Thursday, September 1, 2016

thoughts on late summer

If you were just going by the heat and humidity you might be thinking that it's still the "Dog Days of Summer" instead of the last days of Summer.  This has been what the old tymers called a good garden year.   Huh! now I am an old tymer too, what a  fitting welcome to oldtymerhood.  

And you know, I am not looking forward to the cold and snow, I never do.  But the beauty of Fall, well that is different.   At least for now anyway.   I was lucky enough to visit an old homestead, built in the 1840's,  and see the huge stone and brick structure in the root cellar that was the footer for the kitchen hearth,  a kitchen hearth that set the place on fire a couple times.  I typed kitchen heart instead of hearth, but corrected it, now that I think on it,  the kitchen hearth is the heart of a home.
In the kitchen above there are several wainscot  cabinets, and a massive dry sink, all painted a rusty autumnal orange with blue trim.   A pitcher  pump ,  it's cold and clean tasting water, stands ready .    And overhead  a tin ceiling with many layers of light blue paint.  There against one wall is an old coal fired  cook stove with  6 lids, 2 ovens. and a water reservoir,  that would have been filled with cold water from the pump makes a few gallons of hot water using the heat from the cooking fire.  On the drain board is a stack of the biggest cucumbers I have ever see, I thought they were zucchini at first.

We began to peel and slice those  monumental cukes, I was thinking they were going to be tough and sour, but no.  They were refreshing and tender, sliced  into a large blue bowl then layered with salt, pepper, and dill and covered with a tea towel and set aside until it was suppertime.   Somewhere I read that people can recognize
smells recalled from their youth,  I believe that to be true.  I could close my eyes and I was standing beside my grandmother.    Her kitchen is where I saw cheese made and chickens cleaned and prepared for the table, learned the meaning of "butter the size of an egg, and how to test the temperature of an oven using a generous pinch of flour tossed onto the bottom of the oven,  I don't remember that lesson very well, though.

I learned what I knew about gardening from my other grandmother.  I started out with a big patch of freshly tilled soil to plant my first crop.
She made cheese also, but the thing she knew the most about was growing things, especially tomatoes.

Strewn around this litchen are boxes with all varieties of tomatoes in them, the prime ones are crushed into jars, a technique I call "washing my hands in tomatoes".  The idea being to cram as many peeled tomatoes into each jar as possible.  They are truly summer in a jar come the snows of January and February.   Now in the oppressive heat and humidity of this August, early September I try to keep that in mind.   First the jars are carefully washed and turned upside down on towels to dry.   The tomatoes are picked over and washed.   Some will be cut up and crushed in a large stock pot and then put through a food mill to removes the skins and seeds  to make that most awesome of  winters treats, home made tomato juice, just tomatoes and a dash of salt, I like a hint of black pepper in my tomato juice.

The days of late summer are delights to me, with their clear skies, and summery weather, and abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and of course the cooler  nights that are so good for sleeping and stargazing.   There is color everywhere, even the color of daylight as warmed to a soft golden color.   There are never enough of these days.

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Silent Sunday~~~Hedgehog Picnic

thanks Coleman