I am not much of a gardener. I would rather be doing something else, but am willing to put in a limited amount of effort to get some fresh produce. Our garden had several phases this year, starting in the spring with Wayne preparing the area by digging out the old growth and weeds from the previous season, and then putting in some small tomato plants from the garden store. I participated in phase one by weeding the raspberries and rhubarb, planting green bean, zucchini, carrot, and beet seeds, and putting down some wool mulch I got from my sheep farmer friend.
Phase two of the garden involved watching the plants and weeds come up and wondering what was what. Once the plants were big enough (and I had googled to get photos of what they were supposed to look like), I weeded and thinned. Phase three was getting some actual produce and doing periodic weeding to keep it looking nice and orderly. Phase four was when summer activities got out of hand, and while I continued picking produce the weeds started to take over. Phase five is now, when we continue to get tomatoes and zucchinis, but I have given up on weeding, it looks like a jungle, and you can barely find the produce to pick.
The following photo was taken at the beginning of August. Everything looks very lush and green, and weedy.
Wayne has talked about planting strawberries but so far it hasn’t happened. My grandmother used to have a strawberry patch that was full of ripe berries in June of 1982, the first time I brought my husband to the family cabin when we had been dating for only a few months. Between the strawberries, the good fishing, and the classic cabin, I think the deal with me was set in Wayne’s mind that weekend. This spring I heard about hanging baskets of strawberry plants at Walmart, so I bought one of those as an alternative. When my sister was visiting I also went to a U-pick it place and bought one big box of just picked berries We made strawberry shortcake, ate a bunch plain, and froze the rest.
I am not sure the wool mulch was such a great idea after all. Weeds grew up through it and when I tried to pull them out, they got tangled in the mat of wool and it was a battle. In addition to taking care of the vegetable garden, I spent hours weeding in the flower bed and brick sidewalk in front of the house before we had company in the middle of July. Picking the weeds out of the bricks is tedious, and it is discouraging when all the weeds are back after a few weeks.
My uncle who lives near us keeps bees. I think this has involved more work and problems than he expected, but it is great for the plants and gardens in the neighborhood, and good to have a source of organic honey. One time this summer he found one of the bee boxes knocked down and broken apart with pieces scattered about and honey licked off. The bee boxes are heavy and up off the ground, so he thinks a bear did this. We had heard of bear sightings in Fergus Falls 12 miles away, so it is possible. I can’t help having a vision of pooh bear with his hand in the honey jar.
I do not know what I am doing with the vegetables, so I made a chart with some information about each type of vegetable I planted and including a range of dates when they should be ready to start harvesting. The beets had the earliest harvest date, followed by the zucchini.
I was not sure how to tell if the beets were ready, or what would happen if I left them in the ground too long. I picked a couple before the target date because they looked ready. They were small but big enough to cook and eat. I chopped and stir fried the beet leaves with some zucchini and onions. As it turned out, the beets I picked weeks later were even smaller. I tried to watch for zucchini as I prefer to pick them when they are small, but of course I regularly found huge ones that I missed hiding under some leaves.
The next thing ready to pick were green beans. They are prolific and you have to pick them every day, or at least every other day. They are delicious and we had some at almost every dinner for weeks, but there were still more than we could eat. Last year I tried freezing some after reading up on the best method. Several sources online suggested you did not have to cook or blanch them first, so I just washed and cut them up and put them in meal size bags. Over the winter we ate some of them which honestly were not that good. They were kind of rubbery, like the frozen green beans from the store. I put them in soup instead of serving them plain.
At the end of July I was away for a week. I was worried about being gone for that long with the beans coming fast and furious, and knowing that the zucchini can grow very quickly. Wayne said he would check the garden while I was gone. When I got back there were quite a few rhubarb stalks ready to pick. We had another round of guests, so I made my favorite Rhubarb Dream Dessert and froze some.
Wayne said he checked the beans every other day while I was gone, but he must not have looked very carefully, because I picked an entire gallon ice cream pail full. And I found a ginormous zucchini. I know from experience that you can look and look and not find any zucchini to pick, and the next day there will be a huge one. I like to slice up the small zucchini and stir fry them with a bit of olive oil. I have a couple of recipes I like that use the big ones, including Chocolate Zucchini Cake and Zucchini Cheese Casserole.
I picked a couple of carrots which turned out to be very small, and three beets which were even smaller. Wayne thinks we should not bother with beets and carrots again due to the small harvest, but I like seeing them grow and eating them. The next photo shows everything I picked on the day I returned from my vacation away.
The following photo shows my tiny carrots next to a normal size one from the grocery store. The carrots tasted delicious raw.
We have been getting many tomatoes. I found that it works best to pick them before that are completely ripe, before an animal takes a bite. They seem to ripen up fine in the house.
Wayne loves to go fishing, so we regularly have fish dinners. Fish tacos has become a favorite meal for company. Wayne prepares the fish, cooks it, and cleans up the mess, while I prepare the rest of the meal. His go to method is frying with beer better, although there are variations depending on what ingredients we have on hand. It is always a winner, but we are very aware that this is not the most healthy way to cook. We have experimented with baking the fish. It works and is good too, but the fried method is everyone’s favorite. Following is a photo of Wayne with a walleye that is Minnesota’s most prized fish.
Wayne used to take our kids out fishing regularly when they were younger, and he enjoys providing this experience to any visiting children. Our young adult daughter does not go fishing much any more, but she did get a fish tattoo. She was here in August with her boyfriend who had never been to Minnesota or caught a fish. Wayne took them fishing, and fortunately they caught several fish while having a fun bonding experience. Next is a photo of Britta’s bass tattoo next to a freshly caught bass.
My time spent in the garden seems worth it when we have meals featuring produce we grew ourselves, or that are locally sourced or freshly caught from the lake. There are two farms down the road that put out freshly picked corn on the cob each day for a couple of weeks. It is self serve where you take the number of cobbs you want and put the money in a box.
The following photo is a meal of fish caught the same day, potatoes from my uncle’s garden, and tomatoes from our garden. The beans are from the store, as we had eaten all of ours.
Now in September there are still tomatoes growing among many weeds, and a few zucchini that are hard to find, but the garden is about done for the season which is OK with me.