“and the fall, too, gives forth its varied fruits . . .”
Thus states Vergil in the first book of his Georgics. This has been true for us here at DFF for about the past ten days. It is a happy thing to lament about abundance. We are suddenly facing the prospect of excess corn, of melons, of rotting fruit. Thankfully we have had a third hand since Friday, since Lori’s sister Nancy is paying us a preliminary visit. Preliminary because she is set to be a welcome fixture of life here come January. We could not use the help more, and have been forced to be creative with our produce.
Excess produce, in my experience, is becoming something like my tenure experience. In August of 1996 I was hired by the University of Maryland, College Park into a tenure track job. I was driven and focused; my mission was to complete a commentary on that very famous work that I’m sure is next to every Bible on every shelf in the country – Tacitus’ Dialogus de oratoribus. It was to be the book that would get me tenure. But, surprise surprise, in the fall of 1996 I discovered that it was so popular a work that someone was about to publish a commentary on it with Cambridge. The world did not need two and life was short.
Now you can’t just pull a book out of a thin air, so I fidgeted for a year and thought long and hard about a book project. Meanwhile the tenure clock loudly ticked. Then on Labor Day weekend 1997 it occurred to me: take the appendix of my dissertation and write a good long book on it, which I did. I worked like a fiend for two years and by December of 1999 had a book contract with Routledge. If I do say so, it was a damned fine, scholarly work. What was the book about? You can look on the “about me” section of this web site to find out, but in a nutshell, it was about informants and prosecutors in the early Roman Empire. Imagine it is AD 4023, and no one had yet written a book about the Gestapo – that’s my contribution to human knowledge and I’m damned proud of it! My point is, tenure forced me to be creative – necessity truly is the mother of invention. And so it is now with our produce.
Since Friday we have been confronted with hundreds of pounds of plums, melons, cucs, squash, corn, tomatoes, and pears. The plums we are drying, the corn we blanch and freeze, the squash we freeze, the cucs we throw to the chickens at this point, but the pears we transformed into an exquisite pear butter and the tomatoes, oh my! We made a cherry tomato jam (4 lbs of tomatoes mixed with 3 cups sugar and ½ a cup lemon juice, cooked to 220, with basil added at the end, then put into pint jars – yum!) Next time we may add onion or pepper of some sort. The pear butter we make by chopping whole pears and mixing them with star anise and 2 T. ginger, 1 c. lemon juice and 2 c. water, cooking them, putting them through a food mill, then cooking the puree with ½ t. each cardammon and nutmeg. We add ½ a c. sugar for every cup of puree.
The pure urgency of preserving food keeps us finding some great recipes, and what is left over is never wasted, going either to the birds or to compost, and our goats absolutely love the cornstalks once stripped of their ears, and the silk and leaves from the corn itself.
Jars of sunsweet gold tomato jam with basil, our first honey dew, mounds of cucumbers, and a basket of corn grace our kitchen counter. Greater wealth even Croesus could not covet.
In addition, ten days ago we planted some “salad boxes” full of greens – spinach, chard, and lettuces, all of which are lovely, and our greens continue to do splendidly in the garden. We put the boxes in about ten days ago with transplanted spinach, chard, and lettuce, and also did some direct seeding of spinach in a box which has already germinated.
Our giant salad boxes contain loads of rainbow chard, blomsdale spinach, and a mix of tender lettuces. The box is in the circle garden on the south side of our house, and no, yu are not seeing things, our house really is orange and purple, and the worst thing is we like it!
A big event here Sunday was the arrival of the cider press my brother-in-law Len built for us; we hope to use it on our pears and apples – we will be making pear nectar and apple cider, the former we will freeze most likely, but the latter we will ferment and make into a hard cider. We should have no shortage with five very productive apple trees on the property, and more on the way this fall when we plant a few more. I’m told that the first president Adams drank an entire tankard of hard cider with dinner every night, and we look forward to seeing if it can propel us, as it likely did him, to octogenarian status. Bottoms up!
Hard cider has become as much of a local specialty as has wine. Both Carlton and Corvallis have outstanding breweries, but we aim to press our own.
Finally, on Tuesday we had a big chore that we had to start to undertake, trimming our goats’ hooves. It was one of those big daunting and mysterious tasks we had never done starring us in the face, and, as is the case with most of these, was not nearly as bad as we thought it would be. We distracted our girls with a bucket full of oats, and we washed and trimmed away; it’s a big, long task though, so we will still need to do some trimming tomorrow. It didn’t hurt that Nancy has had ample experience as a manicurist. We also weighed the girls and received some happy news: having gotten over their coccidiosis and not having gained much weight from July to August, in the past month they have taken off, and weigh in between 63 and 84 pounds, all having gained between 7-18 pounds (hooray!) It took three of us to trim, but if I do say so we managed to pull it off with aplomb.
Lori’s sister Nancy stabilizes our doeling Miss Anna, while Lori trims her hoof in our maiden voyage of caprine manicuring.
Lori an Nancy gently nudge Miss Anna back to her stable after her first trim.
et varios ponit fetus autumnus, and, we might add (somewhat more prosaically because it would never scan!), et varios ponit labores autumnus (“and the fall sets forth its various tasks”).