Monday, October 5, 2009

How do you know...?

How do you know something is good for you? By the taste.

Our garden food tasted good. All of it.

There was no such thing as a child saying he didn't like something, if it was from the garden or the goats or the chickens. It was all good.

I firmly believe taste is the way we know something is good for us. Good flavors come with other good things, the things that build healthy bodies.

Our garden was full of good things, and so would we be as we ate our way through the harvest bounty. Such were the blessings from all the work.

The work was a blessing too. It felt good. That's how we knew it was good.

Such statements beg for an acknowledgement of God. But at the time we were between Gods, so while we had appreciation for all the wonder of good-tasting food and work-hardened bodies, we didn't know where to direct our thanks. All that was yet to come...

The color of harvest...

The colors fell into piles leaving stark branches behind. I could almost smell the burning leaves of my childhood, now made illegal because of pollution. How I had loved to be in charge of the burning of leaves at the curb! I earned the privilege by showing how carefully I added just a few more rakefuls to the pile and didn't allow the flames to rage.

But now the only flames were in the color of maples, and their glowing cinders slowly drifted until they were slowly extinguished on the ground, getting ready with the help of the snow to merge with the loam beneath them, slowly, slowly....

And in the stillness and crispiness of it, we scurried like squirrels to bring in the last of the harvest. The light went from somber-bright to slanted to shadowy to dusky all too quickly, and we had potatoes left to dig and squash left to cut. Everyone scurried. The wheelbarrow was filled to the tipping point and run up to the porch. Boxes were topped off, then couldn't be lifted. Small arms were filled while small legs ran for the kitchen.

Frost was coming. The great white steed of the north was about to blow out his ice-breath. By morning the grass would be crunchy-white and the squash plants droopy-black.

The goats looked on, munching mouthfuls of alfalfa and timothy to keep warm with. The bacteria in their guts happily stoked up the fires of metabolism when fed such fine fodder, and they would not be cold.

But our noses reddened and we wondered where last winter's mittens had gotten to.

Gradually the dark took over, and the feeble porch light shed no glow on the garden. It was time to quit. As we moved the piles of veggies from the porch to the kitchen, we looked over our shoulders toward the darkened plot and wondered what we had abandoned....

Inside we went about our business: homework, practicing, the cooking of supper. We had turned the heat on just the day before, and we were toasty. Clumps of earth stuck to everything, squash, children, shoes. Later we spread newspapers on the floor and lined the harvest up on them. Hands on our hips, we stood in a circle and smiled, and then got back to work.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Root cellar?

Our house happened to come with a storage room in the basement, one without shelves but an actual room not designated for anything else. It became our root cellar as the first overflow of harvest began to take over the kitchen counters.

Root cellars are cool and moist because they have earthen floors. Dirt floors. This room of ours had concrete floors just like the rest of the basement. So it failed as a literal root cellar, but it reigned supreme as a-space-to-store-things. John built shelves.

Winter squash were the first inhabitants. They had hard skins and looked durable enough to survive for several years as storage foods. We had vast numbers of them.

The shelves were about as wide as a good-sized squash, so we lined these winter ingredients up in a single rank side-by-side.

We also had potatoes to store, and sunflower heads. We cut these off at the neck and placed them seed-side-up on the shelves. Apples were piled up on a side away from the potatoes, because their smells intermingle and I thought I might not be fond of raw-potato-flavored apples.

I think we had a few turnips, too.

Green beans went into the freezer, which was in another part of the basement.

Tomatoes and eggplants stayed in the kitchen. Their sheer abundance overwhelmed us, but even our amateur thoughts about storage were not so naive as to expect them to survive on their own for long.

I had thoughts of canning, but no time or expertise. How pretty the shelves would have looked with jar after jar of tomatoes! But it didn't happen.

We just ate them as fast as we could, on sandwiches or in the pot for dinner, whatever it might have been.

Soon a hard frost would hit and put an end to the bounty. But for now it threatened to overtake us, and we were glad to have some place to put it all that was for the most part out of sight.