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Homestead Happenings: in summer, the song sings itself

August 10, 2010

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.

rain on purple cabbage

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).

This is soapwort (saponaria officinalis), also known as bouncingbet. This plant was introduced from Europe and has naturalized within the west. It is full of soapy saponins.

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:

instructions: pick soapwort flowers, add water, scrunch with small hands!

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?

yet another green sauce in a jar

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.

Elk and chimichurri; can you see why salad's getting the boot?

And for the vegetarians:

Sigh. I wish I could hoard summer itself.

What do you all do to preserve mint (besides drying for tea)?



29 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2010 8:00 am

    I find myself reading your posts and thinking oh!!! I want to comment on that! Oh and that! Oh that is beautifully said! Really, it’d just be easier if I could call you up while reading and dictate my comment.

    I love:

    for brief moments mothering a 3 and 5 year old is like living with really small roommates who simply need rides everywhere.

    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

    Dan’s August ritual. That’s good stuff.

    Also, drink lots of mojitos to remedy the mint situation. Try this mint and date dipping sauce. YUM.


    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 11, 2010 10:04 am

      Nici, that is EXACTLY how I feel when I read your posts. I need a secretary to take down dictation on all the lines that make me laugh or nod my head in understanding.

  2. abozza permalink
    August 11, 2010 9:02 am

    Love it, love it, love it. This post is what summer ought to be.

  3. Ellen permalink
    August 11, 2010 9:05 am

    Gorgeous photos and writing…both are delicious!

  4. August 11, 2010 10:37 am

    Wonderful…I love the phrase “Everything is slightly tilted, sliding gently towards seedy plants and bundled up mornings.”…except I hate that it’s actually happening!! I would be happy to hoard summer too. I made mint jelly once…can’t remember how I actually used it, otherwise I got nothin’. (And do the zucchinis get sweet because the sugars in them carmelize? Someday I’ll read that book On Food and Cooking and learn all the science behind it.)

  5. Ami permalink
    August 11, 2010 11:24 am

    I love you, your family, your garden, your town and your good eats!
    You can wash and dry the mint, put it in a bag, and then freeze. The next day squeeze the air out of the bag, this crushes the leaves and if you want, you can put the frozen leaf bits into a jar for longevity… or leave them in the bag…. Then they are all ready to sprinkle or use however you want! There’s always mint aioli…which you could mix up and freeze! :) For other herbs I like to make herbed butter.
    Anyway, thanks for such a great blog…. the summer here has been so ridiculously foggy, I think only the professionals are eeking any produce out of the soil….

  6. August 11, 2010 12:15 pm

    A hard frost in seven weeks?? Holy soapy lingerie. We’ll be in the triple digits for months more. Ugh. Congrats on being a diaper-free and zuke-filled household. =>

  7. August 11, 2010 12:40 pm

    i love this post! it is so true, everything you speak of. i am ready for fall but still feel the urgency of just another trip to the lake before it all becomes but a distant memory. i know how quickly the dog days of summer become blustery and cool. but for now another afternoon by the lake and as many fresh veggies as we can eat are making the days pretty perfect:) i have never made a chimichurri before but the restaurant that i work in does and people always ask how to make it:) i can’t wait to hear your report on zuke pancakes…and once you find a few good recipes for them it seems the garden never can produce enough! xo, pennie

  8. August 11, 2010 1:21 pm

    What they all said. I love to live vicariously through your garden, your writing, even your camping trips even though you enjoy them so much more than I ever could in my camping-challenge universe. I love reading about the parenting of your three and five-year-old as I parent my own. Wish I could come over for a bag of salad greens, although that would be a ruse to spend time with you given that our square foot boxes are overloaded with them over here. One day, we’ll have a brew over at the farmers market.

  9. August 11, 2010 1:26 pm

    WOW! I love all of your posts but I really was overwhelmed with admiration at today’s. I feel such appreciation and inspiration for/from you and Dan and what an amazing gift you are giving yourselves and your beautiful children with your incredibly earth loving and conscious lifestyle!


  10. August 11, 2010 2:37 pm

    everything here (particularly tomatoes) is about a month behind normal. this keeps me in denial nicely. : )

  11. August 11, 2010 3:37 pm

    What a delicious post! Love chimichurri…makes me want to grill meat and veggies, make fresh tortillas and margaritas!

  12. August 11, 2010 4:29 pm

    I second the mojito notion. I am a mojito fanatic and if you’re looking for a recipe or mojito advice, I’m your woman.

    other than that… mint jelly!

    I think this is the recipe I’ve used in the past:

    but I’m honestly not positive. It sounds right to me, though. Great with meats or on toast.

    Lastly… Persian Salad:

    chop tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions into large dice. Toss together with plenty of lemon juice, salt, and fresh mint to taste. Let it sit a few minutes to meld. Enjoy heaven. Great way to use everything from the garden.

    p.s. I agree, chimichurri is awesome.

  13. August 11, 2010 4:33 pm

    hmmm… it doesn’t appear that my first attempt at a comment worked. If it did, and I just can’t see it, I apologize. Let me try again:

    I second the mojito idea! I am a mojito fanatic, so if you need a recipe or anything, I’m your woman.

    Other than that: for preserving – mint jelly! Great on meats or toast. I think this is the recipe I’ve used before:

    Lastly, Persian Salad:

    chop tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions into a large, rough dice. Add plenty of fresh lemon juice, salt, and garden mint. Let sit a few minutes to meld. Enjoy heaven. A great way to enjoy so many things from the garden right now. Sounds simple, but I promise it’s incredible.

    p.s. I agree that chimichurri is awesome. it’s another thing that’s deceptively simple but incredibly delicious.

  14. August 11, 2010 7:55 pm

    Another fan of “for brief moments mothering a 3 and 5 year old is like living with really small roommates who simply need rides everywhere.”


    Another fan, really, of everything you write! What a life you share with us.


  15. August 11, 2010 8:38 pm

    Love it, as usual. All five senses are so alive in your writing–it’s really incredible. Enjoy your last bits of summer and all that delicious food you’re harvesting.

    PS The soapwort thing is really cool. I’ve never heard of that before.

  16. August 12, 2010 6:49 am

    I feel exactly the same way as Nici. I wanted to stop and comment and stop and comment. I love you and Dan, and I can’t believe your bounty. And that chimichurri! Can I come over for dinner?

  17. August 12, 2010 7:04 am

    I think you could blend up mint & water, make little ice cubes and add it to margaritas all winter…. except that no on drinks margaritas in winter…..

  18. August 12, 2010 8:02 am

    I’m salivating at your basket of goodies, and envious of the ease with which you can acquire them.

    I think chimichurri sauce, while great with red meat, goes with almost anything don’t you? I love it.

    The abundance of summer is evident here in the city through our farmers’ markets. There are a couple here right in the heart of the financial district that I go to during lunch. I’m so grateful that we have that here so that I can be one of those crazy bag ladies on the subway, except my bags are filled with peaches, corn, cauliflower, beans, etc. etc. etc. I’m going to one today. I can’t wait!!!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 12, 2010 3:44 pm

      and I’m kind of envious that your ride the subway, sounds exotic.

  19. Melissa permalink
    August 12, 2010 4:59 pm

    Love the last comment bc it somehow captures the city/country thing I feel sometimes when I read your posts . . . and I think I am more of a city girl but how I love living vicariously (through Nici’s too–why don’t you two just talk on the phone already? what am i, some kind of matchmaker?) through your gardening and outdoor time. Really, Leeor is a mild clean-freak and the two of us nearly died of a need to sleep in beds on our 30 day camping trip through Africa, but alas, we Like the outdoors, really, we do.

    And I am also a fan of the 3 & 5 year old roommates line. It’s good stuff. I so look forward to a collection of yours getting published one of these days!

    Cheers to beer at the farmer’s market.

    I am feeling the end of summer, too . . . went by fast, didn’t it?

  20. Just Peaches permalink
    August 14, 2010 5:26 pm

    I’ve been away sitting on a dock and having water wars with my girls so I missed your zucchini post. So, believing “better late than never” I thought I’d throw in my two cents ;)

    Last year I discovered that you can grate zucchini and freeze it raw — no blanching, nothing. You can throw it into soup or mix it up in your favourite zucchini bread recipe.

    Or how about this great lemon zucchini muffin recipe:

    Also i discovered last year that you can throw whole tomatoes in the freezer. I just put a dozen in a ziploc bag for a test. When you want to use one you run it under warm water and the skin peels right off. They’re great for soups, sauce and chili. And could it be any easier?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 15, 2010 10:00 pm


      This is just in time, really, because we’ve got some honkers that need to get grated and frozen and I was wondering if you had to blanch first.

      Thanks, Rachel

  21. ike permalink
    August 15, 2010 11:48 am

    Beautiful photos and writing. I always learn something interesting. Where are the men readers?
    Hope you got to see some meteors on Fri night


  22. Anonymous permalink
    August 16, 2010 5:55 pm

    I love your writing and this post, as usual. One day when those kids are old and grown I hope you write a book and retire (young) on the royalties. Although I can’t imagine a happier or more abundant life than the one you are living right now, already. :) Thanks for your lovely blog and pics.

  23. August 16, 2010 5:56 pm

    Ok, that was me again. The accidental anonymous comment is my calling card. ;)

  24. Steph permalink
    August 17, 2010 10:29 pm

    Thanks for posting this chimichurri recipe; I’m going to make some with my leftover Italian parsley at the end of the summer.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 18, 2010 7:23 am

      Oh good. You too will be singing the chimichurri gratitude song!

  25. September 3, 2010 10:22 am

    Well, the post is genuinely the freshest on this laudable topic. I concur in your conclusions and will thirstily look forward for the future updates.

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