Summer Stasis

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First off, I have to apologize.

I haven’t made this tiny space on the internet just to ignore or abandon it.  But I am working hard (always) on finding balance in life, and for the last two weeks or so that balance has tipped hard in the direction of spending less time on the computer.  Everyone is happier when the mama isn’t hunched over the keyboard in the morning to the detriment of breakfasts and chores, snapping “Quiet!  Mommy’s writing!”

I know things will even out again soon with the start of school and colder weather routines.  I will bundle the girls off to their classroom educations and then I’ll be able to ruminate a little longer in front of this screen in the mornings, cup of coffee beside me.  There is so much to write about, so many words working on coming together in coherent sentences up in my brain, but just now so little opportunity to transfer those sentences from brain to blinking cursor without someone melting down around me.

So.  August already almost half-way gone.  The tomatoes ripen on the vine, the baby birds have learned to fly and I muddle through finding that elusive equilibrium where I can.  And right now, most often, it’s in the golden fields buzzing with the sound of insects and in the stacks of picture books from the library and in the excitement of walking through the unfinished rooms of our farmhouse.

Places where the internet most conspicuously, and unfortunately, isn’t.

Harvesting the Garlic

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The garlic is dug and drying!

Digging it up, it was hard to remember how it was when we planted it back in October.  We were wearing coats and boots, for pete’s sake!  In contrast, when we harvested it just two days ago, some of us were barefoot and the rest of us were wearing the least amount of clothes we could respectably get away with!
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Jasper was taking a nap across the field, and so I made the girls help me, like any good mother would.  I did the delicate work of digging the bulbs out without somehow slicing into them, Avery broke up the dirt lodged in their roots, and Iris stacked them all on the brick wall of the herb garden next to us.

I was so proud of them.  It was hard work,  and it was hot, but we got them all out – over 200 bulbs – and then spread them out in the greenhouse to dry and cure for the next couple of weeks to a month.

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There is so much good information out there when it comes to harvesting garlic, and I’m not going to repeat it all here.  Instead, I’ll just tell you what I did.

I stopped watering the garlic about two weeks ago, and waited to dig them up until the leaves on the bottom part of the stalk began to turn yellow and dry.  If I’d waited any longer (like I did with some of my elephant garlic, whomp whomp) the cloves would have started to separate and wouldn’t store well, not to mention they would have tasted quite woody.

After it’s cured in the greenhouse, (which isn’t ideal but is the only space I had) I’ll cut off the stalk and roots, then store them in a mixture of mesh bags and wire baskets.  Hopefully, if all goes well, I’ll be able to keep and use these for 6-8 months, or maybe even longer.

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Avery asked me what we’re going to do with all this garlic.  We’ll eat a lot of it ourselves to be sure; I usually add one or two cloves to whatever I’m cooking for dinner.  Plus, I’ll add some to all the pesto and tomato sauce I’ve yet to make.

And of course I’ll pick out 100 or so of the best cloves to plant again in the fall.

But a lot of it I plan on giving away, too.  There’s nothing quite like sharing the bounty (and the gift of garlic breath) with friends and loved ones.

Winter is Coming

0702 logs.jpgJasper started cutting and splitting logs for us to use this winter.

The trees were ones that had fallen last summer at the westernmost edge of the property.  The owner of the neighboring tract of land clear cut the forest bordering ours.  Without the protection and buffer of those trees, the fierce winter winds felled a good swath of our trees, too.

I was mad about it to begin with.  The owner of the land is something of a lumber and land baron around here, doesn’t live on the property but bought it just for the timber, and of course he didn’t think for a second about what would happen to our trees when he cut his down.  But being mad about something you can do absolutely nothing about is no way to live.

Instead, we decided that when life knocks down your trees, it’s time to cut firewood.

0721 woodpile.jpgWinter.  It seems like such a very long way away, being in the middle of July as we are.  It’s hard to believe that the days could be cold and dark and that the nights could be long.  I’ve gotten used to sunshine and balmy weather (average of 70 degrees my friends!) and going to sleep at night while the robins are still singing and with only the thinnest of quilts.

But I know it won’t last, the Earth just keeps swinging around that sun, and so, forearms browning in the summer sun as I weed in the garden, I listen to buzz of the chainsaw and the metallic thunk of the ax in the lower field as Jasper chops firewood for the cold months ahead.  And when I go help to move it and stack it, I think about how happy I’ll feel to throw one of these logs in the fireplace and listen to it crackling away come January.

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There’s something nice about preparing for winter in the heat of summer.  Something that’s deeply soul-satisfying about knowing that this hard work will have such tangible results.  It’s not the same as working in an office and earning a paycheck.  It’s not the same as throwing the switch on the thermostat and later paying the heating bill.

It’s harder, to be sure.  But it is hugely rewarding, in a way I never knew before, and on an almost primal level.  We worked hard, and this winter we’ll be warm.

And I feel rich beyond measure.

Lazy Potatoes

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I didn’t plant any potatoes this year, much to my chagrin.  The spring was much too wet, and we didn’t have anywhere to store a potato harvest, anyway.  I’ve got big plans for next year’s potato planting, but this year it just made more sense not to grow any.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t harvested any potatoes this year, though!

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We planted a lot of potatoes last year, and in the mad rush that was harvesting we apparently forgot a few.  Those forgotten potatoes somehow, miraculously, made it through the wettest winter on record without rotting, and then started making new potatoes!

In the ensuing months we rototilled over them; we mowed down their greens instead of mounding them up; we may have even covered them with tarp at some point in a futile attempt to kill off the weeds.

And yet, walking through the garden one afternoon, distracted by thoughts of fall planting, what should my feet accidentally kick up but little red potatoes!  Potatoes that were practically pushing themselves out of the ground.

There were just enough good ones to make a delicious potato salad!

Next year I’ll be back to planting potatoes, since I’ll have a place to cure and store them.  But for now, thank goodness for last year’s potatoes.  A gift that just keeps on giving.

Windows and Tubs

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The windows are in, the roof is on, the plumbers are setting pipe and installing the tubs and showers as we speak.  The heating and the siding should also be done by the end of the week, and then it’s the electricians turn!

It’s hard to believe how fast it’s all coming together.  Every time we walk in there it looks more like a house.  The skeleton of a house, granted, but a house nonetheless.

This Season

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Getting a puppy in the summer was certainly a good idea, weather-wise.

Sanity-wise, maybe not.

I feel like a frayed wire.

Jasper is on graveyard shift for the fourth or fifth summer in a row.  He’s constantly tired when he’s awake and, more often than not, falls asleep for a quick nap in the morning before going to sleep for the “night” in the afternoon.  So, he’s out.

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The girls are at my feet, constantly.  They are bickering, constantly.  High-pitched shrieks of “I’m telling mom!” ring throughout the house, constantly.  Screeches.  Howls of outrage tempered only temporarily with good-natured sibling camaraderie.  And then back to brawling.

And, then, the puppy.  Doing all the things puppies do.  Barking, chewing, biting, running, chewing, chewing, chewing, peeing, pooping, eating, running, barking, growling, nipping, chewing, running, peeing.  On and on and on.

I feel like I alone am doing all the parenting and puppying around here.  I am in charge of teaching and correcting all these young creatures from the time I get up to the time I go to sleep.  And all the time in between that, too.  I am so tired, some physically but mostly mentally and emotionally, that I just feel completely drained.  Empty.  I have nothing in my reserves right now and when Jasper or the girls come to me for something, as they inevitably do, for sympathy or affection or whatever, I just have nothing to give.

If I were a good mom and a good blogger, this is where I would write some uplifting thoughts about this season of my life.  But right now I feel like neither of those things.  Right now I am neither of those things.

Right now I am simply trying to get through yet another day.

Midsummer in the Garden

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The middle of July.  Already.

I remember as a child July seemed to stretch on and on, but now it seems no longer than an exhaled breath or the vaporish after-image of a firework hanging in the sky.  I’m unenthusiastic about marking the days off on the calendar – I think I might like a do-over; I’d like for it to maybe be the middle of May again, instead – but the days come and go with no thought to me or my wishes.

That said, the weather has been like a dream.  Avery and Iris asked why it wasn’t cold and rainy, and I told them it was because it’s summer.  This is the way it’s supposed to be!  They looked at me incredulously.

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So.  How is the garden doing?

Technically, I’m only actually growing a handful of things this year.  Hard-necked garlic, elephant garlic and Ruby Red onions. Tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and eggplants.  So far they are all doing well.

I’ve been busy spreading well-rotted manure and fish emulsion along the onion row.  Onions are voracious eaters, and all the extra amendments will help them bulb up nice and big.  I’ve also been trying to water them regularly, although how often we get out to the farm can be kind of sporadic.  In general, I think I’m watering about every two days or so.

In contrast, I’ve stopped watering the garlic.  I’m hoping to harvest them at the end of the month, and I want them to start drying out in the ground.  If I kept watering them, they could rot.  They’re tricky like that.  I’m doing the same with the elephant garlic, although I’ll miss having their flowers gracing the garden.

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In the greenhouse the tomatoes are huge, more than six feet tall, and they would keep going but I preemptively cut them off once they reached the top of their guide line.  I’ve let tomato vines top 10 feet before and it turned out to be a mistake.  I couldn’t reach the top and they got monstrous with suckers and heavy fruit, and before I knew it the whole vine ended up breaking in half.  Live and learn.

We’ve been snacking on the Sungold tomatoes constantly.  I feel a little guilty about not saving them to bring home for a salad or some other culinary purpose, but they are just too good not to eat immediately!  I also got to try the first Indigo Cherry Drop and it was delicious!  This variety seems perfect for a caprese salad.

The bigger-fruited heirloom tomatoes are still ripening.  I’m practicing patience and thinking of all the tomato and spaghetti sauce I’ll be making next month.
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Out in the fields, the apples and plums and nuts are ripening on the trees in surprising numbers.  We thought they might not fruit this year because of the heat from the fire, but we were wrong.  Instead, it looks like we might have a bumper crop.

The marionberries are turning a nice plum purple and I’ve started picking them (with exuberance!), although I’m eating far more than I’m bringing home to preserve.  I need to clear out the grass growing around the bottom of the fence where they’re growing and plant more canes.  These things are delectable and I want more!

Standing in the garden, surrounded by the things that are growing, it occurs to me how lucky I am, how blessed to be there amid the growing and the greening.  The winter was hard, the spring harder still, but the summer is a dream.