Canned and stored food from the summer's bounty is a great way to provide year round
Canned and stored food from the summer’s bounty is a great way to provide year round

When we started our little farm project just three short years ago, one of our main goals was to be able to produce and provide much of what we eat.  We knew if we could accomplish that – it would instantly create healthier diets for our entire family. Not only would it knock out artificial preservatives in our diet – but we would be growing our own food without harmful chemicals and pesticides.  (See:Why We Do What We Do)

Popcorn is a great crop to grow - its delicious and easy to store and use year round
Popcorn is a great crop to grow – its delicious and easy to store and use year round

Although it’s easier in the spring, summer and early fall growing seasons to have plenty of fresh vegetables, salads, etc. on the table – the key to really becoming more self-reliant on your own food is to have a year round plan in place.

For us, that is where a little planning, canning and freezing have really helped us to accomplish our goals – allowing us to provide a large portion of the food we need, from what we grow.

The Canning Plan…Stored Goods From The Garden

The canning pantry -  filled up after last years garden season.
The canning pantry – filled up after last years garden season.

Although nothing can ever replace the taste of the first stalk of asparagus in the spring, or fresh corn on the cob in mid summer – the late fall and winter months have actually become some of our favorite times to enjoy what we have grown.   In reality, it’s a second celebration of enjoying the fruits of the garden through our canned, stored and frozen stock – without putting in a single days work in the garden!

Each year we get a little better at storing a little more of exactly what we will use.  (See: Growing A Garden For Canning) In addition to our staples – tomato juice, pasta sauce, corn, green beans, peppers, salsa, jellies, jams, etc. – we also grow and dry-store potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots and popcorn.  The next part of the process will be to build a small, old-fashioned underground root cellar at the farm to provide great long long-term storage.

Additional Long Term Sources Of Food:

Our small little vineyard should provide a bounty of grapes for years to come
Our small little vineyard should provide a bounty of grapes for years to come

We still have a ways to go on the farm. Some of what we have planted – like our small orchard of apple and cherry trees – and our little vineyard of grapes will take a few years to come to fruition.  But when they do – they will add a lot to creating food sources.

The apple trees will now be going into their second and third years of growth – and should start to produce enough to start making Apple Sauce, Cider, Juice, Pie Filling and more.  For now – we head to local orchards to pick what we need.

The grapes will also be heading into year three – and should start to produce a small harvest next year.  The majority of the grapes will be used to make juice and of course our wine. (Can’t wait for that!)  In addition to what we have planted for wine grapes – we planted a line of concord grapes for juice, jams and jellies.

Non-Garden Food Sources:

The bees are a valuable source as a pollinator of our crops - and for their honey!
The bees are a valuable source as a pollinator of our crops – and for their honey!

Luckily – our chickens provide us with fresh eggs year round – and are by far one of the best providers at the farm. (See:Raising Our Chickens) The bees, of which we will increase our hives from one to 3 next year, are also a huge benefit.  They give us the honey that we use in place of sugar in almost all of our recipes now – including our morning coffee.  As for that coffee..it’s that one thing we just cant figure out yet…it seems Ohio is just not conducive to Juan Valdez and his beans :).  Oh well – maybe we can always trade something we grow with Juan.

Happy Gardening!  Mary and Jim    If you would like to receive our Sunday Farm Update each week – be sure to sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column, “like” us on  the Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

31 thoughts on “Being Prepared – How The Garden And Farm Feed Us Year Round

  • December 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm
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    Has anyone done a list of how many or much seeds to plant for one person for fresh eating and much to can for the year?

  • November 15, 2013 at 8:33 pm
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    My hat goes off to you. I think this is harder to do than it sounds. Besides eggs what does your family eat for breakfast? Just curious. It would be a major deal if my family didn’t have cold cereal every morning.
    You guys are awesome!

  • November 14, 2013 at 9:18 am
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    We have raised beds, but we just started with the soil that was already there, amended it with manure the first winter, and add our own compost every year. It requires almost no weeding, no rototilling, just a little garden forking to mix in the compost and a little raking to smooth it out once a year.

  • November 11, 2013 at 12:19 am
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    Hi. I really appreciate your sharing, we too are on a journey to learn how to grow and preserve our own food and started our first garden this year with very limited success. We have been composting and looking forward to amending our soil with our compost. I only have a small area I am able to dedicate for a garden and am trying to determine the best plants to concentrate on. We live in the San Joaquin Valley in Central CA so we have a long growing season.

    I know you have a much larger garden space and and your yields look amazing. I was wondering if you could help me in determining how many plants you plan for to hopefully ensure you will have enough to preserve for the winter months. I know there are lots of variables, just wondering for ex., how many Roma tomatoes do you plant for the number of quart jars you hope to can for winter, or how many pickling cucumbers plants should I plant to yield x number quarts or pints.

    We enjoyed every little bit of produce out of our garden but never seemed to have enough left to preserve.

    I appreciate any help you can offer,

    Many thanks.

    Victoria

    • November 11, 2013 at 12:49 pm
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      Have you considered container gardening or raised beds?

      • November 12, 2013 at 3:05 am
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        Hi Cathy, yes I have considered it, I even have a few boxes… however I really prefer growing more naturally (in real dirt), rather than a soil-less medium. I really like the concept though, if I could do it in regular soil it could be a good option.

        Thanks for your response.

    • November 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm
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      Victoria, I’m in Riverside County, which is a low desert. I can grow things here almost year round; so I try to plant a variety to keep things fresh. I only can when I’ve shared with the neighbors and friends and the blessings keep pouring down. Then, I try not to waste and put up the extras in jars. Hope it helps… and Happy Gardening!

      • November 12, 2013 at 3:48 am
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        SJ, thanks for your reply, what zone are you in, we are zone 9?

        I am going to try to keep planting this winter, I have bush green beans, sugar snaps and green onion coming along nicely. We are having a really mild Nov. so far, pretty much mid 70’s, can’t complain about that :-). This is my maiden year so everything is an experiment, lol.

        I am looking forward to the day to have enough to be able to share with family and neighbors and hopefully can, however so far we would be starving if we had to rely on my garden to feed our family, sigh, lol.

        Thanks again for your reply!

    • November 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm
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      Raised beds and square foot gardening are good options then go up. Vertical trellising also help. You might be surprised at the quantity you can produce. If all else fails you can get 4 heads of cabbage at the local farmers market for less than five dollars and put up enough kraut to last all year. Good Luck

      • November 12, 2013 at 3:36 am
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        Yes I did consider square ft gardening, I really like the concept and even have a few boxes… however I really prefer growing more naturally (in real dirt), rather than a soil-less medium. If I could do container gardening in regular soil it could be a good option and open up a few more possibilities.

        I do have my cucumbers on a trellis, I agree going up should help me utilize my space better.

        My other challenge is getting enough sun in my little garden plot, which happens to be the sunniest location in my back yard, we even did some major tree trimming but had more partial shade than I had hoped for. 🙁 Hopefully this winter when the leaves are off I can try some other crops as well.

        I like your idea about the kraut, could you share with me your recipe for canning it, I never have made sauerkraut but we do enjoy it.

        Thanks again for your suggestions and response.

  • November 10, 2013 at 3:46 pm
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    We are up here in Alaska, where it is not snow as of yet, and are trying to get to the same goal as you.

    Although I can’t devote as much time to either the growing, all must be planted by about May 15th, or the preserving we too are slowly getting rid of major portions of our typical food bill.

    I try and drop in often and see what you are up to as it keeps me enthused.

  • November 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm
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    This is not something new and has been done for a long time, a side benefit is that it is decaffeinated. For me, I don’t drink much coffee- two cups a day so I haven’t tried it, but do know others who have and continue to enjoy their “free” brew. You don’t want dandelions from someone who has sprayed or treated their yards.

  • November 10, 2013 at 1:08 pm
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    We aren’t over the hill, yet, although my kids are always stepping in to help, so that is helpful. As I get back into growing my food, I want to look more at dehydrating and canning rather than freezing, so that I don’t have to spend my grocery savings on electricity. I plan on working toward this goal living in my double wide in an older park so I have a bigger yard than most parks but we can’t dig due to the wires/pipes. That is why I will be in containers and green house.

    As far a green houses has anyone else checked out the domed greenhouses?

    • November 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm
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      I know a lot of people that really raise quite a bit from containers – and the domed greenhouses are a great idea too. Great point also about the dehydrating vs freezing too!

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:48 pm
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    Wonderful 🙂 We have to be content with a quarter acre but I am very envious! You do great, good on you.

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm
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    Congrats! If I had to count on my gardens to feed us based on this year, we will starve! So changing my beds to raised rows like yours this winter, but my garden is still producing, peas, beans, kale, lettuce and green onions. Toms in gh are ripening and setting surpriseingly! Plenty of eggs, rabbits growing. And first deer this am! Building beehives for spring. I think the work keeps me young and strong at 65! Love reading what you are doing!

    • November 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm
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      It sounds like you are hard at it as well and having fun with it – and that is what it’s all about! Good luck on the raised beds and let us know how they turn out for you!

  • November 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm
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    oh-ho, guess I should re-think my decision to have a good garden and learn how to can: I am 65, so I guess I am over-the-hill. 🙂 Come on, Pam, You can do it! People tell me cannng is easy, so I am going to learn. I, too, am getting passed reaching many of my dreams, but I am glad to have the memories: sheep, goats, llamas, horses and donkeys. Nothing like a newborn baby in the barn! Never did make it to chickens, but they’re on my list. I am selling the farm and looking at a smaller place.

    One question I can not find an answer to is how to keep snakes out of the root cellar. The only thing I have found says get rid of their food, mice. Any other hints? Yes, I know all the good snakes do…but this old lady can do a pole-vault when confronted with them! Linda

    • November 10, 2013 at 2:17 pm
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      Hi Linda – and you are so right – you are never to old to garden! You will love canning – and yes, chickens too! I’m not sure how to help you on the snake question – but I can tell you that I’m not in love with them either 🙂

  • November 10, 2013 at 11:56 am
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    I, too, was going to mention the Dandelion root coffee. While I am older,in my later 50’s, I am going to do what I can to provide food for myself and any of my kids still residing with me. While I can’t have an inground vegetable garden, due both to regulations and bad knees, I am exploring other options- green house, raised beds in utilizing stock water tanks, aquaponics, hydroponics, and container gardening. Please keep doing what you are doing encouraging others to be “Modern Pioneers” wherever they are- however they can.

    • November 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm
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      Nancy – I love the spirit! So great to hear about so many others that want to keep on trying no matter how to raise some of their own food. I think you really hit it on the head – there are so many ways to do it! We really love what we do and hope to always help spread the word.

  • November 10, 2013 at 10:31 am
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    Have heard of Dandelion root coffee. There are some youtube video’s on how to harvest, clean, dry, roast…brew.

    • November 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm
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      Shannon – I’ve never heard of that…very interesting! I’m not sure I could ever give up my traditional coffee :):) lol

      • November 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm
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        I would not willingly give up my fresh coffee beans….but if I could not grow the beans (can’t in east Texas) and couldn’t get the coffee beans anymore….I would hope the dandelion root coffee was a decent replacement. We certainly have plenty dandelions. Hah..

      • November 10, 2013 at 8:03 pm
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        Dandelion root “coffee” is delicious! It’s rich and earthy, nutty and slightly sweet. I enjoy it more than regular coffee, but it is labor-intensive to harvest, so I mix it 50-50 with my coffee.

        Dig up the roots, clean thoroughly, chop into small pieces and dry for 2 weeks. Then roast them in the oven or in a dry skillet until they are a rich, dark brown. Grind and brew just as you would coffee.

        • November 11, 2013 at 5:50 am
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          Thanks for the feedback Cynthia. I am eager to harvest the roots and get started.

  • November 10, 2013 at 10:22 am
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    I also admire you two for what you are doing. Like Pam I feelI am to old to start that much at this time I will say this my wife and I are starting a small garden this next year. May God Bless You and your husband.
    Dwight

    • November 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm
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      Your never too old Dwight – and so glad you are starting a garden next year! Good luck to you both and let us know how it turns out! I honestly think the garden keeps us younger with all of the exercise and fresh air!

  • November 10, 2013 at 10:15 am
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    I really admire you two for your motivation and planning ahead. Food sources are getting more important all the time as you read what is now in our food and approved by the FDA. If I was younger, I’d be doing something similar, but at 61 I’m getting tired of all the maintenance on my 5 acres, let alone starting something new! Love reading your posts – keep it up!

    • November 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm
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      Thank you Pam – we really have enjoyed building our little place and growing more and more of our food. Thank you so much for the kind words!

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