What do you eat all winter?
If you have followed any of our 100-day winter pantry and spending challenge you will know that we are trying to spend very little money on food for 100 days while focusing on eating out of our pantry and freezers. Although the challenge is a fun idea to help us use the food we grew in the garden, the concept of eating out of the pantry in the winter is not exactly a new idea. It is what everyone used to do before supermarkets, freezer food, and extensive shipping changed the way people ate. Back then you grew what you wanted to eat, and saved it in the root cellar or pantry. So before you think I'm some crazy person, just remember this was the historical normal for most of the history of the world.
I was thinking about this as I walked through my garden today. I reflected while noticing all the tracks in my garden that rabbits don't store food for the winter. They don't go to stores. They don't hibernate or migrate. They have to forage. Judging by the abundance of tracks, they are still finding plenty to eat in my backyard. Before the snow covers the ground they eat small tender plants, but about this time of year they start to chew on my blackberry canes and blueberry bushes. They like the smooth bark of my apple trees. When Steven prunes the fruit trees, they will chew all the bark of the branches he trims and drops. It doesn't seem like a great diet, so I bet they are even more excited about spring than I am.
During the cold winter months we eat our way though all the things we preserved last summer and fall. When we sit down to a breakfast of french toast dripping with Aronia berry syrup, I am reminded just how much I like having Aronia berry bushes in my yard. When making dinner is as as easy as putting chopped and sauteed garden veggies from the freezer into the Crock-pot I get excited about what we can grow this next year. When I go down to the pantry and see just how fast we are going through the tomatoes and spaghetti sauce that we canned, I take another look through the seed catalog to see which high yielding varieties we need to plant this year.
What is the garden plan this year?
Just about now I am getting super excited for the upcoming growing season. We love to garden! As I write this post I have a big bag of potting soil behind me and a new batch of seeds in my mail pile. All the seed starting trays I need to get the 2020 garden season started were delivered yesterday. I ordered about 20 different kinds of herbs to grow this year. Steven ordered 6 different types of elderberries! Check out our new plant sale list to see what made the cut. In a few weeks we will plant thousands of seeds and sometime in early March we will put up the greenhouses and it will really start to feel like spring.
This year I'm excited to try new peppers. I want to make pickled peppers, smoke my own paprika peppers, and I might try making smoky Chipotle peppers too. We got seeds for Hatch Chile peppers to grow for roasting. Roasted peppers are amazing in lots of my winter recipes! We also bought seeds for tiny snacking cucumbers, pumpkins to make lots of pies, lots of new tomatoes and peppers, and a new variety of Rhubarb. We have plans for filling cut flower beds with beautiful blossoms, and plans to complete the cold frames that will help us extend our greens growing season this coming year.
Steven has been doing research into the different tomato varieties and hybrids, trying to find the stories, history and reviews of each one so that we can find the best that will grow here. In his "day job" he manages the advancement decisions of product lines worth billions of dollars so it is fun to see him at home making our own advancement decisions. If anyone knows what to look for in a crop to see if it has potential, he does. What worked well last year, and what didn't? What is new and looks promising? What has the highest yield and disease resistance? What really needs to be retired? I told him he was in charge of selecting which varieties we will be growing in the backyard farm this year. My strategy has been to try a little of something and find what works. He's got a little more data driven approach. We'll see if we can break our pounds of tomatoes grown record this year.
I love this time of year where we are planning the garden for this year while enjoying all of the harvest of last year. This 100-day challenge is a great incentive to planning for next year because it helps us see how much we really eat. Then I can plan to make sure we have enough of what we love to eat on hand for next year. After all, we're not rabbits and I don't like bark.