On Tuesday, Charlie tackled potato storage. First he spent the morning cleaning out the bank barn to convert it to our new root cellar. Then he spent the large portion of the afternoon building special storage bins to hold the potatoes. Meanwhile, I lead a crew of extremely heroic volunteers and interns through the field as we dug up the potatoes. (And when I say heroic, that really doesn’t do it justice. Remember it was at least 95 degrees out!) Needless to say, it took all of Tuesday for us to get less than 20% of our potato crop put away in a manner that it will keep for at least a couple of months.
Wednesday and Thursday, we moved onto the garlic. After a garlic harvest, it is necessary to cure it in order to make it last without going moldy or soft. Essentially, this involves removing any remaining moisture from the plant. If you noticed the garlic you received last week was a little bit sticky and hard to remove from its wrapping, that is because it was uncured. After a long brainstorming session (i.e. hiding from the heat in a nice cool shed), Charlie and Alex created a system that we thought would work for curing the garlic. This involved stringing up wires and then hanging bunches of garlic from the wire. So Thursday we set out nice and early before the heat really set in to dig up the remaining crop, and then spent the remainder of the day bunching and hanging.
Friday morning, I froze some blueberries. Relishing in the quickness of this task, I thought to myself how I would start freezing more and yes, how maybe I could potentially preserve enough to get through the winter. Then I remembered that freezers are a new luxury to which my pioneer heroes had no access.
On Sunday, Alex, Charlie, and our friend Scott tackled the onions. Similar to garlic, you need to remove the moisture from onions skins, in order for them to store well. After several hours of harvesting, they carefully laid them all out on racks in the sun, careful to set the racks up close to the barn, in the event of a surprise rainstorm.
Meanwhile, my friend Desiree and I labored away in the kitchen, canning batch after batch of pickles and jam. Aside from the excessive amounts of steam and pickle juice I inhaled, this was definitely the most fun and most remarkable task for me. Number one on my To Do when I have extra time List, is to research the invention of the mason jar. There is something oddly satisfying about hearing the cans pop, and knowing that they are sealed and safely stored away for consumption months later. Several hours later, we had 15 quarts of canned pickles, 6 of refrigerator pickles, and 9 half pints of jam. Next week: Tomato Sauce!
So as I reflect on this past week, all I can think of is how lucky I am to be alive now, because I definitely would not have survived 100 years ago! The vegetables alone are consuming all of our energy, and we haven’t even started on the grains, meats, or dairy!