05 October 2006

Country Living

And I don’t mean the picture-perfect everything-matches life portrayed in the magazine of the same name.

We’re getting the garden ready for winter, in our haphazard, don’t-really-know-what-we’re-doing way. Saturday we took Ant’s Toyota pickup over to Rabbi Les’ place and loaded up on composted llama manure. (The Rabbi has two llamas.) I’ve been spending an hour or two in the garden most days since then, weeding the beds, adding the manure, then mulching with rice straw. Today Ant spent some time in the garden with me, weeding his kohlrabi and radishes and dead-heading the dahlias. He also cut the heads off a few of the larger sunflowers, which I’ve brought inside to dry. I hope the seeds will be edible.

I’m also hoping that our favorite growers – Rita and Laurie of Flying Blue Dog Nursery – will have starts of various cole crops at market this weekend so that we can have a winter garden: broccoli, brussell sprouts, chard, and so on. We’re not very good at planning; if we were, we’d have started seeds ourselves a month ago. And we have yet to plant enough of any crop to have anything more than a handful at each harvest, enough for a meal here and there, never enough to preserve or sell. I’d like to change that. My sister and her husband have an organic farm in Scotland, and they’re doing well at selling weekly baskets of produce, eggs, and flowers. I would love to be doing the same thing here, but don’t feel like I have the know-how or the help to pull it off.

Well, I may not try to have chickens again. My neighbors up two doors up the road sell eggs fresh from their hens. Anytime I need more eggs, I walk to their barn, pick up what I need, and drop money into the box – eggs on the honor system.

My dad admits to shaking his head in amazement, wondering aloud to his wife how he, an utterly urban man, wound up with two country girls for daughters. Seeing the way he delights over the beauty of something as mundane as a thistle, though, I understand where Jessica (my sister) and I got our love of nature. I’ve lived in the city, loved being able to hop a bus or walk to whatever I needed. But I also love looking out my kitchen window to see the pasture full of Farmer John’s "girls": doe-eyed Jerseys grazing 10 feet from my window. I love watching the birds come and go with their seasons – the flickers and stellar jays and Oregon junkos and robins – love listening to the osprey’s high cry and the distinctive sound that a raven’s wings make as they displace air.

I even love the excitement of chasing my neighbor’s "pet" raccoon out of the garden, where it was planning to dumpster-dive my compost bin in broad daylight. (My neighbor’s been feeding it because she can’t refuse a cute face. I know, I know – give her the lecture, not me!) Actually, I only started to chase the raccoon; Ant did the real running it off. Right down the private road, toward the buck who was there, eyeing the abandoned apple trees. Raccoons and bucks in the middle of the day…

Soon our apples will be ready to harvest, then I’ll need to either dry them for winter snacks, or freeze them for apple pies. Remind me when we get closer to Thanksgiving and I’ll give y’all my recipe for sugar-free apple pie and for pumpkin pie (from scratch – we’ve 2 pie pumpkins in the garden, both of which were volunteers). I think my pumpkin pie is the best around, and the sugar-free apple pie is delicious (sweetened with raisins).

Oh my, Thanksgiving. Autumn really is here, isn’t it?

Okay, here’s my favorite way to eat Brussell Sprouts – with Horseradish & Cheese Sauce

Sautee 8 sliced mushrooms in either olive oil or butter
Add about 1 pound of brussells, washed, stemmed, and sliced lengthwise in half
Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until tender (to taste).

While the sprouts are cooking, grate about 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese.
Once the sprouts are cooked, push them to one side of the skillet.
Add in 2 Tablespoons of butter
Mix into the butter 1 heaping Tablespoon of flour
Add one cup of milk, and mix so that the flour/butter is fully dissolved into the milk.
Add the grated cheese, 1 heaping Tablespoon of horseradish, and 1 Tablespoon of dried tarragon.
Continue stirring until everything is well blended and the sauce has thickened. (It’s okay to be mixing the brussells and shrooms in with the sauce.)

Serve over pasta.

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