Reflections on 2015′s Garden

November 28, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Garlic hangs from hooks in the basement ceiling

Garlic hangs from hooks in the basement ceiling

This is a hanging rack of garlic in a cool, relatively dry and mostly dark corner of the basement. In previous years, I gave away most of the Alliums to friends and family, leaving myself just enough to plant for next season. I was unsure of how to store it for the long-term and wanted to make sure it all got used before it had a chance to go bad. This year I’m finally making use of all the excessive metal hooks the previous homeowner installed from the basement joists.

The pickled remains of the 2015 harvest sit on a basement shelf

The pickled remains of the 2015 harvest sit on a basement shelf

These are jars of tomatoes, crushed with bits of home-grown garlic thrown in, awaiting a winter day when we decide to make sauce of them. Canning these was pretty easy. No sauce, vinegar or syrup was necessary. Just a little bit of lemon juice to increase the acidity.

Peach (and cherry) preserves, on the other hand, required a syrup of honey and sugar to fill the space between the fruit and turned out to be a major pain. A friend’s peach tree ripened all at once and they gifted us a very heavy bag of the fruit. However, after removing the unripe peaches, the moldy ones, the skins and the pits, there was just enough to fill a single wide-mouth quart jar. As a project, canning a bag of peaches is daunting enough to me to make me want to can the idea in the future.

The Morton Grove Farmers’ Market had an end-of-year party at our house recently, and our friend and organic farmer, Denny Wright, of Wright Way Farm, stopped by with farmer’s wife, Susan. He insisted on seeing the garlic hanging from the basement joists and viewing my raised bed plots by the light of our smart phones. I must admit I felt a swelling of pride as an honest-to-goodness professional farmer complimented me on the fruits of my organic gardening labor and the butt-ugly state of my November raised beds.

As of just pre-Thanksgiving, though, these beds still had kale, Swiss chard, and lettuce growing in them. One of my latest accomplishments has been gardening in four dimensions, planning crop rotation through the seasons as well as the geographic location of each crop. As a result, I’ve been able to continue blanching and freezing kale and Swiss chard and enjoying fresh salads straight from the garden well into the holiday.

If I add up what we’ve spent on groceries and dining out in 2015 so far, then add in the money I’ve spent on gardening supplies, it’s still at least $1,000 less than in 2014. This may be a result of most of the garden capital investments being complete. But considering how many meals we have eaten from the garden, I’m taking this number as proof that growing our own food has saved us about a grand in 2015. I doubt it’s because we’re spending less on groceries, though. I just saw Chinese-grown garlic for a quarter a bulb. So I can’t say my garlic is much cheaper than that. My theory is that I’m so happy to be eating food from our garden (and not tossing it in compost because nobody ate it) that I seldom suggest we order in food or go out to dinner any more.

In 2015, I’m thankful to have the land and the opportunity to enjoy growing and eating the food I love. I’m grateful to my wife for humoring me and allowing me to spend the time and money to invest in our little backyard farm. And I am thankful to all my readers for your interest. I wish you a peaceful end to the year and a prosperous 2016.