Homestead Happenings: in summer, the song sings itself
In summer, the song sings itself -William Carlos Williams
It’s early August and that sticky inertia of Forever Summer is drying up. There’s a seasonal urgency knocking on my door—softly—like the fists of a toddler trying to get noticed. Everything is slightly tilted, sliding gently towards seedy plants and bundled up mornings. And perhaps I’m ten steps ahead of myself, but after fifteen summers at 6512 feet, you start to see the signs.
If you asked Dan what season it is right now, he might gesture to bathroom floor, where a bowhunting magazine from 2008 is flipped open to “ten secrets to successful elk hunting.” Archery season starts at the end of August, and while my mind is downloading pickle recipes, his is stalking huge mammals through the spruce trees.
In the month before hunting season, this month, Dan can be found: running up the hills surrounding our house (“it’s my new addiction!” he trills all sweaty and pumped while I seem to be growing softer like a sprouting potato); renouncing coffee and beer and instead chugging quarts of raw, local milk; thawing packages of our elk and deer meat so our freezer’s bare by opening morning (he believes a hunter must be hungry to be successful); adopting a seriousness that follows him like a shadow as he prepares to take an animal’s life.
Meanwhile, the kids and I are adopting the unsustainable euphoria of late summer, riding bikes home from local bluegrass concerts at 8pm, buzzed on beer and community. It’s like the world has an “Open, Come in!” sign hanging on every tree. And even though I often have the diluted patience of someone stuck in traffic on an LA freeway, for brief moments mothering a 3 and 5 year old is like living with really small roommates who simply need rides everywhere. We’ve thrown off the shackles of diapers! Naps are no longer that squirrely phantom that can ruin your whole day if not perfectly choreographed! Col can ride a bike all over this town and the Wednesday night farmer’s market serves beer!
The summer monsoons have began, dropping shade and moisture which tangles the garden into one growing biomass.
Food spills from the garden into our hands, making Eating Local a matter of simply walking outside with a pair of clippers.
The plants have grown so thick from the rain, Rose could have a kilo of lollipops stashed under the broccoli and I’d never know. The new garden currency is sun, and as the days shorten everyone wants some. Everyday I’m carrying armfuls of volunteer and shade-making sunflowers to the compost. I trim tomato plants and lop the same zucchini leaf that keeps resprouting and shading the cucumbers. Does anyone know when to start cutting tomato flowers so that the plant energy goes into the existing fruit? I’m guessing we have about 7 more weeks until a hard frost.
The lettuce carries on, but has become the relative that stays too long and keeps telling the same story. If anyone wants a bag of salad greens, come on over quick; I’m serious.
While I hack up sunflowers, Col and Rose whirl around the garden wielding clippers and scissors asking “what can we cut now?” Last week I sent the kids and their visiting friends to the alleyway behind our house to pick as much soapwort as they wanted. (This dirt alleyway runs the length of our street and ends in a slope of oaks and chokecherries and it’s my goal for the kids to eventually be comfortable roaming this corridor alone – but not anytime too soon, Dad).
I’d never actually made soap from soapwort but a friend of mine once harvested some of ours to wash her lingerie in, which I’d do too, except sports bras need gentle handwashing like chickens need silk comforters. But, look it worked:
In other homestead happenings, I am no longer scared of zucchini.
Thank you all for your awesome recipes and ideas. (Pennie – your zucchini pancake recipe is on this week’s menu). We’re knocking back 2 a day by chopping the zukes and roasting on high heat, drizzled with olive oil, salt and garlic. They become like roasted marshmallows, brown and crispy on the outside, and soft and sweet in the middle. Why do they become sweet, does anyone know?
And one more happening on the homestead: chimichurri. Does this word mean anything to you?
How ’bout this?
I made this yesterday, yesterday, and already I am an evangelical convert. This is a parsley sauce from South America and the ingredients are so simple you likely have all of them on hand. Here’s the recipe I used.
We sopped up grilled elk steaks with it last night, and then today I plopped it on rice and roasted zukes. I had enough chimichurri to put some in the freezer and I can already tell that I’m going to be completely neurotic about trying to hoard it until next next summer.
And for the vegetarians:
Sigh. I wish I could hoard summer itself.
What do you all do to preserve mint (besides drying for tea)?