Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Ant And the Grasshopper--a Trailer Park Homestead update

If you're not familiar, "The Ant and the Grasshopper" is one of Aesop's fables.  It tells the story of how the grasshopper dallies about and plays all summer while the ant toils away putting things up for the winter.  The grasshopper mocks the ant while the weather is warm and food is in abundance, but when the snow starts falling, the ant is safe in its nice, warm home, full of good things to eat, while the grasshopper goes hungry, freezes, and dies.

I've been starting to worry that I've been being too much of a grasshopper of late.

Sure, I've got a great garden going, full of potential yet, but it seems like I ought to have more put up for the winter already.  So far, I just have strawberries, blueberries, jams (strawberry and raspberry), and a few beets frozen, plus a bunch of onions cured for storage in a "root cellar" (more on that later, when I finish figuring out exactly what I'm doing for that!).  I don't have anything canned yet at all.  I guess it is still pretty early for having much put up here in Michigan; if I remember right, last year it was mostly the end of August and September I was doing most of my "harvest" (harvested from the farmers market) and I had to stop early because we moved at the beginning of October.

I should also take solace in the fact that my freezer is almost full of something, which is a really good sign, and I really don't want it to get too much more full or I won't have enough room for the venison that I expect to be getting to keep us supplied with meat for the next year, hence the need to start canning.  Here's what's growing around the Trailer Park Homestead (maybe that will make me feel better too):
Sights like this do not do anything to ease my mind!  The dang birds are eating the sunflower seeds almost as fast as they develop!  Maybe tying a plastic grocery bag around each of the sunflower heads would help?
It doesn't seem like my beans are producing as much as they were last year.  Maybe they don't like the Three Sisters thing (they are trying to knock over the corn in places!) or maybe too many neighborhood kids are having a snack when they come over to play, I don't know.  Either way, I think next year, I'm going to go back to growing these in the square foot garden boxes, since they did amazingly well there last year.
This does give me some hope.  If this potato condo lives up to expectations, that would be 100 lbs of potatoes!  That's a lot of food!  Of course, then I'm back to my lack of root cellar storage issue, but that is a problem I'll welcome!  I am pretty confident I have some ideas that should work for that.  There are still two levels of slats to put on the potato condo before I get super excited though.
Another encouraging sign:  the rutabaga (on the left) seem to be doing great, which will be wonderful for making venison pasties this fall for easy freezer meals for a while to come (why I'm not worried about "root cellar" space for the rutabaga) and the bell pepper plants are starting to produce peppers faster than I'm using them.  I'll be able to start adding them to my freezer stock any day!
The back raised bed is nearly full of young snap pea plants, carrots, broccoli, and cabbage.  Very soon, I need to fill all remaining space with spinach.  That should help my current food insecurities as well.  It does make me nervous that it is getting so late in the year and the plants are still so small, but since they are in this tight space, I can cover them to extend the growing season if need be.
The kids are finally starting to leave the corn alone, probably due to a combination of the facts that I've been getting sweet corn from the farmers market so they'll leave the dent corn alone....and that they can't reach it!  Is that weird that I'm considering making homemade venison corn dogs with this stuff this winter?
So maybe I'm not really being a grasshopper.  After all, in addition to what I've showcased here, I still have tomatoes (not doing nearly as well as I'd like), cucumbers (still struggling to keep the kids out of them), melons, more carrots, and a small variety of herbs growing as well.  I guess I'll start making more of an effort at the farmers market to stock up on things I can't grow but can can as well (PEACHES! APPLES!).  I'll see about filling every available empty space with spinach and a little lettuce, so I can add that to my future food as well.  Maybe I'm just more of a disgruntled ant, not satisfied with the pile of food stored for the winter. 


  1. In our neighborhood, pretty much everyone has a row of sunflowers on their property. Most of my neighbors put paper bags on top of the flowers and tie them shut on the bottom. I saw one neighbor do it with plastic bags, and her sunflower rotted right off the stem...I suspect she had trapped some moisture in there.

  2. Yeah do NOT use plastic bags - use paper ones. Otherwise, the seeds will rot in the head of the flower. Paper lets the plant breathe, while still keeping the seeds safe for eating later. And you've got way more put up than I do... I have nothing. So far I've had one mealy scaly roma tomato, though there are several others on the plants that are still green and healthy looking. My peppers in pots never made it. Since we're in respite housing, there's no garden. And because we moved, the people we left ended up getting all the left-over home canned food. I'm back to buying "bump and dent" canned stuff at the local outlet. :(

  3. Don't forget, too, that you can pressure can and dehydrate potatoes. Onions also dehydrate well. A root cellar is great, but those of us without them can still put up root crops for winter use. :)

    --Kari (a former Yooper girl)

  4. I do NOT like canned potatoes. Yuck!

  5. I don't like canned potatoes either, but they make GREAT hash! I chop up leftover meat and mix them in and fry it up with onions! YUM!

  6. You could make mashed potato & freeze it.. Add milk, a little oil & black pepper, maybe cheese & herbs for interest.. defrost, heat and stir thoroughly when you want to eat and it's lovely! :-)

  7. Ohh! If you freeze the potatoes, you can actually freeze them in ice cube trays! Then you just take out as many ice cube sized chunks as you need. One for thickening a bit of soup, three for a single meal for a sick person, ten for a bigger meal, etc! We've done that and it's so handy! You can do that with chicken broth, too - an ice cube is about a tablespoon worth of melted broth, which is just what you need for a good sautee or whatever. :)

  8. You definitely need to look at it as freezer half full not pantry half empty....every item saved is one less you will have to find later on. Jam can be wicked expensive and thats not even using the same caliber of fruit you grow or get from the farmer's market. I have only put up jelly/jam myself as I have no room to can stuff (and no pressure cooker). My goal is to have a dehydrator by apple season so I can dry a whole mess of apple chips for snacks at work...and bananas...and fruit leather....and herbs....and venison jerky...maybe some moose jerky if the neighbor is feeling generous with his roadkill supply. lol.

    You've definitely got time.