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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Eat a peach

[posted by risa]

Granddaughter harvesting spudsWrapping up my reportage for Independence Days, this first week of October. I fell for this useful and encouraging challenge because we'd met Carla Emery, who inspired it, back in the Seventies, and she was an inspiration to us as well.

Beloved and I were treeplanters (well, I was, she was camp cook), working with the Hoedads, Inc., a reforestation cooperative that ranged the Northwest taking on reforestation jobs with Forest Service districts. We'd been working far up the North Fork of the Clearwater, near Headquarters, Idaho, and on our way to a new job on the Lochsa, stopped in Kendrick to find the storefront where a homesteader was said to be building a handmade homesteading book.

All was just as we'd heard. There was Carla, with about five gossiping grey-haired local ladies, all circling slowly around a long table stocked with all the chapters of the mimeographed (can you believe it?) Old Fashioned Recipe Book, now in its ninth edition under the title Encyclopedia of Country Living. It was just like a quilting bee. As each got to the end of the table, the hole-punched chapters were jogged and bound by seated ladies who stuck heavy-gauge wire through the holes and wound the ends of the wires together, using pliers. We were enchanted, and fell into line behind Carla, chatting with her as we picked up chapters. What a way to publish a book!

And what a great book. Our dog-eared, oil-besmeared copy of that edition went away, somewhere down the years (sigh), as did our copy of the eighth edition, but we have the ninth and we guard that one. Who knows when there will be another; Carla is no longer with us. No doubt she's somewhere, wrangling steers and chickens, sourdough and fencing, plumbing and roofing, in the Great Homestead Beyond.

Plant Something: A peach pit in a pot on the windowsill. I got the peach from a retired lady volunteering at border information center in Iowa, and ate the peach, humming something Allman Brothers, as I entered Nebraska.

Harvest Something -- Tomatoes: Brandywine, red cherry, orange cherry, yellow pear, salad, Early Girl (it wasn't any such thing), Roma; apples: Granny Smith (we let the last of these drop, for the chickens), Mac, Transparent, and something heirloom Scottish that makes good sauce; red lettuce, bell peppers, globe and Japanese eggplant, stevia, plums (in October!), Detroit Red beets, green and yellow zukes, Country Gentleman corn, English cukes, radishes, Yukon Gold and red potatoes, Joy Choi bok choi (which has had a fabulous year), red cabbage, basil, runner and green beans, chicken and duck eggs, Giant Head Sunflowers, Egyptian onions.

Preserve Something: dried tomatoes, frozen pear sauce, more dried basil. We are now using an oil-filled radiant heater in the living room to supplement the wood stove which is in the dining room, and both have racks on them for drying stuff. Granddaughter and I picked potatoes and beans in the rain, and I went in to put the damp beanpods in a rack over the woodstove while she picked up apple-drops for the poultry and gave them sunflower heads as well.

The pears were these -- huge -- things from Florida; my mom's friend there gave me several jars of jam to bring home (stuff that grows there, exotic to us), and a bushel of pears. Talk about food miles! -- they followed me home on the back of the pickup, and all ripened at once. What we could not give away went into the freezer as pear sauce. Not all that tasty as pears go, but the sauce is good. I'll try some in bread tomorrow, and maybe make pear butter, if Granddaughter will let me stay inside long enough.

Store Something: potatoes, dry beans. We'll be shelling the beans later, when the rain gets too cold to be out in.

Manage Reserves: brought home a whole bunch of bubble pack for the attic crawlspace. Also the poultry feedsacks are piling up, which will be used in the crawl space to add a little R value and vapor block to the fiberglass insulation I'm rehanging there. I have ordered a pitcher pump, a foot valve, also a set of Hogue grips and a speedloader, and, for my son, a left-handed Uncle Mike's holster.

Finished reading Depletion and Abundance. There's not that much in it we didn't already know, much of it from experience, and much of the rest from Carla, but it's good confirmation. But if you are just beginning to figure out that things are quickly coming to a head out there and that it's going to impact you, I highly recommend D&A as a place to begin.

Cooked Something New: pear sauce. Simply used the Joy of... applesauce recipe, without sugar.

Worked on Local Food Systems: Much of the above, and selling eggs. Gave two garden tours, did some harvesting with a granddaughter. Gave away copies of Sharon's squirrelling-away list.

Reduced Waste: pulling other people's cardboard and bubble packs from the waste stream.

Learned a Skill: how to upload photos with the Flock Browser. Try the pre-loaded Eco-Edition.


Beloved was the ideal camp cook; while we were in Lochsa, she did her grocery shopping across the Bitterroots in Missoula, Montana. Pulled into a grocery store parking lot with a mud-bespattered 4WD pickup, marched in, found the dairy manager.

"I see you have eggs at 66 cents a dozen."

"Yes, ma'am, we do."

"How many?"

"How many dozen? Umm, sixty, ma'am."

"I'll take 'em."



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