Farming is more than just keeping animals or a garden, it is knowing the seasons, the weather, the soil, the animal, the seed, and most importantly yourself. Chuck loved the challenges of weather, haying in the heat of summer, then hand milking in the frozen winter. Me, I love the challenge of storing food for winter. Growing up my family had a garden, I remember picking and shucking the corn my mom would freeze, podding the peas while watching a movie, eating strawberry shortcake for dinner after a day of picking. Now it was my turn to put up for my family. At first I was very organized about it, I documented how much of everything I planted and when, then in a separate document recorded everything I harvested and put away. That way by the spring I would know whether I needed to plant more or less, and if I needed to put up more or less. I also kept track of things I did not plant but put up all the same. Now after 4 years of keeping track I am pretty good and knowing how much of what we need. So starts this season of no farm and no garden.
Over these last few years I have gotten to know other farms and now I am to rely on them. The trick is to stay ahead of the season. Right now we have meat in the freezer, but I know that will soon be gone. The best time to get most of your meat butchered is right before the animals are taken off pasture. So here in Minnesota that is around deer hunting time. However, this month I will be getting 25 butchered chickens to put in the freezer, and another 25 in the fall. Yep we go through about 50 chickens in a year. That might seem like a lot but there are 365 day in a year so when you look at it like that 50 does not seem like so much. Chickens have a shorter growing season requiring, depending on the breed, 8 weeks from start to finish.
The idea is to have enough to get you through until the next harvest. The pork we will get from our friends at Pastures A Plenty, in the past we have raised 2 pigs to put in our freezer, but this year I think instead of getting two whole pigs I will just order the cuts we mainly eat. Having a whole animal does challenge you to cook things you might have otherwise never tried, but I will skip that this year. Our friend who took the sheep agreed to provide us with lamb, now I just need to find a cow and we will be set for meat. Pigs and lambs grow to butchering size in about 6 months where a cow takes at least 2 years.This might sound like a lot of meat, and probably it is but I cook everything at home and I never want to buy meat out of season. Three meals a day for 3 people, and soon 4, it adds up. We have 3 freezers and by the time winter comes around I will have them all full. Now on to fruits and vegetables. For the last 3 years I have been trading a friend lamb for tomatoes, corn, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, and watermelon. I am not sure what I will do this year but I am sure we can work something out. Last year I canned 80 pounds of tomatoes and froze 4 dozen ears of corn. The peppers are mainly eaten when we get them, however I do cut some up to freeze. I have in the past froze stuffed peppers, it just depends on what I have time and room for. The broccoli and cauliflower is hard to say how much I freeze when I get them they are in produce boxes and I freeze about 4 boxes of each, or whatever is given to me. This year I will have to get peas, beans, onions, squash, and potatoes. I have a couple friends who I might call on for those.I go to a strawberry patch every year. I have tried to grow strawberries but have found them too much work and would rather pay someone to do the work and I enjoy the harvest. I try to harvest around 50 pounds every year. Strawberries, plus blueberries and peaches pretty much get us through the winter.
Last year I made up pies and froze them without cooking, then when we needed a pie I just took it and baked it up. This was fantastic and I will do it again this year. Another thing I tried last year was freezing the produce in glass canning jars. I loved it! Not only do they stack nice I can reuse them year after year, and no plastic! This year if I have time I might try making my own fruit juice and freezing that, but we will see what I have time for.