[guestpost]This is a guest post by Michelle Hedgcock. Be sure to read more about Michelle at the bottom of this post![/guestpost]

Goals vs Reality Gardening Canning BuildingIn my previous post, MORE Was My Catalyst,  you read about how I got started on my journey and the progress made.  Now that I have another year under my belt I still feel like there is so much to do.  Initially, I thought that we’d be able to get everything how we wanted it within three years.  Yeah, not so much!  So let me tell you about our goals for 2015.

Our plan was to get chickens in the spring, put up a pole barn or update our garage, put in a greenhouse, start seedlings for the garden, add to the orchard to include some nut trees, plant grapes, hardy kiwi, rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries, as well as expand the garden with raised beds and in ground.  Additionally, I wanted to increase the amount of canning to be put up to not only include things like fruits, veggies, and broth but meat as well.  And the plan was to do all of this in addition to our normal everyday things, stock up on wood for the winter to keep our heating bill down, and a couple week long vacations (we don’t usually take more than one so this was an exception for 2015).

Pretty aggressive right? Do you think we accomplished everything?  Nope.  Not a chance.  What do you think was our set-back?

Our set-backs were money and time.  So typical right? The year started out well for the most part.  The garden plan was created with the knowledge that the raised beds would be finished in the spring (hubby started in the fall but with getting firewood ready for winter he wasn’t able to complete that particular project).  The seeds were planted during the correct time according to the garden planning calculator from Seeds for Generations. Finally, when the weather cooperated, the raised beds were completed.  We put in two 4X12, two 4X8, one 4×24 and one 4×4.  The 4X4 was claimed by my daughter so she had a hand in every step of the building of it.

Now, can you imagine filling those darn things with soil?  It was back breaking work using the wheelbarrow but I did it with a little help from the family.  But before I did that I put some wire down in the bottom to prevent moles and such from disrupting the plants during growing season.  Next I threw in some small branches (my version of hugelkultur) with the soil/compost mixture on top.

goals vs reality building

Around the time that the raised beds were being finished a friend of ours contacted us and asked if we wanted a free pole barn.  Who can say no to that??  The catch was that we had to dismantle it. So we made a trip out to the farm where it was and found that there was a small shed with some damage to the roof and sides that needed to be removed as well.  And we could have that for free too.  My husband worked tirelessly to get everything taken apart and brought home.  The only problem is that it took away from his time to find and cut wood for the winter.

2015 was also the year that my best friend got married so I made a trip out to Nebraska during prime planting season, over Memorial Weekend, to spend a week with her.  Because of this trip, several plants were delayed getting into the ground.  And then there were nutrient deficiencies in a section of the garden.  And come to think of it, the seeds that I planted in that section in 2014 never took off.  So that may be why.  I normally don’t buy anything to add to my soil but I had to make an exception in this case because my tomatoes were severely stunted and sickly looking.  After a quick internet search to figure out exactly what the deficiencies were, I used a combination of things for this area: bone meal for phosphorus, crushed egg shells for calcium, and an Epsom salt water spray for magnesium.  My tomatoes started doing better but my harvest still wasn’t very good due to the combination of late planting and then having to fix the nutrient deficiency.

Goals Vs Reality Gardening

One of the best parts of the summer was spending time with my daughter picking strawberries and then preserving them by canning, dehydrating, and freezing.  While we planted both 4×8 raised beds with strawberries and they filled out nicely from the runners I’m not convinced that we have enough for this family.  I may have to find a spot to put in a big patch.  Good thing is that I won’t have to purchase strawberry plants anymore.  Those plants send out a ton of runners!

goal vs reality canning

August was extremely busy with canning new things.  I never knew that when processing corn that it smelled like buttered popcorn.  And no butter was used!  It took a bit of time because there were so many pints filled.  And trying to remove the pit from peaches was a difficult task for me.  I’m sure it was user error though as that was my first attempt at that.  One of the jams that I made using the peaches was the Maple Vanilla Peach Jam found in the Preserving with Pamona’s Pectin book which is great on waffles!

We have an apple tree on our property that was there when we moved into this house in 98 which we always thought was a crabapple tree.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that we realized that it wasn’t!  I took the plunge and decided to make applesauce with the windfall apples from it and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and how little sugar had to be added.  Those apples are absolutely perfect for applesauce.  I’ll be making applesauce every year from now on.  And the apple butter from those apples? Delicious!

My daughter’s little garden did really well.  She had decided to grow onions, carrots, cucumber, and a small pumpkin.  The pumpkin seeds never germinated but everything else grew well.  The onions were huge!  The carrots were a cool purple color (Purple Dragon from Baker Creek Heirlooms (rareseeds.com)) and grew big.  In fact, we used them on the veggie tray for my husband’s 40th birthday party and everyone loved them.

goals vs reality gardening carrots

In November, I picked up my order from Zaycon Fresh which I had heard about from Tammy in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwyQxdq22JA).  Her How to Can Chicken videos gave me the courage to try it myself.  I’ve included the links here so you can watch yourself either in another browser by clicking the links below or you can watch the same videos directly below.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCe6IIOVX28 & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUpfGMu8fOA)

Canning chicken is a long process due to the processing time and with the amount I had it took me well into the early morning hours (like 3 AM early).  After having this experience as well when I canned the corn, I decided I needed to have two pressure canners. I can’t fit two on my stove side by side but I can remove one and put the other on to get it going while the first one is depressurizing which still saves time. I love having Amazon Prime and being able to get my order within two days.  I now have two Presto canners . Since I have a glass-top stove the All American Pressure canner can’t be used.  Always refer to your user manual to verify if the Presto canner can be used on your glass-top stove.  Whatever you do, don’t slide the canner across the top of the stove.  Unless you like the scratched look.

Wondering how we’re doing on the chicken coop and pole barn?  Well, we have the pieces here except the big metal siding as we need to borrow a flatbed trailer for that.  And everyone’s schedule just hasn’t worked out to make that a reality.  So nothing has been built.  And how did we do in gathering wood?  Well, if it hadn’t been for my brother-in-law, it would have been a cold winter.  He gave us at least 4 face cords even delivering some of it himself.  And a co-worker of my husband’s knew of someone who needed a tree removed.  The best part was that it was already felled and mostly cut up.  We’re very fortunate to have others looking out for us.

Here’s a list of what we did accomplish in 2015:

  • get chickens in the spring put up a pole barn or update our garage
  • put up a pole barn or update our garage
  • put in a greenhouse
  • start seedlings for the garden √
  • add to the orchard to included some nut trees √
  • grapes
    hardy kiwi √
    blueberries √
    strawberries √
    cranberries √
  • expand the garden with raised beds and in ground √
  • increase the amount of canning to be put up √

We ended the year with a road trip to Hilton Head Island, SC where we enjoyed some unusually warm weather and got to see dolphins.  It was awesome!  There’s nothing like spending that week between Christmas and New Year on vacation (we left Christmas night and returned on Jan 3rd).  During the trip I reflected on how the year went and what’s ahead.  I’m happy to say that I TRIPLED the amount of food put up!  In 2014 it was 106 jars and 2015 was 320!  It truly was a busy year of learning and growth from starting seedlings effectively for the first time out of several prior attempts, making food from scratch, preserving enough to feed my family to being more realistic in our goals. While we didn’t get the pole barn built or the garage fixed up we did have to get a small inexpensive shed out of necessity.

I hope 2015 was a good year for you and am really looking forward to all the good things to come in 2016.

What is on your list for 2016?


#TrayerWilderness  #Gardening  #Preserving  #Inspiration