Hurry, get the harvest in!

And the rush is on. August means bushels of ripe tomatoes, summer squash overrunning the garden, gallons of cucumbers and peppers, and corn tasseling overnight. That is, if you're one of those gardeners who never fails!

That's not me and that's probably not you. One crop or another fails now and then and we have to say, "Well, the tomatoes did well, anyway!"

Whatever your garden is producing well right now is THE crop to take care of. Keeping it through, or at least until, the winter, is the essence of country living when it comes to food.

Canning, freezing, dehydrating, pickling and the use of root cellars each have their benefits. Decide what to do with each food by researching and studying your own situation.

If you're lucky enough to have a root cellar or a cool basement room, you can keep root crops and some others in a fresher condition than other methods. Canning gives you convenience foods, while dehydrating uses a minimum of storage space. Freezing is the easiest way to put up the harvest but maybe the least dependable. Pickling can be done without a pressure cooker or canner of any kind if you ferment the food.

Which way will it be? It's time to make the decisions and full speed ahead! Here's to a great harvest this year.


Backyard buildings

Most cities would frown on you building a shelter of any kind from scrap lumber or old metal, even if it's in your backyard. We have to bite the bullet and pay for materials that are approved, like new lumber and siding, so sometimes it's cheaper (and easier!) to buy kits or even sheds that only need screwing together. A power tool is handy for that, but a screwdriver works, too.

Where to put the shed is a problem in most back yards. It needs to be close enough to the back door to get to in a snowstorm if needed, but of course, we don't want it in the way visually. If we entertain in our backyards, we need it far enough away to not be part of the scene.

Along a side fence is usually the best place. Trees and other landscaping might limit your choices even there, so think carefully before building one. Stay away from low or wet areas, too. They're hard to move after that!


The Beets are Ready

While beets are not the first harvest, they are the first harvest that I put up for the winter, so it was a sort of kickoff to the activities the rest of the summer and fall bring. I thinned the beets and canned seven pints of them pickled.

Canning beets is a job! After the beets were rinsed outdoors, I took them inside and cut the tops off an inch or more above the roots and put them in a big bowl of water. The beet roots got scrubbed then cooked. While they were cooking, I picked through and washed the beet greens and put them in a big pot to cook down for the freezer. I will can them later.

After that I got the canner, jars, lids and rings ready and when the beets were cooked, I slipped the skins and sliced them, then made a pan of syrup and poured over them. Everything was hot and ready by that time. Lids and rings were in their hot water, the big canner was heating up, the syrup was hot, the beets were hot and I was hot!  I tried to hurry to get them done before the heat of the day, but it just didn't work that way.

Anyway, here is the recipe I used for the syrup:

To 3/4 cup of white vinegar, add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar. Mix it up and taste it, then adjust. More sugar can be added and a little more water (up to another cup). The vinegar is what allows it to be water bath canned; if you add more water than one cup you will have to pressure can. Three times this mixture should get you enough for four pints of beets.

To each pint jar, add 1/2 teaspoon of canning salt, then fill the jars with hot beets, add enough syrup to cover, wipe the rims, put on the lids and rings and adjust. Process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes, adjusting to your altitude.

There. The first beautiful jars of food ready for the pantry!