Summer Shifting to Fall

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All of a sudden we don’t hang out on the porch all the time. It has gotten cold. Friday morning we had our first frost since spring started. Today the wind is howling. Fall has arrived. The crescent moon on the equinox makes it official.

Asters are blooming in the field. Goldenrod bows in the wind. Milkweed pods are beginning to brown, their seeds drifting over the meadow. This morning I watched the Green Mountains silhouetted by the golden light of morning; a duck zipped across the sky, heading north. Birds have stopped singing, calling to each other now quietly to stay in flocks as they migrate. Leaves drift to the ground, red highlighting the hillsides.

This time of year I think of all the things I have not done. I need to finish clearing the garage of painting accoutrements. I need to dig up and mulch the garden. I want to pick apples and make jam. I should prune some trees. And other things. Should I cut the field again before it snows? Can I fix the lawn mower so we can mow a few more times? Will we be able to get corn again before harvest season is over?

It is hard not to want to simply get outside on these days the sun rises later and lower in the sky. There are mountains to hike and trails to run. Too many years ago my wife and I started hiking the Long Trail about this time. We got married in the fall. It is the best time of year to be outside. It is cool, beyond the heat of summer but not yet the chill of winter. There are no mosquitoes. The air smells full of all that was summer–fallen leaves and soil and ripe fruit.

This morning I spent some time on the porch, finishing a book, drinking coffee, eating a cider donut I picked up at yesterday’s Shelburne Farms Harvest Festival. The wind whipped the trees and the field grass. I thought about all I might do today but felt lazy at the same time. Yesterday I read that the reason we are here is to lead an amazing life. Maybe I should start with trying to do that. I am assuming an amazing life includes roast corn for dinner, if I can find it.

Popcorn Picking

I picked the popcorn today. Last time I planted popcorn, two years ago, I picked it on the 22nd of September, but this was ready to go. It was nicely dried and the stalks were starting to fall over. I planted the same variety as last time–Tom Thumb, a miniature variety with four foot tall stalks–but the weather was just not the same this year.  With the help of my daughter I picked 69 small ears.

Popcorn off the Stalk

Both my kids helped me shuck it. My daughter noted several times that the ear she just revealed would the be the perfect size for a doll, although it would have been less tasty than the corn we purchased from the Conant farm (whose last day was today, and we missed it). After peeling back the husks, we ended up with a pile of golden ears.

Each Ear Equals One Batch of Popcorn

Last time I bagged the ears in a mesh bag and left it to dry for a bunch of weeks. The children were so excited to start collecting it in a bowl, however, that I totally forgot in my own excitement. So we took it off the ears and we marveled at the bowl of kernals. It will need to dry more, indeed, but in a mesh bag that is hanging in the right spot, that should happen easily.

This Will Warm Us on a Winter Day

It was easy to grow. The hardest part was keeping the birds away long enough for it to sprout. They love to yank it out just as it pushes green from the soil. The first time I grew it I had to totally replant it. The second time I tried to grow it I did not have enough time to try again. This time I hung reflectors just as the first shots appeared. That scared the crows and turkeys away and I had plants. After that it was just water, weed and wait. I planted melons in between the plants and that worked out well for both plants.

In a few weeks I will test the popcorn to see if it pops well. Once it is I will jar it up to keep the moisture content right and we will have healthy snacks for the winter. And plenty of it.

Fall Arrival and Some Harvesting

Yesterday I pulled the few onions we had growing in our garden.  Most of the seedlings didn’t make it but a few managed to grow.  We ate a couple of them not long ago.  They are some strong onions.  Tasty, however.  These will need to dry a little so they can last long enough to use them all.  Too bad rain is in the forecast for the next couple of weeks.

Onions Out of the Dirt

Onions Out of the Dirt

I also picked a bunch of leeks.  I made a big batch of potato leek soup.  We had a slew of potatoes to use up and all those leeks in the ground.  It tasted pretty good last night for dinner with some buttered toast.  It tasted even better for lunch today.

A Fine Row of Fine Leeks

A Fine Row of Fine Leeks

The peppers are almost red as well.  We have been picking them and eating them but they are so much sweeter when they are fully ripe.  Plus the seeds will sprout easier if the peppers are fully ready when they are picked.  And they are beautiful.

Peppers Almost Ripe

Peppers Almost Ripe

The popcorn is still growing, trying to ripen before the cold sets in. Problem is, the cold kind of has set in. It’s not winter yet or anything but it has been in the 40’s in the morning.  I can’t imagine we will get mature ears out of these plants, but who knows?  I’m willing to wait it out.

Popcorn Still Making a Go of It

Popcorn Still Making a Go of It

The blueberries, on the other hand, have long given up the idea of producing fruit.  Their leaves are turning.  They are redder than the peppers.  They too are beautiful.

Fall Has Arrived for Certain

Fall Has Arrived for Certain

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival Entrance

Harvest Festival Entrance

We took a trip across the town line to visit Shelburne Farms today.  They were hosting their annual harvest festival.  It was fun, literally, for the whole family.  I took the two kids last year and we spent most of the day there.  They were excited to visit again and this time Mom came along as well.  I was expecting many people to be there.  The place was packed when we arrived:

Full Parking Lot for the Harvest Festival

Full Parking Lot for the Harvest Festival

You can see the farm barn in the distance.  There were lots of cars.  Maybe that speaks to our car culture.  It also says something about how many people were there.  My guess is that few of those cars carried only one person.  There were families galore there.  This was because Jon Gailmor sang and there was a play (a musical version of Romeo and Juliet) put on by the teens of Very Merry Theater and there were all kinds of fun activities for kids of all ages.  The animals were all out and one could spin yarn and pet a llama and do a leaf rubbing.

Llama Ready for Petting

Llama Ready for Petting

And there was food, too.  Maple Wind Farm of Huntington was there, serving grassfed beef and pork kebabs and hot sausages.  Island Ice Cream offered seven different ice cream pops.  And the corn line was, as last year, worth waiting in.  They had a pick up set up just to toss in corn cobs for composting.  They dished out hundreds of fire roasted ears of corn.  The one I had was, no kidding, the best I had had all summer.  Damn tasty.

Roasting Corn

Roasting Corn

A Full Grill

A Full Grill

The Harvest Festival, for the second year, coincided with Green Mountain Power’s Energy Fair.  They had a tent set up where anyone present might learn about solar photovoltaics or wind power or solar hot water or LED light bulbs or energy efficiency of all stripes.  I love that fair.  Every year it convinces me that we should heat our water with solar energy and generate our electricity from the sun or wind.  If only it didn’t cost so much to install.  I did learn that we might expect to make money if we used solar for electricity.  We really don’t use that much compared to most homes.  But still, it is a big investment…

Energy Fair Tent

Energy Fair Tent

All in all we had a great time.  Corn, ice cream, caramel apples, a fine sunny day, lots of encounters with friends and neighbors, and a good feeling about where we live and the people who live here.  I hope Shelburne Farms keep doing it. Judging by the number of people there, my guess is that it was popular enough to repeat.  Count us in next time.  At this point, we’ll stay members, and we wouldn’t miss it next year.

Kitchen Frenzy and a Soup Recipe

I got home from an all day meeting today about 4:30.  I headed right to the kitchen.  Last night I was going to make a tomato corn chowder.  Then I got working and didn’t stop until way too late.  So I planned to make it tonight.  And I did.  It meant I had to get cracking.  And I did.  It was, how to say this, tasty as all [insert expletive here].

I tried to find a recipe but just couldn’t scrounge one up.  That was probably for the better.  It would have taken me longer to keep referring to a book and then half forgetting what I just read as I chopped garlic.  Here is what I did:

  • Sauteed three small leeks in about a tablespoon of butter and a splash of olive oil in a large pot and then set that aside
  • Cut up two medium size carrots (small cubes), a couple pounds of red potatoes (cubed), two sweet peppers (diced) and sauteed all that in the large pot in about a tablespoon of butter and a splash of olive oil
  • Added four cups of water and two teaspoons of salt to the pot and brought that to a boil
  • Removed the pot and then removed a couple cups of the potatoes to keep them in chunks, then pureed the rest in a food processor
  • Tossed three small tomatoes (OK I used the one weird large tomato I picked yesterday that looked like three small tomatoes attached at the hip), diced, along with four cups of corn I had removed from the cob (already cooked) into the pot.
  • Heated the tomatoes and corn gently for about ten minutes, then added the chunks of potatoes and the puree
  • Added a teaspoon each of chopped fresh oregano, chives and thyme
  • Added a cup of whole milk
  • Topped with freshly grated black pepper, heated for another 10-15 minutes (stirring to keep it from sticking to the bottom)
  • Ate it up

The children chowed it, even my son, who has been pretty picky lately.  I have to admit, and my wife said this aloud, it was worth the hour spent preparing.  The vegetables and herbs were all from our garden or from our CSA.  Even the milk was local.

Item two was making the base for coffee ice cream.  I whipped that up while the soup heated and stuck it in the fridge.

Then I went out with the kids and picked basil.  We have more basil than I can handle.  This is first year that the basil has really just grown.  I clipped it pretty well not long ago and it really grew back well.  I cut 12 cups of the stuff with my eager children who lost interest when they decided to mow the lawn with their scissors.  They didn’t get all that far on that project.

I made three batches of pesto (it is supposed to get pretty cold the next couple of nights–basil doesn’t like cold), froze two and popped the other in the fridge.  By now the children were off to bed with their mother, and I tried not to make too much noise with the food processor.  They did fall asleep eventually, even after the delivery truck woke them up.  Late delivery.

I just polished off the small bowl of ice cream from the batch I made after the basil was stored away.  I probably shouldn’t have coffee ice cream this late–it is made with coffee after all, which people drink to stay awake.  But I had to try some.  What kind of cook would I be if I didn’t taste what I made?  Plus, I didn’t have that much.

I waited to eat the ice cream after I had cleaned up everything (except the ice cream maker bucket–that thing was way too cold to wash).  Cleaning too far too long.  I was ready to be done when the counter was still covered with dishes.  My wife still is healing from her sliced finger, otherwise I am sure she would have offered to do all the cleaning.  I cook, I clean, I eat.  All after a day at work.  Not bad, eh?

Pile O’ Bounty

Pile of Quality Food, Grown Right Here

Pile of Quality Food, Grown Right Here

Had a good harvest day yesterday.  We picked our first tomatoes yesterday–three Crimson Sprinters.  The Cosmonaut Volkovs should be ready later this week.  Before we know it we will have more tomatoes than we can handle.  If only I could get them to be ripe earlier.

We also ate corn last night for dinner.  We got it from the farm in Richmond, Conant’s Riverside Farm, where we used to get it a lot, until we moved to Hinesburg.  This is our first time eating corn from there this summer, since my daughter and I were passing by there yesterday afternoon.  That corn is quality stuff.  One of these days I will try again to grow sweet corn.  Popcorn is growing well in our garden but it won’t be ready for a while.

We need to keep on it or things will get overripe.  Another warm and sunny day today–we won’t have to worry about what’s for dinner, just how to prepare it.  With the leftover corn from last night, and all the tomatoes on the way, a corn tomato chowder may be on deck for tonight.  Plus maybe coffee ice cream.  Who would say not to that?

Turkeys and Culverts

Driving home on this beautiful spring evening I saw a turkey prancing its way across our neighbor’s exquisitely mowed lawn.  It made me wonder if any turkeys were at our place.  They haven’t been around much these days.  I was afraid they would eat the freshly planted peas.  Didn’t happen and I’m glad of it.

After I passed the trotting bird I looked across the field on the other side of the road.  I could see all the way to the river to where the one lane bridge crosses it.  Along the road I saw some dark objects.  Having just seen a turkey, the first thing I imagined was that those dark objects must be turkeys.  Except they were perfectly lined up, tucked into the side of the road.  And they were perfectly round.  Not turkeys.

It turns out they were culverts, which I figured out just by letting my brain get over its immediate assumptions.  Haste makes waste there, Brain!  Trucks have been in and out the past few days hauling dirt and gravel and all kinds of other stuff, like long steel corrugated tubes.  Next to the bridge, where the road sometimes floods, the town crew raised the road and tucked culverts underneath to let the water flow.  Smart.

Next month I will plant corn.  Last year the turkeys pulled it all up.  Twice.  Once I plant again I bet they will come back around.  They figure these things out.  Call them turkeys if you will but they are crafty bastards.  Smart.  They will be back to get my corn again.  You can bet on that.  Unless they are too distracted by the culverts to remember.  Could happen.  But I won’t plan on it.