Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Looking back on Summer and Autumn 2013

What a wild ride !!!

My grandson, enjoying the warm autumn sunshine at the pumpkin patch.

Our spring started off with a wonderful early warm spring, with plenty of rain and hopes of an early gardening season. Hopes are often dashed, as was the case in 2013. A May snowstorm wiped out all my early baby garden plants, darnit, and forced a do-over.

Crazy snow followed by more rain, some flooding and then a typical Iowa summer. Heat and humidity, wilty plants and not enough rain when we need it- same old story.

This year we again went with an all-container garden but scaled way way back on plants. Just a few cherry tomatoes and herbs. We planned on relying on Hilltop Farms for our canning tomatoes and again this summer we were able to pick hundreds of pounds of tomatoes. 

The last day of picking tomatoes, and all the free apples we could pick- LOTS to do!
This was also a first time for me as a vendor at the local farmers market. Not the best experience overall, and likely not one I will repeat in the future. But I can never say never.

My qwest for wild plums hit the jackpot this year! I was able to find loads and loads of trees, and had a big bowlful before I decided they were not worth the effort. We also found a giant pear tree in the middle of nowhere and picked fresh pears by the bucketful, canned some and ate some fresh. I also gathered walnuts fallen from our trees, and well..... we'll see if I really get around to cracking them.

The generosity of small town people was evident this year as well. We were invited by friends in the nearby town to pick as many apples as we wanted- and they had many amazing fruit trees. Granny Smiths, Golden Delicious and a red apple a lot like Red Delicious but a very deep red, almost purple. Soooooo delicious and FREE. Our cupboards are filled with canned apple slices, applesauce and caramel apple butter, as well as dried apple chips. Apples fill the freezer as well, and we still have boxes left.

I mentioned Hilltop Farms earlier. This family farm is my favorite place on earth. It's a pick your own produce farm with a veggie stand for those who don't want or can't pick their own. In the summer we bought tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers for pickles at amazingly low prices, but the real spirit of generosity shows in these amazing Christian people by their offer of a Free Pick Day the day before the first killing frost. That day came with cold wind and colder rain but it didn't keep me from the field. A few ripe tomatoes remained but I picked many bags of green tomatoes knowing they would ripen later, and could be used green in some recipes. Their generosity will help feed us over the winter months.

It wouldn't be autumn in Iowa without a visit to a pumpkin patch. Most of the pumpkin patches here are also apple orchards so while I didn't get any apples, I spent the day with my daughter, son in law, and grandson, wandering the pumpkin fields. 

Pumpkins of all kinds are planted as far as the eye can see. All sizes, all colors, some vines still covered in blossoms.

Another part of the field is covered in many different gourds and squash vines. The gourd blossoms were so different from the pumpkin blossoms!

My grandson helped me pick out several interesting gourds for decoration and the perfect pumpkin, which wasn't carved into a jack-o-lantern, but will be dehydrated and ground into flour for use in a super secret recipe that's in the works (you'll have to stay tuned for that!).

And now, after we have had our first snowfall, and as Thanksgiving approaches, most of the produce has been preserved, it's time to be thankful for the things we too often take for granted- friends, family, and farmers. Spring will be here before we know it, and we do it all again!

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