As summer slips into the coolness of fall, nature gifts us with abundant treasures.
The mornings are filled with mobs of birds flitting from branch to branch in the wild cherry tree eating its tiny fruit. Then they drop down into the poke bushes and gorge themselves on the shiny black berries. The invasive autumn olive shrubs are heavily laden with ripe red berries soon to be stripped by deer and bears. I’ll take my share as well. Autumn olive berries make a delicious jelly and juice, full of good nutrition, too.
I’ve been harvesting and processing food from the garden and the wild landscape around us for weeks now:
Baskets of red, orange, and yellow tomatoes
Many handfuls of green, yellow and purple beans;
then came sweet potatoes, butternut squashes, a few pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, peas and okra, green and purple bell peppers.
I love wandering around and finding stands of mint to cut and dry for tea – apple mint, Tibetan tea mint, pepper- mint. These herbs have spread and made themselves at home in the various places I tucked them in a few years ago.
It’s time to cut thyme and oregano and feverfew for spice and medicine. And to pickle nasturtium buds.
I made peach jam and spicy apple sauce, canned dilly beans and stew tomatoes. One of the tomato jars cracked open in the canning kettle and the remaining jars had to stew in the mess for 50 minutes. I was not going to start all over again!
Canning always takes longer than you think. There are so many preparatory steps that need to be timed just right – prepping the fruit or veggies, cooking them while sterilizing the canning jars in the dishwasher and the lids and rings in a pot of very hot water on the stove. Then the water in the large canning kettle has to be brought to boiling, preferably just at the exact time when I am done filling and capping the jars.
It’s magical when it all works out smoothly, a bit stressful when it doesn’t.
I feel a great satisfaction from storing up summer’s bounty for winter. It’s my own food grown without any chemicals, with love, pride, and lots of sweat and body aches from spring through summer into fall. The way my mother used to do it, and the way my grandmothers did. I feel connected to a long line of ancestral women who knew how to grow and preserve food and feed their families throughout the seasons. Yes, I can buy organic produce from supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and local farms.
But I would be missing something essential. My garden connects me to the seasons in an intimate, visceral way. Each year, it teaches me ever deeper lessons of trusting the soil, the critters, and the plants themselves. The garden provides exercise, nourishment, medicine, and often delightful and curious encounters with its many inhabitants. It’s my part of the world where I truly feel like a co-creator of health, goodness, and abundance.
Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week: Seasonal.