I meant to post in the first week of October. Obviously that didn’t happen. Autumn is upon us now, the nights are getting chillier, the leaves are turning colors, nuts are dropping, and squirrels are running around crazier than normal, fanatically storing up fat in their bodies and extra nuts for the frozen winter. I, too, am preparing for the coming cold. All of nature is harvesting right now. And I have been busy with my own harvest. My garden was not as productive as I would like, but considering I have only done this for a few years I think I did well. This was the first year I attempted to grow a significant amount of my own food.
Sunday will be the first frost we have here. So I’ve been busy bringing in the last of the tomatoes. We didn’t get enough to have extras to can for the winter. But I also did not need to buy any tomatoes all summer. I am saving seeds from a few of my favorite varieties. The yellow pears were amazing, they were by far our most prolific tomato plant. Next year I plan to give it much more space than I did this year, and I hopefully that will mean getting even more. The taste is mild and sweet. The other tomato I really enjoyed was the orange sungold cherry tomato. They are absolutely the sweetest tasting tomato I have ever had, but the plants were not quite as prolific as the yellow pears. The yellow pears were also very cold hardy. They were still flowering at the beginning of this month, although there is obviously not enough time for those flowers to turn into new tomatoes before the frost.
The peppers will all be picked this weekend too, but those I am going to try to dry for storage. All of the basil from outside has been picked and are drying inside between paper towels, as well as some of the oregano and thyme. The Greek basil, or globe basil, was planted in a 5 gallon bucket which we bought inside to overwinter under a heat light. We often cut fresh leaves from our herb plants to add to our meals. The amazing thing is that with almost all of our herbs, the more we cut them, the thicker they grow.
The Greek oregano and German thyme, and sage from outside, I am planning to dig up and transplant into a bucket to bring inside. Then we will have fresh herbs all winter. Yesterday we cut the heads off the fennel that is growing along our backyard fence. The heads are placed in another 5 gallon bucket, upside down, and shaken. The seeds are ready to drop so they come out easily. we got an insane amount of fennel seeds. I love fennel so I’m happy about that. The surprising thing is that we didn’t even plant them on purpose. Last fall my brother spilled fennel seeds from Whole Foods in the backyard by mistake. I didn’t even realize what the tall plants by the fence were until about May this year, after seeing my dogs nibbling on them. So yeah, those were an incredibly happy accident.
I’m getting good at bargain shopping as far as buying food goes. I keep my eyes open for sales at all times. Two weeks ago at Hardings there was a sale on Spartan brand canned veggies, buy 5 get 7 free. All they had was green beans and corn. Canned green beans are gross, so I stocked up on lots of canned corn. A can of corn can be added to almost anything, and my brother and I like to make a lot of soups, stews and pastas to stay warm in the winter. This last week Martins had a really great sale of select cans. 39 cents apiece. There were a few soups, a few beans, but mostly canned tomatoes. There were a lot of varieties, fire-roasted, stewed, with green chilies, with basil, southwest style, etc etc. It was amazing. Canned tomatoes is another one of those things that can be added to any recipe to make it better, soups, chili, pastas, casseroles, pretty much anything except ice cream is made better with a can of tomatoes. I got 100 cans, mostly tomatoes, but also a few chicken noodle soups, and a few kidney beans, for just over forty bucks after tax.
This may not seem like a homesteading thing to some people, but shopping cheap and working with what you have ABSOLUTELY is vital to the homesteading mindset. So is stocking up and filling the pantry for the winter, instead of running to the store every few days. Let me tell you, seeing that small shelf in the kitchen fill up with cans makes me feel mighty good. It’s an assurance that no matter what happens, we won’t starve, for a few months at least. We are also got 50 pounds of potatoes and 25 pounds of spilt peas, each for about 25 dollars, at Shelton’s. The spilt peas came in some kind of big plastic-y bag, but it stores better when poured through a funnel into washed and dried 2-liter bottles, the kind that soda comes in. This is actually the way that FEMA recommends storing food and water for a 72-hour emerancy kit.
Every other week when I get my meager paycheck from my part-time job, I’m planning on going back to Shelton’s to get another 25 lb bag of beans. They have so many kinds, I’ll get a different one each time and soon I’ll have hundreds of lbs of food.
We have almost all the supplies needed to go hunting next month. Bought a nice scope from Dick’s Sporting Goods for my rifle. I have a Rugar American thirty aught six, which I picked because it can take any game in North America. Just trying for a deer this year, but one day I’d like to go to Wisconsin to try to get an elk or a bear, and I wanted a rifle that can be used for everything. Ordered a good pair of warm boots too, I just need a couple orange vests and some good gloves, and a nice thermos to bring some coffee along. That’s basically it. We need to decide where the best place would be to go in this state. Out of state hunting licenses cost more, so even though there is more game in Michigan we will most likely stick to Indiana this year.
So, that’s what I have been doing. Harvest is upon us, and I am busy squirreling things away as the year turns to the darkness of winter.
~~~Amanda Artemisia Forrester