What do I do to occupy my time when I don’t have weeding to do?
Well, who says I don’t have weeding to do? Have you ever heard of henbit? This mint family weed does not let Old Man Winter stop it from growing AND flowering; it loves the greenhouse beds and paths, and it’s a bear to evict from those little spaces between lettuces. Ahem. Sadly, no hens like it…nor do turkeys, bunnies or goats. That puts it in the truly worthless weed camp.
So perhaps I don’t get a vacation from weeding, ever. But the down season does allow me to attack the list of things I had set out to accomplish, um, the year before…
…like making applesauce. Right about now is when the putative bad apple spoils the lot (bad potatoes, too, come to think of it). I sort through the stores and pull out the spotty and the wrinkly, or the varieties which look fine but whose texture is off, and sauce them. The apples are kept in half-bushel baskets on our back porch/mud room. It’s an unheated porch and it does freeze, though not that often–cool enough, then, to keep apples–and it smells great. The half-bushels work because they’re shallow enough to find the bad ones and the bottom apples do not get as smooshed as they do in bushel baskets. We like our sauce saucy, not lumpy; I simply cook the thinly sliced/peeled apples and run them through a chinois. Sugar, salt and spice is added to taste, then process the jars in the pressure canner.
Smoking is another. Despite the cold I am often quite itchy to be outside, and tending the smoker is a guarantee that I am in and out all afternoon as every 20 minutes or so I’m flying out the door to verify that the smoker is indeed still smoking. Trimmings from our apple trees and grapevines as well as the yard’s ever-shedding maples are used as smoking fodder. I do both hot and cold smoking. It’s an opportunity to get creative: hams, side pork, pork belly, fresh sausages, salmon from a friend’s fish CSA, boiled eggs, home-made gouda and mozzarella…even dried whole paprika peppers are game. Some things don’t require much smoke at all whereas others can take all day. “Whatever’s available in the time I have” remains the rule of what gets smoked when.
And it’s not quite my least favorite time of year (indoor seed starting) but we’re getting close. I do drive my husband crazy in that I am sloppy-organized whereas he is tidy-organized (both systems work, right?) but it’s usually late January when I
mess up tackle the pile of grown/saved, newly purchased and old seeds. (Of course, I do need to upend things in order to make things tidy, don’t you?) This year it’s been a bit easier: I got a fabulous sieve from Fedco…what a great way to do the final shake/sort of saved seeds. And I love that the box it came in called it the Almighty sieve. Indeed.
One should appreciate the off-season, and I do!