Monday, September 30, 2013


I love getting together with this group. We make it happen once, maybe twice a year (it's easier now that the kids are getting older) and every time I can't believe how big everyone is getting, every time (nearly) there's a new freshly-baked baby to admire, every time I can't believe how long I've known them all.

These were his friends. When I met him, getting to know them was my job. It meant something to him, I knew, that I reach out and make an effort. But they were all married, and so established, and I was three years younger than everyone and still a girlfriend and where did I fit in, exactly? They made me welcome, though. And my, how things have changed now-- now we're all wives together, most of us are mothers now, too-- and together we share the bits and pieces of our adult lives that seem funny or interesting or worthy of being shared. Distances have come and gone-- jobs, houses, dogs, cars, and kids, too-- and we're all just hanging in there, marking time with each other, and getting to know and love the little people who are learning and growing amongst us, now, too.

It's effortless, now, and I realize, while I wasn't even paying attention, these folks have seen me through quite a lot.

So it was great to gather (with Delmer) on one of those flawless late-September days, with the hills turning colors all around us, as the sun set on the lake at Chenango Valley State Park. Such a full, gorgeous, soul-filling day.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

On a tear

I'm not quite ready to come back from break yet, but I'll chime in with this photo so you can understand what's been eating my time. Stage left, you can see the man lift I ride in, all the way up to the peak of the roof, to work. It's kind of fun, and kind of terrifying. This week, I started pulling off aluminum on the peaked part of the front, and discovered--oh-- there's no wood siding underneath up near the top. Patrick and I, characteristically, are seizing this opportunity. We're going to replace the missing pieces with scalloped siding, which will be just that more nice and fancy and historic. For all we know, that's what was there originally.

For reference, here's where I was a month ago:

So I'll see you next Monday, provided I'm ready to come back from break then. It feels good to be making progress on this now, for sure.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Break time

I sense you may be getting tired of hearing about canning. (Truthfully, I am getting tired of thinking about canning, too.) So I am taking a break from this space this week, so I can devote my energy to yet another batch of tomato paste, and to wrestling 23-inch-long parsnips out of the ground, and to getting proficient at using the man lift. (Back to working on the house's exterior.)

So, until next Monday...

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Preservation nation

Kimchee in progress. Day one of fermentation and already so tasty!

Over-dried calendula blossoms.

The perpetually simmering sauce pot.

The battalion of filled jars, awaiting their trip to the cellar.

The kitchen window view. 

Well, nothing much else is new other than the canning and other assorted food-related pursuits I've been undertaking. Can and write. Write and can. Harvest and can. Harvest and blanch, and write, and cook, and sleep. 

I've stopped buying tomatoes. My garden ones are coming in fast enough, and heavy enough, that they're able to fill my four gallon pot twice a week, which I spend a few days cooking down-- very very low on my electric stove overnight-- into tomato sauce or paste. Hey, that's pretty cool, I think to myself. We ate scalloped tomatoes on Monday night, and tomatoes with pasta and fresh mozz and THE LAST ZUCCHINI last night, and that's also pretty cool. 

Kimchee making is under way. Pretty smooth, for a pail of salted Chinese cabbage and sliced garlic and ginger and red pepper and scallions to turn into something delicious without much work. Those Koreans-- who, I learned by way of Wikipedia, eat 40 lbs of kimchee per person, per year--know a little something about how to preserve food the easy way. I'm planning on canning the stuff after it's done, though I've read very conflicted opinions on whether that's a good idea or not. Trial and error. 

Patrick is taking three days off this week so we can get some bigger house things taken care of (lord willing). So naturally, instead of the sweet low-70s sunny days we've been getting the past week, we are getting HOT, sticky days with a good chance of thunderstorms. Naturally. Think dry thoughts for us.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Sweet relief

Many many things have happened since I checked in here last Wednesday. I have canned and frozen many many pounds of tomatoes. We had a frost scare last week (about as terrifying as a bomb scare, in the early September garden) and I spent all evening covering things up, and all the following morning folding and shaking out my sheets and towels and blankets... sigh. I dug the rest of my potatoes. Altogether, the 45 linear feet I planted, harvested, fill three five-gallon buckets. What was I thinking? I am giving lots away, which feels good, and will still have plenty to see us through winter. 

Everything green is exploding, from all the rain we've had. Kimchee making is a definite possibility, this week.

The weedy garden edge has been dug out and planted with sun-loving perennials, and that feels good.

My parents came for dinner last week, and all we needed was basil, arugula, sliced fresh mozzarella, a basket of toasted bread, and a GIANT bowl of salted fresh tomato slices. THAT was a good meal. There was also gazpacho, and mom's blueberry buckle with ice cream. Yup. Yup, yup, yup. 

The most exciting thing to happen pertains to our Binghamton house, however. It's far from a done deal, yet, but an offer has been received, and countered, and countered, and countered, and finally, thrillingly, accepted. Such a sweet word, that word. Such sweet relief, after months and months of paying for it, and worrying about it, and showing it (just a few times) that we're this close to being free from it.

Keep your fingers crossed for us, friends. I'll write more when things are firmer, but for now, it's back to stirring the tomato pot and daydreaming about a little trip, or a new car, or a new kitchen, or maybe all three...

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September whirlwind

Just a quick post today. The humidity that dogged us all last week has cleared, and so I am making as many tracks as possible, as fast as possible. Yesterday I weeded all my flowers (half days' work), built most of a raised bed, sprayed borax on the English ground ivy (kills it and nothing else), canned applesauce from our own tree and bread and butter pickles from our own cucumbers, picked and shelled another basket of soup beans, blanched and froze broccoli, raked a lot of mowed grass (for mulch) and drained two glasses of Prosecco at the end of it all.

Today is more of the same. Not that I'm complaining. September is like a tournament, where you focus and buckle down and make the three months of labor you've already logged really count. 

I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to not have much desk-work right now, so I can get ahead of autumn before it really comes rolling in. 

I'm also so happy to have this guy, to remind me (because I often need a reminder) that I should just sit, and rest, and snuggle.

Dog snuggles are the very best kind.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Bean there, done that

Happy Labor Day, everyone! It is indeed a day for labor, a time of year for labor. This year, my universal answer to the kindly question, "So, what else is new?" is well, the tomatoes...

They are ripening almost as fast as I can harvest them!

And now the beans. This year I grew rather a lot-- 60 linear feet-- of Maine Yellow Eye beans, a variety intended for drying. Soup beans, in other words. I'd never grown anything other than green beans, meant to be eaten raw, so this was a new frontier. 

I was concerned about mold and mildew, and about shelling them all. In the years when my mom would let her green beans dry on the vine, and we would shell them, a third of the crop would be moldy. And those pods were devilishly tough to split.

But not so, these Maine Yellow Eye beans.

Patrick and I lazed around on Saturday. It rained, we laid in bed and watched The Dust Bowl and shelled beans. We did a good four cups-- maybe a quarter of my total harvest-- in about two hours. 

Nary a moldy bean among them. (Somewhere, I am sure, that line is penned in some dust bowl farm wife's diary.) 

I love raising our own protein, there's something so fabulously pragmatic and rebellious too, a little, in the act. I don't consider myself a "prepper;" I don't have a bunker full of canned goods. But I love the self-sufficient feeling that comes from growing those staple crops. I love announcing at dinnertime, "Garden potatoes, beets, kale, parsley..." That satisfaction isn't born from fear-- as it may be with some others, who worry about the end of the world and infrastructure collapsing-- but from love. The love of this place, and my family, and each tiny seed I plant turning into something fabulous and nourishing. 

I'm not saying the world won't end some day, I'm not saying these ragged old systems of ours are going to keep on functioning the rest of my days. In all likelihood, they won't. We're going to need to find a different way. For me, I think I have a pretty good idea of what that other way looks like. I think I'm pretty near already there.

And with that, I will hop off my soapbox to stir the tomato pot...

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