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Plant the Garden, Preserve the Bounty

I’ve now joined those who are staying home most of the time. My boss will call if he needs me, but for now the majority of my time is my own. I don’t consider this a bad thing. I actually enjoy spending time at home, especially when I spend time writing. This is only the third day I’ve been home, but I’ve already accomplished a lot.

Due to the way I was raised, my household was well stocked when this craziness began. I’ve still had to buy milk, bread, and cleaning supplies. Most notably was the need for toilet paper and paper towels. However, I had plenty of canned goods and a freezer full of food.

My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. They were extremely conservative in the way they grew and preserved nature’s bounty, wasting nothing. They bought supplies on sale and kept enough on hand to be able to live comfortably in the case of an unforeseen circumstance, such as a food shortage.

They raised my mom with those same values. She, in turn, raised me to preserve everything possible, shop smart, and never waste anything. While I tried to instill these same philosophies in my step-kids, I don’t think they paid attention. Time will tell on that.

Mom taught me to buy extra things when they were on sale or I had coupons. She taught me to keep my cabinets and freezer full, and I took her lessons to heart. She also insisted the best fruits and vegetables are the ones I grow myself.

I’ve had a few people ask me about food preservation. Canning, freezing, and dehydrating. Thanks to Mom, canning and freezing fruits, vegetables, and meat is second nature to me. Making jams, jellies, and preserves is one of my skills that my close friends love. To be honest, I rarely dehydrate anything. I leave that to my step-son who loves to make beef jerky.

The first step in food preservation is having something that needs put up or preserved. Put up is a term we use around here, but I realize it’s probably a regional thing. If you ever hear someone say they put up a mess of green beans, that means they canned or froze them.

I anticipate that many of us will have large gardens this year. It’s still too early to plant a lot of things outside around here, but the freeze danger should pass soon. Historically, the safe date to plant is April 15th in my area, but we are still having nights in the low thirties, so I’m waiting a little longer.

I started some seeds inside and bought one plant a couple months ago. I currently have one healthy strawberry plant, which already has tiny green berries, growing on my bathroom windowsill. I have ten green pepper plants near my living room window that are still in the seedling phase. I have a few cantaloupe plants that look great and ready for soil. My broccoli seedlings have died, and something ate the cauliflower I planted. I will be purchasing tomato and cucumber plants once it’s safe to plant them outside.

In addition to the things I’m going to plant, I have a blackberry bush and some fruit trees. A pear tree and cherry tree thrive in my front yard, and a giant cherry tree shades my bedroom window in the back yard as it produces sweet black cherries. The main problem I have with my fruit trees is keeping the wildlife from eating all of my bounty.

Throughout the summer, when I preserve something, I’ll share it here on Ozarks Maven. Cherries usually are ready in May or early June, so we’ll most likely start with those. I enjoy making cherry jam.

For now, you can be slowly gathering canning supplies on your rare trips to the store. You’ll need a pressure canner or boiling bath canner depending on what you plan to preserve. A pressure canner is required for canning anything that isn’t acidic. Green beans, corn, squash, potatoes, egg plant, etc. A boiling bath canner is used for acidic foods such as pickled veggies, tomatoes, jams, and jellies.

Canning jars and canning lids are also a must. I usually can jams and jellies in pint or half pint jars. I can my pears in quart jars. I like using pint or quart jars for vegetables and pickles.

I’ll post more information over the next few months, but feel free to ask me any canning or freezing questions you may have. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to find it for you.

Stay safe and healthy, my friends! Thank you for reading Ozarks Maven! If you’ve enjoyed my little seeds of wisdom and joy, please subscribe to Ozarks Maven, Like Ozarks Maven on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @OzarksMaven.

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