Well, it’s been so long, I bet you’ve wondered if we were going to keep this up. I suppose T and I have just been bogged down with our jobs, winterizing our little land yacht, family visits, and other pursuits. But the gardening and homesteading goes on, even as the weather gets chilly. In fact, just the other day we were amazed to find ourselves still harvesting an abundance of food from our little fall garden.
There is something really remarkable about pulling your evening’s meal out of the ground in early December. We stopped actively tending to the garden over a month ago, so it almost felt like we were getting away with something we didn’t exactly earn – a freebie. Its like the feeling I have when I walk out of the public library with an armful of books, DVDs and CDs, and I can’t believe I get to take it all home for free.
Nevertheless, I was feeling a little inadequate about my beets and carrots. I had been warned by many that it was too late in the season to grow them, but I figured with a row cover we’d get a few more weeks out of the season. The roots did produce, but they were all pretty small, and the carrots were a little on the pale side. They turned out, though, to be very sweet and tender. I later read that beets should ideally be harvested when they are only 1 1/4 to 2 inches in diameter, or they lose sweetness and become fibrous – so ours were perfect. The only downside was that there weren’t enough of them – just one meal’s worth. Since then we’ve had several freezes and a bunch of snow, so that may have been the last of those veggies – though I’m told the mustard and kale might keep on trucking right through the winter.
The fall colors here were spectacular, but now the world has gotten pretty gray. I can’t believe how utterly leafless and barren the mountainsides here can become. I’m not usually a friend of winter – I have to fight some inner darkness when it gets cold and gray outside. But living in a new place, with a new relationship to the land, has made me take notice of winter in a different way. For one thing, it has been really interesting to watch as the usually impenetrable growth sheds away, and exposes the shape of the land, the rocks and cliffs, the steepness of the grade, and the long views. The land behind our house, which just looked like a steep overgrown hill before, now reveals itself to have plateaus and ridges – much more shape and useful area than I thought. Some beautiful rocky cliffs have been uncovered just up the road from us, reminding me of the stoney mountains I was accustomed to in New Mexico. There are also many more houses tucked back in these hills than I ever realized, as they are veiled in the summer by the dense forest.
I was busy in early November planting garlic, which seemed so easy I’m not sure why everyone isn’t doing it. I got an inexpensive and very handy bulb-hole-digging tool (thanks for the tip, Lisa!) which made the job really quick. I also planted, as a gift to myself, some tulip, daffodil, and crocus bulbs. It feels like I’ve buried treasure, and I can hardly wait to see them start peeking their little green heads out of the ground in the early spring. The anticipation of those first spring blooms of color, and all that tasty garlic in early summer, makes the winter feel that much more tolerable.
And, it is hard to believe, but the seed catalogs for next season have already started showing up in the mail. That gives us lots of spring garden dreams to dwell on during cold days. We’ll probably start ordering seeds in January, and start some indoor seedlings in February. Something about that makes the winter seem much shorter to me.
The snow we’ve had in recent days has also brightened up the landscape and my mood. T got our wood stove installed and has been chopping wood like a machine. It’s quite cozy in our living room, seeing the yellow and blue flames dancing around – a different type of little black box to watch in the living room.
Also since I last wrote, we got a chest freezer for all that food that we put away earlier this fall that was crowding our little fridge-freezer. I’m pretty excited that winter will give me an excuse to dive into all that delicious food. I’ve been daydreaming about blueberry pancakes, corn chowder, pasta with pesto or tomatoes, butter beans… My mouth waters as I type.
I learn life-guiding philosophy from my pets every day, and this is how Rousseau thinks we should approach winter:
Though I’ve been sporadic, I do intend to keep up with the blogging. I am thinking, though, about a transition. We are, after all, no longer a “couple taking a break from professional lives in exchange for life lessons on a small organic farm.” What we’re doing now is integrating farming and homesteading into our lives, re-defining what “professional life” and work means, and exploring new ways of being. Along this road, we’re also trying to incorporate more creativity and spirituality into our lives. We’re attempting to make new friends and build new community based on shared values.
Also, since T has decided to do less blogging, I’m the primary documentarian here. So I’m brainstorming a new look, new title, and new subject matter. I’d like to keep writing about gardening, food, animals, and nature. But I’m also thinking about ways to explore more of my interests in art and science, and the handmade, crafty stuff I’m doing. I’m sure this will evolve in multiple ways and stages, and maybe it won’t all be in one place. Anyway, I hope you’ll stay tuned, and I welcome your thoughts about what content you’d like to see here, and what I should call this!