Saturday, January 31, 2009

Waiting for spring

I just finished reading a novel by LaVyrle Spencer that was set in pioneer Minnesota. I’ve read it before, so it was a bit like visiting with old friends. I feel particularly drawn to this time period. I’m quite sure my mother and grandmother’s could have outworked me in their younger days, but I’ve done enough working on the land to understand, I think, what families in the 1800’s and early 1900’s had to do to survive. I hear the siren’s song of the land, calling to me, urging me to plant, and till and harvest – to put food on your table that you have known intimately from seed to plate.

As the days are getting longer, I feel compelled to dig out the seed catalogs and stored seeds (those purchased and those saved from our own garden), check the spreadsheet to compare the orders of previous years (mom and the grandma’s never had that option ;-) and make sure I have enough seeds for this year’s garden. I visit the root cellar and the cool storage, looking for any signs of spoilage, removing sprouts, and taking care to eat up anything that looks like it won’t keep much longer. The carrots, potatoes, beets and onions are keeping better this year. Since the winter has been so cold, the root cellar has stayed colder, too. The pumpkins and squash may need to be cooked down soon and frozen, a few have developed soft spots. The celery plants that were dug up last fall are still growing in a basement window. The parsley and one celery plant left in the greenhouse have long since frozen. The herbs growing the kitchen window (parsley, oregano and chives) provide plenty for our winter needs. The stock in the freezer is dwindling, the shell peas are almost gone, but there is still plenty of corn, snap peas, soybeans, applesauce, cherries and a few other odds and ends. We are making inroads on the canned goods - jams and jellies, maple syrup, pickles, kraut, green beans and various tomato products (sauce, juice, stewed tomatoes, ketchup, salsa, V-8). The pantry holds dried shell beans for soup and baking. Out in the garden, parsnips and sunchokes wait to be dug up come spring thaw. It sure will be hard to leave all this if we have to move. I feel like I’m just finally getting reasonably adept at providing a significant portion of our food. Some if it may look a little odd, like the many-fingered carrots, but it all tastes pretty darn good.

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