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The Garden of Eatin’ Part 3

posted 7/30/2012 4:01:04 PM |
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In late April another benefit of the mild winter and early spring came into play. It was the most bountiful wild berry crop that anyone around here could recall in fifteen to twenty years. We got enough black raspberries to make several jars of jam. I love that stuff! But the real news was the blackberries. My son in law and I picked about fifty gallons of them before the heat and drought put an end to the bumper crop. There are dozens of jars of jam that have been canned and in the freezer are pies and 17 gallons of berries. We are now making blackberry/elderberry wine now that the latter has come into season.

In my exploring I followed a cow path into the woods. I came into an opening of the tree canopy and discovered a spring fed brook with a huge blackberry patch on one bank that was virtually invisible, hidden from three sides. In this environment with water and protected from the scorching sun, the plants would produce berries a couple of weeks after others had burned up. It was obvious that this is where cattle sleep as evidenced by the ground. One really has to watch their step as it has been aptly dubbed cowpie gulch for obvious reasons.

As we transitioned from the cool spring crops to the warm summer crops we were inundated with vegetables. The beets, lettuce and spinach were supposed to fade out by mid-May and be replaced in their bunny boxes by lima and green beans. This didn’t happen as all of them continued to produce a lot of high quality veggies until the end of June.

But in late April new planting areas came on line for zucchini and yellow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and cantaloupe. My grandmother had used yellow squash to make exquisite sweet bread and butter pickles. I planted three hills of them for this purpose and to grace the dinner table as a side dish.

I was unprepared for what transpired. By early June I was getting ten pounds of them every two days. Combined with cucumbers, beets and tomatoes that were producing I was canning a dozen jars every two days beyond what we ate, froze and bartered.

We had no normal space to store all of this stuff. Under my bed are over 50 jars of pickled things and jam. I am undecided as to whether I should change my name to Heinz or Vlasic.

We took many blackberries, beets, yellow squash and chard to the local farmers market on Saturday mornings to sell. A twelve ounce bowl of blackberries sold for $2.50. In four hours we would bring in over sixty bucks. Interestingly, we are the only home gardeners that are not commercial growers at the market. The only downer about it is that the market doesn’t open for the season until the last week in April so we can’t sell lettuce or spinach. The garden proceeds from sales excluding blackberries offset the added cost to the water bill so it actually turned a profit in reducing the grocery bill. But to make going to the farmers market worthwhile you need something to drive the bus. That was blackberries and it will be tomatoes within a couple of weeks when all 18 plants are producing.

There are surpluses beyond what we can eat, freeze, can, and sell as we are getting over 100 pounds of veggies a week. We are not the only people in this situation. Bartering is a big thing around here. We trade cucumbers for eggs, tomatoes for dog food (yes, people make homemade dried dog food), and zucchini for pickled quail eggs… no I am not kidding.

We did not sustain an insect attack until July. Part of this can be accounted for, beyond what explained earlier, by companion planting. Companion planting involves planting flowers and vegetables that repel or confuse damaging insects. The most effective plant to do this is the marigold. We planted nasturtiums also but very few came up. Because of their sensitive leafs, unless an attack involved squash, cucumbers or cantaloupe, we employ an effective homemade insecticide that not only kills the pests but repels them on into the future utilizing common, safe, inexpensive household ingredients.

The formula is as follows:

Three parts water
One part vegetable oil
One tablespoon of dishwashing detergent
One teaspoon of garlic
One teaspoon of chili powder

All crops in the garden have had a bountiful harvest with one exception, carrots. I am not going to plant any next year because they are cheap to buy in the store and ours are a pain in the ass to peel due to many being stunted and several more being misshapen. It was not unusual for some to have more than one tap root and resemble the bottom half of a human body. My six year old grandson, Ashton, started giggling at one of these that had a small but noticeable, anatomically correct third extremity quipping, “This one is a boy because it has a wiener.”

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Jul 30 @ 5:45PM  
Sounds like an awesome insect repellent recipe, but can you be a bit more specific? Water and oil are parts, but dishwashing liquid, garlic and chili powder are in tablespoons and teaspoons
Glad you are doing so well with your garden. All I have is cherry tomatoes and bell peppers. The tomatoes are doing great, but the peppers are slow to produce and don't have the best flavor. They are a little too bitter.
Great tip about the marigolds. I'll put some in next year.
I really enjoyed hearing from you.

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The Garden of Eatin’ Part 3