Sunday, October 4, 2009

Falling into winter

These photos are a couple weeks old. At the time we were so busy harvesting I didn't have time to write. Noah and I had a lovely afternoon harvesting carrots together. I tried not to harvest more than I could clean and bag in a day or two. Digging the carrots was much quicker, easier and more satisfying than standing at the kitchen sink cleaning them one by one. I still haven't weighed the two gallon bags of carrots, I'm pretty sure that they are about fifteen pound bags and I've got eight of them in our back up fridge. So many that I really need to bust out the juicer and start juicing some. These are Early Sugarsnax. I also grew a mix of colorful carrots in a different row, they didn't get as big or yield much but they sure liven up soups and salads with their white, yellow, red and purple colors.
As we dug and pulled carrots the chickens and ducks provided us with entertainment. The ducks and a group of adolescent laying birds have been living near the garden while the older layers are in a coop further down the hill. Most of the summer the birds don't get to free range much as they are more vulnerable to predators when they are smaller, and the early garden is more vulnerable to chickens. Over the last several weeks I've been letting everyone out of their pens to get some greens while they still can. The birds are becoming bolder and roaming further from their coops each day. On this particular afternoon we watched the lower group of adult chickens venture up into the garden where the ducks and younger chickens were residing. It was not a stretch to imagine what the adult Brahma rooster was thinking as he encountered all the new young female hens. How many chickens do you see?

Dustin and Noah are building the new goat barn. When it is finished I will take a bunch of pictures as the goats explore their new home. Currently the walls and roof are up with vapor barrier and insulation in place. We have yet to build the doors, gates and put the fence up. Hopefully the goats will be moved in within the week.

We have low bush cranberries all over our property. They are similar to store bought cranberries only smaller. We use them mostly in muffins and breads. I usually make at least one batch each of cranberry salad, relish and chutney around Thanksgiving. Last year I had frozen all the berries and ended up buying some fresh cranberries at the store last November and felt pretty silly. This year I've got a gallon bag full in the fridge that I'm saving for the holidays. I've noticed that they last for at least six months in the fridge. I kept some up to a year once, they just started to dehydrate. Cranberries are full of vitamins and have anti bacterial characteristics. A local herbalist I know uses the plants and berries to make medicinal tinctures. I wish we had more berries that are this prolific growing in the wild on our land. We have some raspberries, blueberries, currents and high bush cranberries, but just enough for daily snacking and not enough to get us by for the winter. Cranberries on the other hand are prolific and I am going to start putting much more effort into using them more creatively.

Last year I dried some cranberries and they were fine, but nothing like the craisins I buy at the store. So this year I dunked the berries in a honey dip before drying them and they turned out more plump, glossy and vibrant. They are small and intensely flavorful. About a gallon of fresh cranberries turned into one quart of dried craisins. Next year I'd like to have a gallon of dried berrries going into winter. This year I've got between two and three gallons between the fridge and freezer and won't be drying anymore.

It is hard to believe that these two pictures were taken just a few days apart. Fortunately I made it down to the cranberry patch nightly for a few days right before our first snowfall. This patch is on a cliff looking over the road and valley below. It gets the evening sunset, so heading down just before dinner time is a sunny time for picking. The cranberries are super hardy and are still there even under all the snow all winter. Last spring Noah was picking dehydrated cranberries that were still on the plants. I'm usually not in a hurry to pick cranberries until I think the snow is about to cover them up. I often see the berries early at the Farmer's market before they are really ripe yet. When they are ripe they turn from a dull solid red to a more transluscent glossy red.

It truly is a lovely time of year. While outside I can almost imagine that it is spring time with the brown muddy leaf covered ground and the cool crisp air. But then I see the occasional tree still holding onto it's golden leaves, and the fireweed is still covered in cotton candy like seed tufts. I don't leave the house much but as I was driving today I was struck by the beauty of the hillsides. There aren't many leaves left but the hillsides are a collage of cranberry, copper, lavender and burnt sienna. For a few days the snow fell and coated the trees and ground. The contrast of green grass along the highways with the white crusty snow on the colorful shrubs and trees was phenomenal. I forget how lovely this time of year is, falling into winter.

1 comment:

aubryz said...

I cannot believe how incredibly beautiful the land is where you live. I live in a suburb and it's just so depressing sometimes. As far as neighborhoods go, it's nice, but to see the trees, poplars?, around your home just make it easier to breath! and the photo of your two children look so much like my own son and daughter!