Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Where I've Been and What's Coming Up: Summer 2022, A Review

August is nearly over for 2022.  We are solidly into fall here.  The weather is getting colder, the rains are constant and the Alaska State Fair is going on in Palmer.  The garden is pretty much done for the year, yet another sign that winter is coming.  The cabbages did OKAY, a couple did well and a couple did measly, but they all got turned into sauerkraut that is set to complete its fermenting this week and will get canned by next weekend.  I have put up two batches of sauerkraut already, so it will be great to get it all canned up and on the shelf for hopefully the next couple of years (my goal at this point is to have two years of food put by when possible).  I harvested the chard all summer long instead of waiting for it to get big before harvesting it this year and I will definitely follow that formula from now on as it produced WAY more chard doing it that way.  As a result of my revelation (thanks to some gardening channels on YouTube)  I have a lot of bags of chard in my freezer; a situation I am far from displeased about.  We will be happy to have the chard this winter and beyond to enjoy.

The violas the daughter planted early in the summer never survived through the beginning part of the summer.  The violas didn’t seem to the appreciate the major heatwave we experienced and, despite my best efforts, they just gave up and died off.  I took the planter the violas were in and decided to plant peas instead so I didn’t waste the planter or the soil.  I was curious to see if I could get the peas to grow large enough to actually harvest some by the end of the summer as I planted the seeds way later than I normally would have in different circumstances.  But, I figured it was worth a shot.  And the peas grew, trellised nicely up my deck railing (they are refusing to bend over and start crawling along the top though, as you can see) and have produced some peas!  I am not going to get a big harvest, far from it, but I am going to harvest what I can in the next bit and then pluck all of the leaves off of the pea plant and turn the entire thing into edible pea pod soup for this winter.  I’ll add some frozen peas to help pad out the recipe.  Nothing will go to waste.  That’s a goal I normally have, but of late it’s become even more important to me. 

I am really enjoying the pea flowers, though.  The pink and purple are really pretty!  

This summer was actually kind of hard this year.  We couldn’t really afford to do much in the way of outings due to the cost of…well…everything.  The son’s allergies went nuts, first with all of the crud that was in the air up here due to all of the wildfires burning up north and also due to the weird transitioning of seasons we had this year and things.  Pollen counts and other allergens were BAD this summer and just made my poor kids miserable.  My daughter dealt with facial swelling unless she took Zyrtec everyday and the son’s eczema went berserk.  Not a great summer for feeling good, unfortunately.  

The son grew three inches and 20 pounds over the summer and as a result his medications stopped working.  Completely.  His mood deteriorated into self-harm and constant screaming.  In the middle of it all his doctor moved offices and it was hard to get in to see her to get his medications redone.  Luckily we saw her at the beginning of this month and got his doses recalculated and he’s doing much better as a result.  At least he’s sleeping again, which is good. 

The worst thing that happened was that we lost one of my husband’s best friends recently which has been really hard on the family at large as he was also the dad of one of my daughter’s best friends.  All of my husband’s family knew him quite well and he was basically a member of the family.  Armina is doing her best to keep in constant contact with her friend these last few weeks and is just trying to be there for her whenever she might need a friend.  It has hit Armina really hard as this was the first death my daughter has experienced in her life where she knew the person who passed away quite well.  Combine that with then learning how to help someone close to you, as much as you can, through grief and trauma as well, has been a maturing experience for her. 

Onto other matters, despite everything, I was able to can a decent amount of stuff this summer.  On top of July’s canning list I have another one to share here soon to show what else I made and/or tried this year on the canning front.  The majority of things we got from the CSA this year ended up getting preserved for later by canning or just freezing.  I don't think I'll be doing the CSA again next year, unfortunately.   The amount of people who signed up for the CSA this year was tremendous, so to not be in line for at least an hour (on top of waiting for the truck to show up) I'm having to get to the CSA pick up point a half an hour before they arrive to get in line really early.  Unfortunately, they haven't been prompt this year, either, so they have been regularly 15 to 20 minutes late, which has led to the son getting pretty darned cranky by the time they show up.  At least the people in line have been friendly and the conversations have been nice (or at least civil when people got really tired of waiting).  The wait times wouldn't bother me so much, honestly, if not for the downhill slide the produce has taken in quality this year.  It seems every week I'm having to throw away something due to rot or mold and it is obvious rot and/or mold that I would expect the CSA folks to catch (I mean it's hard NOT to catch slimy greens when you are putting them into a box).  I don't mind getting things dirty and such, as that's something you expect from farm fresh anything, but when the produce quality is bad to the point that I wouldn't pay for that produce at the store...it's time to quit.  We did get a decent variety of stuff so far this year compared to previous years where collards and/or kale took up the majority of the box every week, but the quality just isn't there compared to previous years, which has saddened me.  As a result of the produce being at the point of going bad on me, as soon as I get it home it goes into the freezer, gets used or gets put into a canning recipe after getting carefully cleaned and picked over by me.  So, at least I've got things put up for later if nothing else.   I was able to get a few heads of lettuce with the CSA, but not many this year, which was sad compared to previous years where we got a head of lettuce pretty much all through the beginning of the summer season.  As a result, I ended up using my lettuce this summer for salads.  Lucky for me, my lettuce did great this summer and lasted through the heat and into the rainy season before bolting, so we enjoyed a lot of salads this summer.  It was nice and I am hoping to find that variety of lettuce next summer to grow as it did great on the deck.

  I ended up eating tomatoes just with some salt from the CSA box as they were over ripe and on the verge of going bad when I got them.  I thoroughly enjoyed them, I have to say, as I love fresh tomatoes and since I don't have a greenhouse, growing big ones is out for me for now.  My patio tomatoes were kind of a bust this year.  I got tons of green tomatoes on my plant, but they just didn’t like to ripen.   I tried magnesium and calcium, different fertilizers and nutrients that other gardeners told me to try, but it didn’t help.  I had a few tomatoes ripen at the beginning of the summer and they immediately split, badly, from the heat.  After the first couple that ripened, most of them just remained stubbornly green.  I actually did end up with some decently big tomatoes, but they just would not ripen no matter what I tried.  I finally gave up and decided to use the green tomatoes instead as they were starting to rot instead of ripen on the plant.  I harvested a bunch a few weeks ago and used them in canning and then day before yesterday I went out and harvested the rest of the green tomatoes as the plant was almost completely dead and mold was starting to take hold on the bottom of the plant.  Those tomatoes I put in a bowl on my counter and I’m seeing if they ripen inside so I can eat them a few at a time.  So far I've had a couple turn to orange and was able to snack on those, so we'll see how the rest of them do.

I feel good having put up so much food for my family this year.  I’ll share how I am storing it too as I changed up the storage situation for my home canned goods so I could keep an eye on them.  I’ve lost several jars of things to lid failures so far this year, so I’ve become obsessive about checking them daily now.  Frustrating beyond belief and upsetting when you lose ingredients and time to something like that.  This is the first year I’ve had to deal with lid failures like this and I have to say…Ball has gotten a couple of nasty letters from me so far.  Not a happy camper am I.  

I was going to break down and order some "For Jars" lids online as people seem really happy with those lids, but they wanted 58.00 to ship my order (and I wasn't ordering very much!), which was WAY out of my price range as it more than doubled the original order price.  After I picked my jaw off of the floor, I closed the order window and went and looked up Denali Canning Lids, which I had seen ads for online and read a lot of good reviews on them.  I did end up ordering some Denali canning lids as I have been having a hard time sourcing lids locally on top of the lid failure issues (free shipping was definitely a plus in their direction).  They shipped quickly and the lids are down at my post office ready to be picked up.  So, I'll have to give those a try and see how they do.  Hopefully they work well.  I'll let you all know how they do.

I am finally getting to the end of food preservation for the season, unless I come across an awesome sale on like peaches or something and I get to can up those for winter, which would make the daughter’s year *laugh*.  I am antsy to get working on other things and am happy my canning list is getting shorter.  I’m on my last three items this week and then I can get onto doing things like working on Christmas gifts and the many other items on my always growing to-do list.  There always seems to be a list a mile wide to get done, but at least I feel like some things are getting checked off here and there.

Now that food preservation is pretty much done for the season and such, I am planning on getting back to regular blogging (I can hear the, “Sure, we believe you” from here as I know I’ve been saying that on every post for like years it seems).  I think I am going to go back to more of my old blogging type of format with some changes that will hopefully make things more fun and inspiring around here.  Like instead of doing a menu for the coming week, I think I’m going to do a review and recap of what we ate during the previous week so that I can share new recipes that I tried out during the week and things and what we thought of them.  This will also give me an opportunity to show how I’m using the food items I preserved so that if you are kind of intrigued by some and maybe want to try the canning recipes out, that you might be able to see different ways to use them in recipes for dinner and such.  So, stay tuned for that.  I’m also going to go back to sharing more of my day-to-day life as I do have things planned for this winter and hopefully I can share the journey on doing some of those things with you all.  Ever wanted to try and learn to knit socks?  I decided I want to try doing that with my novice level knitting skills.  It’ll be an interesting experience to be sure.

So, yeah, sorry I’ve been missing all summer long pretty much.  I’ve just been really busy and life has been really distracting around here.  I am going to work hard on being more active here on the blog and more present as a whole starting in September, so yeah…we’ll see you then!!!