these are the leanest times on the homestead. maybe lean is not the right word, boring is really more accurate. while the cupboard still holds some canned delights and the freezer still has a smattering of this and that, we are basically sick of our winter diet. spring greens are growing, but that enormous salad that we all crave is still out of reach. miraculously the woods offer one of the tastiest treats, morel mushrooms, around here called dry land fish. my oldest is a decent forager and right after a boring breakfast of eggs, again, he fled to the hills.
when i returned to the house after a day in the gardens last week, i found this
the hundred dollar bill was laid out for scale my teenager claimed, not the assessed value!
Nature is abundant. Some years the abundance is more apparent than others; some years you have to dig a little deeper to find it. But this year… this year here in Bugtussle is truly outrageous. Not only have our cultivated gardens been extremely prolific this season, the more wild offerings of field and forest are overflowing, too.The growing season itself has been fairly unusual, with lots of moisture early on, and cooler temperatures throughout. A slow and patient season it has been, indeed. We didn’t really experience the common (at least to us) mid-summer slump this year, when the spike of summer growth wanes and you’re biting your nails anticipating fall crops. We’ve certainly had some challenges along the way, but for the most part were able to roll with the punches and still come up smiling. Right now, our days flow from one nibble here to the next nibble over there. After a lunch of gorging on hot sweet potatoes fresh from the oven and laden with bright yellow butter, Eric and I stepped out of the front door to graze from the fig trees around our house for dessert. We both ate until we were nearly foundered, and Eric still had a shirt full. We have bowls and baskets full of pawpaws and persimmons, the two most divine native fruits imaginable, in my opinion. The children have been gathering nuts like frenzied little mice, leaving trails of brown-staining hulls and shells everywhere.There are pumpkins and winter squashes galore. The tomato vines are still laden. We are still eating watermelons, for crying out loud! And they are growing right next to a giant patch of kale that’s ready to be harvested! The clash of the seasons, indeed! We are harvesting our first hardy kiwi fruit (not the brown fuzzy offering found in grocery stores, but a small, smooth-skinned variety that grows well in our climate and with a taste quite similar to the more common kiwi) from the trellis around our outdoor kitchen. And earlier today, I harvested a basketful of shiitakes that had volunteered on logs that we had long since given up on trying to get to produce fruit, as they are rotting into the ground. There is food everywhere. You just have to stop a moment and look around. But if you stand in one place for too long, you risk getting hit in the head by food falling from the trees. This is the very music that fills our days (and nights!) right now: the sound of the acorns falling from the many oak trees that surround our house, hammering our tin roof. The children are able to snack so much while we are working in the gardens, that mealtimes have been a lot less pressured lately. And when they are creating the snacks themselves, it seems their palettes are so much more adventurous! While Eric and I were grubbing sweet potatoes (lots and lots of them, too!) this afternoon, the girls were busy picnic-ing on “tacos” consisting of a celery leaf wrapped around cherry tomatoes, celery stalks, and whatever else they deemed gourmet fare. I need not worry about them getting their daily quota of fruits and veggies! Sometimes, when my mind is clear to think it’s thoughts (this usually coincides with when the children are occupied elsewhere), I ponder what all of this abundance means. Are we just experiencing a little forgiveness for the especially challenging season of record high temperatures and drought of last summer? Should we be heeding a warning that this coming winter might be particularly brutal? (And that we should be sufficiently stocking up?) Is the pendulum going to swing the other way next summer, from abundance to absence? Obviously, I don’t know the answers to these questions. Time will take care of that. So, for now, I suppose I’ll just have to sit back and wallow in all of this glorious abundance and marvel at what is happening around me: the fall.