The weight of water. How heavy it feels when I lug it up the hill. And how heavy it feels when it’s gone–the sinking realization that the well has run dry. Two years ago when we moved onto this land, we found a spring and developed it as a shallow well–10 feet down was all we dug and it has kept our thirst (and the animals and vegetables) quenched. But when the overflow stopped a few weeks ago, Edge forgot about it and I didn’t even notice. And we’ve had just enough single days of rain sprinkled through the last few weeks to disguise the dryness of late summer. And then there’s this fact: we use up to 400 gallons of water per harvest day to wash the vegetables, though our well’s storage is 300 gallons. And so we look to ourselves, at the ways we could have conserved if only we had thought to have foresight.
There have been countless times I’ve been thankful for our water, for the fact that it is gravity fed to the barn and that we don’t rely on electricity to run a pump. I once moved into a house during a wind storm that caused a three-day power outage, and aside from what we bought, we had no water until the electricity came back on. This kind of system has always seemed so fragile to me. I’ve laughed with a friend who also hauls water at the reactions we get from those that can simply turn a faucet–how we each think the other is crazy. You mean you carry all your water?! You mean your water source is gone if the power goes out? Now I wish for a deep well and a pump, when simplicity and a shallow well feels fragile.
I am kicking myself that we hadn’t thought of this possibility and made plans for it sooner. If we didn’t need potable water to wash our vegetables with tomorrow, we might mull over the solution a bit longer–the animals can drink the pond water, and we have enough water reserved from Monday’s harvest to water the seedlings–but the fact is we need more than a few 5-gallon buckets of potable water by tomorrow. So today: buy a 1000 gallon tank, pay for a bulk water delivery.
We live in a state where floods have filled the disaster headlines, where the word drought brings up images of California, not our own farms, and so perhaps I have taken it for granted that water will always flow out of the well. For all the inconvenience of the situation, though, I am grateful that we can buy water, that the restrictions we face are nothing compared to seriously drought-stricken areas of the world. Given the forecast is accurate, tomorrow it will rain, with a chance for more on Saturday and Sunday. With the rain, and with patience, comes replenishment. Until then, I’ll feel the weight of water that’s run dry.
It’s important to stop. To let yourself be caught in the middle of a task when you see beauty and revel in it. Creating beauty is as simple as bearing witness; to extend the sheer joy of color and surprise to another person.
I walk by the coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, every day. It grows just outside my door. How long have the grasshoppers perched upon the cones? How many evenings have I walked past as the shining green armor of their bodies illuminated in the evening sun? It doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that I stopped this time.
We can change our lives everyday. It doesn’t matter where you live, or how you make money. What matters is that you stop, you look, you see beauty sitting right in front of you, and you bear witness.
We cupped our hands hands and raked our fingers through the bush, producing a heaping pile of blueberries in seconds. The 20-year old bushes were full and ripe, so heavy with fruit that we circled the same bush three times, harvesting from it as if we were coming to it anew each time around. From bush to bucket, we worked quickly under a sky threatening rain. We picked so fast that it didn’t matter how many berries Waylon took out of the bucket to eat–his appetite couldn’t keep up with our hands and those bushes.
Just under two hours later we finished, our buckets 50 pounds heavier, and our berry-filled bellies heavier, too. And so we’re ready for the winter: strawberries and blueberries piled in the freezer, and canned peaches stored away. Of course the lamb and chicken will help us through the cold months, and the vegetables, too, but summer’s sweetness is what truly brings sunshine into the yurt on cold winter nights–when the night falls early and the wind and snow blow outside, what better way to warm a home than a peach blueberry cobbler? Berries ripen in the summer, but we pick for winter, ensuring our desserts will bring us through to another June.
“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” ~Mark Twain
Pennsylvania peaches are here–the one summer fruit we buy in crate loads that wasn’t grown in Vermont. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, plums, pears: between farms, family homes and friends’ homesteads, these are all within picking reach. But that bitter almond turned delectable juicy sweetness that is the peach, for that we get excited to hear that refrigerated trucks are driving north.
I canned them for the first time this year–in the past we’ve always gone the route of freezing, but this year our freezers are packed with chickens and lamb at the moment. For that reason, and for the memory of a gift of canned peaches last winter (how wonderfully accessible–no thawing required! and the slices resembled their fresh counterparts much more closely than our frozen bags did)–I set to work peeling, coring, and slicing each peach, heating them in white grape juice, packing them into jars, and canning them in a boiling-water bath for 25 minutes.
That’s what I did with the first crate, at least.
The second crate has been purely for fresh eating. It’s not hard to go through a crate of peaches. The perfect snack on a summer day, their juice runs down the corners of our mouths and onto our shirts, and we readily slurp them up. Beyond the yogurt and peach breakfast and the sliced peach snack, we’ve been devouring peach salsa (chopped peaches, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and salt), marinating fish in peaches and ginger, and slicing the fruit in half to heat in the broiler and top with ice cream.
There are perhaps 10 peaches left, which means I’ll need to pick up another crate soon, this time to make and can peach puree for the winter. Funny how all this bounty makes me think of winter, but I assure you I am utterly present in each bite of peach. It’s only after I’m done eating that I envision a cold winter evening, a wood fire warming the yurt, and the joy of pulling out a sunny jar of peaches for dessert. I assure you, I’ll be wrapped up in the moment then, too.
It’s blueberry season, and yesterday I took Waylon to our favorite pick-your-own farm in Craftsbury, VT. I got a bucket for each of us, and Waylon crawled and walked (with help) between the bushes as I picked the berries out of his reach. It went like this: one berry for Waylon, one for mama, and a few for the bucket. We managed to pick 7 pounds before nap time set in, and with tired eyes Waylon held onto his bucket as I carried him back to the car.
So this morning: blueberry pancakes! It was Waylon’s first taste of pancakes–gluten free so papa could eat them, too–topped with butter and the last dribble of maple syrup (time to buy some more). He smiled and pointed at the plate, and from his blueberry-stained mouth it’s safe to say he liked them.
Seven pounds won’t last long around here, so we put them in the fridge for fresh eating. This afternoon will surely call for a smoothie, and tonight’s dessert menu is a blueberry crumble. We haven’t yet mastered the gluten-free pie crust, but it’s a necessary baking adventure that we’ll soon begin. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Until then, happy Saturday!
We’ve entered zucchini and egg season, by which I mean we only eat zucchinis and eggs due to lack of time to make any other meal. What else could be so fast as summer squash sauteed in butter, eggs cracked in the pan and yolks broken with a spatula, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a quick chop of parsley, folding in of some thinly sliced cheddar, and an easy transfer from pan to tortilla? It takes maybe five minutes. And we’ve got a lot of zucchini. The eggs, not as many (60 layers and only our 8 oldest are laying…oh chickens, how much longer can you hold out?), but plenty for the two of us and Waylon, who has also recently discovered scrambled eggs.
I think we had the same meal three times in the same day last week, with perhaps a slight variation from rice tortilla to a romaine leaf wrap when we ran out of the real thing. It’s high time for succession pulling and planting: the first round of kale, out. Two rows of lettuce mix and two rows of Asian greens, gone. Broadfork, compost, rake. Seed, transplant. Last night the dill finally went in, though the cilantro still waits in its trays, catching my eyes each time I walk by it, as does the next succession of summer squash. Soon. Soon. If we don’t get it in, what will our quick scrambles turn into?
Despite all the work there is to be done, there are moments of reprieve: a coffee gelato cone, a dunk in the reservoir, a quiet hour after the babe and papa have gone to sleep. I sink into these moments, these quiet breaths scattered like a trail through the day: this way now, there will be rest soon enough.
In another 6 hours the sun will rise, and we will, too. Edge will make chai, Waylon will eat a banana, and I’ll turn on the stove to make breakfast of golden yolked eggs and zucchini.
Fog lifts slowly today; by 9:30 we are still an island on the hill, the mountains across the valley hidden from view. An owl quietly calls hoo hoo hoo, while song birds converse among branches. More rain is on its way, but for now, despite the buzz of crickets in the field, there is a stillness in the air that lends itself to moving slow. So I sit here, eating a late breakfast after dropping Waylon off at Nana’s, and will soon join Edge trellising the tomatoes. But before I go: one more sip of chai, one more moment in this soft morning. One more moment before it evaporates and lifts away…
At the end of these hot summer days, it’s just as important for the dogs to have some fun as it is for the farmers to cool down. The dogs (or doggers as we like to say–dogger just might be Waylon’s first word) laze around in the sun, sometimes out in the high afternoon light, other times finding refuge in the shade of the wood line or on the cool concrete floor in the farm store. They raise their eyebrows as we walk past, noting our pace, our direction, the tones of our voices as we greet them. They know when it’s worth getting excited.
When the words “load up!” are said, the dogs jump and wag and get into the car, ready for wherever it is we may take them. The good car rides end at the pond, with a stick to fetch. When we arrive, the ducks swim away, the dogs splash in, and we all relax into the coolness of water at the end of the day.