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Saturday, October 17, 2009

We didn't feel deprived

A hill of beans. The seeds with their germ eaten out are peas.
All of these will be frozen and eaten over the winter.

In my spare time, over the last few days, I have sorted beans and potatoes and tomatoes mostly, and, weather permitting, raked the mulch from the garden paths onto the beds and am covering them with cardboard and straw; Beloved has made applesauce bread, borscht and ratatouille and maintained her flocks.

There are more tomatoes, shaken from vines I've pulled up, lying about than I will ever pick up. I'm afraid they will make quite a lot of volunteers. I'm still finding green pumpkins as I put the beds to bed, and I cut them up with a machete and hand them over to the flocks, who seem to greatly appreciate them.

Today it rained a fair bit, but yesterday was hot. I worked in shorts and sandals, sunglasses, and straw hat. In fact, a fair amount of housework got done, because I kept coming in to hide from the sun and the dishes and floors called to me. I put some Greek Orthodox choruses on the CD player and did sink time and broom time, and finally got up the courage to take away one chair from the crowded living room and rearrange the furnishings.

I thought it looked pretty good, but the test would be Beloved's arrival.

She came in from work, put down her things, checked phone messages, went across the living room to go see the chickens, and froze.


She walked over to one of the remaining chairs, sat in it , and looked about her.

(I waited, barely breathing.)

She broke into a smile.

"This works. It works. I haven't liked this room for years, and now I do!"


"'Course, it's a bit too crowded in the musical instruments corner ... "

(Relief. That we can work out.)


The beans looked like being a disaster, as they grew up and made pods, a first, second, and third crop, but more than half the pods never browned as I used to seeing them do. I should, I suppose, have just picked a day and cut them all off at the ground.

So a week ago I gathered just about as many pods as I could, brown, yellow, green, or spotted, and have been shelling all alike. The varieties of green beans had all proved rather long-season, and several were not to our taste for a variety of reasons -- so we think we will start over with our favorite, var. Helda.

So we're only keeping runner beans for seed. Each pod, as I came to it, was judged on its own merits, and the purple-with-brown-specks mature, dried beans mostly went to safekeeping, and the pink, wrinkled, misshapen or only-one-was-in-the-pod ones added to the freezing or drying piles.

Six quarts made the seed bean grade. If all had matured as they did last year, there would be fifteen quarts. It's a good thing we're not doing this as a money business!


Our family responded to the oil embargo in the 70s by moving to the country and homesteading. We were interested in raising our own food, providing our own power, building our own house, exploring simplicity, and finding ways to lighten our impact. Sometimes we've backslid from the goals that we had then, but we always thought there was too much junk in the atmosphere, and that there would be a reckoning someday for digging up so much poisonous stuff and burning it, spewing it into the atmosphere and soil and sea in order to achieve speed and convenience without consideration for others and other living things.

We're back to basics -- trying to learn how to manage on one acre -- even with more than 35 years experience in gardening and homesteading we feel there's not much we know that we need to know. We grew enough food and to spare this year to live for a year and plant from our own seed for the following year, as well. That was the first time we could really say that -- but it was a lot of work.

It was a lot of work. And we're not, ahem, getting younger.

How was this done?

We basically pretty much quit going to concerts or plays or movies or watching TV, and didn't go away on vacation. Our entertainment consisted of bringing each other solar tea for sit-down breaks in the garden. We sipped, absorbed sunshine, and remarked on the hummingbirds who'd built a nest in the plum tree.

So we didn't feel deprived.


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