Sunday, August 2, 2009

Savoring Summer

Let's just say it has been a busy summer and that my blogs may become more frequent when winter gets here.For those of you that have asked when the next installment is -I'll do my best to do better!

Given the pace of this summer it feels like winter is just around the corner and the fact that it is now August is mind boggling to me. Life feels very sweet and short right now and as if there is not enough time to savor all it has to offer.

We just came off a week on a houseboat with our family which
included our new six month old grandbaby. What a lovely week it was even if it did rain every day. The rain made for some wonderfully restful sleep and makes one wonder if air conditioning is always the blessing we think it is. We cooed over the baby - which he seemed to like as he rewarded us with smiles and giggles - and we tried to give his Mom and Dad a little bit of a break from life's daily routine. I spent some time looking through magazines such as Hobby Farm, Mother Earth News, Mary Janes Farm, Countryside, Backhome and Kentucky Monthly looking for ideas for the farm and our home life as well as some current off-the-farm projects.

My current list of things to do includes; coordinating a new Heritage Living and Folk life event as part of the Redbud Festival that will be held on April 9 & 10 next year (see, helping with the first annual KY Sheep & Fiber Festival that will be held May 15 & 16 in Lexington (to receive the fall 2009 mailing contact, getting construction for our new house on the farm started this month, keeping up with farm chores in general, including putting up electric fences where the old fence had to come down for the new house site, and all the routine summer chores which, last but not least, means keeping up with the gardens.

I say gardens as I don't have one big garden but decided to develop several smaller micro gardens around the farm. All the gardens seem to do be doing pretty well this year despite or, maybe, because of all the rain. My newly planted asparagus is doing amazingly well for its first summer and is pretty to boot - it looks like big fluffy ferns growing by the tractor shed. And, its neighbor, the rhubarb, is growing like gang busters as are the grape vines and fruit trees. Everything is heavily mulched so weeding is not too bad this year.

I ripped out the first KY Wonder bean plants I seeded along the driveway as they were getting nasty looking and seemed to be on the wane but put in a second planting around cane poles in another location in the hopes of a second crop late this summer. The pototatos are blooming and the egg plants look almost too pretty to pick as one type is a gorgeous, deep purple and the other is a glossy white color. I planted roma tomatos for the first time this year and I think they are going to be a favorite in the future.

Speaking of tomatos, I have been dehydrating mine straight off the vine as they are starting to rippen by the basket full. The trick for me is not to eat them as I take them out of the dehydrator (or before they get put into it) so that we have a few to store for winter. I vacuum pack them after they are dehydrated and then pop them into the freezer. Last winter the dried tomatos were a real treat as they were like a taste of summer on cold, dreary days. They are one of my favorite foods and are surprisingly easy to make.

In the old dogs can learn new tricks category, I ventured into new territory last week by taking a Food Preservation Class at the Knox County Extension office in Barbourville as I wanted to learn how to can. I met some wonderful women who made me feel very welcome. Many of the women knew just about all there is to know about canning but said they had taken the class before as they "always learned something new." I think that is one of my main life goals - to keep learning - and, so far, our farm has helped me keep doing that. There is always something new to learn and try.

I did some shopping yesterday and purchased a hot water bath pot and a pressure canning pot as well as some canning jars and freezer containers. I started on my new venture last night and made 5 quarts of salsa and have plans for doing my first canned tomatos this week. Yes, it is work but it is also satisfying as we know exactly what is in the food we eat because we grew it ourselves. I am experimenting with organic gardening methods so we don't use chemicals on our vegetable and fruit plants. I have tried to locate local organic farms to purchase eggs and produce from but have not had any luck so far but I am not giving up. I know they are out there so if you know of any SE KY organic farmers, please let me know. I suspect other people would be interested as well and I'd love to support that effort in our local economy.

I wanted to learn more about food preservation this summer as I figure I need to be ready next year when our first real harvests of asparagus, blueberries and blackberries start coming in or I will be awash in fresh produce and will have no idea what to do with it all. I already have plans to go back to the Extension Office for more classes and have put myself on their mailing list.

And, for everyone that has asked about the sunflowers - they are still growing and were at about 14 feet last measure though the rains last week took a toll on them. I don't have the heart to shoo off the yellow finches and other birds that seem to relish them. I figure share and share alike - I will just plan to plant more next year so the birds and humans have plenty to eat and enjoy. The sunflowers are like summer - vibrant but short lived and well worth savoring.