Harvests

Preserving Summer

No, I haven’t fallen off the planet. A busy August-September has kept me from spending much time in blogging mode. Instead, one of the things that’s filled my time is preserving summer.

Summer produce is in full bounty and I’m trying to preserve as much of it as possible.

So far in the freezer are blueberries, peaches, pesto, cubes of basil and parsley, cooked down tomatoes, and collard greens from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from Staehly Farms.

Some of the canned goods, ‘put up’ as Gram used to say, so far.

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My sister sent boxes of Tattler Lids  (the white lids) to me after she tried, and likes, them. They are reusable. This is the first time I’ve tried Tattlers. So far, so good on jars of hot garlic dill pickles.

There’s still more peaches and quite a few apples … and more tomatoes … to pick and process, so garden blogging will have to wait. Hope you don’t mind.

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Hurricane prep

All predictions have hurricane Irene hitting Connecticut sometime after midnight Saturday. The past few days have been filled with preparations of one sort or another. Of course, we stored away outdoor furniture, wind chimes, the gas grill, and garden ornamentation that would blow in high winds, tools, and the many potted plants around the house. Some plants went into the garage, some went under the deck, and some came inside. We moved the biggest potted plants against a retaining wall and hope this will give them some protection or at least keep them from blowing around. It’s hard to predict what winds up to 75 mph will do to such things.

I harvested as many veggies as possible. Many will get eaten during the next few days. The hot peppers, however, had to be canned. And since I had so many green tomatoes I canned green tomato relish.  The cucumbers I bought at a farm stand on Wednesday had to become pickles and relish. I was not going to let the fantastic basil growing in the gardens get battered by hurricane winds …half of it is now pesto, some went to a neighbor, and some is sitting in a vase in water waiting for me to get to it another day. The ton of peaches picked during Wednesday’s farm visit are now sliced and stored in the freezer.

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All the hydrangeas are cut and resting safely in vases all around the house and other blossoms are cut and in water. I figure I’ll want something to do to keep my mind off the wind and rain expected to stay with us for most of tomorrow. What better activity than arranging bouquets of flowers from the garden?

Irene is acting much like a previous hurricane – Gloria – that hit CT in 1985. We lost power for six days. Irene is following the same track, but is larger and expected to stay for a longer visit. We have a generator, but if you don’t see any posts from me for the next week, blame Irene. Living in the woods, hurricane force winds, driving rains and electrical wires don’t always get along well.

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Onion & garlic braids

Do you think early New England settlers braided onions as a means to store them after harvest? I wondered this when faced with the trays of onion and garlic bulbs harvested a couple of days previously and set on a covered porch to dry.

I’ve braided bulbs before but had not planted and harvested quite the number of bulbs I have this year. So with bulbs and twine at hand, I positioned myself in a shady spot out of the hot sun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Braiding onions should be a no-brainer for anyone who knows how to braid hair. However, my previous braids often unwound from the bottom unless secured with twine. A handy onion braiding guide recently published in Organic Gardening magazine’s email newsletter explained how to start the braid so it will hold without twine at the lower end.  

Before braiding, though, bulbs must be brushed free of clinging soil … a rather slow, tedious task that allowed my mind to wander back to the era of American settlers. I imagined what a colonial woman had to go through to prepare her garden plots. Gardening tasks fell to the women so my imagined colonist, Prudence, had to loosen her beds by hand, add manure from the family’s animals, weed, watch, hope for ample rain and finally harvest the onions (from what I’ve read, early colonists did not grow garlic) that would help feed her family for the next year.

After harvesting she probably let them rest on the soil in the sun to dry and cure for a day or two. Prudence surely would have sought the cooling shade of a large tree to rest under while brushing her work-worn hands over each precious bulb to remove clumps of clingy soil.   As she braided, Prudence probably monitored the nearby gardening or animal tending chores of some of her children. She may have had a daughter by her side to teach the youngster to braid.

I suspect Prudence enjoyed the brief set-a-spell rest she was able to enjoy, and that her braids looked much neater than mine.  While braiding, her mind likely wandered to all of the other tasks she needed to complete that day – beans to pick and a stew to stir.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I saw Prudence briefly admiring her finished braids as she hung them on a dry interior wall of her small wood-frame home, then she scooted off to her next chore.

My braids, no doubt, are not nearly as attractive or proficiently done as Prudence’s, but as I see them hanging in my modern kitchen with all its conveniences I have an overwhelming appreciation for the fortitude Prudence’s people … my people … brought to this land.

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