Ponder this:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Things I have learned this summer (and previously)

Unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar is good for what ails me. One tablespoon in a cup of warmish water two or three times over the course of a day. My mother's mother kept a cruet of vinegar on her kitchen table, with a piece of stuff that looked like brushed suede floating in it: the mother. Apparently, the mother is the key ingredient. 

My cousin and I at Nana's table, circa 1963
Gloria: What is that?
Me: Vinegar.
Gloria: What's floating in it?
Me: Mother.
Gloria: When did she die?

Cantaloupes are ripe for about fifteen minutes before they turn rotten. Imagine our disappointment. We've grown cantaloupes other summers, but never had so many that we had to worry about not getting them all eaten in time. The ones we did get were so good they nearly blew off our heads.

If you have a dog, it is Good to have Family Howls from time to time, as greetings after separations, or for random bonding purposes. All of our dogs have enjoyed Family Howl sessions, and each has had a different singing style. Molly has the most beautiful contralto voice I have ever heard. Low and long and resonant, it makes me think of whale song.

Husband is the strongest man I know. He recently installed an eight-hundred pound soapstone wood stove with virtually no help, other than to get the thing through the doors of the house. I tried to be as small as possible so as not to be in the way of his progress, but stayed within earshot in case a call to 911 would be needed. In the end, my sole physical contribution ("physical" as opposed to near-constant encouraging and admiring comments, as learned in The Wife Rule Book) was to drop to my knees and pull out the wooden pallet while he lifted the thing when he got it into position on the hearth. It's been a week since the events and his back, legs, neck and arms all seem to be functioning normally, so I'm feeling a little relieved. We haven't fired it up yet. It will never be this clean again once we start having fires in it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Approaching the autumnal equinox

Let me write this and see how it looks: I think I'm finished with tomatoes for this harvest. Not that the good beauties are all out of the garden . . . there are probably another few bushels out there. But I think I'm done, as in stick a fork in me done. The gallon bags of frozen tomato are not innumerable, but they are plentiful. At least a dozen and a half of them in the chest freezer, a few more cooling in the refrigerator to be removed to that semi-permanent storage. I think it might be enough.
Yet, still, it feels like a sin to let that fruit just rot out there. 
I don't know.
I might not be finished yet.
Maybe after some time doing something else. The corn stalks still have ears on them. It will be tough, but still, with the taste of sunshine packaged up in each big fat yellow kernel, better than anything from any store. 
The basil and parsley have been rinsed and bagged and frozen. I did the basil wrong, put it all, chopped up, in olive oil, in one bag and flattened it out. I should have made little balls of it and frozen them individually. But I believe the day that I did that my back felt as if it were about to crack in two if I stood much longer (a legacy of my waitressing years) and I preserved the stuff as quickly as I could so that I could bend without breaking. 

Twice last week, Molly conned me into unplanned morning-quickie-rides in the car. She knows (of course) the angle of the sun when it's time for Husband and me to leave for work. If we do not plan carefully, she might be outdoors at that time. If she's out of sight, it's a given that we must undertake the ruse of pretending to leave for work, leash looped around neck, and, upon spying her as she pops bright-eyed out of a hedgerow, stopping, inviting her into the car. She's thrilled, of course, and settles down in the passenger seat to stare out the windows, an intent tourist, as we drive out one driveway, down the road, and into the other driveway. Now the leash around her neck, we exit the car and prance to the door of the house for a cookie and a shutting away. If she only knew how fervently I wish I could stay with her.

Peep couldn't care less about when we're leaving; she comes and goes according to an unknowable to humankind happy-cat-living-a-country-life schedule. She brings us white-footed mice and other delicacies and leaves them where we will find them on our way to the door. On occasions when Peep has an active hunt in progress and Molly is around, Molly takes over and Peep gives up and leaves her to it. Several days ago, I tried to save a chipmunk from my pets, and managed only to get it to a hiding spot where it spent a night and was discovered by my beloved predators the next day, killed, and disposed of. I should have stayed out of it. The poor thing probably spent a night of painful misery, huddled in the tall grass around the wellhead, instead of having been relatively speedily dispatched in the way of Nature.

It is warm today. The high temperature forecast to be 82 degrees, with 10% chance of rain. A summer day! 
Maybe I'll start the fire under the big pot full of water, put on my sneakers and go out and pry some ears of corn off the stalks. 
This is good work that I'm doing, not least because in the dead of winter I will be able to sit quietly with my book and think about how comfortable it is not to be picking and hauling and boiling and cutting and scooping. I'll just be fat and happy, eating the fruits of the labor. That will be a change, won't it? from my usual mournful wailing about the Dark and Cold Time.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Gratitude, supplication, memory, respite

Thank you for all the tomatoes and corn and beans and parsley and basil and carrots and cantaloupes and all the rest of it.  And thank you for the good Husband who sited the garden so it got watered naturally and plentifully, and sun from rise until set, so that each plant has, completely naturally, begotten more fruit than any of its kind ever before in the history of the Earth anywhere. 
I am ever grateful for Thy bounty.

Now please send an army of harvesters with strong legs and arms and backs to tote all this generous goodness from the garden up the hill to the house, to trim off the bits of tomato that I don't want, to hold the plastic bags for pouring in the crushed/blanched/pureed/cut stuff for the freezer. I need help. 
You can't rush this process. You can bring in two hundred tomatoes but you can only cook down just so many at a time. You can't cut kernels off ears of corn too quickly or you get pieces of cob in with the kernels. Certainly not harmful, but if I'm going to the trouble, I might as well do it carefully. I almost begin to sense a genetic memory of women coming together to help each other put up their harvest. And summer kitchens.

In my Childhood Farmhouse that my father's great-grandfather built there was a summer kitchen elled off the back of the house. I never saw it in use for canning and pickling and all that they used to do; in my time it was where the player piano and the fifty or so rolls of music lived. My sister and I would pump the pedal and watch the keys go down all by themselves while we listened to The Sidewalks of New York and other hits. The paper had held up pretty well considering it was all just stacked in unprotected rolls on top of the piano. Where there was a small tear here or there, there would be an odd note.

And now there's just me, coming home from work and gazing at the ripe tomatoes shining like Christmas lights on the drying-down plants. The things taunt me until I grab the basket and hie myself down to retrieve as many as I can carry back. And while I'm there, take the shears and bring back some herbs for sauce. Make supper while I'm "putting up." 

Husband rolls in as dark comes down. His work days (for money) start and end quite a bit later than mine do and he gets to come into the house all filled with good smells. If I could stop working and be home all day, I could get it all done in good order. Of course, I would need to, since we'd be a lot little bit poorer...

Why does everything have to come ripe all at once...?

So. This morning at 4:30 I was wide awake and excited and trepidatious about spending the whole day carting and boiling and steaming and trimming and bagging. And I managed to get three gallon size bags of corn into the freezer. And then I had a hair appointment. And it started to rain. And it's cold all of a sudden after ninety-degrees last week! Today's been a bust, pretty much, for food storage. 

But it's been a great Book-And-Nap Day. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blogger goes auto-pilot!

That hugely uplifting post that appeared yesterday was posted all on its own. I had posted it probably a year ago, and would not have chosen it for my reappearance message. If Blogger's going to re-post my posts, I wish it would choose happier ones. So now I am forced to reveal to you that I live and breathe, still, and my brain continues to churn out thoughts the way a sausage grinder churns out chopped meat for packing into tubes whose origin I shall leave unmentioned. Let me add that I am delighted to know that a few of you have missed me and still remember me after my long abandonment of you all. Really, you can't know how nice it was for me to see notes from you!

A few bringer-up-to-daters:

  1. Husband remains the answer to my long ago prayer
  2. Molly and Peep are still our beloved furry babies
  3. I'm still working for Small Pond, although . . . 
  4. Morning Boss has left the building! She of the shrieking complaints about my breathing, my dewy hairline in the eighty-degree room, my inability to divine how to perform tasks previously unseen . . . is gone to work at a larger pond, replaced by a Sweet Young Thing who chatters out her every thought. And so I say to you all, as others have said again and again: Be careful for what you wish. I wanted conversation. Boy, have I got conversation now.
  5. Afternoon job, downstairs from Morning Job, continues comfortable and happy.
Husband and his friend installed a vegetable garden hundreds of feet long and thirty feet wide. He planted kale, brussels sprouts, romaine, leaf and other lettuces, green and wax beans, cantaloupes, cucumbers, summer squash... But the stars of the show are the seventy-two tomato plants. Seventy-two. They all bow down under the weight of clusters of tomatoes like giant-sized green grape bunches. Some of the fruits have grown between the plants' stalks and the stakes that hold up the plants. Those must be pulled out two-handed, and often break in two at the division of the two halves, somewhat unpleasantly reminiscent of the division in a human's backside. Molly gets those broken ones. Molly likes to help garden.

There is a black chow chow wandering the hillside, chasing cows. The dog control warden is aware of him but as yet unable to lure him (her?) into a crate for carting off to the shelter. The dog has been in our field early in the morning, sleeping . . . has trotted down the country lane ahead of my car and then off into a field . . . sooner or later the poor thing will need to give in to the dog warden's temptation or, I fear, be shot for chasing those cows. A hoof to the head is as likely as the shot, and devoutly to be wished avoided.

We also have a black and white cat skulking around the fields. It yowls at some point nearly every night, and Peep and it have had words, although no combat. As yet. I have only seen the thing at some great distance and it appears to know what it's doing in the hunting department. 

For both of these wandering creatures, winter will be harder than they now imagine. If they imagine it at all. Doubtful.

So, please . . . be reassured, those of you who feared that I might be weaving the noose to end it all. Life here goes on, summer has been a pleasure, yet again, and I continue fatter than ever and as happy as I am wont to be.  The sadnesses of my young life always underlie everything in my brain and heart, but they don't consume me so much as it would appear from the 8/31 post.

Now that Blogger has yanked me back into circulation, perhaps I'll be more fruitful. I would hope, however, that I shall be less fruitful than our seventy-two tomato plants. Nobody's computer could download posts of that size.