Saturday, December 20, 2014

Yard tea

The chickens and ducks have, as they do each year, leveled the piles of grass clippings, leaves and barn waste we have dumped on the garden, and return every day to sift through the sheet mulch for slugs, pill bugs and the like.

They're also nipping off quite a lot of kale and collards, but I think we've had all of two frost nights so far, so the stuff is not as appealing to us as it might have been.

I don't feel deprived. The potatoes, of which we have about a third of what we've harvested most years, are actually holding out well. Not as hungry for them in all this relative warmth, I suppose.

We bought a lot of dry beans and grains and such long enough ago that we're having to start eating them down to rotate in some newer stuff.

The new Khaki Campbell ducks and the Golden Sexlink hens are producing eggs regularly, which is good as the Welsummer hens and Ancona ducks are slacking off, waiting for more daylight (we don't subject them to artificial lighting).

Meadow mushrooms came on big in October and ran for six weeks. I skipped these for years due to their affinity for cesium but at my age it may not matter that much, so I said the heck with it and ate my fill -- they appeared in three meals a day. Very good with eggs, for example.

For greens I have been picking dandelions and adding in a bit of finely chopped garlic leaves, which are already over a foot tall. I've yet to convince those around me, but I think these, steamed, added to mashed potatoes, make a fine colcannon.

I'm also drinking a lot of what I call "yard tea." This is whatever comes to hand seasonally (currently dandelions, sage, marjoram, rosemary, lavender, broadbean leaves, and mint -- lots of mint) wadded up and dropped into my old Faberware butter warmer, along with two cups of water, and simmered until the liquid is golden. The butter warmer has a steel-covered aluminum plate in its base for even heating, which gives it stability on the wood stove, and the upward-tilted handle stays away from the heat quite handily. I get two rocking-chair tea breaks per picking.

There is some serious rain going on at the moment. Some areas of the state have flooded or sagging roadways and there could be slides. A friend has had five inches and counting, and I think she is cut off from town. But she's a mighty resourceful woman, so I won't worry needlessly.

We seem to be missing the worst of it yet -- I'll know more in the morning, but so far our creek has stayed within its banks, which means we've had less than an inch. You never know how these things will go. In '97, one of these storms ripped out our fences, wiped out our two creek bridges, drowned the cat, stole the garden soil, and put a bow wave on the corner of our foundation.

To build up the fire a bit with a small oak log, pull open the drapes for a view of the rain, pour a mug of yard tea, and settle into a rocking chair is as much as anyone should aspire to, to my mind.

God-willin'-an'-th'-crick'-don't-rise, as my momma used to say.