Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My second favorite time of the year.

I was born to be a farmer.

Too bad I was born into a family that stopped farming two generations before I was born. I would have gladly taken over one of the family homesteads in Ohio and PA. But, those farms being sold long ago, I make do for now on a 35'x90' city lot. Actually my wife is more the farmer on this plot. My last big garden was just before we married. Still I'm here to help with the bullwork and to be the creative mechanic. That being the creative mechanic is part of what makes you a farmer rather than just an ordinary gardener. Spring planting time is the favorite of all farmers. The smell of fresh turned soil, the chilly air, and the sun warming you. The minute signs of new life. New life created by you. All this can only bring you closer to god and his creation.
But, harvest time is a close second favorite. Knowing that your resting time is right around the corner. The larder is filling fast. All will be well for another year.

Today the final harvest push was on. All hands were brought in . Time to bring in the last of the tomatoes, peppers, Basil, dill, celery, and a small harvest of huckleberries. Pelenaka fired up the wood burner and started on picking the huckleberries, and turning them into juice. I pulled the basil as seen at right. After dinner tonight the leaves were trimmed from the stems and put in a dehydrator. After they dry they will be vacuum sealed in an old mason jar for later use.

Here we have a tray of celery ready to go to the dehydrator. With a heavy harvest of celery this year, we will be spending the next 5 or so days cutting up and dehydrating celery. They trays are lined with screening to keep the pieces from falling through. Celery shrinks quite alot when dehydrated. Two plants can fill seven trays. When they are dry they won't even fill a pint canning jar. The dehydrators are old Ronco units purchased from the thrift store. Cheap, simple, easy to fix and keep going. We have half a dozen of them and they work great. We also have the solar dryer I built last spring. It works great on a hot day with low humidity. The creative mechanic needs to do some even more creative engineering on it.

Here's the result of drying down two decent sized celery plants. Barely two handfulls now. A pinch or two added to a soup or stew goes along way. Tonight I experimented a little. The batch in the bowl at left was dried in a dehydrator without screens added. Thus the pieces were cut fairly large. The pieces shown above are closer to the size you would expect to find in your tuna sandwich. We'll see later on if they will rehydrate in a batch of tuna or chicken salad. When the celery is done the peppers will get thier turn in the dehydrator. I may try and dry a few of the paste tomatoes this year. I'll then grind them up in our grain mill. The powder to be added to bread dough, also to be used for thickening soups.

Maybe a bushel of various types of tomatoes finished my workload for the day. We grow alot of tomatoes. So many it makes an effective crop rotation difficult. If any of my readers knows of a vacant lot that can be rented in or very near Batavia, NY, for the purpose of gardening, please let me know.

Here the editor in chief, Hunter the cat gives me that stern look. I can read his mind. It's saying, "Isn't a vacant lot like a field?" "Isn't a field part of a farm?" "You silly fool, you'll always be a farmer in your heart!"
Either that or he just wants me to feed him!

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