While a lot of folks have been winding things down now that we’ve had freezing temps. for at least a week, there is a lot to do this time of year and if your so inclined, the garden can keep on producing. Here are a few examples.
Just before the first frost we collected up all the cucumbers and added them to those in the cooler awaiting their day on the docket. At the end of the day we had canned about 20 quarts of pickles and you know what makes them really crunchy, grape leaves. Instead of using alum, we use grape leaves and it makes the best, crisp pickles you can imagine.
Then the stormy weather came on for days on end. Howling winds that took down a massive poplar snag in the field behind us. The girth of that tree must be 25 to 30 feet around! But it had been dead for years and eventually the roots rotted away and the storm laid the old tree down. The Red tail Hawks will have to find a new place to nest this spring. The tomatoes were covered and weathered the storms and nights down to 27 just fine. Today was the second of two nice days and we collected the ripening tomatoes for canning. It takes a little time but is quite simple to do. We now have 22 quarts of tomatoes canned and expect to be canning more next weekend. They are a great resource for my wife, an excellent cook in every sense, as she makes meals throughout the winter.
Yesterday we collected the apples from the Liberty and Honeycrisp trees. Some light frost like we had helps to bring out the sugars in apples and we like to wait until a few nights of frost have passed before we harvest them. These are young trees so their production is still small but we did can 11 quarts of applesauce. The best thing was there was not a single worm to be found. I figured out a few years ago that the apple maggot fly was responsible for most of the worms in our apples. A simple trap has solved the problem. A red plastic ball, snapped together from two halves and hung in a tree attracts the flies. The ball is coated with tanglefoot and the flies are toast once they touch down. The balls are reusable and I simply clean them up at the end of each season so they are ready to go the following spring when they are re-coated with new sticky and hung a little prior to the trees blooming.
With the weather as nice as it is I decided it was time to have look inside my bee hives and made a full inspection of each hive. With the exception of one hive, each is well stocked with stored pollen and honey. The hive that is a little light is being fed a 2:1 sugar water mixture to help them out. I also stole one frame of honey from a full hive and added it to the hive that is a little short. The intriguing part was finding virtually no brood in any of the hives. This seems strange to me, but, it is time for the hives to be pulling down their numbers for winter and possibly the queen has backed off laying for a bit. The hives themselves are chock full of bees and with little natural food available to them they will quickly consume the honey they have stored, so I have to believe the bees know what’s best and are reducing numbers in preparation for the coming winter season.
The garden is still full of plants that tolerate some frost and are still attempting to grow. We leave carrots in the ground all winter. Covered with some straw they wont freeze and become sweeter and sweeter as the winter goes on. We are usually able to keep them in the ground just fine until March. Did you ever grow a livestock beet?! These things are huge! Probably pushing ten pounds each. As my wife said, it looks like an elephant leg sticking up out of the garden. We will leave them for the dead of winter when there is little garden produce for the chickens to enjoy. Then there is the lettuce and spinach crops booming along under the cold frame. They are cool season plants that thrive in our cooler temps. With the cold frame the soil will stay warm for some time to come and the plants will continue to grow, though slowly. Even after they stop growing they don’t die and we continue to cut fresh greens from them for most of winter, nearly until its time to plant again.
Soon it will be time to round up the bird netting from the grapes and fruit trees and store it for the winter. Tools will be collected and the handles treated with boiled linseed oil. Makes the wood last forever. Though most are stored inside, a couple of them are forced to weather all seasons of the year and the linseed oil makes all the difference. I have one flat bladed shovel I purchased in 1977 that is outside year round so I can pick up the dogs business. While its not as good as the day I bought it, the wood is still quite solid.
Now, since its been quite a while since I posted much on here I’ll leave you with one more thing you might want to give a try. A friend recently shared a homemade laundry soap recipe that after having tested, I can tell you works great, my wife is thrilled with and only costs about 4 cents a load. Easy to make too and you can buy it all for less than 20 bucks. We’ve had good success with the dishwashing detergent also. Give them a try and see if you don’t find you can save a significant amount of money on these items.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
– 1 Box of Super Washing Soda 3lb. 7oz.
– 1 Box of Borax 4lbs 12oz. size
– 1 Box of Pure Baking Soda 4lb.
– 3 bars of Fels-Naptha 5.5 oz.
– 1 container of Oxy-Clean 1.3 lb.
– 2 lb Epson Salt
Instructions – Finely grate the Fels-Naptha. I used a cheese grater and then ran it through the food processor. Mix all ingredients together and store in a 5 gallon bucket or something similar. You can experiment with how much to use, but 1-2 Tablespoons per load has worked well.
Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
1 cup of Washing Soda (cleaner)
1 cup Baking Soda (cuts grease)
3 packages of unsweetened lemonade drink mix (added cleaning power, antibacterial and nice scent)
1 cup of Kosher Salt (reduces hard water buildup)
Instructions – Mix all ingredients in your storage container. If needed, add a bag of uncooked rice in a clean cloth to keep dry and prevent clumping.
Add one tablespoon of dry powder mix to your dishwasher dispenser. Also add vinegar or jet dry to your rinse dispenser too.
There you have it folks. I hope they work as well for you as they have us.