Thursday, July 30, 2009

Adventures In Canning - Part 1

Well, it started so innocently.... with a "little garden" that turned into a 3/4 acre playground for my husband and step-son. Yes, I said 3/4 acre. Over one-half is planted in sweet corn, and the remainder in tomatoes, peppers (green, red, banana, jalapenos), butter beans, broccoli, popcorn (yes, popcorn), cantaloupe, watermelon and a few other things I can't think of at the moment.

You see, I am married to a fella who was raised on a farm. His family sold the farm several years ago (and moved to town). I am learning that just because you were raised on a farm, and likely know everything possible about steers (and other cattle types), does not mean you are a gardner. Hubby's planting and growing experience relates strictly to feed corn, soybeans, and tobacco (all of which he grew and harvested for many years). My super amazing mother-in-law however DOES know a lot about gardening (and canning), so when I took a notion to learn how to preserve the goodies from our garden, she's who I went to first for information.

Back to the garden... Tommy (that's my husband) and Taylor (that's my step-son) decided to put to good use a little piece of land I bought about five years ago (a few months before we got married). Right outside the city limits, and next door to the UPS building my husband reports to for work every morning, this four-and-a-half acre lot was just sitting there. We had ideas for this property, but just never had the free time to develop those ideas. One day this spring, and after very little discussion, Tommy and Taylor decided to plant a little patch of sweet corn for Taylor to sell to raise some gas money - he just turned 16 this summer and would be driving soon. My response was "hey, go for it", not thinking at all what MY responsibilities would be.

Remember I said earlier that hubby WAS a farmer? This means that all the ground/dirt working equipment (those attachments that you pull behind the tractor) got sold at the same time the farm did. Well, the ground had to be broken and worked-up properly if we were going to plant a garden, so all that was hired done. I knew at this point there would likely never be a profit in this sweet corn, and that I should just pull out the checkbook and write Taylor a check for a few months worth of gas and be done with it. But nooooo, hubby was like a kid at Christmas - - already telling everyone about his "garden". When the hired guy came to break the garden and disk it, Tommy gave him free reign over the size, basically telling him "give me a couple hundred dollars worth of ground-breaking". Well, that's not really what he said, but it might as well have been.

The next issue that cropped up was that of the actual PLANTING of corn. The garden ended up being about 3/4 acre (how do I know? My daddy-in-law measured it!). It was decided how many varieties of corn to plant (three), and about how many rows to plant as well. Since there was no tractor-with-planter combo at our disposal , and I really couldn't see paying someone to come plant the corn, we decided to buy a little push-behind planter that we could use for a variety of seeds in case we ever wanted to do a garden again. I spent an entire day trying to find one of these little planters, only to be told by every store I called, "we just sold our last one". This is just one of the reasons you don't want to plant a late garden - stores DO NOT restock garden supplies after a certain date in the summer. That date will always be one day after YOU need something.

After exhausting all local options, I phoned hubby (who happens to be the UPS delivery man for a county 40 miles from where we live) and told him to look in some of the hardware and farm supply stores where he delivers. As luck has it, he found one at a Southern States (they actually had two of them left) and brought it home that day. $100 and change for a miniature wheel barrow with a hole in the bottom! Geez! This garden has cost a few hundred already and we don't even have anything planted!

Next on the list:

Buy corn seed (three varieties, random quantities) - CHECK!

Buy some chemical to control johnson grass - CHECK!

Buy some fertilizer - CHECK!

Plant the corn (keeping track of where you plant what) using the little wheel barrow - CHECK!

Decide what else to plant.... this is where it really gets interesting.
A few days later Tommy called to tell me he was bringing me a surprise home! Wow! A surprise for me? Oh goody, goody!

Guess what MY surprise was? Many little plastic containers and trays of plants.... peppers, broccoli, watermelon.... you get the picture. And guess what else? I get to help plant them! That night of course, because the plants can't wait (put dinner in the freezer and we'll grab a burger on the way to the garden). There wasn't a big selection left at the hardware store so he got what he could manage to get home in his UPS truck without crushing everything to bits. Did I mention the cons to planting a late garden?

Plant the rest of the garden - CHECK!

Rain please - CHECK!

More rain - CHECK!

And more - CHECK!

It's been a wet summer and the garden has thrived. Actually, I too have enjoyed the rain we've had and really loved the less than 90 degree days in July for a change. The hottest days were those when the garden needed attention, or the yard needed mowing. Since I am between jobs right now I am the designated lawn mower this summer (push-mowing my yard is one of the best workouts I do). Let's just say I've been very "earthy" the last few months. And I will admit that I like it :-)
More to come....

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