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We’ve been excitedly planning our fall garden, beginning with some stinky, succulent mushroom compost – 2 scoops! We chose to dedicate a sandy, patchy grass area next to the house as another garden, and Tim decidedly shoveled a load of mushroom compost there after he’d tilled up the sandy soil.
We had a great time on a trip to the Green Flamingo farm in New Smyrna, the first farm I wwoofed at for one month this past May/June. The farmer, Liz, was hosting farm tours and a fancy dinner to benefit some local group. The farm was beautiful, baby greens sprouting up everywhere! She gave us some baby tomatoes and pepper plants she didn’t think she’d use – what a treat! Hopefully we can keep them alive through the winter.
Inspired by what we’d seen at G-Flo, we decided to make raised rows for our plants. However, I remembered a permaculture tip I’d read in Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores: plants are happier in gardens that reflect Nature, and there are rarely rectangles and straight rows found out there… I then took to sculpting spirals and mandalas in our new beautiful dark soil.
And after a few hours’ work…
As of right now, we’ve transplanted baby kale, mustard greens, and broccoli seedlings from another plot into the “kitchen garden,” and today we’ll be planting more kale (a different kind), arugula, rainbow chard, and maybe more seeds. I quickly received my seed order from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a Virginia seed company which specializes in heirloom, open-pollinated (non-hybrid), non-chemically treated seed that are well-adapted to a southeastern climate. I have a feeling we’ll have more produce than we can eat in a few weeks! Behind the beds, in front of the porch you can also see the two small fig trees Tim planted there for easy fig-picking.
Other news on the home front – lemons! There is an old, untended lemon grove near our home, which we’ve been helping ourselves to. As fans of stevia-sweetened lemonade, we usually have a stock of bottled lemon juice handy. Well, yesterday I decided that we shouldn’t buy our lemonade anymore when there are literally thousands of organic (gone wild?) lemons dropping to the ground right down the street. I went down and picked four huge bags full.
I then began the canning process, which I learned to do while wwoofing, with the aid of specific lemon-canning instructions I found online. I juiced them with a glass hand-juicer, which took about four hours and made me wish I’d found rubber gloves before beginning.
I saved the better-looking lemon rinds to try to preserve the zest. I think I’m going to try freezing it in some lemon juice, a suggestion I found online as well.
As I was working on the last of the lemon squeezing, I set the canning pot to boil about half-full of water and put the jars in to sanitize 10 minutes. I also put my lids and rings in a small saucepan to heat up. Once the lemon juice was squeezed and heated to a low simmer (I measured by mason jars into a large stockpot so I’d know I squeezed enough) and the jars sanitized, I began filling the jars. When the seven jars were full of fresh juice, I put wiped dry the edges of the jar mouths, used the magnetic wand to lift the hot lids onto the jars, screwed the rings on firmly but not too tight, and set them gently in the canner for 5 minutes, as my recipe prescribed.
Voila! The first of many runs of lemon juice for our supply. Don’t worry, we definitely plan on using the fresh juice (non-canned) while the lemons are still in season, but we figured our own canned lemon juice is better than the alternative (store-bought) after the season changes.
With half of lemons I picked still remaining, I see more lemon juice canning in my near future; however, this time I’ll definitely hunt down some rubber gloves before beginning. The lemony smell in the kitchen throughout the process was fresh and delightful, and I believe I got an upper body workout squeezing all those lemons!