Jam at Least

I did not do a lot this growing season. I planted garlic last fall and recently pulled that from the ground. But I planted no garden. I never picked strawberries of blueberries. We had no farm share this year. Granted, we were away much of the summer, but still, I put up little. I was no gardener or gatherer.

We did manage to get out to pick apples at least. We picked lots of them, many varieties, from Shelburne Orchards, our favorite orchard. The view alone from that place makes a visit worth it. I have made apple crisp a couple of times, and have enough apples left to make one more. And last weekend I made apple jam.

Blueberry and strawberry and other berry jams get all the publicity. They are good no doubt. Huckleberry or marionberry jam can fill the mouth with deliciousness that is hard to beat. But these past few years my favorite jam has been made with apples.

We have an apple tree at our house but it has been unhealthy and bears little fruit now. When it did offer up fruit I made the best jam ever. Those apples are Red Delicious, your classic apple. I have not liked those kinds of apples typically. They are usually mealy, lacking flavor, with tough skins. They hold up well and can be transported without too much damage but that shelf life takes its toll on tastiness. Red Delicious certainly are red–they usually look great in a pile at the supermarket–but they are anything but delicious. The ones from our tree, however, are some of the best apples I have ever had. When I first tasted a ripe one I understood why the variety became so popular. Unfortunately, that popularity has been costly.

My jam is pretty simple–apples, sugar, lemon juice, pectin, some nutmeg. With good apples it is a sweet treat that makes a mean PB and J, if you know what I’m saying. I took a couple of hours to rustle up eight jars. They are still sitting on the counter, waiting to be stored. That growing season lethargy continues, I guess. I have a jar left from last season and will polish that off soon. Then I will taste this season’s batch. I have no doubt it will be good, and it will last into the winter. I have no potatoes or onions or frozen pumpkin this year, but I do at least have some apple jam. It won’t make a meal but it will remind me of the days when blossoms filled the air with their almost supernatural scent, and of bees, and of fruit heavy on branches.

Maybe next year I will be better at taking advantage of the short growing season, of the wonder of fresh food grown myself, or grown by my neighbors. For now, however, I’ll have to settle for some toast.

Not Spring Yet

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Lake Champlain at Shelburne Bay–ice as far as one can see

Lake Champlain froze over this year, as it did last year. It is not common that it freezes over two years in a row. It has been a cold winter. Last week we had several days of warmer weather. Temperatures got into the forties. Lots of snow melted. As I write this the temperature is 28 degrees and it is snowing like nuts with a howling wind. It isn’t spring yet.

I did get some time outside when the air was warmer. I always find the transition from season to season remarkable. This week I was amazed at the melting of so much snow. Today I have been amazed at just how wintry it is. I went for a run this afternoon. The wind whipped the falling snow into my face. It hurt. The storm seemed to be telling me to stay inside. I wasn’t out long.

Spring will come soon. I am still waiting for the return of Red Winged Blackbirds. Forget American Robins, some of whom stick around all winter. Red Winged Blackbirds are the real harbingers of spring. Once they arrive, Woodcocks and Song Sparrows, maple leaves and tulips, are not far behind. As of yesterday, the garden beds were just starting to emerge from the snow. Today they are covered again. I planted onion seeds in pots yesterday. They sit inside on the windowsill. By the time they are ready to transplant, this snow, like the snow that left us last week, will be clouds.

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LaPlatte River, March 3rd 2015; note the tracks on the snow on the ice

LaPlatte River, March 14 2015

Same view of the LaPlatte River, March 14 2015

Pumpkin. Plus Pumpkin.

IMG_5324Thanksgiving is on the horizon so today I did a little prep for it. I baked up and then pureed the two pie pumpkins that have been waiting on the counter for just this holiday. My plan is to bake a pumpkin pie (natch) as well as a pumpkin cheesecake. The pie will be light and delicate. I like it like that, different than the denser pumpkin pies I admit to also readily enjoying. The cheesecake will be heavier, a thick creamy cylinder of deliciousness.

Once the pumpkins were out of the oven and cooled and pureed, I tossed the pumpkin seeds with a little oil and a little salt and roasted them up in the hot oven for a pre-dinner snack. They made a fine pre-dinner snack. While I turned those seeds in the oven, and while I whipped up dinner itself, I sipped my latest beer–a pumpkin ale, light on the spice.

I like a decent pumpkin ale but most of the ones I have tried are pumpkin spice ales, heavy on the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and hardly tasting of pumpkin. I created this beer to have an ale worthy of the squash moniker. It has a zip to it that makes me say Hmm as well as Mmm. Good stuff.

On another note, I finally (finally) planted the dang garlic. The last week has been crazy cold and things have begun to freeze up. Today, however, offered a warm enough window. I dug up one garden bed and popped in some bulbs saved from this year’s harvest. Hopefully they will appear as green shoots in the spring.

While I will have to wait many months for the garlic, next week I will get to enjoy a pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cheesecake and a fine pumpkin ale, all in one day. In the meantime, there are these toasted pumpkin seeds to polish off. You know, before they get stale.

Snow on the Ground

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A couple of days ago we got our first snow. It covered the ground and the snowplow even passed to spread sand. It stuck around for a day. We still have some snow remnants in the shadows. We have been getting snow showers on and off these past few days.

I still haven’t planted garlic. I just looked at the weather and it looks to stay close to or below freezing all week. I think I might have blown it. Once the ground really freezes up it will be too late. I might get a chance, but the pace I have been working on getting things done these days might mean that task stays undone.

Winter has made itself known. Bring in an armload of wood and stoke the fire. It’s cold out. And it isn’t heating up any time soon.

 

Spring Getting the Shove

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Earlier this week the temperature was close to 80 degrees. Yesterday morning we had a couple inches of snow on the ground. It had been warm enough that things started to flood. Then the floodwater started to freeze over. Early in the day yesterday we had a chilled lake across the road, popping and cracking as the water settled in the cold.

By the afternoon some of the snow had melted. The high temperature was 33 degrees, briefly, so the sun did all the work on that project. The water rose, enough that it flowed over the road by the bridge. The town road crew did a lot of work last summer to keep that in check but it still gets high enough at times to cause some serious erosion.

Wading to check out the water under the bridge

Wading to check out the water under the bridge

This morning it was 18 degree, what the meteorologists would call “unseasonable.” I have been wanting to get started on our garden but it still looks like this:

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Not exactly workable soil

Last year I had started planting in March. So it goes in this hardiness zone. Lots of folks complain about the snow and cold. I get it. But it was stunningly beautiful the past couple of mornings. I find it hard to complain about that. Spring is underway. Winter just wants some last licks. By next week the boots won’t leave the closet and we will start asking when we should remove the snow tires. And then everyone will complain about the mud.

Frost after tax day

Frost after tax day

Tubers Out of the Dirt

I have started pulling tubers. Let me say that again. I have started digging up root vegetables. I made some roasted potatoes from the first batch and they were so good I made another last night. Carrots are ready now as well. These are some good ones–a variety of colors and flavors. I should have a good volume of food with these crops before all is said and done.

The first potatoes I pulled up were German Butterball. These were from tubers I had saved from last summer. I hadn’t meant to save them, exactly. I had stored them to eat and then missed some at the end of the bin. They sat until spring, when they were sprouting like crazy. I had some extra space in the garden and so I popped them into the dirt. I am glad I did. They are a, duh, buttery variety, and white. I also have pulled some others–purple and pink. I love that. Who wants only white potatoes when you can have purple and pink? Several of these colorful plants never took so the extra white potatoes were especially welcome.

Check Out Those Colors

I have purple carrots as well, along with yellow and the standard orange. Our soil is mostly clay–although I did add a good deal of compost this spring–so sometimes the carrots get stunted. I pulled three is a row that were stubby. One of them looked like some kind of alien landing craft. Maybe my garden, which is a circle rather than your typical rectangle, was an inviting locale for an extraterrestrial vehicle. Perhaps my carrots are actually buried spaceships? You be they judge.

Odd Shaped Tuber or Visitor from Space?

 

Garlic Pulled

Garlic Drying in the Sun

Yesterday I pulled the garlic. I should have pulled it sooner but we were away and it just didn’t happen. I planted two varieties in the fall and one of them was way ready to yank from the dirt. It was so ready that a few of them broke at the stem. This was the Purple Bogatyr, a purple tinged, smaller variety. The other is much larger and, because I let it go so long, the bulbs are huge. I have 25 bulbs drying in the sun right now and I pulled a couple earlier as well. For the first time a couple died in the spring–not sure why.

I plan to crank out some pesto in the next couple of days, along with some pico de gallo. Hopefully this garlic will last a while–not all year I am sure but a perhaps through the fall. We do eat a lot of garlic. Next up: onions. They are looking good and the tops are starting to fall over. Pretty soon I will pull them as well.