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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Wintry Vegetable Harvesting

Transport your mind back to the late-19th century. It's autumn of 1872, and you've taken a homestead claim on the High Plains. Everything in the world that you own is in your small shanty. You have to provide for yourself and family with what you can hunt, grow and raise on this never-before-cultivated soil, plus the last of the provisions you brought west with you. There's no Amazon, GrubHub, DoorDash, or Walmart delivery. 

Snowfall came earlier than you expected, but late enough to harvest most of your crops and produce. There are no snowplows, no supermarkets, and no SUV to get you into town even if you had the means to buy your food. 

The snow is fresh and only 8 inches deep. You have a choice. You can sit by your fire and start in on the foods you've put up for winter. Or, you can go out into the snow and see if there's anything that can be picked to make into meals in the next handful of days, thus delaying the date when your set-aside, finite provisions will run out.

This is the spirit that motivated me to head out into our snowy winter landscape and see what I could pick to add to meals in the next few days. Our light dusting of snow turned to 8 inches the other night. I've harvested almost everything from the garden. But I want to get as much as possible out of it before the plants die.

Here's the Brussel sprout patch. Brussel sprout greens and kale are the greens most likely to survive snow and cold. The leaves are still edible. 

I clipped a bucket full this afternoon to bring inside. I'll be able to pick another bucketful tomorrow, too. I'll keep harvesting until there's nothing left to pick. And then, and only then, I'll begin on the veggies that we put away in the freezer for winter meals. 

Our plan has been to get as far into December as we can, harvesting what's available in the garden. Later this month, we'll switch to frozen and canned veggies.

Remembering those pioneers who trekked west, bringing with them not much more than grit and determination.


  1. The storm you describe reminds me of the big blizzard in Michigan in 1978. The snowplows were not what they are today, getting into town to get groceries could not be done by car but there were snowmobiles to get around. Mom and Dad always canned and froze food from a huge summer garden so we had enough to eat. We ran out of bread and since mom didn't bake bread there was a bread delivery truck stuck on the road so dad bought a dozen loaves of bread. It took a week to shovel ourselves out and schools were closed for the entire week and my teenage self was so excited. There were fast foods but not a ton and no one delivered food yet. My brother took me on a his snowmobile to town to get some groceries but we were so limited to get only what we could carry back. I remember is was the coldest ride I have ever had and the store was only 2 miles away.

    1. Hi Alice,
      What a memory from your teen years! I think living in your region of the US, where winter storms can be brutal without the number of snowplows as now, your parents were very prudent in putting away so much food for winter. Not just a financial thing, but in being able to take care of a family in a bad storm, too.

      I don't know if this was 1978 and in or near Michigan, but I remember a newscaster in either 1977 or 1978 in a blizzard saying experts believed the earth was heading into another ice age. Okay so an ice age didn't exactly pan out, but it does tell you that we had some crazy winters back in the 1970s. I Just looked that one up, it was 1977 in Buffalo, NY that the news guy was predicting the advent of an ice age.

  2. I used to play the pioneer woman game all the time when things were difficult for whatever reason. I imagined a was a pioneer woman making things work under hard circumstances. It always helped change my way of thinking and get through things. I saw on the news that your area was getting snow, but I didn't realize that you had 8 inches. Good luck getting the last of the things out of your garden. We cleaned ours out a couple of weeks ago.

    1. I always imagined myself as a pioneer woman, too. Probably due to all those Little House books, which really captured my imagination. I wonder if that's a common thing to think about.

      Wow, Lili, that's a lot of snow, especially this early in the season. We are still getting a little bit of lettuce from the cold frame. I thought it would be done by now. It isn't enough for survival--it's more of a fresh salad treat for one meal. :)

    2. Hi Live and Learn,
      Seattle didn't get much snow, but we're about 20-25 miles north of the city and always do get big dumps of snow. We're in a convergence zone. Storms come from both the northwest through a major strait and up from the southwest off the Pacific Ocean. When these two collide we get a big dumping of either rain or snow. This time it happened to be snow.

      My plans to pick more Brussel sprouts hit a snag Friday morning. But I did have my husband pick some for Saturday's dinner and will hopefully be able to work in the garden tomorrow to harvest more.

      Glad you got everything out of your garden a couple of weeks ago.

    3. Hi Kris,
      The Little House books captured my imagination, too. I had ancestors who traveled across the plains in the 1800s. My aunt made sure we knew how hard life was back then. When I was a girl, my mother would make a game of power outages. She would call it "playing pioneers".

      I hope your lettuce in the cold frame lasts just a little longer for you. Fresh garden salads are such a treat in late autumn, early winter.

  3. That's a LOT of snow! That's a good way to think about such a cold harvest. And it's amazing to think about those pioneers. We had a friend give us some barbequed wild boar yesterday. I haven't tasted it yet. I eat a LOT of things but have never tasted this kind of meat. It's a bit outside my comfort zone. (He gave us bear one time too. Didn't eat that either) Maybe I need to pretend I'm a pioneer, though I can see that we would be challenged in the protein dept if we were dependent on our hunting skills. Now fishing we could do!

    I'm still harvesting lettuce and peppers due to our unusual not-so-cold-yet weather. I don't have a cold frame. The plants are just out there in the garden. Broccoli plants still growing too, so we'll see. Our small-town Christmas tree lighting is tonight with a low of 50. Supposed to be 66 tomorrow for the parade!

    Thank you all for your comments about our coming granddaughter. We are excited. My preparations for the shower are coming along and I'm beginning some of the baking today. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      I'm envious of your weather! Christmas tree lighting when the days are in the 60s sounds unimaginable to me right now. It will be right around freezing tonight and we still have lots of snow around. I hope your enjoyed the tree lighting and parade.

      Hmmm, I have to wonder, would I eat boar, or bear? I've had moose before and thought it was fine. I think I'd be more inclined to try the boar than the bear. Let us know if you try it what you thought.

      Have fun with your shower plans and baking! So excited for you to have a beautiful grandchild in the coming months!

  4. Sounds like a great plan, using all you can fresh before beginning on preserved items. You are being so diligent with what you have!

    We're down to kale out there, which I mainly grow as duck greens, and a bit of chard that somehow didn't freeze with all the low 20's nights we've had. I'm kind of relieved to finally be through with the garden this year, to be honest, though there is still plenty of work out there as weather allows (tearing vines off trellises to chop and drop or compost, etc...). It was a disappointing gardening year in comparison with last year, partially due to the drought and excessive heat, and partially due to a late snafu with my fall plant starts, which resulted in my not planting much of what I'd hoped for fall/winter harvest. But I'm reading and learning and will soon start onions (from seed) to be planted outside in March.

    1. Hi Cat,
      I'm really trying this year to make the most of what our garden gives us. But I can relate that sometimes you can do everything and still have a poor harvest. We can't control the weather and we all make miscalculations. The good news is you get a bit of a break from the garden, but in just a few months you'll have another chance. I take that attitude, too, in that I'm learning what I can try to make things work better next time.

      I hope you're feeling well this week after your surgery a week ago.

  5. Our gardening year was quite disappointing as well, Cat. I came across a picture last year of the overfilled lasagna pan of green tomatoes we picked before our first frost. We didn't get that many tomatoes ALL season this year-even in the height of summer. I decided to try a fall garden, which I think I started too late, but live and learn in the gardening department!

  6. Your post reminded me of The Long Winter. I used to read that book every winter. I gave my copy to my dd. I need to get that back since we are in the beginning of what looks to be a long winter here this year.

    If you or your DD’s are out and about near winco you might want to swing in and see if your store has b/s chicken breasts for $1.49 a lb if you need them. I didn’t need them, but that’s a really good price for these days. You seem to find similar prices at your store to what we have so I thought I’d mention it. They also had avocados for 48 cents which is a really good price for us. I did grab 4 of those.


    1. Hi Diane,
      I've read The Long Winter many times, too, and often at the onset of winter. You can find an online version to read for free online if you want to read it before your daughter returns it.

      Thank you for the heads-up on WinCo and chicken breast plus avocados. I'm hoping to get down there tomorrow morning, so I'll check for those. Thank you!

  7. We don't have a garden this year. Not sure about next year either. Of course we don't have wintry seasons either. However, being careful about using up stored provisions reminds me of how I use junk before digging into nicer craft supplies. I enjoy hoarding so at anytime I can make something nice without spending a lot. Recently, I sewed 21 flimsy Little Reader books under one book cover and didn't buy a single thing for the project. Also, inflation is another reason to hoard. Prices at thrift stores are higher these days, and Amazon is no longer reasonably priced . Glad I have my stash to last probably for as long as I want to craft.

    Have a great evening,

    1. Hi Laura,
      I agree with the parallel you make between using up food provisions wisely and using your crafting materials wisely. Hopefully your stash of supplies will outlast this downturn in the economy. More folks are turning to thrift stores and other discount stores these days, so price increases seem to follow. We have a grocery salvage store (Grocery Outlet) in the area. We used to find absolute steals there. Now not so much. I can still find a pretty good deal, but it's close to what I'd pay on sale in a regular grocery store, not a tremendous bargain.

      Have a wonderful rest of your evening, Laura.


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