When we moved on this place eight years ago, gardening was a fairly simple undertaking. All I needed was a small, tilled up section of ground, sunshine, and a little rain supplemented with water from our well for irrigation in the dry months of July and August. Spring fertilizer came from seasoned chicken manure from the year before. All this made my gardening endeavors cheap and easy. Then, in 2011, we took in orphaned Daisy deer – and gardening was never the same.
That spring, I had established my garden on the south side of the old barn. When Daisy came along in early June, we constructed a pen for her on the west end of the barn, bordering the garden on its north side. Then, when Daisy had grown enough to require more running space, we had to expand the deer pen, and chose to incorporate my garden area. Daisy ate some of what I had planted, but there was still plenty for everyone. In the spring of 2012, after we had released Daisy to the wild, I took back my old garden spot. Even though Daisy occasionally stopped by for a visit to nibble on tomatoes, nab a few cucumbers and blossoms, or to hoof up a sweet potato or two, she always left plenty for us. But in 2013 when Daisy had her first set of twins, it was evident she was not going to give up ownership of her home turf. We often found her and her twin fawns resting in the deer pen – and eating my tomatoes!
Finally, we decided to establish a new garden in another location. To protect it from the orange-collared “tomato hound” that roamed the area, we set five-foot, welded-wire horse panels around the perimeter with a double gate at one end to allow access for tilling the spot with our tractor. This would be a better (and larger) setup for a garden than the more-limited deer pen had been. In the old garden area, we planted deer-friendly plants for Daisy and her growing family. I still kept herbs, lettuce, chard and a few cucumber plants in a small open patch on the north side of the house. And, in this spot, I also put in a couple of tomato plants just for Daisy, since I knew how much she loved them. As expected, she ripped a little lettuce and chard while delicately pulling cherry tomatoes from the vine, and usually ate all of my cucumbers and the vines, but you know how we are with our kids. I couldn’t help but laugh each evening watching Daisy and her twins enjoy a fresh garden salad as the sun dipped low over the woodlands.
The next year, FD’s mother, who also lives on this ten acres, began lamenting that Daisy and her kids were eating out of her garden too. It was not so much that she caught the deer in her garden, it was more that ears of corn were chomped in two or were missing entirely. Plants were half-nibbled and blossoms were nipped off before they could put on fruit. So, we purchased more fencing and a gate to protect mom’s garden as well. With all of the deer-proofing we were now having to do, gardening was becoming mighty expensive. But, I was also beginning to notice I had more of a crop to share with family and still have plenty to freeze for winter. The fenced gardens were finally producing well, without the white-tailed marauder’s hitting them daily!
In 2014, FD and I made the decision to clean up our diet. As we researched what it would take to plant enough vegetables and root crops to get us through a good portion of fall and winter, we realized this was a mammoth undertaking. I also knew I would have to do some freezing and possibly canning. I had grown up helping mom can a lot of our garden produce, but I never enjoyed it. Freezing seemed easier and was a better fit for my busy schedule. And, since tomato sauces were such a big part of recipes associated with the Paleo lifestyle, which includes avoiding processed foods and preservatives, I knew I would be making my own sauces.
While looking for a good sauce recipe, I remembered that, years ago, my sis-in-law, Sissy Jo, shared a scrumptious roasted tomato soup recipe with me. The flavor was remarkable, but it was a soup – much too thin for a sauce. After several trials, I finally managed to reduce it to a thick and tasty “roasted tomato sauce” (RTS), which I freeze in pint containers for ease of use in recipes. I use this sauce for chili, stews, meatloaf, pizza, and in casseroles. It is a very versatile sauce!
The last two years, our garden produced plenty to share with family. And this year, having received more than twenty inches of rain in the month of May, I imagined an even greater crop of tomatoes for my RTS. Instead, the plants seemed to suffer with too much rain. Even my fruit trees gave up and most of the fruit dropped to the ground long before it was ripe. But, despite that the tomato crop in the main garden was poor, Daisy’s salad patch yielded a bumper crop. Yes, we still put in about five tomato plants for her and her herd, along with all of her other favorite salad fixin’s. And thankfully so, as had it not been for her cherry and plumb-sized tomatoes, I would have a scant amount of roasted tomato sauce this year!
So now it seems the tables have turned. This year, it was Daisy’s tomato crop that provided the resources to make our roasted tomato sauce for the winter. And with Daisy losing her babies this spring, she spent most of her time with the local herd down at the river and beyond, and was not around to eat the tomatoes we had planted for her. It is interesting how things work out sometimes. Whatever comes, I am learning to just accept, and to let be what will be. I am learning there is always a reason and that, to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose…
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…