firsts

IMG_8139The first frost of the season settled on the farm over the weekend. We knew it was coming, as we saw nearly a 50 degree temperature drop in just a few days, but somehow never feel fully prepared for the reality of that plummeting mercury. Here in Bugtussle, the temperatures hovered right around the freezing point but didn’t dip low enough to send the garden into complete submission. In areas of the garden with good air drainage we saw very little frost damage. Even tomato and pepper plants somehow survived with only a slight kiss of frost, while neighboring summer squash plants were scorched. Some ginger that was still in the ground thankfully only had some leaf damage while in the next row over, the last few remaining rows of sweet potatoes were weirdly dark and melty looking.IMG_8140So on Sunday (a day of rest, right?), we made a push to finish up the sweet potato harvest and get them out of the ground before any of the frost damage could travel down the vine and adversely affect those precious roots. Golly, if my somewhat tired brain serves me right now, I’m figuring we lifted just a few hundred pounds shy of two tons of sweet potatoes from our garden soil. That’s a whole lot of winter meals!

The first frost came sort of early this year. Not much, but enough for us to realize all that still needs to be wrapped up before the persistent nightly frosts make themselves known around these parts: finish harvesting ginger and peanuts; haul the ridiculous amount of winter squash to the barn; glean the last of the tomatoes and peppers and maybe even process some; clean-up, clean-up, clean-up in the garden; and finally get cover crops on any bare soil. Oh, yeah… and plant a quarter acre of garlic.IMG_8142The weekend also heralded our first fall share delivery in our CSA. This time of year is always slightly insane… that odd clash of seasons that procures watermelons and sweet potatoes in the same basket (which was a first). The time of year when summer isn’t quite over but fall is fully upon us, if you know what I mean. Kind of wacky, but Eric and I get great amusement out of watching our shareholders load their baskets, juggling the melons while hefting the weight of all the potatoes and sweet potatoes, and trying not to smash the kale or the tomatoes. It’s such a treat for us to know that our food will travel into so many special homes to be prepared and consumed by so many special folks. I really do love my job. Even though I work most weekends.

On a different wavelength, I started knitting my very first pair of socks, knitted two at a time. There is genius behind knitting two matching garments, or a pair of something, at the same time. Just think… no more will I have face the deflated feeling of exactly repeating the same project I just completed in order to have a pair of something. (also know as the “second sock syndrome”) Nope. Two at once is brilliant. I’ve wanted to give this technique a whirl for a long time now, but am just feeling the mental wherewithal to actually tackle such a project. I’m sure for the experienced two-at-a-time-knitter, it’s really not a big deal. But I am not that person, and for me it is a very big deal. I did beg my children to “just leave me alone” for a few minutes so I could successfully cast-on the socks (which is the tricky part). Surely that doesn’t make me a terrible mother.IMG_8150{Here I am following the instructions for “sample” socks from Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. They are knitted in different colors to help the beginner be able to have a better idea what the hell they are doing. That, too, is genius.}

And on an entirely different note, my little man Ira shot his first squirrel today. Perfect shot, too. He cleaned it himself and he’ll be cooking it for lunch tomorrow. The acorns are so insane right now, I imagine that squirrel is “acorn-finished”…IMG_8170There’s a first time for everything, friends.

moving inward

IMG_5010Last 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.IMG_4995But 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.IMG_4925What 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.IMG_4816IMG_4926IMG_4931IMG_4935As 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. IMG_5018

inspired

this time of year it is hard for me to muster up any more food preservation energy. i have been deep into my stock pots for months now. alas, just when i was ready to call it a year, we harested our first crop ever of ginger:  fresh, inspirational baby ginger.

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wow. raised here in our high tunnel, we have been tending this delightful crop since early spring. the culinary thrill seems endless to me right now.

first i tried pickled ginger (japanese gari)

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then, since these have to sit for a week at least, i had to make a quick batch of crystallized ginger

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next on the list ginger beer. inspired indeed.