Stocking Up

There’s something about August.  As a perennial student and now teacher, September continues to mark the End of Summer to me, regardless of what the weather’s doing.  As soon as the August long weekend has passed, the shift into fall seems dramatic and poweful.  The shadows lengthen, the lawns bleach out, the mornings are darker longer, the nights cooler.

And the harvests shift too.  It’s a paradoxical time in the garden; the real crops of summer, the tomatoes, beans, zucchini, and cucumbers start to finally come into their prime at the same time as I start nervously taking stock of what might continue into winter and what I might be once again behind in planting.  Will it have time to size up during these cooling, shortening days?

But most of all, this time of year, the pantry and freezer slowly but surely start to fill.  The staples that will sustain us for another year are ready to be put away, and each year we gain confidence in our backyard homestead and manage to stock up on a little more, understanding how much we might need.

I planted garlic in two batches last fall, and the last one is now ready to put away.  It was a good harvest of almost 60 heads, which should give me enough to replant from my own stock in a few months.

This year I was also on a mission to learn how to grow onions; the beautiful Bedfordshire Champions are a heritage yellow storage onion that was very successful for me.  They bulbed up really nicely, and I only seperated these two out for quick use due to potential rot (the rest are curing outside out of today’s rain).

I also tried Thrifty Red onions that have bulbed up reasonably well but haven’t toppled over yet; I’ll take the water right off them once the rain has passed.  Between both types, I was hoping for enough onions to take us through the winter, but germination rates weren’t great for either, and I didn’t end up with as many transplants as I was hoping.  I’ll go big with the planting for next year, though, now that I’ve had this success!

Also now harvested and ready for storage: 120 lbs (?) of potatoes!

There are more in the box behind!

The final weigh in isn’t totally complete, but that’s an educated guess and if anything, it’s conservative.  These are the Kennebecs and Russian Blues that we hope will get us through the year, and so far, it’s looking good!

The tomatoes are starting to come in steadily, and the onslaught of beans (first bush, then pole, then dry/shelling) is underway.  It won’t be a good squash year, but with a nice September and October, we might get a few.  It’s a GREAT year for apples–I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with another 100 lbs of those to store.

And lastly, the freezer is stocked with Sockeye and Spring salmon after strong local returns this year, and Skipper and I are in the thick of crabbing once more.  Another week or two and we should have enough crab in the freezer to keep us going until next summer (though, truly, people crab year-round here, and there really is no pressure to store enough for the year.  But it’s an intensive routine that’s nice to do in one go).

It’s quite a remarkable feeling to stock up and realize that we will be able to meet so many of our food needs through the year.  Protein? Salmon, crab, eggs, and a few chickens in the freezer (well, the extra roosters.  That’s for another post. 🙂 ).  With any luck, some home-dried beans.  Supplemented with purchased cheese, nuts, tofu.  Starch? Potatoes! Supplemented with rice, pasta, oats and bread/flour.  Veggies?  Stored onions, tomatoes, squash; carrots, turnips, beets, and winter greens and brassicas in the garden for as long as we can stretch them.  Possibly some beans and other veg in the freezer; there will be a little sauerkraut and possibly some other pickles in the pantry.  Dried herbs and garlic for seasoning.  Fruit? Apples, frozen rhubarb and berries, jam.  Skipper has a batch of his own beer on the go, and the hops are ripening on the vine.  Next year they will be in full production, and our cherry and plum trees will slowly come on line as well.

I wish I could find the words to express the awe I feel as I take stock of these staples.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be a measure of security, but it does feel that way.  As well as just immensely satisfying.  It’s a primal, visceral sense of connection to land, people here, ancestors, but it’s also a joyful pleasure in the abundance, the return on months of happy labour, and the signal of winter feasts to come as we share this delicious wealth with friends and family in the months to come.

Here’s to fall!

8 thoughts on “Stocking Up

  1. I’m working on filling out my stockpile this week. Every year I take the last week of August off. We do a family trip to eastern Washington (we went to the Suncadia resort this time) and while on the sunny side of the state we hit up fruit stands for boxes of peaches and pears. I’m half-way through canning the peaches as I type. I expect the pears will be ready to can by this Friday. Oh, I also made a batch of savory tomato jam this morning as well. I’m on a roll!

    Have fun getting your food stores all prepared and ready for the fall and winter months.


  2. Wow, Sandy, that’s awesome! When you wrote that you took the last week of August off, my first thought was, what a good idea to take that week off so you can finish up all of the busy harvesting and canning in the garden! But there IS more to life–glad to hear you get some family vacation time in too. 🙂

  3. I’m impressed with the quantities you are putting by. We’ve got many of the same items, but not so much, and certainly not enough to make it through until next growing season! I have been going a little crazy on the canning front the last while, but I somehow don’t think of it as food, exactly – more like accessories. You can’t live on jam and chutney!

    I’m going to make a note of the onion varieties you mentioned – I’ve been growing Copra yellow and Redwing red storage onions the last two years, and while germination has been great, I haven’t been so happy with the size of the onions I get. Thanks for the suggestion!

    1. Thanks Miriam–you’re so right about the “accessories”! I think that’s why I haven’t done as much in the way of preserving; I forget that in traditional diets chutneys, pickles and jams were a big part of getting essential nutients through the winter. I just often forget to eat them, because they’re not staples.:)

      I grew the Redwing onions last year, and I thought they were absolutely delicious. But I didn’t have great luck with the bulb size either, though that may have been my inexperience. I wasn’t happy with the # of seeds I got for the price at West Coast either, and also decided to go with all open pollinated varieties of all my veg this year. The Bedfordshire Champs are from Stellar Seeds, and they’ve been awesome. The Thrify Red are from Saltspring, and they are looking decent, though not as large as the Bedfordshires. I’ll let you know how they finish up!

  4. Wow Toni, loving your Pics of Plenty… ‘specially the garlic!

    It’s funny isn’t it – the feelings of immense satisfaction and comfort garnered from a well-stocked store room – being ready for the long, cold months to come? Giving my stacked firewood the once-over gives me that same feeling. We are all truly “squirrels” at heart; )

  5. That sense of comfort, confidence, and acheivement that comes from the growing of all of our own vegetables, much of our fruit, and growing or acquiring local sources of so much of the other food stuffs – is one of the primary reasons I garden as seriously as I do, and choose to live more simply overall. There is nothing quite like it, and it makes the season of work all worthwhile.

    Your harvests look gorgeous and well done on the onions!

    1. Thanks Deb and thanks Laura! I’m glad my onions went well this year, but I did start with more than 250 seeds planted and the harvest seems meager in comparison, though the transplants grew well. I’ve enjoyed your recent video tours, Laura, and I’m fascinated by how differently individual crops can grow even in such close proximity! Your garden and how-tos continue to provide lots of inspiration and hope for improvement! 🙂

  6. Hi again on this one, Another one of those things about gardening/farming that’s “a given” is the uncertainty – the vagaries of weather from one year to the next that determine what will (or will not) be successful: rain, heat, sun, pollination, wind… You just never know what’ll do well or be a colossal flop. We are all eternal optimists/high-rollin’ gamblers at heart (’cause, let’s face it, this is all just one big educated guess; )

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