With a drought in full swing through a great deal of the country I read a great deal from small farmers, gardeners and homesteaders bemoaning crop failures. I grew up on a farm and have gardened most of my life and there is one thing I have learned. No matter how great your soil or how great a gardener you are, there are going to be crop failures. This goes along with hail storms, droughts and bugs.
The one thing that I will try to impress on you though. When it seems that God has taken away one blessing many times he replaces it with another. Here is a perfect example. This spring my fruit trees were loaded with blossoms.
Early in the spring the young fruit just hung from the branches and a bumper crop seemed imminent. We dreamed of crisp red apples, juicy plums and sweet peaches. Then about the end of April the rain just seemed to stop. The late spring weather heated up and before spring was even over we were enduring 100+ degree days. Usually we have a few of these days in late July and August. Those beautiful fruit, no matter how much we watered seemed to just wither and fall right before our eyes. The trees already being stressed were easy picking for the numerous insects that seemed to be everywhere. Eventually we faced the facts that there would be very few fresh peach pies. That those beautiful red apples would be rare this year. And with the drought so widespread we knew that fresh organic fruit would be at a premium in the marketplace.
But we take heart that this is a cycle and next year may be the year of bumper crop fruit. It seems that we have those every few years.
So mother nature in her wisdom sent different blessings. We struggle to grow grapes many years because of humidity and rainfall. The fungal diseases seem to love all that moisture. But in a hot dry year those grapes just hung in beautiful clusters. Indeed we had a bumper crop. So instead of apple juice in the Hickery Holler pantry we have an abundance of sweet grape juice.
Instead of crisp apple pies adorning our holiday tables this Thanksgiving and Christmas it is more like to be laden with butternut squash and sweet potato pies. Sweet potatoes struggle in our cooler climate and shorter growing season many years. But this drought year we look to have a bumper crop of those heat loving tubers.
Our corn this year was plagued with not only drought but also several wind storms that blew through to lay it down several times. We managed to get a large portion on the first planting and a marginal harvest on the second. The third planting was a complete bust. But in it's wake we had bumper early crops of cabbage, green beans and tomatoes. I have already canned over 60 jars of tomato sauce alone and continue to can till frost. This will help to rebuild my tomato stock because for the two years prior to that we had very cool and wet growing seasons and the tomatoes were very slow to set fruit and ripen without the summer heat. My stock of tomato products was drastically down.
Instead of peach and plum jam this year we will be enjoying strawberry rhubarb, blackberry and grape jam on our hot biscuits and peanut butter sandwiches.
And in the 15 years that I have lived on this farm very rarely have we been able to grow large juicy melons. It seems that with a lack of heat and a short growing season we truly struggle to get them ripe before frost. This year I will be making watermelon rind preserves and enjoying those fresh juicy watermelons and cantaloupe in the place of peaches and plums. What a refreshing change.
So you see despite our drought we continue to produce fresh and healthy produce. Diversity is the key and this is the one piece of advice I will pass on to all you gardeners out there.
By the way I always can as much as possible of my bumper crops because it may be a few years before that blessing rolls around again.
But the most important thing is that our freezers, pantry and table will continue to be full of homegrown, organic and tasty food..
And if food prices increase as much as they are predicted to, this will indeed be a blessing.
So I would love to hear what your bumper crop this year has been and also your biggest bust ! Until next time....
Blessings from The Holler
The Canned Quilter