Homestead Report 38: December 30, 2019

What a strange year it’s been. Today’s ice storm got in the way of my plans to work and helped me remember to be flexible and just try to enjoy the days as they come without getting too caught up feeling anxious or guilty about not doing what I expected or what someone else expects I might do. Instead of driving to work, I walked around outside, made my first ever cold-process soap, and looked at my photos from October to now.

Today’s ice coating every twig is truly beautiful, although it can certainly be damaging to trees and power lines and people out driving. I’m extremely lucky and grateful to have a flexible schedule and be able to stay home on a day like this, off of the road and getting to walk around listening to the trees tinkle like little chimes.

It feels like we’ve been in the midst of winter for a long time, although we just celebrated the solstice a week and a half ago. On December 4th, we had 18″ of snow, and it looked like this:

That same day, we picked our medlars. They’re a odd fruit related to apples and hawthornes which you can pick in the winter after they have “bletted”–that is, become brown and softened by frost. They are hard and bitter if you eat them earlier. The ripe/ bletted flavor and texture is a bit like applesauce, although after some of them sat on our counter until just a few days ago, they were drier, tart, and tasted fermented. Cold storage would probably be better. We have been eating them raw to good effect until about a week ago. Last year, we made a “medlar cheese” (a lemony dessert) which was good, but involved a very difficult process of separating the flesh from the seeds. They seeds are well integrated and large, making it impossible to use our regular methods (the squeezo-strain-o or foley mill), so Charley painstakingly pressed the cooked mush through a colander with a spoon. At any rate, it’s nice to have a fruit ripen in the winter, and next year we’ll keep them in colder storage until we’re ready to eat them fresh.

Speaking of odd fruits, this year we had the opportunity to harvest a friend’s persimmons. If you haven’t had truly fall-apart ripe persimmons that are all sweet custard, you’re missing out. A lot of people don’t wait long enough, and then have to experience that terrible astringency that makes your mouth pucker up for an hour. These were perfect, and we ate them every day for two weeks, until they were gone.

This fall, Charley and I took on a major drainage project in an attempt to re-direct the water (and ice) that builds up in front of our house and drains into the basement. It should now run down the hill between our house and chicken house into a little rain garden. Since we’re always working on a shoestring budget, we dug the thing by hand. A real workout, but now we’re enjoying a dry basement, no ice rink, and a little bridge to the chicken house.

Putting the garden to bed around here means cleaning out the tomato plants and other stuff at the end of October, but leaving the brassicas (kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts) and leeks for the late fall and winter, and hoping something survives in the hoophouses.