce picked at the peak of freshness ready to be eaten especially on a cold winter evening fills me with a sense of security, really. I know what’s in my food, who prepared it and the fact that it’s there means we won’t starve if ever there was a catastrophe of some kind. Most importantly, it reminds me that I’m self-reliant – one of the most important traits of a true homesteader.
I’ve been freezing and dehydrating lots of produce and prepared dishes, too so I have both a packed upright freezer as well as jars of dried herbs, fruit leather, dried fruit and powdered dried veggies (to add to soup or other dishes for flavor and nutrition) in jars on my shelves or vacuum sealed and stored in closed bins in my basement “root cellar” – a cold, concrete closet in my basement.
I try to process the produce as the season progresses, making lactofermented pickles & sauerkraut as we harvest it (or get some great deals on organic produce from local farmers), making a vinegar dill pickle and dilly beans (that requires no canning), bread & butter pickles, harvesting root crops to store in the “root cellar”, dehydrating some of the many greens we grow to powder them, drying herbs (always dry everything at low temps to preserve the most nutrients), freezing chopped fresh herbs with water in ice cube trays (and store cubes in freezer bags), freezing fruit, juicing veggies and fruits and freezing in ice cube trays for use in smoothies. By mid-October, we make cinnamon applesauce which is great to use in vegan baked goods. We also make pear sauce (but not for baking).
I especially love to make and can tons of tomato sauce – so much so that for our 10 year anniversary this past summer solstice, we got ourselves a ginormous pressure canner that can fit 14 quart jars at one time! Now that’s a lot of sauce done in one shot! A huge improvement over our little pressure cooker/canner that could only hold 3 quart jars at a time! Besides canning tomatoes either as sauce or as whole, peeled ones, we make & can jam throughout the season as the fruit comes in (I made lots of very low sugar plum, blueberry & peach jams since PB&J is my son’s favorite sandwich now), we can tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa, fruit salsa (just made some great peach salsa!), canned veggies like beets (some are pickled, too), carrots, hot peppers, etc. I can go on, there are so many ways we preserve the bounty and I look forward to doing it every single year!
Living this way is not only very inexpensive over a 12 month period but it puts me so in touch with the lifecycle of the plants, the Earth, the seasons, the feeling that everything is connected from the stars to the bugs. I’m part of the cycle, too and I can feel it in the high vibration of the food I eat whether it’s fresh and raw or preserved at the peak of freshness for future eating. It does require a lot of planning and effort during the growing season but I wouldn’t have it any other way!