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Friday, October 03, 2008

Hard Freeze

We've had touches of light frost on Tuesday and Wednesday night, but last night was a whopper. Our first hard frost put the final sleeper hold on the garden. We covered the stuff we really wanted to hang on to, but it got zapped even through the covering, so not much we can do about that.

Lucky for us, we still have the hoophouse which includes a few more tomato plants, our beloved basil, swiss chard, carrots, kale, beets and a few volunteer pea plants that are blooming!

It's always hard to let go and remember those long hot days in August when we were dreaming of the first frost to take us out of our misery.

We scramble around trying to put anything we can in a jar or in the freezer to savor the flavors over winter and remember what a great season it was.

For our family, salsa is a staple like flour is for some families. We literally eat it by the quart full. Last week, I made 12 quarts of hot salsa. Alyson came home from college last weekend, ate 1 quart by herself and the family managed to finish off 2 more quarts, then before she went back to school, she packed up 5 quarts to take back with her. See what I mean?

So, yesterday was spent replenishing the salsa stash with 10 more quarts, pictured below. The other jars you see is the juice we strain off the salsa before we can it. We use this juice for bloody marys, it is spicy, tomatoey and wonderful, plus by draining it off, that makes our salsa nice and chunky and not soupy.

There are still 3 five gallon buckets full of tomatoes in my kitchen waiting to become something, either stewed tomatoes, more salsa or spaghetti sauce. Stewed tomatoes are the easiest, however, salsa is probably a better idea.

Why is it that just as we are taking a sigh of relief that we now have some 'down' time, our minds immediately go to next spring. What will we do differently? What varieties will we keep and which ones will be dump? How soon will we start our seeds? We will vow to keep better records, which we do every year and somehow it always gets lost in the shuffle of planting, weeding, watering and harvesting.

This way of life gets in your blood. You live your life by the first and last frost dates and by amounts of rainfall. Your spring, summer and fall days are consumed by weather forecasts and high/low temperatures. There are times when it is exhausting and you question yourself as to why the hell you continue to do this? A regular 8 hour a day job would seem like a vacation. Your to-do list never ends and priorities are decided by what you should have gotten done last week.

But for some reason, when you plant those seeds in the ground and see those little green sprouts poking through, no matter how many times you've seen it, it's amazing. To think you can feed yourself and others this way year after year, is amazing. It makes you forget about the hard work ahead for the next few months. Then, when you are harvesting buckets full and carts full of food, it makes it all worth it. Even in December when the snow is falling and it's cold as hell, you open one of those jars of tomatoes and it brings you back to summer and gets you excited for the possibilities of the year to come.


Cherry said...


I always think that I will do a big container garden, and I'll figure out the varieties and order and star the seeds, and then it never seems to go past that.
My honey is currently planning his fruit tree nursery stash for next year and years to come. 300 little bareroot trees are being ordered, and I'm kind of freaking out about it. This will be his first BIG burst in growth at the nursery he uses for his landscaping clients. And all of this is at my very generous parents house.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Love this post--it really cuts to the heart of why people garden or farm. I always have big plans, big dreams, but then the dang frost comes and that's it...until next spring.

Country Girl said...

You gonna share that salsa recipe or is it "secret"?

Madeline said...

You've inspired me to finally make our own salsa with our last tomatoes. I would love your recipe as well. I can't believe you have already had a frost! At least you are on break.

Angie said...

Oh girls - there is no recipe - it's done in the style of my grandmother - throwing things in a pot!

My process is that I core the tomaotes, run them quickly through a food processor to break up the skins, but not so much there is nothing left, then just start tossing in garlic, green peppers, jalapenos and any other kind of hot pepper I have hanging around, lots of onions and salt. Then just start tasting. Cook it down for quite awhile, at least an hour, sometimes more depending on how much stuff you're adding along the way.

Then if you want to have the juice separate, you just start straining it off with a strainer or I use one of those things, not sure what it's called, it's a funnel with holes in it - how's that for technical? Anyway, just spoon your salsa into the funnel, let it drain and then jar up the juice!

If this was a little too simple of a description, just email me with any questions and I'll do my best to answer:)


Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

Our nights are getting down to the mid-40s, so I'm about to bring in the last of my basil and tomatoes and call it a year.

I've already started marking up this year's seed catalog with notes for next year.