Okay, so I pretty much immediately fell off of the “I’ll post every day or two” wagon… but I suppose what really matters is that I get back up, dust off, and try again, yes? The last post was about 3 weeks ago, and since then our schedules have filled right the heck up- kids are in school and I’ve been volunteering there a day or two a week. Vera joined the local youth theater and will be in this fall’s production of Sherlock Holmes as a “Londoner”. All that, as well as normal farm stuff and the ramping up of food storage and miscellaneous fall farm work and I’m left with little free time. However, the weather changing is full of possibility for me. I have visions of cozy-making and creative projects, of slower days that stretch out before us and have us looking for projects to dive into.
One of the benefits of volunteering at the kids’ school is that it affords me some time and creative space that I wouldn’t otherwise have at home- kind of a forced slow-down during those hours. A welcome side effect of this all being an “unschooling” cooperative is that there are plenty of playmates to occupy all and we are relatively self-directed. I am, of course, available to help as needed, but I also get the chance to write or catch up on reading. I am grateful for these opportunities to rest and slow. I appreciate the pace of this life, and that I continue to have the privilege of landing in a flexible supportive role. I don’t always see it as beneficial (being the “shock absorber” in a family can take it’s energetic toll), but ultimately I know it’s a gift to be able to be a “helper” for so many of my jobs.
The kids are engaged and eagerly busy themselves with all their projects. They get mad at me if we are running late for school. It’s funny to be in that position- so, so different from my experience, always aching for relief from the stress of school and all those expectations and power struggles. Watching their intrinsic motivation has been hugely validating. Both have a sincere interest in their work and community, and I just continue to grow in gratitude for the option of letting my kids learn like this. I’ll be starting up the school’s blog momentarily, and so when it’s up and running I’ll link to it. I’m excited to be able to illustrate the magic of the place so that other people can get a peek.
Harvest is happening! I don’t know how much we’ll have stored for the winter, but I don’t really care at this point. The deal right now is just to engage and for me to build an awareness of what it all takes. My garden is probably too big for me to manage along with everything else, but I continue to try and I think when I get most things reasonably mulched it’ll be less daunting. But even so, lots of food is coming out and when I go out for even 5 minutes I come out more at peace, grateful, and refreshed than when I went in. Gardens have that kind of magic, don’t they?
Tomatoes!!!! Another testament to why it’s okay to do things even if it’s “late” or otherwise “wrong”. I always find I catch some kind of yield, even if it’s just in the form of learning about how everything interacts or whether the authorities on the subject are blowing smoke. Actually, thinking about it now, those yields are probably just as valuable as the others. But this year, those tomatoes were late but they are here. Big and beautiful, despite compacted earth and soil I’d barely worked on, despite overcrowding and only trellising a third of them… they are here. And they are delicious.
I love to plant things in rainbows, which is funny because now my canned tomatoes take on a more orangey color rather than the classic red. They range in color from white to green, oranges, pinks, reds… tons of variegated varieties… I love it all.
I also discovered that I apparently very much like to take pictures of cross-sectioned tomatoes.
I made and canned my first memorable batch of tomato paste. I long ago abandoned the practice of skinning and seeding the fruits for canning basic stewed tomatoes (which is all I’ve really done for the past several years). I don’t find it changes the flavor any, and the fiber is good for us, right? Also, I just can’t be bothered. It’s so fussy! So, I followed suit and decided I’d make paste in a similar way- cooking plenty of paste tomatoes down in my crock pot and taking the immersion blender to the whole thing to get the right texture. Unfortunately, by the time I tasted it it was unsalvageable and bitter. Whoops. I guess the seeds and skins plus the long and slow reduction process brought out a lot of bitterness.
Thankfully, we’ve got a great saucing tool, and so the next round was much more successful. This time I ran them all through the mill, then stuck them in all the casserole dishes that would stick in my oven for a long reduction. The house smelled lovely, and it produced beautiful paste.
The cherry types I’m cutting in halves or quarters and drying. I plan to rehydrate them in oil over the winter, but I’ll have to stop eating them as-is for that to happen. Concentrated tomato goodness!
I’ve also canned some market-bought peaches and corn and green beans with a friend. We have gotten so much more confident over the years, which has been fun to experience. We just work calmly and seamlessly and quickly, all with plenty of children and dogs underfoot. It took a few seasons of frenzy to earn this, but it’s been rewarding to find ourselves in this place.
I’m also freezing and drying produce too, when it feels like the best option. This year I also foraged and dried elderberry and sumac. I’ll make teas and syrups with these over the winter.
My next post will likely be a little fall farm tour. I took a walk yesterday and realized how quickly things are changing and how I’d like to document our process a little more.