homestead happenings: it’s all good
~spotted in the Needham neighborhood~
After making 7 half-pints of jam and 8 pints of syrup, I’ve given our chokecherry trees over to the evening grosbeaks. It’s worth it for the pleasure of hearing the crick-crack of their beaks crunching through seeds like bony pliers. And, it’s like typing in “ironic comedy”on Netflix – because I’ve spent the last couple weeks painstakingly extracting the clingy flesh from the unusable seeds, and they—these elegant birds—are doing the exact opposite, munching the seeds and leaving the purple fruity carcasses behind.
But it’s all good – our purple-splattered walkways, the seedheads scraping against the sky, the inevitable endings.
I’m feeling surprisingly fine about fall. And not to be all Californian (which is my birthright), but I’m totally trusting in the process. One month ago, we closed our blinds against the heat of the sun; now—back on speaking terms—we fling them open; soon we’ll be begging for as much as we can absorb. Everything changes.
Everything is so here now, so bursting with Septemberness, and yet, if you walk through the garden you can hear the plants quietly chanting Buddhist sutras on the nature of impermanence. The garden is both at its height—broccoli spitting out side shoots, tomatoes coming off in your hand—and its slow decline. Strawberries are roaring into ripeness, while one garden bed over, basil is trying, wearily, to just go to seed and be done.
Yesterday, without nostalgia or ceremony, I cut back all the new growth on the tomatoes and winter squash so the plants can concentrate their energy on existing fruits. I also cut back all the hollyhocks—which brightened our garden for so long—clearing away forests of seedy stalks, so every little edible thing could be brushed by the sun.
Maybe the kids are my inspiration – the way trust and courage pulses through them like blood. We dug up one robust potato plant recently, only to find the tiniest, single peanut of a potato tuber, and I was all ready to be shocked and indignant when Rose wagged her finger at the potato plant cheerfully and said, “you sneaker-poo!”
We had such a good time while Dan was gone hunting, the kids and I. We tend to do a lot of socializing and not so much laundry. I did however, shell a lot of acorns.* The rate of processing proves to be about 2 hours for 2 cups acorn meal. Chokecherries aren’t much more promising, 26 cups of raw berries makes 7 cups jelly. But if you’re raising children you’re used to these sorts of baffling statistics of productivity. My friend Melanie told me about this hybrid tree you can buy at the nursery, chokeberries, same flavor, no seeds. And I’m stodgy enough to be like, whatever (chokecherry juice still caked on my glasses), where’s the fun in that?
~processing acorns, session VXIIX. I even brought acorns to the park, to shell while the kids grew 2 hours older. Those 2 cups of acorns are in the freezer, slated for Dan’s birthday cake, to be frosted perhaps with chokecherry frosting. photo by Rose~
Dan is home after five days hunting. No luck yet, but as he says, “very exciting encounters.” He hunts with a primitive handmade bow, which means he works his ass off getting within shooting range of an elk and success statistics are in the range of chokecherries and acorns. Here he is telling hunting stories to Chris and Karen. I’ve never heard him talk so much in 16 years.
~I wish Dan had a blog so you all could hear his awesome stories. Thanks Karen for being from Brooklyn and not flinching when Dan described coming upon the buck that fell 200 yards downslope. Thanks Chris for listening and talking shop with Dan and for appreciating a never-been-frozen buck deer backstrap~
The kids too are ripening under the September sun.
Rose can now hula hoop while walking and is working diligently on blowing bubbles with gum (hugely stymied by the hippie gum we buy her). She also spontaneously hopped up on a chair last night to help me wash dishes, and actually sped up the process. And Col, who is quiet and humble like his dad, corrected me the other day when I was reading him a poem about the night sky. “Actually,” said my 6-year old boy, “the night air isn’t black, it’s more like the Earth’s shadow is on the sun.” Right-o (sort of).
These children, who are always quietly chanting buddhist sutras on the nature of impermanence, seem to be just a little louder than usual.
* I’m thrilled about the small acorn revolution that is taking place, with so many of you e-mailing me with your acorn questions and aspirations. Please know that our local oak tree (Gambel Oak) produces acorns with very low tannins. If you’re working with other species, the tannins could be pretty strong; try leaching tannins with water (Google it – it looks fun and exciting) and maybe start with a small batch. Be sure to let me know how it goes.
* Also, it’s entirely possible that I’m all California-go-with-the-flow because the world is still bright with flowers and cherry tomatoes. Hopefully I can keep singing this tune in November.
* Also #2: e-mail subscribers, are you getting e-mail notifications?