January 29, 2008
Happy New Year!
It's taken me until the end of the month to send New Year's wishes to one and all! Our 2007 harvests were spectacular, and our 2007 Holiday season was busy, busy, busy, and by the year's end, our pantry was bare. We've had a lovely month of January - snowshoeing and skiing and reading and sleeping, and slowly but surely cooking up new batches of all our preserves in anticipation of the Groundhog's Day Farmers' Market in Greenfield. (More about this coming up.)
The first thing we did as the year turned was to once again send off checks to our four favorite animal shelters. We realize that our beautiful logo of gardening cat Rita is what attracts many people to us, so every year we donate 20% of our sales in November and December to the shelters. Monadnock Humane Society, Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, Windham County Humane Society in Brattleboro and Kitty Angels each received $500.00 to carry on their wonderful work. Nothing makes us laugh like our four-legged friends and we are so grateful to the people who care for the dogs and cats who don't yet have people of their own. And thanks to all of you who support us and help us give to them!
In the Woods
Rosie and Barley and I have been tromping through the woods for a couple of hours just about every day lately. We've had beautiful snowstorms and the height of the snow makes it easy to traverse terrain that's inaccessible the rest of the year. Boulders and fallen trees disappear into the drifts and we scramble right over them as though they weren't there.
On one day when the snow was really high we actually made our way to the very peak of Gunn Mountain - the name of the mountain that our farm is nestled into. ("Burt Hill Road" actually refers to the part of the road leads up the hill to old Mr. Burt's farm....We are just at the top of Burt Hill, but below the summit of the mountain.) We always climb up an old road to a stone foundation and high meadow offering spectacular views of Mount Grace and the Northfield hills. Another abandoned road leads us across the top of the mountain and down to the Ashuelot covered bridge - our regular hike of about 2 hours. One day, we followed a snowmobile track that took us into new terrain, spiraling up, up, up higher than we'd ever been to a rocky outcropping.
The mountain is steep everywhere, and steeper still at the summit, but my trusty snowshoes with crampons dug in and my trekking poles provided stability as I climbed (the dogs scrambled up effortlessly and laughed back at me). From the summit I could see Mount Monadnock to the east, Pisgah Mountain to the north, and across the river to Vermont to the west - only the southern view was obscured by evergreens. Coming down was actually hairier than going up, and as I followed the snowmobile track now spiraling down, down, down the hill, the dogs laughed at me some more. They couldn't figure out why I kept heading back north when it was clear that we should be going south. Rosie in particular lost patience over my poor sense of direction - she kept leading me due south, not understanding that descending the near-vertical slope wasn't as easy for me as for her.
On another exciting day I actually skied part of the way down the road that leads up to the abandoned foundation - something I always said anyone would be crazy to do. We had had so much light, fluffy snow that I knew I couldn't get into much trouble (and I wear a long wool cape that helps slow me down). The first run was so much fun that I had another, and then another. On the third, though, following my own tracks I picked up speed and wiped out so completely that I was buried up to my waist. It took a while to get myself out, no thanks to Barley who pranced and danced all around me.
In the Kitchen
We got right back into the kitchen after New Year's day. Since I love making preserves more than anything (except picking raspberries), we've had a very pleasant month. The simmering fruit fills the air with the smells of summer and I take it all into every fiber of my body. It's the best aromatherapy ever - and all the cooking has the secondary benefit of helping to heat (and humidify) the house in January.
We have all the preserves on hand now but Rosie's Red Currant, which should be back by August.
Sorry to say, that's not the same with our vinegars. I can't believe it, but we're actually out of all of our herbal vinegars. I knew, in July, that I should be spending more time in the kitchen making vinegars, but I was having such a wonderful time picking raspberries that I couldn't bring myself to come inside to work. (Even I have only one bottle of Blenda d'Italia that I keep replenishing with Shelburne cider vinegar!) I guess the good news, though, is that our beautiful bountiful raspberry crop yielded plenty of berries for Queen of Hearts Raspberry Vinegar; likewise our blackberries for Teddy Berry Blackberry Vinegar. Good thing too, because Cathy Walthers' wonderful book "Raising the Salad Bar" has brought about many requests for what she calls, "the gold standard" of raspberry vinegar.
In the Gardens
The strawberries are safely sleeping beneath the snow, but everything above ground is vulnerable to the adorable bunnies that are driving the dogs crazy. They're nibbling at the raspberries and blueberries and even the limbs of young fruit trees. One night while we were listening to our local hero Rachel Maddow on Air America Radio, the sound went dead on the radio. We suspected right-wing whackos, but the next morning we found a blunt cut to the wire from bunnies who had been browsing on the holly bush which hid the receiver. Rosie takes the damage personally, but Ralph and I don't worry too much. I think there's plenty for all.
In the House
The woodstoves are chugging away, the dogs are resting on the couches and Ralph and I are catching up on winter reading. Ralph is reading nonfiction about the geology and Native Americans of this region. I'm escaping with Thursday Next and her wild adventures as a literary detective in a parallel universe where books are truly alive. Auggie the fluffy yellow kitty is glad we're all inside with her. She likes to tease the sleeping Barley by playing with the golden curls at the top of his head. He raises his big paw and bats ineffectually in her direction while she tickles, then withdraws, then tickles some more, until he rolls around and sits up blinking. By the time his eyes can focus on her though, she's curled up on a chair 15 feet away, Miss Mellow Yellow, blinking back at him in all innocence.
I guess that's all for today. I've got to head into the kitchen where Ralph's chopping peppers for JazzBerry Raspberry Salsa. We're heading up to 10 hours of daylight by Groundhog's Day! Yippee!