Thursday, February 12, 2009

A taste of spring

We have had a warm few days here in Virginia, and after a winter that set in early this year with bitter cold in October, we enjoyed the break! While I know spring is a ways off, the sunshine, cool breezes and general change has lifted everyone's spirits.

Ryan and I love late winter/early spring as it is the start of garden planning. We learn a little more each year as we find ways to make our hilly, shady, difficult land fruitful. The addition of the large garden last year has helped, and we have some plans to add some growing areas this spring. Living in suburbia, even with almost an acre of land, can make homesteading difficult to say the least. The bulk of our property is either very steep, wooded or prone to flooding, which means we need to be creative. Our goals of moving are on hold due to the economy so we make this world work for us!

We are going to try some heirloom seeds this year, and if they go well, we will collect the seeds and save them for next year. In the big garden we will grow two kinds of pole beans, green and purple and will hopefully end up with plenty canned and frozen for winter. We will also have two kinds of cucumbers, eating and pickling, two kinds of tomatoes, yellow pear and plum, green and red peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, acorn and butternut squash. The berry patch has strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The patio area will have the leaf lettuces and herbs and the front garden will have the onions, garlic, carrots and parsnips. We also have two pear trees that had great production last year but we lost all of our fruit to the wildlife, so they will be netted this year. In addition we will plant three apple trees so we will have fruit in the next few years.

We supplement our home growing with a membership in a local CSA which provides us a ton of fresh food and a nice variety of everything from asian melons to kale. We pick strawberries by the flat and I can most as strawberry jam and strawberry topping with some being stored in the freezer for baking. Another local farm has blueberries we can pick, we get those by the bucket and they become jam or are frozen for pancakes, waffles or muffins. Pumpkins are picked up following Halloween, and while not as sweet as hubbard squash, they make a great cheap and tasty alternative in muffins and breads. Finally, we are lucky enough to live in apple country, so we pick apples in season. Last year it was 120 lbs that were processed into applesauce, apple butter, apple pie filling, diced apples and dried apples. Next year we need closer to 200 lbs as we are already out of applesauce and diced apples and dangerously low on all others!

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