Archive for August 18th, 2009

Independence Days Update: Summertime, and the Living is…Sweaty

Sharon August 18th, 2009

We’re in our second consecutive week of summer for the year ;-) – hot, humid and sticky.  The good news is that the tomatoes are *finally* ripening, and that we might actually get four or five peppers – two months of no sun and cool temps haven’t exactly produced stellar results.  The bad news is that I have very little desire to preserve anything in 90 degree weather.  This makes that bushel of cucumbers on my kitchen floor a bit of a problem ;-) .

The cucumbers arrived on Friday, as we were frantically getting ready for Peter Bane’s overnight visit, and then another set of visitors, and also trying to wind up “truck week” in which we did every single thing that required my friend Elaine’s pickup, since we don’t have one.  A friend of mine who owns a farm heard me lamenting that I was having a poor year for pickling cukes, and offered me some.  I said sure, thinking I’d get a little bag.  Then, I stopped by to pick up corn for lunch with our guests and she says “they’re over here, is a bushel enough?”  Gah – my reputation as a tireless preserver catches me again!

The problem was I got them on Saturday morning, and it was my birthday.  On my list of things to do that day were the making of my own birthday dinner for 15, dessert and tidying the house, but not pickling cucumbers.  Sunday was booked for other guests, and so was Monday… while I managed to sneak a few in there, they are still waiting for me, more or less patiently.  Today will be the day of the sweaty cucumber project – blah!  But that is the way of things – as my friend pointed out, with the sudden onset of heat and dry weather, they wouldn’t be good if we didn’t use them.

Had a lovely visit, and a spectacular birthday dinner (lots of middle eastern food and peach shortcake – yum!)  got a lot done on the house, got the year’s hay in the barn and more wood for the winter (I cut some of ours, but not all of it by any means – time), vaccinated the goats, got the parts of the garden totally destroyed by swampiness cut down, cleaned the barn, spread manure.  The big sorrow was the loss of Simon’s angora bunny, Raincloud.  Got the chickens butchered and hauled home some more cages for future bunnies.

This week should be much more relaxing, which is good, because I should finally have enough tomatoes to put some up, and I’ve got peaches and raspberries to do as well.  The boys are on their last week of a wonderful half-day camp, where they learn all sorts of neat skills – a friend’s son took the “My Side of the Mountain” themed camp this year, and Simon is chomping at the bit to take it himself next year, particularly when he learned he’d be able to start a fire with flint and steel by the end.  Isaiah loved “Native American Skills” and is now doing a “Nature’s Art” camp.  Very cool.  Asher wants to go, but won’t be old enough until next year – and it is right near home.  This is the first year we’ve known about it.

This was fair week – we took the boys to the Altamont Fair on Wednesday, and other than completely ridiculous overconsumption of cotton candy (hey, once a year…), it was lovely.  We all resolved that next year we will attend the fair fully, as participants.  I once entered some jams, but that’s so far been the extent of our fair participation, but the boys want to raise exotic chickens for the fair in the spring, and I have deemed this cool, and we are determined to bring goats to the fair as well.  The kids would like to enter the baking contests, since they are all becoming (with some help with the hot parts) accomplished bakers, and I’m determined to have a pair of socks good enough to enter into the knitted goods competition.  So one of our family resolutions is that this year, we’ll start working towards the fair as part of our homeschooling projects.

All of the herbs that like heat suddenly burst into flower, which meant it was time to harvest them – peppermint, anise hyssop, wild bergamot, lemon balm, etc… are all ready to go, along with a number of the medicinals, which is lovely.  I can no longer keep up with the summer squash, which is no great worry, since the big ones make great chicken feed. 

With the meat birds gone, the barn suddenly is so clean and spacious and much more pleasant.  The new layers are growing well, as are the turkeys, and much happier with more room.  The Bourbon Reds seem to be the fastest growing of the three varieties we have this year – Blue Slates, Reds and Black Spanish.  I’ve raised all but the Spanish before, but never simultaneously.  The black spanish, with their white faces and black feathers are by far the cutest, however. 

The barn swallows have fledged their batch of nestlings this year, and one group is already laying more eggs.  They still see me as a threat, but they are totally inured to the boys – on hot or rainy days, the kids spend much of their time sitting in the hay barn on the bales of hay, listening to Simon read _Harry Potter_ aloud or playing games, or just lying still, in the shade, and listening.  I came in the other day to find Simon reading, Isaiah looking over his shoulder at the pictures, and Asher lying flat in the hay, with Zucchini, one of our cats on his stomach and Jessie, one of the goats nestled up against him.

Planted: Spinach, which almost certainly won’t germinate since it got freakin’ hot again, layered currants.

Harvested: Tomatoes, 1 pepper, carrots, beets, summer squash, zucchini, mustard, turnips, lettuce, tomatillos, raspberries, blueberries, currants, peppermint, feverfew, anise hyssop, lemon verbena, wormwood, calendula, borage, bee balm, oregano, dill, spearmint, yarrow.

Preserved: turnip pickles, dried blueberries, dried herbs, tinctured herbs, dehydrated a few tomatoes and zucchini.

Waste Not: The usual composting and weighing of garbage.  Barn manure was spread on gardens, old hay used for mulch, feed bags used for weed suppression – but nothing really new.

Want Not: See cucumbers, above ;-) .  Also found a gorgeous, heavy king sized comforter at a yard sale that was just what we’d been looking for (Eric and I have a Queen sized futon bed, but find that a King sized blanket is required to minimize blanket hogging, which seems to be a mutual habit ;-) ) – we needed something for when the down is too heavy but the summer stuff is too light, which is a lot of the year around here.  Same yard sale yielded fleece PJs for Asher as well, which he is grieved it is too hot to wear.

Work on Community Food Systems: Did a talk at a local library that led to the planning of a library food garden.  Otherwise, not much.

Eat the Food: Tried a new pita bread recipe – it still doesn’t puff up properly.  I’ve now tried six recipes and never found one that was really quite right – they are all good, but not sufficiently hollow.  Anyone have a suggestion?

 Sharon