It’s been a very busy few weeks here at The Havens. What with running off to the Big City to party, my massage business and Jim’s job, it almost seems like there isn’t time for anything else.
Of course, anyone who believed that would be buying into a lie. We’ve been getting a lot done along with all the mundane money earning pastimes and various festivities. Yesterday I finished up a batch of cucumber relish. I make it every few years or so. We don’t eat that much relish, so I don’t make it every year, just like I don’t make catsup every year either. But with the bumper crop of cucumbers we had this year, when I did inventory I realized I only had one pint of relish left, so I put together a batch the other day and canned it yesterday. Now I have 8 pints in the food room, about four years’ supply.
I have also been roasting tomatoes on a daily basis. We put a few trays in the oven every evening, and in the morning they look like this:
Roasting tomatoes is a great past time for people who like to play with their food. At the stage they are in the above photograph, what I do is wash my hands well and then just get in there and pull those skins off (dead easy) and mush the tomato flesh and juice around to find any of the hard “core” sections in the pulp. Then I scrape the roasting pan thoroughly to loosen up all that caramelized tomato that is stuck to the pans. After all that, I pour it off into a bowl, and this is what it looks like right before I package it and freeze it.
You’ve never eaten a tastier pizza sauce, I’ll tell you. We’ve got about 2 dozen pints of that in the freezer, so far, with lots more tomatoes coming along.
I went across the street to the garden plot we put over on the rental property and harvested my corn crop.
I planted Hopi blue, Hopi pink, and Rainbow Inca corn seeds. My observation is that the Rainbow Inca did not pollinate very successfully, and what did get pollinated turned out to be MUCH tastier than the Hopi varieties, so the Inca corn had lots of bug damage. However, it was a successful “sacrificial” plant in that respect, my Hope blue corn produced quite nicely and had minimal bug damage. The Hopi pink did not produce very well either, but at least it wasn’t attractive to the bugs.
All the corn cobs are now in the sauna with a nice hot fire built. We’ll take the temperature in there up to about 180°F and then let it sit all night. That ought to kill any bugs that are still in the cobs, and then I can let the corn dry without losing any more of it. When it is all very dry, I will remove the kernels from the cobs, grind them into corn meal and store that in the freezer.
I store it in the freezer because it has the germ in it, which means all the corn oil is still there. Not only is whole grain corn meal very attractive to moths and other bugs, if you store it at room temperature it tends to get rancid. After all the trouble to grow and make it, I’m not interested in having it go bad on the shelf.
This is why we have two freezers. Well, three if you count the one in the basement of the rental house that we let the tenants use as long as if we need space they let us use it. Well, four if you count the one in Jim’s workshop that has an external auxiliary thermostat that keeps it between 35 and 40 degrees, which is where we are storing melons, onions, and potatoes right now.
The other thing we did this morning was pick the first row of grapes, the Marechal foch, which were definitely ready to be picked, if you believe the bees and wasps, anyway.
This one was too full of grape juice to fly. She’s sitting on a grape leaf about 2 inches from the bunch that I just shooed her off of so I could cut it. Just in case you are wondering, all the little splotches on that leaf are what bordeaux mix looks like after it has dried out. The copper sulfate on the grape leaves and vines makes the autumn bonfire quite interesting with green and blue flames.
This is the row we picked, after the netting had been removed.
We really had a great crop this year.
It’s a world of grapes in there.
Anyway, all those happy bees and wasps are why we wear gloves to harvest our grapes.
In spite of the bird netting, there is still loss to the birds. They have figured out that they can sit on the branches under the net and reach through it to get grapes that are within their reach. In the upper right corner of that picture above, you can see how very much they would like to have our grapes. If we didn’t have netting on the vines, the whole vineyard would look just like those empty grape stems.
Anyway, off that row of grapes, which has 15 vines in it, we got 161 pounds of grapes, which pressed out to 23 gallons of must. That is a substantial improvement from last year, when we got 140 pounds of grapes and 18 gallons of must. We don’t know whether the increase in production is because the vines are another year older, or because we got such great pollination this year.
Whatever the reason, we did get very good pollination, which is why we don’t begrudge the bees and wasps their share of the juice. I made the tactical error of walking barefoot around the area where we did the crush afterwards, and managed to offend a drunken yellow jacket, who made an admonishing brush against the sole of my foot, a light sting. Her heart wasn’t really in it, I guess.
Now we are off to a party to celebrate the 60th birthday of one of our good friends.
It’s just party, party, party, all the time around here. Except when it is work, work, work!
Moderation in all things, as my mother used to say.