I love fall. Favorite season. I think it started as a child, because of course, my birthday is October, so I always looked forward to fall. But I loved the leaf piles, the pretty colors, the cooler weather, Halloween. Now, as a grownup, I still love all of those things (except maybe Halloween, which we do, but not the spooky stuff), plus more. I hate being sweaty hot, so the cooler weather is more welcome than ever. The fall colors are still a favorite, especially on a cool sunny day. Brilliant. As a gardener, I love the last of the fall harvest coming in, the abundance, esp. all those winter squash. My birthday? Meh. I could take it or leave it. Two of my children also have birthdays in October, so there’s always a lot of excitement in the air this month, whether I’m excited about leaving 31 behind or not. Jason’s birthday is in eight short days, as well, and let’s just say he’s even older than I. But he takes it all in stride. I think about aging more than he does.
We went on vacation last week, and after we returned (9/26/11), I noticed the swans were no longer hanging out at the pond down the road. Gone south for the winter. We’ll see you next March, swans. There are some beautiful white crane-looking birds hanging out in area ponds still, though. I wish I knew what they were.
This morning, we divided and conquered our gardening and harvesting. With frost predicted tonight, Jason took the big kids out to the garden/weed patch/rabbit and small rodent sanctuary to get the last of the tomatoes. They are already pretty dead from blight, but there were still a lot of them left (both green and ripe). I will be canning sauce and green tomato relish (really more of a salsa, and a family favorite) so that we can use our counters and dining table again. We also have potatoes, dry beans, cabbage, and onion/garlic (if they are still out there amidst the weeds) left to harvest. I think those will keep, as tonight’s low is 32 and probably won’t get down that low until morning. But the tomatoes will be all done. And the next few nights aren’t supposed to get nearly as cold, so we buy ourselves some time. I just brought lunch out to the garden, and the kids are having a blast harvesting potatoes. They are filthy dirty and elated at all the delicious looking spuds. I guess they are harvesting potatoes after all. The beans should be “fun” to harvest, as we never trellised them, so they sprawled all over and climbed weeds and fences as necessary. “It’s kind of like a game, finding all the pods, ” Jason said. He’s such an optimist. I would be whining.
My part of the harvest this morning was to take Cal with me to the farmer’s market. I love that place. It’s only 3.5 country miles from our house, so maybe a 5 minute drive with absolutely no traffic, and I’m able to stock up on things I didn’t or couldn’t grow this year. I always chat with farmer friends and enjoy a muffin and/or coffee. It was freezing this morning; I wrapped Cal in a blanket in his stroller and stuck his hands in, figuring he wouldn’t keep them under the blanket but it was worth a try. He kept them under the blanket the whole time! For a toddler, that’s pretty amazing. It was that cold. We were on a mission to buy some things we didn’t grow this year: squash, peppers, beets, and even a watermelon. I figured it was the last week for peppers, so I’m glad I got some. Lots of pretty butternut squash on display, and I bought from two of my favorite organic growers.
I used to think that my goal as a homesteader was to never need to hit the farmer’s market. But I’ve since changed my thinking. No matter how avid of gardener you are, no matter how much time you have to tend your plants, things happen. Blight takes the tomatoes, squash bugs decimate your pumpkin patch, mice take the potatoes. Whatever happens, there’s likely another area gardener/farmer at the market who didn’t have that problem. So you buy their’s instead. This was a difficult year, Cal being a handful, and a wet, cool spring that provided rain and wet soil whenever we had a free weekend, so I didn’t plant my pepper seedlings (I let them die, sniff), and we didn’t even plant winter squash. I know. It makes me really sad. I still have a little butternut squash from last year’s harvest – over a year old! That is one hardy squash. I love our butternuts; they taste great and last forever. I know the soil they grew in, I know that they were cured properly for best flavor, and I can make sure they’re stored to the best of my ability. And it’s way cheaper than buying it. But it didn’t happen this year, so I’m happy to buy from those who had a better squash year than I did. I can still make sure they’re cured, and they’ll taste great, even if I had to pay for them.
And it’s apple season! I forgot that that’s definitely one of the top five reasons I love fall. Apples are my favorite fruit, and living in the Fruit Belt means that there’s a lot to choose from around here. Most of it is conventionally grown, for sure, so we do a lot of washing and peeling. And when we u-pick, we only go organic, so no pesticides on the kids’ hands. There are a few organic options around here, thankfully. Organic apples are hard to grow, so I’m thankful for those who do it. We hope to go picking in the next couple of weekends; here’s hoping the harvest holds out until we can get there.
Our own fruit trees are growing, slowly but surely. We have two Asian Pear trees, and they are still small. But one had dozens of flowers on it this year! I didn’t want it to put all its energy toward fruit (at the expense of the roots/tree growth), so I removed all but 10 buds, figuring spring storms would blow some more off. It worked. We ended up with four tasty-looking Asian pears, just enough to try our first harvest without compromising the growth of the plant. Before we left on our trip on 9/19, the four pears looked delicious, but not soft enough, so I left them. Upon returning, they were gone, and I was really sad. I figured a deer got them? But if he did, he left no trace. Weird. Then Jason and the kids went to the garden today, and behold, the four pears were just sitting on the ground! They were so ripe they fell off. And they were in perfect condition – no bruises, no bugs, nothing. Asian pears are known for being extremely pest resistant and for storing well, and I can testify to that now. We immediately peeled them up and ate them for lunch, and they were THE BEST ASIAN PEARS I HAVE EVER EATEN. It’s true. I can’t wait until those trees grow bigger and give us more! We don’t do a thing to those trees – haven’t pruned yet, don’t spray anything – and so I know this is a fruit that I chose well. (We don’t have an apple tree because I’m pretty sure I won’t take care of it properly, and I won’t spray, so we’ll just be feeding worms and deer. =)
It’s days like today that make me so happy to live here. Yes, the house needs work, and it’s not a style I would have chosen, but this land – it’s amazing. The turkeys are getting nice and fat, roaming around and eating grass and bugs, and the chickens are pecking through the dirt and roaming the woods, some looking tasty enough to eat (soon, soon). The garden harvest, even in a year when the garden was largely ignored, is abundant and delicious. The eggs we get, though few due to molting, are so flavorful and full of nutrition that I don’t think I can even return to store bought eggs. I’m so happy about the choices we’ve made and the blessings that God has given us.
Read Full Post »