Archive for September 29th, 2009

Independence Days Update: The Gift of Frost

Sharon September 29th, 2009

I mention our dances with frost so often because we are seasonal eaters.  When seasons pass, we feel short term sorrow, because there are things we have not had enough of.  But there are pleasures accompanying these shifts as well – the greens are sweeter after frost, the last precious ripening tomatoes extra delicious, the crisp air inspiring and energizing, and after months of frenetic gardening, the end, and a winter’s rest, is in sight. 

We had a first, preliminary frost on Friday night – it iced the car windows.  We were busily getting ready for a family gathering, and I didn’t do much more than cover some of the basil, but we got lucky – the frost didn’t penetrate to the places where most of the still-growing tender things are.  But a wave of cold air is headed our way, and the real thing is likely to hit in the next few nights.

This is ok, it has its pleasures - but today will be spent gathering the last remains of summer – basil for mountains of pesto, eggplant for parmesan and baba ganoush and strange flavor eggplant, tomatoes to be sauced, sweet and hot peppers to be dried, the last sweet corn, cut off the cob and made into chowder and succotash, the last green beans dried and dilled, the sunflower heads hung to dry for winter chicken feed, the amaranth and corn harvested.   And since we have to go visit our favorite farmstand to buy sukkah decorations, we’ll probably supplement our remaining production there – more eggplant, sweet corn (which I didn’t grow this year, since I’m saving seed from my flour corn) and tomatoes – I can’t resist one more taste of summer.

Today we will delight in green tomatoes to make pickles from, half-ripe tomatoes to sit upon the windowsill and ripen, and rich ripe ones to be sliced into a few more tomato and goat cheese sandwiches.  Today we will gnaw sweet corn from the cobs, and smear pesto on bread, layered with roasted red peppers.  Today we will grill eggplants and eat its smoky, rich innards.  Today we will glory in summer’s end.  And tomorrow, we will rise and glory in the coming of autumn, the tastes and textures and pleasures that accompany it.  We do not mourn what passes – but we do not give it up before its time.

It has been a busy week here, with visiting family and friends and getting ready for Yom Kippur, the most contemplative and thoughtful day of the Jewish year.  Now we are approaching the next holiday in the cycle – Sukkot, in which we celebrate the harvest (Judaism has two harvest festivals, one for the harvest of milk and the first harvest of grain in June, Shavuot, and then Sukkot in the fall).  During sukkot, we eat in our sukkah, a small hut we decorate with symbols of autumn, and we invite guests.  We’ve managed to arrange to have guests nearly every single night of the holiday, often many at once, so starting Friday, we will overflow with good food and company.

Today we must get the harvest in, and begin putting up our sukkah.  We are still waiting for Maia to give birth, the new chicks are out of their box (and a few of them are headed home with my step-mother this week, to fill out her chicken coop), and we’re ready to start milking Selene.  Tekiah has doubled in size (she’s still tiny and awesomely cute – I guess I hadn’t realized that the dominant mode of self-propulsion by baby goats was not walking or running, but boinging – and sideways at that) and now spends a lot of her time chasing the poultry to watch them run away – since they are considerably bigger than she is, this is pretty funny to us, too.

We adopted a new cat, to assauge the kid’s sense of loss over Zucchini – and lit a memorial candle on Yom Kippur, when we remember those who have died, not only for our lost family, for Inge and Cyril, my Uncle Bobby and other family, but for Zucchini, and Rufus and the baby goat born dead.  Rubeus (as in Harry Potter’s Hagrid) is a skinny black and white half-grown kitten with an affectionate personality and a purr that sounds like a marble rolling back and forth between wooden slats. 

There’s a lot to do in the fall – the season of fruits is shifting (there are still apples, of course, and quinces and pears and others, but still) into the season of roots.  I think of the Northeastern year as following the cycle of autumn, when all things are drawn back into the ground, and roots shine, then winter, the season of trees and barks, before the sap runs, when the life of the wild things and the domestic ones is best found in the traces of green and the hollows of trees, then the season of leaves, where the first green things burst forth, and finally, the season of ripe fruit, when we devour, and juice runs down our chins in abundance.  I love the season of fruits for its virtue – but I’m ready for roots, for parsnip soup and sweet potato pie, and for treasure in the soil.  Otherwise, we’re just happily busy with the shift from one season to another, one cycle, one moon to the next.

Planted: Winter wheat, some cuttings of geranium and fuschia for next year.

Harvested: Tomatillos, tomatoes, hot peppers, beets, carrots, broccoli, kale, collards, green beans, sweet peppers, eggplant, pea shoots, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, milk, eggs, amaranth, onions, herbs, cabbages, hickory nuts.

Preserved: Basil as pesto, froze corn, froze eggplant, dried green beans, pickled zucchini, dried herbs, dried tomatoes, made sauerkraut, saved seed, made basil-chile flavoried vinegar.

Waste Not: dried corn silk for tea, fed corn husks to goats, composted, diverted new source of grey water.  Began making a quilt out of old fleece pjs with broken zippers and holey feet, of which I have many.

Want Not: Ordered rolled oats and split peas. 

Eat the Food: New recipe for German potato salad, stuffed pumpkins.

Build Community Food Systems: Not so much.

How about you?