country life

Waste-me-not: Nasturtium Capers

I've never been particularly frugal.  I learned to cook not to economize but because I love the excitement of choosing ingredients, and the satisfaction that comes from a perfect marrying of them together.  I've trained myself to be good with money more because of circumstance than desire (an accidental Wall Street career and a husband who is determined to live abundantly despite a dribbling faucet).  Frugal I am not.  I can hear my mother laughing already.  Countless times I scampered away from some wasteful mess I had made of something, or a request for new Keds, her rising voice imploring "money doesn't grow on trees, Audra!" trailing behind me.  But I fiercely wanted to believe that it did.

Grace and a strawberry: Strawberry White Balsamic Vinegar

On June 12th I happily and nervously sent off my Food Processor's License in the mail to the regulators in Olympia. As I penned my signature onto the most important form, I paused at the date - already inscribed "May 10th".  May 10th was before I knew I was pregnant for the third time - and before I miscarried for the third time.  May 10th-- long enough since the last pregnancy that I was starting to feel like myself again.  I remember what that felt like so clearly.  I was finally moving forward --with or without a baby.  It's been a little over a month, such a short period of time, and so much has happened.  I've digressed in some ways and grown in others.  I desperately want to feel like myself again.  Forcing progress, like submitting my license application, helps, but it's not completely genuine.  Despite being a month later than I intended, it feels rushed.  But sometimes you have to put the head down, and run-- run fast.  Other times, putting your head between your knees is the more appropriate response.

Trick or Treat ?

When I was shopping for pantyhose at Fogel two years ago I wasn't considering how well they'd support a sugar pumpkin. I was worried about shoving my own pie thighs into them and looking fashionable, or at the very least, thinner, tanner, or something.  I'm sitting here now, on an island off the Pacific northwest, admiring how well they have accommodated the girth of the sugar pumpkins I trellised in an old wine barrel months ago.  Sabina, my ever supportive dog, looks on with two balls shoved into her mouth, unaware of the significance of this moment.  I have to pause: my pumpkins are wearing pantyhose, and I am not.

Balance and the pendulum

It’s been stunningly beautiful for as long as my short memory permits.  Bright cerulean blue skies every morning, a rustling fall breeze working its way through the evergreens and shaking the leaves off the deciduous trees.  I have finally plateaued in my tomato harvest  and I’m about to harvest my first jalapenos- and it’s October 5th.  Granted they’re all happily snug in a makeshift greenhouse but there are still tomatoes and peppers -- in fact so many I am quietly wishing the bunnies would find them.  I’ve made pints on end of sauce, crushed tomatoes, ketchup, passata, dried tomatoes, and frozen cherry tomatoes.  I wait for these beauties all year long -- rarely do I enjoy one out of season because they are so uniformly terrible.  When they come we enjoy them lustily and gorge for weeks -- and then, suddenly, I’ve had enough.  No more tomatoes.  We go on hiatus for months, until sometime in the early dark of winter, a can of garden crushed tomatoes is pureed into a creamy tomato soup, into which we’ll plunge sourdough and Irish cheddar grilled sandwiches.  It is then that I’ll start the long climb to spring, and long for next year’s far away harvest.

Backyard Mint Bons Bons

In the past 24 hours I've made protein and omega 3 packed nut power bars, dehydrated 10 pounds of ripe peaches, prepped cannelini beans for a spread with rosemary, made 2 quarts of green smoothie, repurposed leftover grilled zucchini in a rice paper wrap with a homemade spicy peanut sauce garnished with basil, radishes and carrots from the garden, and made 12 pints of one of my favorite "pickles", curried yellow squash and zucchini.  Last week a friend and I canned 60 pounds of tart yellow plums into one of my favorite honey sweetened jams and compotes.  But I don't want to talk about any of that.  We're trying to eat healthier here at the homestead, so the sourdough baking has been put on pause and mornings are filled with the whir of the Vitamix pureeing its way through a bushel of beet greens, spinach, kale, or carrot tops.  I feel great but just can't get all that excited about green smoothies, despite having all the ingredients fresh from the garden.  But I can get excited about bon bons.  Specifically, mint ice cream bon bons, dipped in a homemade dark chocolate 'magic shell'.  No kale, no vitamix involved.  A little bit of sugar, cream, mint, a chocolate shell, and a lot of guilt.

Growing pains

We've had an incredible Spring rise from the dirt here on Minnow Creek Lane -- the wisteria is in full bloom, arching over our stone patio.  The jewel pink roses I inherited have begun to blossom, and the blushing peonies have opened their pom pom eyes.  We've been eating gorgeous greens for over a month now - Bordeaux Spinach, with its red-wine stems, sautéed over toast and topped with a poached egg; Roquette Arugula pureed with walnuts, garlic, and parmesan for a refreshing pesto; French Sorrel gratineed with potatoes, cream and gruyere; baby Valmaine Romaine tossed in a mustard vinaigrette and topped with blackened Coho Salmon; Lacinato Kale stewed with shallots and finished with apple cider butter; baby Rainbow Chards with sesame soy glaze over soba noodles; and countless mixed green salads with garden radishes and a simple vinaigrette.  I'm thankful this season for the distraction of an armful of greens and thinnings.  Greens are good for the body, but lately, they've been feeding my soul.