Last weekend, I harvested winter crops from ten raised beds, then started the spring planting. I work full time on a flex schedule so I can have Fridays off, but I took an additional day off, thinking a four-day weekend would be enough to complete the harvesting and the planting. HA! The joke’s on this suburbanite turned homesteader!
Harvesting was easy. The cleaning, prepping, and “putting up” the crops was the time consuming part. It’s one thing to harvest a few things here and there, as needed for a meal or when something turns ripe. But this was the first time I’ve harvested all the crops in several beds at the same time.
I’ve always had a healthy respect for farmers’ wives, but after this past week my respect has risen ten fold. With all they have to do on the farm – raising the children, taking care of the animals, harvesting the family’s vegetable garden (and probably helping with the cash crop harvest), cleaning and preparing and putting up the harvest (canning, preserving, drying), cooking for the family and farm hands, etc. – there is no way they could also work forty hours a week at an outside job. I have only fifteen raised beds and four fruit trees, and I’m going pre-dawn to post-sunset every day between my job and the garden. With all farmers’ wives have to do just on the farm, it’s a wonder they get any sleep!
But it’s an honorable profession with great satisfaction. I found that out this past week, too. By harvesting and putting up the crops all at once, I got another viewpoint of the satisfaction that comes from raising one’s own food. There was also a further gratefulness for the bounty that God has blessed me with.
Here are some pictures of my Winter 2013 bounty. The harvests are in a basket that is 18 inches wide and 8 inches deep!
I washed and stored my spinach fresh. One can never have too much spinach!
My beets didn’t have a chance to grow well, so the roots were too small to eat. However, I cleaned and blanched the greens (full of nutrients!) and put them up in the freezer for soups or entrees. No waste on the homestead!
I had so many turnips they overflowed the basket! Turnips store well in the refrigerator in airtight baggies and were easy to clean.
The turnip greens were lush and crisp – a must save. It took five hours to remove the stems, wash, blanch, and put up in the freezer. But I now have several meals’ worth of greens stored up for those summer months when greens are hard to find.
Like turnips, radishes store very well in the refrigerator in airtight baggies. The greens were beautiful and could’ve been saved, but I didn’t. After all the time and effort it took to put up the turnip greens, I had no mojo to put up the radish greens, as well. It was enough to scrub the radishes clean with a veggie brush!
My favorite radishes are watermelon radishes; they look like a watermelon slice when cut! They’re a staple in my garden.
This is the first time I’ve grown daikon radishes. They’re great for cooking, and I used them in a vegetable soup I made a few days ago. A wonderful flavor!
My carrots didn’t have time to fully mature, but the harvest wasn’t a total loss. The larger ones are sweet enough to eat raw; the smaller ones will be used for cooking. I didn’t dehydrate them this time; they’re stored in airtight baggies in the fridge after a good scrubbing with a veggie brush.
I harvested about 90 heads of lettuce. Every leaf got washed and spun dry in a salad spinner. That was a job! I had so much lettuce I had to give some away. Lettuce is very perishable, but I found that keeping it in airtight baggies extends the shelf life some.
All the stems, roots, carrot tops, and radish greens made it to the compost pile. I had used more than half the compost bin to fill the new raised bed I have (for artichokes), so the scraps were much needed. So even what couldn’t be used or put up gets recycled to make a wonderful compost that augments my veggie beds AND creates my organic fertilizer.
After all the harvesting and cleaning and putting up, I was exhausted. But I still had pepper and tomato seedlings to transplant and seed to sow. Needless to say, I didn’t get all the planting done during my four day weekend, but I did finish after a couple of my ten-hour work days. (To view my garden after planting, see my April 8th Sanctuary Gardener Update.)
It was surely a whirlwind, exhausting, but satisfying, week at my Sanctuary Garden. Yes, my hat is off to the farmers’ wives!
I just wish I didn’t have so many hats left to wear!