I can finally take a moment to give you a better idea what has been the cause (and result) of the busy-ness around here.  For the last 5 weeks or so, I have felt like I have moved into my kitchen permanently.  If you have been a blog follower for any length of time, then you know I have a goal to learn something new relating to self-sufficiency almost every month.  One of the big goals this summer was to learn how to “preserve the harvest” in preparation for the coming winter, and how to eat seasonally.  Since we weren’t allowed to garden here on our new base, we did the next best thing and signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture).  A CSA is basically buying a “share” of a farm and all its produce.  We paid in advance for x number of weeks of food for the year.  Every week, we get a delivery of farm-fresh, organic, seasonal produce.  I never know what will be coming until I pick up my share each week.  It’s almost like Christmas as we go through the fruit and veggies of the week!  I have had to learn a lot of creativity, bravely experiment with new foods I have never heard of, and learn to use the already-ripened food before it goes bad.  I preserve what I can and we eat the rest right away.  Well, I quickly realized that, while we had plenty of food for our current needs, I didn’t have much to store away for the winter, when the shares ended.  So, I ordered a “canning share,” which basically means each week, I also recieve box loads of fresh produce for canning, freezing, and dehydrating.  So, that’s exactly what we have been busy doing. 

Every week, I have received 40-80 lbs. of food by the box load, in addition to my standard weekly share of food.

Green Beans

Broccoli

Tomatoes

We’ve had boxes of broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, peaches, pears, and apples.  We have spent countless hours washing, peeling, chopping, snapping, and preserving.

We even recruited neighbors and friends on a couple of occasions to help out, then sent them home with a jar of fresh food as a thanks! M was so proud of this pic, as it was her first time wielding a "real" knife. She felt like such a big girl.

A few friends wanted canning lessons, so we put them to work helping as we went.  Also, as if I didn’t have enough food to can, we decided to experiment and try to use the crabapples outside our house by making some jelly.  The first batch was OK, but the second batch was AMAZING!  I should have made more, as we keep sharing it with folks.  As the jars began stacking up, I quickly realized that I had little storage space. 

Every spot in pantry is full of jars and other pantry storage items. S actually had to reinforce the shelves as they started to sag.

This house was not designed for putting food by, so, again, we had to get creative.  S installed some old shelving we had around the kitchen for the pint jars.  I don’t use a lot of those, and there was just enough space for that size with these shelves.  I quickly filled them up.

Over the cabinets.

Over the pantry closet.

Then, I started stashing jars wherever I could make room in cabinets.

Over the kitchen sink.

A cabinet by the stove.

As far as jars go, so far, I have put away: 6 qu. peaches, 20 qu. green beans, 20 qu. marinara sauce, 11 qu. diced tomatoes, 2 qu. pickled veggies, 2 qu. dill pickles, and 22 qu. applesauce.  In addition, I have done 6 pints of beets, 3 pints wax beans, 6 pints red beans, 17 pints pickles, 6 pints BBQ sauce, 6 pints tomato sauce, 10 pints beef broth, 15 pints green beans, 4 pints strawberry jam, 4 pints strawberry syrup, 6 1/2pints tomato sauce, 6 4. oz. jars of ketchup, and 14 4oz. jars of crabapple jelly.  Of course, I’m not quite done yet, but I’m almost there! 

Even the freezer didn’t escape stuffing. 

The main freezer received countless gallon-sized bags of frozen greens such as collards, spinach, kale, chard, broccoli leaves, stalks of the same, shredded zucchini and squash, and lots of broccoli.  Even the freezer door is packed with dehydrated and crushed herbs, homemade graham cracker crumbs, homemade bread crumbs, and some other misc. items.  Even our dog got some frozen beef bones put away.

In addition to all this, we have also dehydrated tons of stuff–all sorts of veggies, fruits, and fruit leathers.  I even started making yogurt whenever we have some milk left at the end of the week! 

So there you have it.  I hope to have more free time soon.  I only have about 30 pounds of apples and 20 pounds of pumpkin left to preserve.  We are going to make dried apple chips, can some apple pie filling, and probably freeze the pumpkin.  YUMMY.  Then the canning share will be complete.  I will still have weekly deliveries for about 10 more weeks, but that is a lot easier. 

I must say, this summer has been VERY educational!  In addition to learning about the food itself, I have really learned why people say the harvest is such a busy time of year.  I’m not even picking the stuff or tending the garden yet!  It has really given me a good idea of things in regards to our daily lifestyle.  For example, I know we need to start school a bit earlier in the year, and finish a bit later, so we can take time off for the harvest when we are on the farm.  I have learned that tomatoes really don’t go that far when canning, and I need to plant a lot more than I expected!  I was planning on planting lots of cucumbers and chard on our farm, and little spinach, but I have learned we really don’t care for chard, and the spinach is easy to preserve.  So, I think we will be switching that.  And while we love eating the lemon cucumbers, the regular cucumbers aren’t useful for much more than pickling around here, therefore I won’t plant as many as I thought. 

Now, if I could just find a place to put the rest of the applesauce, I could reclaim my kitchen! 

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