Sunflowers

Our sunflowers have been very productive this year! The heads are drooping under their weight, and our tallest one comes in at about 10′ 4″.

A very happy bee.

This one is almost ready for drying. We’ll have to keep an eye on it and claim it before the birds do!

I’m only 5’4″ – it’s fun to know the tallest one is almost TWICE my height!!

A Snow Day

There’s nothing better than getting a day off from work for a snow day! I admit to being pretty lucky to be able to avoid driving on the roads on days like today.

We’re up to inch 17 right now, and still going strong.  I made my first round of shoveling this morning, followed by a snowy hike into town to get my taxes out in the morning mail.  Few people out and about, only those of us cleaning up. So, until my husband gets home and we make a round two of the shoveling, I’ll be relaxing with a hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup and a book.

Snow At Last!

It seems as though everyone but those of us in the Northeast’s has been getting snow this season. But yesterday, we finally got a respectable helping of it yesterday, just about a half a foot here. Although that always means cleaning up after it, I think we’re all pretty pleased with what we got. So, with a hot bowl of soup in our bellies, my husband and I went out about 6:30 last night to clean up. After my task of getting my car cleaned off and moved, shoveling the porch, and cleaning the steps, I took off into the back field while my husband finished the driveway. There I sat, surrounded by darkness and snow, just taking it all in.

I felt each snowflakes as it kissed my face, melting on my nose, my lips, my chin.
Wisps of wood smoke swirled with the snowflakes in the air. It wasn’t that sharp, shallow, cold middle of winter smell, no. It was warm, full-bodied, earthy and sweet. 
The wind whistled, slightly muffled, as it moved through the yard and the trees. Snow crystals collided, resulting in sharp, crystalline chimes. A winter melody.
Very little of the porch light reached the field, but what did found its way by reflecting off the snow. Though no spotlights on a stage, the glow silhouetted a neighbor’s pine. Here it performed for me, its branches swaying, waving, all part of an interpretive dance. Plant stalks, leftover from fall, rise through the snow and take part in the show, bowing low then rising up again.
Alone in the dark and snow, I was warm and wished to be no other place.

 

Harvest & Preserving Totals- 2009

This year was the first time we’ve ever had a garden and it’s the first time we have ever tried canning. Both worked out pretty well and I thought I might encourage myself (and others) by listing what exactly we ended up harvesting and preserving this year. And what’s really exciting about all of this is that all of it came from our backyard or from local growers.

Garden:
*2 lbs. zucchini (not too successful)
*3 lbs. tomatoes (no thanks to the blight)
*4 lbs. cucumbers (very successful)
*3 lbs. carrots (most successful vegetable)
*5 lbs. turnips & greens (very successful)
*Handful of swiss chard
          Of those, the cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and swiss chard were eaten fresh. Most of the carrots and turnips were as well, though we have blanched and frozen a good-sized bag of both to add into soups and stews. We realized the soil is lacking in nutrients, so we have had my father come expand and deepen it with his rototiller and in the process of getting the soil tested so we know what needs to be added next spring. We already have next season’s seed catalogue from High Mowing Organic Seeds and have already begun dreaming about next season. I’ll put the catalogue away until the end of January when I will be in need of warm season dreaming and figure out next year’s plot then. And as a side note, everything that we grew this year was done so “organically”.

Carrots (2)
Herbs:
*Oregano- fresh use all season long plus more dried and put away
*Basil- fresh use until it showed signs of bolting, then made a decent sized batch of pesto which lasted several meals
*Cilantro- fresh use until is showed signs of bolting, then made some salsa
*Chives- beastly things that are still being used fresh, though I have some frozen to experiment with this winter
          Having herbs around caused me to use more of them, teaching myself more about their flavors in certain dishes (especially how amazing fresh oregano is with eggs), and really appreciate having them around. They will be planted again next year.

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Preserving:
*Jam:
     -12 (4oz.) jars blueberry jam- blueberries from the Blais Farm
     -12 (4oz.) and 2 (half pint) jars strawberry jam- strawberries from Wellwood Orchards
     -12 (4oz.) and 2 (half pint) jars black raspberry jam- black raspberries from Cherry Hill Farm
     -12 (4oz.) and 3 (half pint) jars red raspberry jam- red raspberries from Cherry Hill Farm
*3 (pint) jars of peaches- peaches from Wellwood Orchards
*7 (pints) frozen strawberries- strawberries from Wellwood Orchards
*9 (quarts) homemade spiced applesauce- apples from Wellwood Orchards
          After our first batch of strawberry jam, the jamming and canning bug had definitely bit us. Not only is it fun, but it will bring us much joy this winter as we yearn for warm days. The jam is better than anything you’d ever find in the store, and we’re very excited to share a large portion of it with our friends and family this holiday season.

Raspberry Jam

A Soft Blanket of Snow

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Despite many of us wanting autumn to stay with us forever, winter is fast approaching. We awoke this morning to find our world covered under a thin blanket of snow. As I’m sure most of it will melt away over the course of the afternoon, its a reminder to us that winter is knocking at our door and it will not be long until we’re buried in snow.

It’s been almost a week since we’ve turned our clocks back, and I’m starting to get use to driving home after the sun has set. It seems like only minutes after I get home and start supper, it’s pitch black out. No time for leisurely evening strolls, those will be kept for weekend afternoons. Nights are colder and after cocconing myself in the blankets last night, I’ve realized it’s time to put the thin cotton sheets away and pull out the heavy flannel ones in addition to an extra blanket. And, as Turkeycookies reminded me, I’ll dig out our microwavable rice bag that my Grandmother made for me and put that near the night stand for those really cold nights in need of a little extra warmth under the covers for your toes. Grudgingly, I’ll even force my husband to help me switch out our shorts and tank tops for pants and sweaters this weekend.

One more day of work at the lab until the weekend work of warmth, crafting, and baking arrives. What a busy work week it’s been, and interestingly enough, it’s due to the opening of hunting season in just over a week. I thought it unusual that all of our wastewater operators were coming in with their monthly samples all at the same time this week. So, after the third operator in a span of less than an hour showed up, I thought to ask. With hunting season is opening soon, and many of them have vacations coming up, it’s time to get it all done this week and next. The puzzle was solved, and now that I know exactly who’s hunting, I’ll be sure to follow up with them next month in hopes of scoring a free pound or two of venison. 😉

Mid-October Photo Briefing

This blog always shows me how busy I keep myself. In the past two weeks I’ve been working on my autumn “to-do” list and so much more!

Carrots with a view

Our harvest of carrots this year! A handful got roasted, another batch blanched and frozen for soups, more used for a pot roast, and one final batch given away to my father in exchange for his time spent helping us to expand the garden.

Squash and Apples

One of my favorite things to do with squash- cooking it until tender then melting it with apples and some brown sugar to top over some brown rice. Mmmm-mmm!

Rotoman

My father with his rototiller which he graciously brought all the way from Maine to help us expand our garden to twice its size. We already have potatoes, winter squash, and pumpkins on the brain for next year thanks to the expansion. During his visit he also helped to fix our front door and replaced the old weather-stripping with new stuff that actually works. Our door shuts tightly now and lets less heat out.

Fini

I’ve figured out the secret to pumpkins- halve them with a serrated knife, scoop our the pulp and save the seeds (for roasting of course), half again, throw into a pot and boil the pieces until you can stick a fork through the skin side of the pumpkin. Drain and let cool. When cool to the touch, gently use a spoon to scoop the flesh away from the skin and you’re done! I ended up making pumpkin puree for cooking, using an electric hand mixer to get it smoother than I could by hand.

Pumpkin Muffins

And I found the best recipe ever to make the best pumpkin muffins! The perfect way to enjoy a Sunday morning? Hot cup of coffee, Sunday paper, pumpkin muffins.

October 13

And this is what I found when I saw my husband off for work at 5:30 this morning- a snow-sleet mix covering our porch. It’s all gone to rain now, but the slush is still everywhere. Not what I expected for the middle of October.

All the leaves are past their peak now, with most trees retaining less than half of their leaves. The cold nights and mornings are here, and today isn’t suppose to get much higher than the mid forties. I’m sure there will be a warm spell again soon, that familiar Indian Summer break of a few days in early November, but for now, it’s our signal to get things in order, put your garden to bed, get your storm windows in, and prepare for the cold that’s ahead.

End of September

It’s the last day of September and I can’t believe how fast the month has gone by! We’ll welcome in October tomorrow, the month where autumn is at its peak and the days get shorter, colder, and darker. In the interest of community and curiosity, I take turkeycookies’ approach and ask, what do you have planned for October?

*Another round of apple picking, complete with a visit to the petting zoo this time
*Hopefully can another 6 or so quarts of apple sauce
*Play more with pumpkins- I’ve figured out the secret to pumpkin cooking thanks to habitsofamouse
*Bake more delicious pumpkin muffins made with real pumpkin and enjoy countless batches of pumpkin seeds
*Enjoy the crisp nights and smells of wood smoke on evening walks
*Find and experiment more with root crop recipes, including various squashes
*Make lots and lots of soup and homemade bread
*Carve pumpkins and dress up like Star Trek (TNG) officers for Halloween

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