Sunday, October 30, 2011

Settling In to Winter

Onions from the garden. (Much bigger than last years)

We are settling into winter here in Interior Alaska. I feel as though folks everywhere are letting out a sigh of relief and acceptance. If there were still a few things to do before the snow came, toys and tools to clean up, we are past that now. The ground is frozen and covered with a light layer of snow. For us, there are still daily farm chores, complicated by snow and cold temperatures. It is too cold for the kids to be outside for long. We are getting into a winter routine. I get out for an hour and a half for morning chores. Then spend most the day indoors cooking, cleaning, reading, doing home-school lessons and crafts with the kids. Dustin is spending time prepping firewood each day and working on our house addition.

Until this week we have not purchased vegetables (with the exception of the occasional avocado or bag of corn) since early summer. We've got enough vegetables stored to last us into early spring. We've been eating carrots daily, potatoes,celery, beets, onions and garlic. We've got frozen blanched greens I've been putting in soups, jars of sauerkraut and around a dozen heads of cabbage stored. I felt like I was indulging by buying herb salad greens, a bag of snap peas, a bag of colored peppers and some fresh broccoli at the store. Everything looked fine, but upon eating we discovered the peas were overripe and a little rubbery, the peppers were tasteless and under ripe, the broccoli bland and a different texture. The greens made for a nice salad. Oh, how fortunate are we who know and enjoy vegetables directly from our own gardens.

 Decorating the house with dried flowers from the garden.

Beet soup swirled with carrot ginger soup and creme fraiche.

 We've been enjoying harvest dinners with family and friends. At each feast, I think to document it with notes and pictures, but I'm too busy savoring the food and company. Most meals begin with our mold ripened chevre and crackers. A friend made a tomato tart with homemade puff pastry and her own heirloom tomatoes. We have been enjoying grilled Dall sheep, Caribou and Moose, courtesy of my brother; the mighty hunter of the family. At the last meal, I made the above soup. To finish the meal, I brought an applesauce goat cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and cranberry honey topping. Made with Nancy's crabapples, our own cheese, cranberries and honey - of course. 

I've been thinking that the key to being as excited about winter as I am, is to either spend your summer farming. Or at least, have an outdoor job where you spend as much time enjoying and loving each warm day that spring, summer and fall bring us. I am overjoyed to be entering into winter. I think I have enough to do this winter, that I won't be bored until February, and by then it will be time to start seeds and prepare for goat kidding season. 

This morning is special because it is the first day I have a heated milking parlor to milk goats in. Yesterday Dustin installed our wood stove in our new addition/ milk parlor. I have to mention that Dustin calls the area his "man cave". The goats are forever taking over. "Milk parlor" I say, hah! For the last four years I have milked outside, in the goat stall and in unheated shelters. Milking outside isn't really so bad. Even when it is twenty below zero, I find it rather thrilling- just don't touch the stainless steel pail with wet hands! However, now that I have a heated area, I'm sure I'm going to love it. This morning the temperature is in the single digits outdoors. As I milk in a warm room, I have the ambiance of a beautiful new wood stove, with a glass front so I can watch the flames flicker. Everyone say "ooooh".  Now the molasses and olive oil are going to pour much easier too and I won't have to carry the bucket of soaked grains indoors so they won't freeze and be crunchy cold in the morning.

Best wishes to you wherever you are in your fall or winter preparations.


Anonymous said...

I so enjoy your blog and getting a glimpse of your beautiful homesteading life in Alaska. You've inspired me to not dread winter this year! Keep up the wonderful posts!


Ashling said...

Oooooo indeed! I'm not naive enough to think this life sounds like 'fun', but I'm in deep admiration of the spirit of adventure and the grace it takes to enjoy it!

Buttons said...

Oh Emily I am so happy for you. I know what it is like when your chores get easier and easier. The wood stove will make it much nicer for you.
I look forward to reading about your winter. Your gardening skills are exceptional. B

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the heated milking parlor! The soup sounds wonderful. By the way, I'm currently using your recipe for the Kombucha tea...I started the scooby per the recipe and now I have organic white tea fermenting. I'll know in another 5 days if I did everything correctly...and if I'll be able to drink my concoction. Stay warm.

Plain and Joyful Living said...

Your dried flowers are beautiful! Maybe next year....they would be fun to grow.