Last week, little miss Olivia Fern celebrated her fourth birthday. And this happy-go-lucky birthday girl is a source of great inspiration to me. So I finally (finally) finished sewing her very own Hideaway Tent (pattern from Growing up Sew Liberated). Livi seems be more inclined to introversion, kind of like her mama, and sometimes she just needs a space to get out of the watchful gaze of her big brother and sister! Admittedly, the project was started last year just before the Christmas holiday, and when I didn’t quite get finished, and since my “studio” doubles as my bedroom… well, the large unfinished project was folded and tucked away. So after brushing the dust off of my sewing machine, and remembering where I was on the pattern, and really enjoying the act of sewing, my sweetie has a secret spot of her own… I’m no expert seamstress, that’s for sure, but this successful project has inspired me sew more. Opal’s birthday is just around the corner, and I have just the project in mind for her!
Last week’s chilly, frozen mornings were my first real reminder of what the coming months have in store for my family: indoor time. Mostly, this is a good thing, after a bustling season spent out of doors embracing our farm’s natural surroundings. It will feel good to snuggle up for stories near the wood stove. Or to knit for long stretches through the dark evening hours, when there is really nothing that could be done, even if I wanted to, out there in the utter darkness. (Unless, of course, I just wanted to stare at the vast expanse of glittering stars gracing that darkness, which I often do on still winter evenings.) So, in an effort to make our house ready for all of the indoor action that is in our near future, I’ve found myself busily sorting, cleaning, and re-arranging our indoor world. In my opinion, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as a little make-over on the homefront.But it’s not just my family I need to make room for. Part of my inspiration for all of this cleaning is to make room for our food. Our butternut and acorn squashes were relocated from the airy barn loft to the protected indoor environment of our cabin. Now, there’s no space for lost toys under the children’s beds. That space is currently packed to the gills with squash! I’ve said before that we live in a small space. We don’t have a cavernous pantry that can receive and store all our garden’s bounty. (We dream of this, but haven’t made it happen yet… someday!) We’ve had to get pretty creative over the years to figure out where all of this goodness should find a happy home for the winter. It used to be, before so much of our cabin space was occupied by three little peeps, that our sweet potatoes came into the house for the winter, too. Fortunately, we’ve figured out a system of storing our sweet potatoes in our greenhouse, and this has been working pretty well for us. Thank goodness, as this year we harvested nearly three thousand pounds of our family’s staple. (We don’t eat quite that much, our CSA shareholders get to have some, too!) But, if we happen to have sustained cold weather this winter, as many locals around here are predicting, I imagine we’ll need to clear a space for them in the house as well. But that’s ok. Sweet potatoes, like the squashes, are pretty quiet roommates.What remains growing in the garden, for the most part, can handle the colder temperatures of winter. The greens that can’t handle the cold, well, we bring into the house and grow a different sort of garden… Our indoor garden consists of a big 10 gallon crock. This vessel is the mingling place where our last harvests from the gardens come together and mix their flavors and juices to become another family staple: kimchi. We made our first round for the season last week, and now are ready to jar it up and store it, leaving our crock ready for round number two. Our goal is roughly twenty gallons to see us through the darker days of winter. By springtime, when our palettes are tiring of fermented fare, here come the first wild greens salads! Ahhhh… seasons. Our kimchi making is a family affair: Ira chopping daikon, Eric shredding Chinese cabbage and carrots, Opal peeling garlic, and Livi acting as my food processor assistant while making the hot pepper/ginger/onion/garlic paste that we liberally add to our ferment. Part of the reason we started growing ginger in the first place was because it used to be the only ingredient (other than salt, we’re still working on that one) that we didn’t grow on the farm. We’ve made kimchi for so many years now that we just kind of roll with it. But when we were first experimenting all those years ago, Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation was our indispensable guide.As we move inward, and I clear space in the house for children and squashes and piles of coats and hats and jars of fermented vegetables, I realize that this movement is not just about shelter from the elements. We move inward to seek restoration. We move inward to find our inner light, our inspiration. We move inward for deep, dark, cozy sleep. And blessing of all blessings, the seasons allow us to move inward to avoid burnout… the farmer’s bane. So even though there is still work to do in the garden, even though our lists are still long and our days are still full, the intensity is lessening. It’s unavoidable when your life is driven by the seasons. So, in my work of tidying up the physical space that I occupy, I am also clearing space for the introspection that winter seems to herald. Like the deciduous forest that surrounds me, I need to bring my work deep down into my roots. To take a deep breath and restore my expended energy, rebuilding my reserves for the time when the daylight once again grows longer. For now, though, the days are relatively warm and filled with the beautiful color of autumn. There are a few garden tasks yet to be completed and lots of outdoor projects on the drawing board. I feel the pull, though. I know what is coming. And I look forward to it.