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Acquiring Winter Wisdom

Recycled celery from the kitchen and tomato starters from the compost will be my first winter crop…

I have tomato starters growing on the deck in little pots right now, very late October. I rescued the sprouts from the compost heap a few weeks ago, because I have a hard time letting go of living things. At the time I had a vague idea about actually starting a greenhouse this winter and miraculously having some of these ripe beauties for a salad in the middle of winter. I’ve heard that it’s possible, but I haven’t done it yet myself.

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Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad to keep in the fridge.
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Sometimes when a cucumber vine gets going some of the cucumbers grow too large and turn yellow. When that happens I cut it from the vine and leave it there in the garden. It creates the opportunity for the cucumber to reseed itself and become a late season cucumber vine. Now in late October, I have one growing in the kitchen garden. It’s good timing because just a week or so ago I finished the cucumber salad that I prepared in early summer.

Cucumbers are cooling, which I’m imagining might be good for hot flashes (waking me up early lately.) Dr. Lee told me that cucumbers are better than lettuce for women (and lettuce is very good for men). Since most everything he has told me has turned out to be helpful, I’m taking his word for that.

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Homesteading in the City

Last week I asked how homesteaders were initiated, and I talked about how I got started with canning. But I’ve been thinking since then about how I used to know people in New York City who kept gardens in community plots. Even though I didn’t even think about doing something like that at the time, it had more of an influence on me than I realized simply because I became aware that other people were doing it. If I moved back to New York City (which I don’t plan to) I would be one of those people on my knees in a garden or advocating for a roof garden, or in some way contributing to making urban life more natural.

So I ask the question, why can’t a city be green? Why shouldn’t city people be able to grow their own food or climb a tree? I’m not the person to say that everyone should move away from the city and start their own gardens. I believe that wherever you live, that’s your homestead. There is so much that we can do to eat healthy food and live more natural lives no matter where we are. It may seem impossible but if we start one step at a time, we can make meaningful and long lasting changes. Probably the most important step of all is to teach our children.

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Herbal Activity

Dried thyme, basil and sage on my kitchen table, with the thresher I use to process them.

There’s a lot of canning and freezing going on this week by those who are taking in and preserving their harvests. I’m one of those people. I already talked about my date with the eggplants yesterday, and I’m planning on pickling my banana and jalapeƱo peppers before the week is over. While I’ve been doing that dance with boiling water and chopping boards, I didn’t have to do anything to dry these herbs except leave them alone.

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Even More Ways to Preserve Eggplant

I’m always seeing hearts in my vegetables…

A month ago I was writing about what to do with eggplant because I had so many in my kitchen. In that post I talked about making fried eggplant and eggplant parmesan. When eggplant love is new it tastes so sweet and delicious. After a couple months of eating and freezing the stuff, I start to think about other vegetables again. My husband stopped watering his garden about a month ago, after he harvested everything else. He left his eggplants to their own devices while it was very hot and dry. We had almost no rain that whole time. But to our surprise, the eggplants have thrived while gardens have withered all over the Upstate.

We have trouble giving eggplant away. Our friends and neighbors mostly don’t like or never tried an eggplant and don’t show any signs of changing their minds. I was tempted to just let those eggplants go to seed, but they looked so big and beautiful; it would have been a shame and a waste. So yesterday I went down in the field and picked most of them, and also dealt with them very quickly after looking for some new ideas online and finding a couple at FreshBitesDaily.com.

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Recycled Celery

Instead of throwing this celery butt in the compost I decided to stick it in a bowl of water. This picture is about three days later.

I haven’t told my husband but I have plans to grow some fresh veggies in pots in the windows this winter. I have to admit that even though I didn’t tell him, I did consult with him on a good day for potting. He’s the expert on astrological matters. So tomorrow is the day I’m going to put this baby in a pot, and a few volunteer tomato starters from the compost…

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If Dirt Could Move Itself

A big pile of dirt and an empty bed of a golf cart.
The dirt has to get from the pile to the bed of the garden cart….

It would be nice if I could smile sweetly, or tilt to one hip, or whisper promises to this pile of dirt to get itself in the bed of the garden cart, and then remove itself again onto my strawberry bed… but it ain’t happening. There’s a shovel in the shed with my name on it.

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Food is Beautiful

The varicolored inside of a carrot from my rainbow carrot crop.
The varicolored inside of a carrot from my rainbow carrot crop.

One of the pleasures of cooking, for me, is that food is simply beautiful. Many times I feel like stopping chopping to take a picture. Most of the time I don’t actually stop, except to appreciate the unmatchable art of Nature. The color combinations and hues, the textures and arrangements are, to me, what tubes of fresh paint must be to a painter, pure pleasure. The benefits of home cooking are numerous, and if we are earnest, we can remind ourselves of them in moments of weakness. Handling exquisite beauty should be one of those things on the list of benefits!

Cinnamon, orange peel and cloves steeping in a red zinfandel.
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Humble Hands

Gardening has its rewards but it’s dirty work. I do use a trowel, but sometimes I just dig with my bare hands, pulling up the roots of pesky weeds. These strawberries have been sending out shoots and need to be thinned out.

On Monday of this week I made a resolution to use gloves when I’m gardening, but on Thursday I was thinning out and transplanting strawberries without gloves on. It seems like a small thing to talk about, but perhaps I have not been giving my humble hardworking hands the respect they deserve. Since my little golf cart is broken (again), and I didn’t feel like walking up the hill to get my gloves when I remembered my resolution, I just went right on working without them.

I love the smell of the lavender bushes when I’m working in the garden. The exercise helps me keep my girlish figure. The sunshine makes me happy in the early morning. But my hands, my dependable hands, busy and productive and indispensable, they get dry and cracked from gardening. Clayish dirt gets stuck under my nails and stains them a brownish color. I can’t cook with dirty hands, but I garden and cook almost every day.

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