Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Puree de Pommes

Actually, it's compote de pommes, but I think puree de pommes sounds much better. I can hear the Parisians screaming at me.

I have never actually made applesauce before. Until now. I can't wait to pop open a jar in two months, when the last apples in the bottom of the fridge are withered and mushy.

I looked for organic U-pick apples around here, but they were over 100 miles away. Just down the road three miles is a lovely orchard though: Clearview Orchard. They have U-pick peaches, apples and pumpkins. We grabbed some peaches right before a windy rainstorm. I've read that peaches are some of the worst fruits to eat when they're not organic. All of our food is loaded with neurotoxins. But I settled for local and the fun that comes with foraging on your own block.

I put up about 10 quarts of applesauce. I also dried a bunch of apples, but those disappear really quickly around here. I'm hoping to get out to the orchard for one more big pick session. Northern Spy apples are supposed to be a good keeper, so I'd like to fill up on those before the season's over.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Second Frost

I just have one major issue with hunting: it always involves sleep deprivation, and I'm a sleep deprivation wimp. I'm feeling a little bit like a zombie this morning. However, killing a deer with a bow is slowly working its way onto my "bucket list." But it was Chris that killed the doe last night. Between the tracking, gutting, and hanging of the deer, it was a late night. Some of it was simply the timing of an evening hunt and some of it was that we're STILL living out of boxes, so Chris spent some time looking for some necessary hunting gear.

Chris won't admit this, but he's a pretty impressive hunter. He's one of the most knowledgeable people I've ever met when it comes to ecology and animal behavior. He never takes for granted an interaction with the natural world. Combine those things with lots of energy, focus, and attention to detail, and it makes for a pretty cool experience when you get to tag along.

Thanks to Chris, venison is our main source of animal protein. My concerns about industrial protein have a little bit to do with the recent Sunday NY Times front page story about contaminated beef. But I also have this fascination with being connected with my food's "story." Part of that story includes Chris's hunts.

We woke up to a frost this morning. I hadn't even thought about covering the beans during all of the attention that the deer got last night. They seem to be fine after the frost. I harvested a few of the largest pods. I plan on saving seeds for next year.

Friday, October 2, 2009

First Frost

The last pile of basil ready for drying.

The food dehydrator. Mom and Dad got it for me when I was 14. I love this thing!

Several pocketfuls of peppers and tomatoes are safe from frost.

The habaneros were beautiful right before the freezing temps.

Goldfinches and black-capped chickadees spend lots of time playing hide and seek and snacking in the sunflowers.

The tomatoes look like my late '80s wardrobe.

The big pot of fluorescent tomatoes cooked down to two quarts of orange-ish pasta sauce.

The spring-planted garlic harvest and the last garden bouquet pose for a portrait.

The peppers are cozy in the hoop house after having survived the first frost.

Some sorry looking flowers on the first morning of October

We woke up to a frosty, new world on October 1. Because the forecast had been calling for lows around 28F, I recruited Chris in a hasty harvest of some remaining vegetables and herbs. We picked all of the orange habaneros, all of the red serranos, and almost all of the green or red jalapenos. I had brought in all of the remaining tomatoes earlier in the day. There were several clumps of basil left, two summer squash, and a pile of sweet red and green bell peppers. We pulled the plastic up over the remaining peppers and eggplants in hopes they wouldn't outright freeze yet. On the way in, our fleece pockets packed with produce, we were both wrapped up in the excitement of the changing seasons. I was mourning the end of the abundance and bright colors, and Chris was celebrating the beginning of the hunting season saying, "I love frost!" (I almost karate-kicked him into the compost pile, but I understood how he felt.) It's been a beautiful fall. It's been a bountiful summer.

From the $14 and change in plants and seeds I invested in the garden this spring, we got plenty of very good food. A couple of things didn't work out like I'd hoped. For one, all of my baby broccoli plants that I grew from seed thrived for about three gloriously cool weeks in the garden until a groundhog snuck in one night and mowed them all down, right as they were starting to look tasty. I just left the stalks there with the hope that the groundhog would recognize my offering and stay away from other things. The potato harvest was fine for the summer, but scant enough that we won't have any into November. Finally, I love to share my produce. But I also made the mistake of not being specific when I told the neighbors to help themselves to squash, beans and sunflowers while we were on vacation. I came back to the garden and wondered if the groundhogs had completely consumed every last winter squash I'd been tending to all summer long. Well, no. Just like I had suggested, the neighbors helped themselves to the squash. Duh. I forgot that I might want some of that. It's fine. I know they appreciated it, and I consider it a good price for the rental of the garden space. We did find one lone winter squash and roasted it a couple nights ago. It was fantastic!

On the other hand, some things went very well. We've had green beans for ten solid weeks. I kept picking and they kept coming. The Black Valentine variety that I grew was perfect for the kind of bean eaters we are. When we went on vacation, I let them grow into big, beany pods. Now, I'll harvest the black beans in a couple of weeks. I've never done that before. The tomato crop was okay, considering the widespread late blight that we could not avoid here. I'm not sure that I would have had the late blight, except the neighbor got her tomato plants from a "big box" store. It wasn't devastating because we had plenty of healthy tomatoes. The green zebras seemed to be immune to the fungus. The other heirlooms seemed to be resistant. Summer squash were numerous, as usual. We have lots of beets, and I'm not sure how to store those yet. I got a modest garlic harvest, but the thing is, I planted the cloves in the spring. It did very well for a short season. Carrots have suffered many groundhog attacks, but I've got a few rows left out there and we'll just see how far they take us into the fall. I bet I'll buy carrots in early December. Oh well, it was a transition year and I'm grateful to even have had the space to grow food. I've been reflecting a great deal, as fall tends to make me do that. But I've also been very busy preserving lots of produce. Along with the garden, we also had some free asian pears offered to us and I found a local orchard down the road with u-pick apples and peaches. For the next several days I'll be drying, freezing, and canning.