By Clotilde Hryshko
Thanks and recognition goes to some of the friends of my daughter Marya – Ellie, Gabe, Kim, Marya and Nick – for their efforts on the wood stacking and garlic harvest. These jobs are perfect for the young teens – a chance for some money, camaraderie, and that critical opportunity to do a job and see its completion. I’m sure they won’t remember them as the best days of their vacation but the other parents and I will continue to be smug about its importance.
My summer vacation is really more of a flip-flop. Jim took the girls away for 10 days. They traveled to Alaska where he has a brother and a sister. They camped and went salmon fishing, meeting up with more family. Marya caught 2 fish this year and the youngest, Yelena, caught one (fly-fishing).
I was alone on the homestead. I had all the obligations of the farm, household, CSA and gardens, but I was alone. The young dogs did their best (100% success) in preventing any change in sleeping hours. July and its relentless sun had made for lots of grilled pizzas with tomatoes and pesto but I couldn’t recall much energy for experimenting. The house had managed to stay adequate in its interior presentation but certainly the nightly collection of tiny bugs had grown around the window fans.
My first days were spent on putting up 14 quarts of tomato sauce and dehydrating tomatoes for the off season. The evening the tomato sauce was finished some friends came over and we ate it with homemade ricotta and pasta. Dessert was peach crisp. They had been working on tearing out flooring that day. We were all yawning at 9pm. I heard they mixed the leftover crisp with yogurt for breakfast.
We were in a dry spell so I spent some time watering, especially our fall raspberries, which were starting to set fruit. I smoked tomatillos and made an experimental salsa, delivering samples to 3 households for feedback. I seeded more cilantro to make sure when I had perfected my recipe, enough cilantro would be read. Monday afternoon’s heat and humidity sent me running errands at 3 pm. Besides purchasing gin I did treat myself to a new apron. The evening began with a lovely and unexpected thunderstorm that left an inch of rain. (The forecast: 30% chance of 1/10 of inch of rain.) I snapped a bushel of French fillet beans while watching A Passage to India.
The next day started the house cleaning. For the next five days I would get all my necessary farm work done and then proceed to the next project on my cleaning list. All blankets and sheets washed. all the rugs taken outside and washed, wiping down surfaces, organizing closets. I showed friends my lazy susan that holds my canisters of flours and spices. I showed them my shelves that hold my glassware as well as the toy closet. I never got to windows or cleaning out my 2 utensil drawers. Friday night I went to the movies, 9 pm show, giving up on completion. Saturday evening I picked blueberries to have a bowlful ready for each person when they got off the plane, into the car. (One thing Alaska understandably lacks is good produce.)
I will remember having cantaloupe for every breakfast, our 2nd planting ready, time enough to sit and enjoy. I packed no lunches nor had to think about having a stocked larder. Tuesday through Friday evening I always took a break from 7-8pm. I watched the previous nights Jon Stewart and Colbert Report shows while eating watermelon (Little Baby Flower) and then would go back to house cleaning.
One friend tried to convince me not to bother cleaning. I’d just be disappointed in what was not noticed. My motivation was not that. Besides the sheer enjoyment of a clean house it was also a way to celebrate a change in the months – too depressing to say seasons. Late August is very different than mid July. We can have the same daily temperature but the sun slips behind a maple in our backyard around 6:30 pm now. This means the sun blasts against our kitchen area or where our grill sits on the back porch for a lot less time than a month ago. Mosquitoes also arrive, making some nights impossible to enjoy dinner outside.
A week off from obligations gave me breathing room to come up with all the dishes I still want to cook. I haven’t made ratatouille, caponata or fresh vegetable minestrone yet this season. Tonight I will start a batch of 24 hour bread. Tomorrow will be grilled eggplant sandwiches, served with another testing of a tomatillo sauce. A lemon semolina cake with fresh berries. Now is the time of enough light and dark. (Photo by Marya Merriam)