This Month On The Homestead: In The Garden, Picking Berries, Preserving Beans

July 2020

July sunflower!

July is the month we settle into our summer routine. July is when we think the warmth and abundance will stretch into an infinite calendar. We forget about things like cars stuck in snowdrifts.

July is intoxicating with its allure of an endless supply of cucumbers. So intoxicating that I almost give away our winter coats. This July especially, as we remain isolated and socially distanced, we are on our land, in our dirt, our focus grown quite narrow. And I can’t say I mind.

Welcome to my series documenting life on our 66-acre Vermont homestead, which we moved to in May 2016 from urban Cambridge, MA. 

Wondering about the financial aspects of rural life? Check out: City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown as well as my monthly expense reports.

Contemplating going rural? Here ya go: Want To Move To The Country? 15 Things To Consider.

Garden Update

As any self-respecting warm weather This Month on the Homestead installment starts, I bring you the garden update:

Kidwoods: salad harvesting assistant

Snap peas: continue to produce! They’ve started to slow down, and some vines have withered, but the kids still have plenty to eat straight from the vine.

Salad greens: still going strong! I harvest a bowl full for our dinner every night and am really getting into the succession planting thing. I’ve been ripping out rows when they go to seed and direct sowing new rows in their place. This is our first year doing this–and our first year with the raised beds–so I have plans for actual organization next year. Perhaps a note in the calendar of when to rip and plant as opposed to this year’s methodology of, “huh, maybe I should rip out the arugula that’s bolting to heaven and plant new seeds… ”

I have mixed greens, arugula, and lettuce contributing to our nightly salads, which seems to be about right quantity-wise. With daily harvesting, I need a lot of rows of greens. I also way over-planted my initial rows (meaning too many seeds in each row, which caused the plants to choke each other out in competition for space). My subsequent plantings have been better spaced and so the production is more abundant. I’m really in love with my greens, in case you couldn’t tell.

Kidwoods making dinner with cucumbers, apples, and currants

I also have an (un-asked-for) assistant in salad-harvesting, Kidwoods, who informed me: “Mama, please go do something else, I know how to harvest salad.” Age 4.5, it appears, is when you become a net positive to homestead activities. Indeed she harvested our dinner salad one leaf at a time (only took 45 minutes) with precise and determined snips.

I pretended to “do something else” while monitoring my plants–reluctant as I am to surrender their livelihood to a preschooler. I see daily that she is capable, responsible, and just fine on her own. Littlewoods, during all this, commandeered the hose and watered the side of our house. So if the basement floods, at least I’ll know why.

Tomatoes: our first few tomatoes came ripe in late, late July and I’m girding myself for the bounty I hope springs forth in August and September. With tomatoes, it’s always a fight against frost–will the tomatoes ripen before the first frost? It’s no guarantee here in zone 4.

When blueberry picking and nap time collide (although who am I kidding, my kids don’t nap anymore…. )

Herbs: dill and basil are champs; the rest are doing ok. Our basil is so prolific that I’m putting it on our salads every night. Truly, I cannot think of enough ways to use all this basil. Guess I need to make pesto… anyone have a canning recipe that doesn’t contain dairy? Send it my way, please! I know most folks freeze their pesto, but I’m already out of freezer space this season!

Bush beans: these things are thrilled with life and coming in faster than I can can them (more on that in a moment).

Cucumbers: following the Pickle Apocalypse of 2018 (when I canned 75 quarts of pickles from our cucumber plants), we curtailed our cucumber planting this year to only six plants. Well. It appears that was five plants too many… we are awash in cucumbers. How many cucumbers per day can a plant produce? 95 apparently. 95 is the number. Anyone know of any way to preserve cucumbers other than pickles? I already tried freezing one whole… in case you’re wondering, don’t bother trying to freeze a cucumber. If anyone local wants some cukes, they’re yours!

Berries, Boatloads Of

Kidwoods and the choicest blueberries

Currants: I was a currant unbeliever until I saw how they thrive in our current soil. We have three currant bushes, but those things produce like the bushes of a thousand currants. Or so I assume. Since currants taste strange raw (in my opinion), we process them as quickly as possible into jam and cordial. The jam is tart, tangy, and a tad sweet. The cordial–steeped in vodka for months–is also tart, tangy, and delightfully warming. The currants are the only thing that’s already ripened, harvested, and preserved for the year.

Black raspberries: our black raspberry vines managed to gasp out production this year, but they’re beset by blackberry orange rust, which is basically the berry vine death knell. We’ve tried so hard these past four years to rehabilitate these vines… to trellis, tame, and keep healthy, but they seem determined to die. I was telling a friend recently that I’m increasingly in favor of stuff that WANTS to grow here–a la the currants. We may plant a new trellising system of black raspberries in the future, but unfortunately, once orange rust sets in, it’s only a matter of time before it infects new plants too.

Blueberries: two years ago, Mr. FW built our blueberry garden and planted 24 blueberry plants. This is the first year they’re really producing and the girls and I pluck berries daily. Not many of these make it inside for preservation thanks to my efficient in-field consumption team…

Strawberry, with kid hand for size

So determined are my children to eat EVERY SINGLE berry we grow that they pick to utter exhaustion. I appreciate that they both carry little berry buckets, neither of which ever receive so much as a single ‘plink’ of berry. Kidwoods explained to me that, “it is much easier to just put the berries into your mouth.” Fair enough.

Also from Kidwoods: “Mama, I have picked–and will save–these largest blueberries for Dada. He deserves the best blueberries.” I appreciate the empathy, kindness, and delayed gratification displayed by this blueberry gifting. And I know that the Dada in question appreciated that these blueberries were presented to him by a preschooler busting into his office during a video conference call. I note that I, the Mama, am required to forage my own blueberries and am not party to the “deserves the best blueberries” contingent.

Strawberries: as you might recall, I–the garden grinch myself–planted 100 strawberry plants in two of our raised beds this year. And they’re producing! Exactly zero of these make it inside the house as they’re all consumed in situ by their two youngest, most enthusiastic fans.

We had to have a conversation about not pulling out strawberry plants, resulting in tears, and a denial of strawberry privileges for a few days. But as consolation, I let them eat all the spinach they wanted.

Hiking: Alone And Not Alone

Littlest hiking companion

Littlewoods longs to be my hiking companion (Kidwoods, not so much). “Walk a bit, please,” she’ll ask, and I drop whatever’s occupying my hands to take her tiny paw. The other day, I set down a packet of lettuce seeds–ready to be sown–to walk a bit with her. She, like me, will walk this road–better known as our driveway–on an endless loop. Hand in hand we circle around and around and then go around again, please.

I walked this loop two winters ago, with snow spikes on my boots, this one in my belly, in the hopes of bringing on labor. Around and around I’d walk, up and down the same ridges, cresting the same hill, hefting my pregnant self, talking to this baby the entire time. Telling her about the trees and the dirt and my desire for her to be born not during a blizzard. Of all the things I did while pregnant, apparently this hike is what sunk in. That and the love of food. Also music. And dancing. Clearly, she and I love the good life.

In The Garden With the Toddler Ennui: by Kidwoods, age 4 and Littlewoods, age 2

“Hello and welcome to my day in the garden. I started by dressing myself in footie pajamas, my sister’s fairy costume, rain boots, and someone else’s floppy hat. Our first stop is the snap peas, where I ripped a plant out by the roots while attempting to pick a pea pod. Then I harvested not one, but three, unripe tomatoes. I did enjoy the purple bush beans my maid gathered for me as well as the strawberries she tossed into my harvest bowl.

The Toddler Ennui does not care about your plans for the day

Next, we see me ensconced between the rows of snap peas and bush beans–my feasting spot. Following this munching interlude, we move to the black raspberry patch where I mastered the art of plucking ripe berries from my maid’s pail. That maid really picks a lot of berries! Tsk, she should share more. We conclude our tour with a tromp to a mid-day bath followed by a vegetable-induced nap. Join me again tomorrow when we’ll examine just what IS happening behind the blueberry patch fence.” -Littlewoods

“We stole these cucumbers (pictured at right), also this daisy, and we regret nothing. We see your organic, free-range, microbiome-supportive parenting efforts and we disdain. We are the toddler ennui and we fully intend to crash through your obsessively trellised tomato plants post haste.

We dressed ourselves–in ballet leotard and footed jammies–and are now hot and mad about it. This is clearly your fault and we blame no one else. We are the toddler ennui and we listen to no one. Also, please allow us to lay across your back in the 90 degree direct sunlight while you harvest bush beans. One of us will need to be in your lap at that exact moment too. Don’t worry, we’ll roost on you motionless, except for pulling your hair and picking at your shoelaces. Really, you won’t notice us at all. Also, did you remember our water bottles?” -The Toddler Ennui

Garden View from Mrs. Frugalwoods

Cucumber thief runs wild through July garden

On the lam, sustained by cucumber, clutching her sister’s boots. Shoeless and vegetable-filled, this sprite dashes through my garden, her sister in hot pursuit for her missing boot. As I pick bush beans and pluck weeds, I watch these two people form themselves and am in awe that such small individuals can consume entire cucumbers from the vine. If I, for example, slice said cucumber and serve it with a dash of salt, it’ll be ignored. But dirt-covered and immediately post-vine? It is devoured.

If dirt-on-your-person indicated amount of work accomplished, my kids would be the most productive farm hands in recorded history. To their credit, they helped harvest the currants and some of the currants they picked were actually ripe.

When we’re not in the garden, or picking berries, we’re down at the creek, following the tributary to our pond, ducking under branches, balancing on logs, and always, always in pursuit of unsuspecting frogs.

And truly, there’s no better balm for the soul than a swamp child emerging mud-clad from a pond that, let’s be honest, is more mud than water (swap child pictured below). And there is no better laundry solution than washing their clothes nine times accompanied by copious prayers. Should we have worn swimsuits? Oh most definitely. Did we? Absolutely not. Does our house now smell like pond water? You know it.

First Preservation of the Season: Dilly Beans!

Making dilly beans! With bean on person

My assistant, bedecked with a bean, ably jammed bush beans into jars while I boiled vinegar and water and Littlewoods helmed the dish washing station. We will win no awards with our snapped-in-half beans, but we are putting up food.

As Kidwoods reports, “we have to put up food for winter when there is no food.” Thankfully things are not so dire, but far be it for me to squelch this toddler enthusiasm for kitchen serfdom. Here’s the recipe we used.

Sunflowers

The only flower I deign to plant, weed and water: sunflowers will always be worthy in my heart. Everything else that’s not a food is on its own–neglected, relegated, tilled under. But sunflowers I start from seed in my kitchen every February and tend as gingerly as each tomato and blueberry.

It’s either the fact that I met my husband in Kansas or the fact that I went to college in Kansas or the fact that I formed my deepest friendships in Kansas. Basically, it’s Kansas. And I’m just so thankful it’ll grow in Vermont.

Pandemic Parenting: A Periodic Check-in to Ensure We’re All Still Alive (we are)

Littlewoods on dish detail

I’m fully embracing the whole “give them real jobs” approach to parenting. They’re desperate to get their hands on my broom and vacuum and scrub brush and—since I’m outnumbered—I’ve surrendered. Littlewoods on dish detail is remarkably precise and thorough. The only downside is the small tide pool created on the floor. No problem, she mopped that up with my sweater.

Kidwoods cooked dinner one night. Not because of anything I did, or encouraged, or prompted, or taught, but because she was insistent and my defenses were down. She got out her little safety knife (hand-me-down from a friend), commandeered a bunch of vegetables harvested from the garden, and dumped them into a pot along with chicken stock. I turned on the stove for her and suggested the addition of salt and pepper. She threw in raspberries and currants to make what I’m sure was an awful unusual-tasting “vegetable stew.”

If you think it takes expensive wooden toys and a certain dogma and an ideal curriculum to do this stuff, I’m here to say that it does not. My kid used our plastic ten-year-old cutting board, an old Ikea pasta pot, some random spoon and–when she couldn’t reach the stove to dish her stew out–I set the pot on the kitchen floor. I don’t have the “right” wooden accoutrements or the aesthetic or the knowledge (or the drive, let’s be honest) to do, like, real Montessori or Waldorf or anything. So take heart. If you want your kids to be more independent and to cook and to clean and to self-direct, be lazy like me: step back, observe, hide all the permanent markers, and don’t fear a few broken dishes.

Solar Check

Swap child

After moving here, we had solar panels mounted on our barn roof. My full write-up on the panels is here and I include a solar update in this series. This is the only way for me to remember that: a) I have solar; b) you all would like to be updated on it.

In July, we generated 816 kWh, which is decent. For context, in January 2020 our panels generated 120 kWh and in July 2019 we raked in 907 kWh.

Since our electric company offers net metering, we’re able to bank our summer and fall sunshine for use in the winter, which keeps our electric bill low year-round, even when the sun isn’t shining. This has been your solar production update. You’re welcome.

Want More Fotos?!

While I only document homestead life once a month here on the blog, I post photos to Instagram (almost every day!) and updates to Facebook with much greater regularity.

Join me there if you want more of our frugal woods. Some folks have asked about this and yes, I do try to post a picture to Instagram every day and–unlike with many other things in my life–I have a pretty good track record.

How was July for you?

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83 Responses

  1. Ryan says:

    Fantastic insight into your life as always (long time reader).

    I am not sure if you have covered this but it would be great to understand the time investment in terms of the homestead. Approximately how long do you spend tending to the property/gardens/vegetables etc.

    Thanks so much,

  2. Cindy says:

    Super lazy parent = wildly imaginative kids. And I think instills a sense of “use what you have” from an early age.

    My stepson amazes me every day at what he’s able to create with what he finds around the house. He builds amazing worlds and tells crazy stories about them based on things he reads from his encyclopedias. Yes, we do buy him encyclopedias (DK Smithsonian are amazing). He prefers books over “real” toys. That’s not to say he doesn’t have toys, he’s just able to repurpose old toys for new things. I love it. He also refuses to let him upgrade his toddler bike because he loves it. Fine by me.

    And my five-month-old? I took her on a kitchen tour a couple of weeks ago and now her favorite toy is a spatula. She’s the happiest baby in the world unless you take her spatula. Don’t ever take her spatula. Thankfully we have two.

  3. Brianna says:

    Yes, make some pesto! I use a standard recipe but omit the parmesan and freeze them using ice trays as the molds. Once they solidify, I pop them into ziplock bags, making them easier to freezer store. When cooking, I just grab a square or two from the freezer and throw into the meal.

    • cathy says:

      I was going to suggest the same thing. I also make various pesto nut-free as my kid is allergic to nuts and dairy. Herbs, olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper. BTW sage pesto is awesome with Thanksgiving dinner, and you can make chimichurri with a blend of cilantro, parsley, and basil.

      • cathy says:

        Also, don’t forget to dry some basil to add to meals (especially Italian) during Winter!

        • Kirsty says:

          Or just blend oil and basil and freeze as above. Throw into meals as required 🙂

          • Amy says:

            Ditto the making it without the parmesan. I don’t eat a lot of dairy, so I leave it out. Also, here’a a cost-savings tip – instead of pine nuts, use toasted sunflower seeds. This also works for nut allergies.

    • Gaby says:

      @frugalwoods – kill two birds with one stone! Blend basil, sonflower seeds (MUCH cheaper than pine nuts) olive oil, lemon juice and nutritional yeast for some yummy, mostly grown on your land pesto. Not sure it would work canning, as i just make it fresh, but freezing is an excellent idea @Brianna.

  4. Wow, that last picture is awesome! Lol. I love it!

    I always thought (wrongly, I guess) that salad greens got bitter if they got too much sun, so I haven’t ever bothered planting them beyond June. Do you plant yours in the shade, or is it because you’re in Zone 4 that they don’t have that problem? (I’m a total newbie to growing salad greens, so please enlighten me!)

    I don’t know about preserving basil (other than freezing it in pesto), but in case you’re on the lookout for some delicious recipes, my two favorites are below. The first is a set-it-and-forget-it Crockpot meal (just use your favorite pesto recipe—I just use the jar in the winter and then Google “pesto recipe” the rest of the time), and the other is a 20-minute (!) meal from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe that I seriously CRAVE every summer since it combines fresh garden tomatoes with fresh basil—the perfect pairing. Good luck!

    https://www.toloveandtolearn.com/2018/06/08/cooking-for-a-crowd-3-ingredient-pesto-ranch-chicken-slow-cooker/
    https://www.melskitchencafe.com/20-minute-tomato-pesto-pasta/

  5. Ash says:

    Wait but did you eat the stew? My daughter is always trying to cook for real…I’m afraid it will lead to us wasting food!

  6. Tom says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think there any approved home canning recipes for pesto. It’s not just the dairy, it’s also the oil. Freezing is probably the best bet.

    • mary w says:

      I don’t think there is a safe way to home can basil or pesto. I’ve never seen a receipe. And even if you could…did anyone else’s mother give them canned spinach as a child? The texture and taste was horrible. Imagine what canning would do to basil!

  7. KaLynn says:

    A recipe for your abundance of basil. I wish I had a ton of basil; I would make this every night 🙂

    https://damndelicious.net/2020/08/01/easy-grilled-vegetables/

  8. Valerie says:

    I freeze my cucumbers, and then I use them in green smoothies! Celery, too!

  9. Allison says:

    From one Kansan to another, I love that you brought sunflowers to Vermont!

  10. Annie R says:

    You are doing great and wonderful things. Mud is a child’s friend. Eating vegetables straight from the garden: awesome. Being trusted to help cook? Priceless. Seriously, on dark days please remember a stranger from the Internet told you that the feral freedom and discovery you’re giving your daughters is a remarkable thing.
    PS: sadly, you can’t safely can pesto but I freeze whole washed leaves. Pressed flat in bags, they take up little room. I crumble later into blender for pesto-in-the-moment.

  11. Marnie says:

    As a through and through city girl,
    I’m mesmerized by the dirty produce eating! How do you know it is safe to eat whatever dirt they consume? I’m working my way up and am this year actually EATING the basil I grown on my apartment balcony but wash it like the dickens and worry every time. I know I’m overly concerned but wonder how you got to this place of trust? (Also canning: dream of doing it but realize I would be very hard pressed to trust and eat It)

    • Annie R says:

      It can be hard if you aren’t used to growing food… and yes there are soil-borne things like parasites that you need to be careful of. But produce that other hands have not touched? I absolutely would prefer this over anything in a grocery store. If you grew it, no one touched by you. And there’s good science behind the need for a more diverse biome in our gut which we used to get from more contact with the soil. Give that basil a quick rinse or just look at it to be sure you are not eating some wildlife and enjoy!

  12. cathy says:

    Unless you are growing hybrid varieties of lettuce, arugula, etc., you might consider letting a plant or two bolt and set seed so you can save the seed for next year. Fewer seeds to buy = less cash outlay.

    • J says:

      I let some lettuce bolt and self-seed every year. I get two crops, spring and fall, without doing anything except thin and pick it. Same with many herbs. Tomatoes and melons and squash often self-seed randomly from the compost!

  13. Mary in VA says:

    Your Toddler Ennui postings are too funny. I look forward to more!

  14. A says:

    This isn’t exactly a cucumber solution you were asking for, or at all healthy, but fried pickle chips are the best food on earth if you are looking for things to do with cucumbers once they are already pickled.

  15. Paul says:

    I am a huge Susan Werner fan: great acoustic folk type music. Often quite funny.

    Your girls are perhaps two decades away from this experience, but each time I read of the three of you in your garden I think of her song:”My Mother’s Garden “.
    Hope this link works for anyone interested.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=susan+werner+song+:+my+mothers+garden&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

  16. Alex Foret says:

    Unfortunately, the National Center for Home Food Preservation doesn’t recommend canning pesto, even if you have a pressure canner. 🙁

    https://nchfp.uga.edu/questions/FAQ_canning.html#31

    I second the recommendation about saving seeds from the greens! That is what we have been doing and I am looking forward to many wonderful (and practically free greens) next season!

  17. ColoradoFIRE says:

    We make vegan pesto using nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan. Do a search for the recipe for “hippie dust” (nope, I’m not kidding!) to find a Recipe for a great parmesan substitute recipe. We use nutritional yeast, a bit of almond flour for graininess, and salt.

  18. Candace says:

    Can’t can pesto, sorry. I like to puree basil with just enough olive oil to make it puree and freeze. I use this all winter whenever a recipe calls for fresh basil.

  19. Amanda says:

    I love this! Reading your posts (and your book), I think we would be good friends in person because we have VERY similar approaches to parenting. One example, my kid learned to use the stairs because we didn’t get around to putting up baby gates.
    Keep it up and please keep sharing your adventures!!! Your kids are adoarble and precious, and you are doing a great job 🙂

  20. Michelle Ashworth says:

    Thank you for another fun, day-brightening post. I’ve had great success dehydrating my surplus herbs (including basil, bay laurel, thyme, rosemary, you name it) with my Nesco dehydrator-very easy and compact end product. Wonderful for winter soup. There’s a fruit leather add-on tray, too, if your family enjoys that.

  21. Abby says:

    Have you considered purchasing a deep freezer for your basement? Or if you already have one, a second smaller one? I believe you can find them for a few hundred dollars on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace at least in my area, and would greatly increase your food storage potential

  22. Suzette says:

    I make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays, then put in a freezer bag. Nice addition to soups.

  23. MEM says:

    Have you been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to Littlewoods? Her hilarious observation “We have to put up food for Winter when there is no food” sounds like something the Ingalls family would need to do! I really miss when my children were that age…

  24. Kristiann says:

    A great dairy-free, nut-free, allergen-free pesto recipe that our family has used for years – Cybele Pascal pesto. She uses gf bread crumbs and hemp seeds, and it turns out superb. Feel free to sub your allergen-laden food stuffs for hers, as suits your family. We love all her recipes!

  25. Susan says:

    Don’t you have a dehydrator? I bet that would be a good way to save the basil.

  26. Rachael says:

    Swap child or swamp child? No judgement if it’s the former, I often consider swapping my child!

  27. Carissa says:

    OK, I have discovered freezing cucumbers this summer, and I implore you to try again! I’ve been making cucumber gin slushies for years, and just this year discovered that if I freeze my cucumbers, I can skip the ice! To freeze: peel, halve, and deseed cukes. Recipe for 2 gin slushies: 2 frozen cucumbers (4 halves), 1/2 cup gin, 2 Tbsp basil simple syrup (or ginger or fennel simple syrup), juice of 1 lime and 1 lemon, sparkling water to taste. Blend all until smooth and enjoy!!

  28. Rodney says:

    When our cucumbers get out of control, we make this green gazpacho from Budget Bytes: https://www.budgetbytes.com/green-gazpacho/. It is not preserving the cucumbers (maybe it freezes?) but it uses up lots. Ditto for garden tomato soup, delicious. We garden in zone 3 and corn is a favorite for our short growing season. It is easy and fun if you ever have room for more veggies!

  29. Jen says:

    I can’t have dairy, but we love pesto. I recommend using cashews plus whatever but you usually use. It seems to add some of the creamy- ness that the cheese provides. Can’t help with the freezer space ( we have the same problem.

  30. Chris@TTL says:

    I’m more than a little jealous of that berry production. I have yogurt, berries, nuts, and a bit of granola literally every day for lunch.

    Frugality and a FIRE mindset tend to yield routine, but…really, I enjoy it!

    Anyway, I think having fresh berries would be pretty fantastic daily not to mention I’m sure they’re much tastier than store-bought.

    Well done!

    Glad to see the solar production is keeping up!

  31. Laura says:

    Have you ever tried harvesting sunflower seeds?

  32. zigzag says:

    I get such a vicarious pleasure out of reading your posts – your garden, kids, hubbie, life …

  33. Wilma says:

    I’ve got a summer toddler hack your kids might enjoy. Fill a kiddie pool in the morning with water so it can warm up during the day. At the end of the day, let your kids have the fabulous! amazing! special! treat of an OUTDOOR BATH (with bubbles!!!!–extra points for bubbles to blow and actual bubble bath). Win for everyone–clean kids, mess stays outside. Mine LOVED it. I sometimes would even fill up a couple of 4 gallon jugs with warm water and do outdoor hair washes, if they were especially filthy 🙂

  34. Anne says:

    It might be time to get a second deep freeze. Since your first is full of fabulous meat, later in the harvest season you will likely need more space. Pesto is fantastic frozen in ice cube trays or muffin tins for portioning, and then push together in a large plastic bag. As you start cooking some of the chicken and beef, save the bones and chicken carcasses back in the freezer for stews and broths (the bones can be refrozen safely after cooking). When winter comes it will be wonderful to have soups and broths that are fresh.

    Have you thought about switching to cherry tomatoes for next year? They tend to ripen earlier and be easier to grow (more prolific) in Vermont, and for salads and canning tomato sauce, it seems they would be about as easy to cook with.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      The sad thing is, we do almost exclusively cherry tomatoes! They still take this long to ripen 🙁

      • Jen says:

        Can you get full size tomatoes to ripen in Vermont? I’m in Utah and full size tomatoes are great for canning. It is great to open bottles all year long to add to soups, stews, chili, and other dishes.

  35. Cara says:

    How are your peppers coming along? We’re trying peppers for the first time this year (we are 53 degrees North but Zone 9 here in Ireland- maybe the peppers are totally confused), started them indoors in early April. They’ve flowered in the last week or two. Hurricane season turns into a lot of blustery rain here, so that’s arrived, after a very dry and warm spring that was maybe too encouraging. We’ll see what the next two or three months bring, usually not a true frost here until Halloween.
    Also- have you ever tried sunflower sprouts? If you can bring yourself to lay waste to a tray full of cute little sunflower sprouts, they are very tasty (was introduced to this by a botanist in Lithuania and couldn’t believe it’s not more of a Thing).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Our peppers are just now coming ripe! But there are so many unripe ones on the plants, I’m not sure they’re all going to beat the frost… last year, we brought in a lot of unripe peppers and tomatoes to ripen indoors and many of them did (eventually), but they don’t taste as good as vine-ripened.

      • Jen says:

        Good to know they ripen indoors! I have lots of green tomatoes on my plants! I wasn’t sure they they would ripen before the frost hit. Any suggestions on how to get tomatoes to turn red? I was getting a bunch of red ones about a month ago, but now most are staying green. My tomato plants are huge and have tons of tomatoes on them, but they are pretty much all green. I just have a backyard garden. Nothing like your massive homestead.

  36. Rebecca in MD says:

    Basil is very easy to dry if you have a food dehydrator. I dry it and store in canning jars for use all winter long in soups, stews, stir fry, so many things. You could use the dehydrator for fruit and making sun-dried tomatoes.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Ooooo great idea, thank you! We have two dehydrators because I dry tons of tomatoes and apple slices. I’ll throw some basil into the next batch!

      • Roslyn says:

        I tie my herbs in bunches with string and hang them in the laundry room. They dry in a few days and I can save dehydrator space for other things like eggplants, peppers and tomatoes.

  37. Traci says:

    Chopped basil in any type of egg scramble / omelette is divine!

  38. Elizabeth says:

    Littlewoods using your sweater to mop up the water in front of the sink made me laugh out loud! Your writing brings me laughter and levity especially during these crazy times. You may be isolated with your family on the homestead but your thoughtful and absolutely hilarious posts are a perfect respite for the rest of us out here in our own pandemic realities. Thanks so much.☺️

  39. pauline says:

    I’m too lazy to do all that gardening, but I enjoy seeing yours! The kid pictures are priceless, especially the blueberry sleeping one! LOL

  40. Best Bun says:

    Blooming gardens and blooming children. How wonderful. Kidwoods is getting so tall. Littlewoods may be petite but she definitely holds her own.

    Best wishes from Best Bun.

  41. jeanne m mccready says:

    i had some beets i boiled. ate for several nights as im single finally decided a protein shake with orange juice and beets would work. it was great. maybe a cuke in the blender

  42. kat says:

    Ha!!! Love your sense of humor!

  43. Ann says:

    I live pretty near you (in Lebanon, NH) and there are several food pantries where you can donate your excess cucumbers or any other unwanted garden bounty. I volunteer at the LISTEN pantry and we are so thankful for fresh produce…it makes our visitors so happy when they can bring home delicious fresh veggies and fruits!

  44. Chris says:

    Pesto – finely chop basil ( or other herbs) with salt and if you wish pine seeds or other nuts, seeds; then pack into clean jar and cover in olive oil. The herbs must be covered to prevent mold ( this also goes for bought pesto jars – if they are open and you need to store them longer cover the herbs with oil
    Red current – in addition to jam and juice they make a great dessert if you macerate them with sugar in the fridge, then pour condensed milk or cream over them. The jam is great for baking, think biscuit rolls or jam filled Christmas cookies, can be used in a pinch with meat ( instead of lingonberries),
    Black currant – excellent for juice or jam

  45. Pamela says:

    Have you read Olivia Hawker’s One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow? A family saga about life on the prairie that includes heaps of gardening / smallholding discussions. You’re blog reminded me of it.

  46. JD says:

    With all those berries, you really need to get into making wine. There are recipes out there that I hear give you drinkable wine in a month. You can also make shrubs with them.

    I was also going to suggest planting lettuces and greens that are not hybrids, so they can re-seed themselves.

    For still-green sweet peppers and tomatoes – piccalilli or green tomato relish. For just the green sweet peppers, pepper jelly (green sweet peppers are used in sweet pepper jelly and hot pepper jelly), pepper relish, and dried diced peppers for later.

    I’m a southerner, so; fried green tomatoes. So good.

    If you put up tomato sauce (and I’ve made it from cherry tomatoes numerous times), add basil to the jar for a deliciously seasoned sauce.

    My girls used to sit in our sandy garden soil and pour handfuls of it on their heads when they were little. My husband used to have to hose them off before they came in for baths. I grew up making mud pies and eating produce straight out of the garden, too, and picking wild blackberries, eating as many as I picked.. It’s understandably a bit alarming for people who were never around food production to see how much dirt there is, but while I don’t suggest eating it as a food source 🙂 dirt is absolutely invaluable for everything and everyone on this planet. The Frugalwoods girls are really very fortunate to be able to run freely, get dirty, and eat “fresh from the vine” food.

  47. Beth says:

    Have you thought about dehydrating your currants? They make awesome additions to scones or put into rice pilaf…etc. Just something to think about when you go into next year. I long for the size of garden you have. I’ve been expanding my garden as much as I can in my backyard, and this year will be hopefully adding a greenhouse! I only planted 2 cucumber plants and have been amazed at the numbers those two have been producing!

  48. B says:

    You are parenting exactly the way I want to parent. I love your garden too! I want to get a dehydrator now.

  49. Mary in Maryland says:

    My Mom canned a pickle relish that was great on sandwiches.

  50. Melissa says:

    Every episode of The Toddler Ennui makes me giggle so hard that I cry. I love it.

  51. Julie Tucker says:

    My granddaughter is almost 23 and she still eats veggies straight from my garden as she did as a toddler. I plant sugar snap peas just for her to eat raw along with the cucumbers. Her favorite thing to do when she visits is to see what she can harvest from the garden. You are giving your girls life long good habits!

  52. One of the easiest vegetables to grow are Courgettes in my opinion. Those suckers grow like weeds with minimal maintenance. I tried saving even more money this year by growing Butternut Squashes, but apparently the Weather here in the UK had other plans! I now just have big leafy plants in my garden

  53. CTF says:

    This is one of your best posts, loved reading it. And stunning photos. Jokes about not having the proper wooden accoutrements aside…your girls would probably love these Montessori choppers. A friend who’s a Montessori teacher recommended them to us months ago and our 5yo (and sometimes the 2yo too) loves chopping veggies now. I am generally a kitchen minimalist but these are well worth the $3.95 investment IMO! https://www.montessoriservices.com/wavy-chopper

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