48 SQ FT = A Whole Lot of Goodness

Except for a few eggplants and a handful of peppers that will be ready this week, our garden is done for the year. I can tell you all about the things we did wrong – from harvesting a watermelon too early to planting squash too close to our other plants – but I have no explanation for the many, many things that went better than expected this year. Was it our compost? Was it the watering system we rigged up? The trellises? Or was it the seeds themselves? I have no clue, but I do know that we had a super harvest this year, from just 48 square feet of scattered garden space.

Angie and her baby – an 8 pound sugar baby, to be exact!

We garden in my mom’s yard – the front yard, the side yard, and the backyard. This year, we had 5 beds, the largest measuring just 3′ x 5′, and we grew watermelons, yellow squash, eggplants, cow peas, okra, green peppers, radishes, red onions, and 3 kinds of tomatoes. The onions didn’t do so well and the watermelons got off to a rocky start, but the rest grew like gangbusters.

I wish I had started weighing our produce from the start so I could give you a better idea of the yield you can get from 48 square feet, but I didn’t. I can honestly say, we were not expecting things to go as well as they did. So the best I can give you is this –

Cherry tomato, anyone?

We ate 2 quarts of peas and put 9 pints in the freezer. We breaded a gallon of okra and put it in the freezer, along with 3 cups of cut okra for soups, and we dehydrated about 2 pounds to make okra chips (which are so delicious!). We have had 6 eggplants so far, 3 more will be ready this week. I think we’ll have about 3 gallons of green peppers when they finish up. We harvested 3 watermelons (albeit one too soon) and there’s a renegade cantaloupe still growing by the blackberry brambles.

The real winner though, was our tomatoes. We had Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, and Cherry. As I type this right now, I’m looking over the top of my computer to see about 4 pounds of tomatoes on the table in front of me. They will be made into spaghetti sauce later today. And in the closet, we have these, just waiting to turn.

I dare say, we had somewhere between 40-50 pounds of tomatoes throughout the season. We made them into salsa.

We made them into ketchup (aka tomato relish).

We even made 9 pints of tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, and diced tomatoes with peppers and onions for chili. Oh, and we’ve eaten them twice a day for the past month on salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and occasionally in scrambled eggs.

With the fruits and veggies we bought at the Farmer’s Market to put in the freezer, I feel pretty confident that we won’t have to buy much in the way of produce at the grocery store this winter, which is really awesome now that we’re on a tighter budget.

Along with our gardening chores this week, Angie and I decided to go foraging for black walnuts (and hickory nuts). We came home with this-

Being our first time to process black walnuts, we watched a few YouTube videos on best practices. And we put on our best, most water resistant gardening gloves. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. We took the gloves off to find that we looked like this –

If you’ve ever tried to remove this stain, you know that it does not come off. Forget lemon juice or whatever other home remedy is recommended by Google. We tried them all and though we are a lighter shade today, I’m still typing this with walnut stained hands. But the story doesn’t end there. After all our hard work, we went to move our nuts to the shed to cure yesterday and found that despite covering them with wire mesh and scrap lumber, squirrels had carted off about half of them. We may have enough now for one pound of black walnut fudge for the holidays.

I would say that I was going to miss prepping food for the freezer or canning, but I have a feeling that though our garden is done, we aren’t. Dumpster season is starting to ramp up. If you are new here, let me explain. We rescue food from the neighboring grocery store – about 750 pounds over the past 2 1/2 years. Some of it we use, some we donate to others in need, and some of it we compost. Whatever we can do to keep good food out of landfills, we try to do…including making jelly. But I’ll save that story for a special post on Friday ๐Ÿ™‚

Did you have a garden this year? How did it do? What was your best producer? Your favorite thing to grow? We’d love to hear your gardening stories!

Life, Love, and Ruminations on Boredom

Angie is visiting her parents in Texas for the next two weeks, so Caesar and I are holding down the fort. This annual trip usually takes place in June, when the garden is just getting started, but our favorite little human came to visit us then and the trip was delayed. So now, the garden is in full swing and Caesar and I are ever-so-diligently trying to keep up. Okay, truthfully, Caesar is no help at all. This is how he spends most of his time now:

He very much enjoys the $6 patio rug we โ€œstoleโ€ at a yard sale earlier this year. (It retails for more than $200 at World Market. Yay, us!)

Anyway, it has only been a few days since Angie left, but they have been busy ones. The tomatoes have been coming off like hotcakes (and so have the field peas!).

Saturday’s tomato and pea harvest. Remember, we only have about 20 sq. feet of garden space.

I spent most of Monday washing, peeling, and cooking tomatoes to can or freeze – which meant that I also had to organize and inventory the freezer.

Almost full!

Yes, there are plastic things in the freezer. We have a “use it until it dies before recycling it” policy here, and most of these plastic things are older than Caesar. (Okay, maybe not that old. He’ll be 17 next month.)

Aside from preserving the harvest of our little garden, I’ve been watching our first ever watermelon grow. This is Angie’s baby. She saved the seeds from a late summer melon last year and convinced my mom to let us put it in the sunniest spot available – right next to the house.

And if that wasn’t busy enough, I’ve been working on crafts for the winter craft show, I picked up a new grant writing gig, and I started relearning the ins and outs of video editing for YouTube.

Now, make no mistake, I’m in no way glorifying busyness for the sake of simply being busy. I’ve taken some time to read and relax with Caesar on the patio too, but the truth of the matter is, I miss my person and staying busy helps tremendously with that.

You might think that two people who spend ever single day together would relish a break. Not us. In nearly a decade, we’ve not run out of things to say to one another. Our [crazy] ideas and adventures provide a steady stream of learning and growing experiences and we truly enjoy doing things together. When either of us is away, we miss the heck out of one another and get an insane amount of projects done at the same time. When I was in NC last fall, Angie took woodworking to a whole new level and even painted my mom’s kitchen!

Our life is never boring, that’s for sure. Speaking of which…

My uncle (yes, this one) is coming to visit my mom this weekend and bringing his kids (age 12 and 14). Right now, they are at the beach, enjoying the last bits of summer before heading back to school. Okay, that last part is a complete lie – not just a half-truth or an exaggeration. They are indeed at the beach but they are not enjoying anything. They are BORED. These kids haven’t left the hotel room except to go eat. My uncle spent $2,100 to stay in a resort right on the beach; and one day in, they are already BORED. They haven’t been to the pool, walked the boardwalk, taken a ride on the giant ferris wheel, enjoyed an ice cream cone, or picked up a single sea shell. My mom says they may even leave early to come here.

I mention this because I have a feeling that even though I’m not a child, I’m going to be expected to entertain them, and that’s just not going to happen. I have zero patience for bored young people, especially ones that have access to a plethora of things to do and deliberately choose not to do them.ย  And no patience for parents who think their middle-school age children can’t walk a boardwalk by themselves (or go out in their own yard) for fear they will be abducted. My grandmother (the same one who raised my uncle) used to tell me (repeatedly) that if someone were to abduct me, they would bring me back in a hot minute once they saw how much trouble I was. She was joking, of course, but the real message was this – go play, nothing is going to happen. She, along with my parents, taught me not to talk to strangers or get in cars or help find lost puppies; all the while instilling confidence in me instead of fear.

Yes, sometimes bad things do happen and real children disappear but in reality the likelihood of a child being abducted is 1 in 300,000. They are 100 times more likely to get struck by lightning. Yet, neither is a good enough reason to make your children so afraid to go outside that they miss out on the beauty of the world in which they live. I’m not sure how my cousins will fair on their visit to TN if they are already bored at the beach, but we shall see.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject of safety vs. independence when raising children. Or your thoughts on life, love, gardening, or any other topic for that matter ๐Ÿ™‚


Cover photo: Our niece (circa the summer of 2008) during our 6-week adventure in Colorado. She turned 21 this week and is still one of the most independent, free-spirited, fun-loving folks I know. Happy Birthday!!ย