To The Watering Hole

Picture 3470There’s a heap of green beans ready to blanch and freeze. Also, a forest of broccoli and waves of swiss chard to harvest and preserve.The tomatoes are threatening to ripen in great numbers and all at once…slicers, cherries, and pastes. The kitchen is about to see a lot of action. Heat or no heat, it’s time to can! But by late afternoon today, it was unanimous. It was time to put away the weeding buckets, hang up the harvesting knives, and head for the watering hole. Hip Hip Hooray!!
These next words from the book Clabbered Dirt,Sweet Grass by Gary Paulsen. A farming story….and delightful read.

High summer brings thick heat and there comes a day when dust itches the skin, when the flies and the gnats and the no-see-ums and the thick, humid air and the heat that presses down all build together so that the sweat doesn’t help, shade doesn’t help, and somebody says something about going swimming, just a word, and it becomes the only thing in the world. By the middle of the day work is impossible, everything is impossible but going down to the creek. There is a place, always a place, a special place where the current rounds a bend and goes through a double culvert under the road, and right there, right in that special place the water has dug out a great hollowed pool. Green, green deep to soft brown cool with speckled minnows fleeing from the great splashing monsters who tumble, fall, dive, cannonball from the heavens into the cool clean clear water.
Clothes hanging on the willows, dust hanging on the willows, dirt and grime and work hanging on the willows while the water takes them, takes them all.
The swimming hole.
Picture 3471

Filling The Shelves

Picture 1586The pantry shelves are filling up. We are trying to be more thoughtful about the amounts of vegetables and fruits we are canning this year (and freezing). Though it is true that we are often visited by “shoppers” who may come and fill their “to go” bags with goodies (our occasionally returning children), we don’t need as much as we have in the past. Instead of 30 jars of bread and butter pickles, 15 will be enough. The same for dilly beans, sour pickles, relish, and ketchup. Tomatoes and salsa are still being put up in greater quantities. Peaches and jams, we are happy to have enough to eat through the winter and give some as gifts. As our household grows smaller ( boo hoo), we are trying to rein in our efforts to grow and preserve what we actually need instead of preparing for the thoughts of feeding an army. Don’t worry, I haven’t even come close to mastering this concept. It’s a slow process. It is almost painful to put limitations on how many jars of pickled mixed vegetables I make. Are you sure we don’t need a few more quarts of frozen broccoli? Hot pepper jelly? How do I decide which peppers make it into the jars and which ones get offered up to non-hot pepper growing neighbors? And chickens? Every year we raise anywhere between 75-100 meat birds. This year we are scaling down to 60. Geeze! This cutting back makes sense, I know this. With fewer mouths to feed on a regular basis we just don’t need as much. Also, guess what? After years of canning for a full table of eaters, our shelves and freezers still have food from years past. O.k. I’ll just go ahead and admit it, I haven’t seen the bottom of at least two of our freezers in the last couple of years( We have 4 freezers, is this bad?). I’m hoping there may be some chocolate zucchini cakes resting on the bottom. If I stick to this plan of reducing what goes in there, I may reach that cake by February. Just in case, I’ll sneak in a few fresh ones on the top!

The Story Of Late Summer

I am in the kitchen: through the window, the long grasses run before the wind, and on the table are mounds of greenbeans. Water is boiling on the stove; steam makes the lids dance and rattle. My knife flashes, chops, and my hands follow each other fluidly through familiar choreography. In the garden, the onion tops have collapsed in a soft tangle. It seems only yesterday that I planted the tiny sets. There is a peculiar satisfaction in the swiftness with which I pluck the onions from the soil and lay them in the golden ranks to cure. Twist and pull the corn ears, tuck them under my arm. Shuck them in the garden and throw the husks to the horses.
As the light becomes lower and richer, I feel a gathering sense of fulfillment and loss.
It happens too fast. Yet in this speed, this urgency that inhibits reflection, in the busy-ness of living, in the demands of vegetable growing, I am absorbed by the life of this particuler soil, this particular air, and this particular light. I become a thread in tha tapestry of summer, even as I am torn by the desire to stand aside, the need to arrest this tumbling beauty, to hold it in my hands.

Some fine words to share by Beth Powning. Isn’t it wonderful when we find words that can so eloquently and thoughtfully express a time in our life, can capture moments with just the right feeling and emotion. Summer and her great bounty is exactly what’s happening now. It’s a flurry, and the pace of the days and the swiftness of how quickly it all happens stuns us. We , who are always so busy this time of year, managing the nursery and growing our food, are acutely aware of how fleeting summer is. One more swim at the lake? Another picnic up on the ridge? Another paddle across the pond, please? We’ll do our best to make time for a few of these idyllic summer pleasures. We will be glad we did, come February. Just as we will be grateful for that rich tomatoe taste from the canned jars that line the pantry shelves. A bit of summer captured in a jar.