I’m in the Garden

This time of year is a busy one for me.  My home is not a farm, but these days it resembles one. The garden is producing every day and missing just a day of activity results in missed opportunities. The majority of our produce comes from our yard, between the months of May and October, but July and August more than any other time. We’re still eating snap peas, arugula, radishes and lettuce, but now the pole beans, shelling beans and string beans are all coming in to their own. The smallest varieties of cucumbers have been sharing with us for a week now and summer squashes are slipped in to most dishes. Carrots and beets abound, while celery, lovage, chives, basil, parsley, oregano, sage and other herbs are being constantly harvested. Tomatoes are green on the vine, but the earliest are just starting to blush and winter squash is blossoming with promise. This has been a bad year for peppers in my neck of the woods, but the hot peppers are gamely giving it their all and I expect serranos along with thai dragon, and scotch bonnets.  A lone ghost pepper plant is flowering now, which is rather exciting as I’m still unsure if we have enough warm days for the peppers to ripen, but it will be an interesting experiment in them nonetheless.

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Every day sees blueberries and raspberries in the house, which is wonderful, because my son and daughter eat them by the handfuls. Rose will eat them right off of the bushes, but my son is interested this year for the first time in actually helping to bring in some of the food destined for the table and he has been an attentive learner. Everybearing strawberries offer a berry or two a day, but then there are only two window boxes planted with them and they are more for the novelty than anything else. Currants and sour cherries have been harvested, while gooseberries are in that process now….. I harvested 10 pounds of gooseberries this past weekend and still have at least that much again still on the bushes. We are still looking forward to the shiro plums, though the heavy rains of two weeks ago knocked all of the developing fruit from the persimmon and quince tree.

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The quail are doing what quail do best- eating and, well, you know. We have yet to see eggs, but they are just six weeks old, so I’m not worried. It could still be two weeks before that happens. We had an unfortunate experience where one of the males killed one of the others and injured a second. The reality of raising livestock animals was very, very clear to me while dealing with the aftermath. Culling the injured quail to ease his suffering and then the perpetrator to protect the rest of my flock was both easier and more difficult than I was expecting. Making the hard decisions for the sake of your animals is just that- hard. But utterly necessary if you are going to be raising animals for food. Responsible animal husbandry is important, and something we will strive to accomplish at every turn, from the moment an egg is laid until the animal is ready to be processed. Humane living and humane dying. But still, it isn’t easy. And it never should be.

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Of course, preserving is going on. Dehydrating, freezing, canning. Batches of gooseberry jam, strawberry chocolate sauce, strawberry-chianti jam, strawberry-blueberry jam, beet and carrot pickles, Chive blossom vinegar, plus a half dozen others have paraded through my kitchen. Dried herbs for the winter, frozen greens and fruit, and new combinations for blended teas join them. Plans for mustards, strawberry cordial, chai apple jelly and other keep parading through my head. Some of these are for our family, some for Jammed In. I am preparing for a rather large event in August and still have a ways to go before I am happy with the stock situation for the fair.

On top of all of this, we lost our bloody minds and decided to get a puppy. Our dog Fil, an elderly, wonderful poodle, passed away of old age several weeks ago, and while getting a puppy was not strictly an intention, we fell in love with a Great Pyrenees/ Australian shepherd mix and Kai (short for Chimera) joined the family. We had a close call with him when he came down with pneumonia a few days after he came home with us, but he’s well on the mend and the vet was fantastic. He and Cammy (our Staffordshire terrier) get along swimmingly, and he’s a sweetheart all around. He and Rose are in cahoots however, trading toys through the kitchen gate I have separating them. It will be interesting.

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This time of year, my world revolves around food. Growing it. Putting it up. Preparing it. Eating it. I dream about the garden, about the quail, and wake up in the morning with a mounting list of things that must be done. TODAY! Even if, really, I can do them tomorrow and the god of beets won’t be too terribly upset. The tomatoes won’t shrivel and fall off the vine. Certain chores cannot be missed and sometimes I just don’t feel like doing something that I know I’m just going to have to do tomorrow too. It’s repetitive. It’s wonderful. It’s exhausting and exhilarating.

But mostly, it’s delicious.

So please forgive me for not posting new recipes lately.

You see, I’ve been in the garden.

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2 Responses to I’m in the Garden

  1. Pati Krasensky says:

    I know this sounds strange, but you made your mother cry. (in the good way!) I am so impressed and awed at the woman and mother you have become. You are both amazing and inspiring. I love you.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, but I can’t take all of the credit. I learned from the best. Maybe not all of the details, but every time I learn a new skill, or keep going because it’s what I’ve committed to doing (even if I don’t feel like it), or just sit and watch a spider doing something cool (because spiders do everything cool), it’s because you taught me to value those things. Love you mom.