Today has been a lesson in harvesting. We generally think of Harvest Time as happening in autumn, but in truth I am busy putting things up for winter from about Mid-July through Early November. Early peas, early beans, broccoli & cauliflower, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. Then it’s time for tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, peppers, zucchini and summer squash. Then late peas, late beans, elderberries, more tomatoes, corn, pumpkin, pears and apples. We stay busy in summer. It makes my head spin. In a glorious way. I crush hard on this country life.
But how do I make it fun for my Littles? Simple. I tell them to pretend they’re Rick Grimes from Season 3 of The Walking Dead. Survival skills, my friends… Any decent zombie apocalypse fan is all about them. They’d rather be Daryl and go shoot stuff in the woods, but that time will come in a few weeks when the seasons we hunt start kicking in. For now, we are learning about Harvesting! (You may have other ways of interesting your littles in this work, but feel free to use mine.)
We started out today gathering tomatoes, green beans, peppers, and cucumbers from the garden. The Littles already know how to spot a tomato or bean that’s ready to pick, so today we just talked about the size of a good pepper or cucumber. We looked at the zucchini plant and I showed them signs that the plant is done fruiting.
After we got our harvest together, it was time to prepare a couple of beds for our fall garden. Even though I did the tilling myself, I showed the boys how to start the tiller, talked about what kind of fuel it uses, and let them feel the difference between the pre-tilled and the tilled soil. Next year, Middle will probably take over the tilling chore. Unless I continue to enjoy it. Then he’ll just have to wait.
These beds are getting planted with broccoli, peas, and pumpkins. I’m afraid I got my pumpkins out a little late because of all the rain we’ve had, so cross your fingers I get one or two for Halloween. Or at least Thanksgiving. If not, that will be another lesson for the boys to learn–how the weather affects the garden differently every year. And how their mother should actually utilize the greenhouse. That would probably help. haha
We’ve already been seeing signs of how our abundance of rain has made things different. Our corn tasseled before it got very tall, but we’re still getting corn on it. One of our pepper plants completely wilted. We’d given it up for dead but after a few days of sunshine it seems to have bounced back. Some of our bean plants seemed to almost melt away. For a while we thought the house was going to float away.
After harvesting some summer crops and planting some fall crops, we headed inside to do something with all our bounty. I like to have the Littles help me can so they know what they’re doing, but I have listened enough to my beautiful husband’s tales of childhood woe about canning that I let them off the hook after a while. If I have 200 tomatoes to can, even I don’t want to stand in front of the stove and do that all day. I can’t imagine little boys wanting to do it. So I generally let them go after the first batch is put up.
Today I had at least 200 tomatoes to put up, and I was turning them into ketchup, chili base, pizza sauce, and salsa. I like making all those things myself because I don’t have to worry about gluten sneaking in on me somewhere, or hydrogenated oils, or high fructose corn syrup. Just tomatoes and seasonings–and better than anything we can get at the store. After I get enough of those things canned, I’ll start on my diced tomatoes if I have any left over. Some years I don’t. My kiddos love ketchup. And pizza.
Depending on the age of your littles, there are a lot of lessons to be learned as you can food. How to tell if a fruit or veggie is going bad. How to weigh food if you have a food scale. How to estimate if you don’t. What will keep for a while and what won’t. I don’t have a pressure canner, so we freeze things like green beans and corn, and it’s a good idea for them to realize that frozen foods don’t last as long as canned and that canned food doesn’t rely on electricity to keep.
The most important thing to remember when teaching your littles about harvesting and storing food is that you have a good foreman in the kitchen, and by that I mean the cat who isn’t supposed to be on the counter but who is making sure you get those tomatoes peeled right because there is no one else on this green earth that could possibly be the supervisor that Storm the Gorgeous Grey Cat is. Notice how Littlest is starting to laugh when he sees Storm sitting there. The pic does not quite capture the subsequent battle between me and the Storm as I shooed him from the counter and he continued to come back to check my work. Guess who gave up first? It wasn’t the foreman.
Okay, really, the most important thing to remember is to keep the harvest process lighthearted and fun. Gardening and canning are hard, time-consuming work, but if you want to raise self-sufficient, independent adults, it’s a good idea to involve your littles in the process while they’re young. Laugh and have fun and plan the apocalypse together.
A couple of good books about harvest are Hello, Harvest Moon by Ralph Fletcher (it even has a cat!) and Apples, Apples Everywhere: Learning About Apple Harvests by Robin Koontz. As you know, books make everything fun.
Now, I have a batch of ketchup and a batch of chili base done, but I really need to go get started on the pizza sauce. These tomatoes won’t wait on me. I think I should get the Littles back in here. They’ve had a long enough break.