Preserving the vegetable garden 0
Summer holidays are over, kids are heading back to school and the farm begins to quiet down for the season. Soon the days will be shorter, the warm winds will blow away and the leaves will begin to change colour. This is my favourite time of the year. But before we begin to slow down, we have a lot of work to do to preserve our product and our gardens.
Throughout August and into late September we finish harvesting every last bit of herbs, fruits, beans, garlic and vegetables that we can gather. Some things are sun dried while other product is chopped up and stewed for hours in the outdoor oven to make a variety of different tasty sauces to enjoy all year long. We make our own pizza and pasta sauce, hot sauces, ketchup, pickles, jams and wild apple preserves.
Harvesting the St. Croix, Frontenac and Chaumac red grapes are one of my favourite things to do on the farm. We cut the grapes off the vines in late September and place them in the crusher. Turning the crank slowly we marvel as the red juice flow into the buckets. This year for our Thanksgiving dinner we will taste our first bottles of wine from last year’s crop.
Just as important as harvesting all the fruits and product from the fields are the fields themselves. We take the time to collect the manure that our animals have left behind and spread it over our gardens. We spend hours raking leaves, collecting ashes from the woodstoves and mixing them into the soil. All of these ingredients will begin to decay throughout the winter creating a lush soil base for the next year’s harvest.
Growing fresh product into the fall and winter this year will be much easier with the outdoor greenhouse but we still have a learning curve to go though with regards to heating the space. We plan to grow lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and tomatoes for the most part and to do it without electricity. We hope to install a solar collector and with the right amount of insulation in the building we should have product into early December.
As the years pass, I am reminded of how all of this started for me. One morning, I needed an egg to make an omelet. Instead of going to the grocery store for a dozen, I decided to stop by the co-op and order some day old chicks. I have never bought an egg since. After being somewhat successful with the hens we have expanded our animals to goats and pigs. We use the goat milk for drinking and we make our own cheese. The milk is also used in our 14 varieties of Goat Milk Soap. We raise the pigs for the summer and we harvest them in the fall. As the year begins to slow down we pack away all the garden tools in the same shed as we store our maple syrup equipment. It wont be long and we will start the cycle all over again.
Lea Kitler is one half of the Magnificent Hill farming duo, which includes Diane Doiron. The farm is located at 1258 Magnificent Road in Highland Grove.