After a visit to our northern home and lots of talk about our gardens, my southern sister-in-law emailed a picture of her first crop of sweet potatoes to my husband with the subject “pls show your farmer wife.” I can’t grow sweet potatoes here, but I responded with a picture of my pie pumpkins.
With more time at home this summer and fall, I have been able to keep the garden in better shape this year. We are still eating from the garden, still enjoying the lettuce, tomatoes, and beans, picked just before last week’s frosty dip into the 20’s.
I tend to underestimate how much time it takes to clean and cook and process food. I have always enjoyed these activities, and have made more or less time for them on evenings and weekends while working full-time elsewhere. But gardening and weekend cooking have a different feel when they are not so purely recreational. Now that the garden is a larger portion of my weekly schedule, I am surprised by the time and effort it requires. I see that I’ve been more of a dabbler than a farmer wife up to now.
Focus on the kitchen – in the past week or so I have made granola, clearing old wheat germ, coconut, and sesame seeds from the cupboards in the process. I’ve made sourdough bread twice, from my son-in-law’s starter, following an extended process which takes multiple days.
I’ve baked apple pie and cranberry apple crisp to use up the last of the orchard apples. This is on top of two batches of apple butter that I canned earlier in the month. (Some of those are destined for Christmas presents.) For dinner we are eating fewer “quick” and easy meals, like omelettes, hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches, and more new recipes. But each new and inspiring recipe seems to take more time and energy than expected.
Processing the garden bounty, I’ve made pickled beets, dilly beans, roasted cherry tomato spread, and smooth tomato sauce (running it through the KitchenAid strainer to take out seeds and skins). Bringing in the tomatoes and beans before the freeze meant more washing and sorting and cooking. (There’s still a half-full basket on the kitchen floor, waiting for attention.) There’s pumpkin puree in the freezer, and more pumpkins to bake and scrape. (There’s also pumpkin pie in our bellies!) Outside, there’s plenty more needed to put the garden to bed for the winter; the to-do list includes composting the flaccid thawed tomato plants, planting next year’s garlic, and deciding when to harvest the leeks and the last carrots.
How did I manage to keep up with the garden before? Perhaps my standards are higher now that I have more time. On the other hand, sometimes working with the food and garden is a way of avoiding other kinds of work, such as the intellectual and emotional demands of reflection, the vagaries of open-ended research projects, and particularly the on-going search for paid employment. I like my “farmer wife” side, but for the long term, I will need more than payment in good nutrition and lower grocery bills to feel balance in my professional identity.
I dunno… sounds like fun to me! Start selling the apple butter at a farmer’s market and you’re on your way!