Thursday, August 19, 2010

Maine made massively abundant

Here's a shot of our dining room table, which has accepted the overload from our kitchen counters.

The food preservation season is upon us, the garden is putting out tons of food, we're even busier than usual squirreling away our harvest, and most days the kitchen is just a big mess of food and food-related activity.

This is just one day's picking from the tomato patch. There's another bowl of cherry type tomatoes from an earlier effort not in this picture. We also have big bowls of onions taking up counter and table space in our kitchen, small ones, for pickled onions. The green ones aren't unripe -- they're Aunt Ruby's German Greens, my favorite salad tomato.

I suppose this is appropriate since I'm married to a German-American greenie.

In other food news, I took our last male lamb to the butchers, where he yielded 52 pounds dressed meat, a Womerlippi Farm record. There were two more males, but we sold them to some farmer friends, one of whom is a MOFGA worker, earlier. The three pigs will be late this year, but they're coming along at about 60 pounds. They'll yield another 600 pounds of meat, roughly.

I've also dug and root-cellared 3/4 of the spuds, yielding about 100 pounds so far, not counting about 30 pounds given away and 20 pounds or so already eaten. Usually I do this job all at once, but this is a tricky year for blight. The first batch of main crop spuds we harvested got a little blighted. This was about 50 pounds, and was dug by a work group of visiting first years from our college.

It's hard to supervise so many students. I wasn't around to stop them washing them with the hose, and they were left damp for too long. I had to throw about a third of them out, the rest I washed again, more thoroughly to remove spores, and gave away to people who would eat them quickly, or made potato salad of.

We've been eating a lot of potato salad lately.

After that I was a little circumspect about harvesting spuds and resolved to do them just a bit at a time and make sure the blight didn't spread. The obvious damage to plants is in the tomato patch, not the potatoes, but I suppose the spores are in the dirt from last year. Anyway, the first batch I put up properly, not washing them, stayed fine after a couple weeks in the cellar. So I dug about half the crop this weekend, and that seems fine too. I'll get the last this coming weekend.

Aimee, for her part, went out to the primary Amish food stand run by Caleb Stoll, and bought several bushels of sweetcorn which she shucked and put up frozen. The ratio was about 10/1, ten corn cobs to each one pound bag of frozen shucked corn, but the kernels were small since she bought culls. Caleb's hardware store and food stand is on the Thorndike Road just out of Unity, and recommended.

The process by which she got her twenty or so bags of (cream-style) corn was fun to watch. She sat on the porch and pulled the "covers" off, flicking the corn borer bugs for the chickens to eat. If the chickens didn't happen to be handy, she'd call them up. Eventually one enterprising bird, the one remaining Golden Comet from four years ago (the last of her race!) came right onto the porch and just hung around for the bugs.

Then she brought the bare cobs into the kitchen where the big canning kettle was boiling, and scalded them, then dipped them in cool water to cool off, ground off the kernels with the special kitchen tool we have for this job, bagged up the results, and froze them.

But wait, that's not the end of the fun.

Then she took the left-over corn covers and empty cobs to the sheep and pigs, who scoffed them up in great satisfaction. While Mary the dog, it turns out, likes to gnaw on shucked corn cobs.

So everyone got fed by this process.

Except me. And then I cleaned up the kitchen and porch. How that got to be my job is one of those wonders of human family life, but it did. Go figure.

Watching the BBC news most nights while surrounded by all this food is uncomfortable. I grew up with Pakistani people in the UK, went to school with them, served with them in the RAF, and I still love to eat their food whenever I get a chance, whenever I'm home in Britain. It's upsetting to see so many of them so hungry.

The aid seems to be beginning to get through, though.

Meanwhile, every bit of food we can grow for ourselves and friends is, I suppose, one bit less food we need to buy from the supermarket, and so a bit more food available for everyone else. Maine was always capable of growing lots of food, as Israel Thorndike's Great Farm experiment originally showed.

I was talking to the Amishman who grew the hay we got this year, originally from the south. He wanted to know more about the history of the area, since he'd noticed how much had been agricultural land and was then abandoned. I told him of Thorndike, the Waldo patent and the Great Farm. His land too was almost certainly Thorndike's at one time.

As the climate zones on the North American continent move north, this is one large area of former agricultural land that will become relevant again.

As for the Womerlippis few acres, it doesn't make sense to own so much land if we don't use it. I submit that we are in fact doing so, and being successful.

Just as Thorndike intended. Although as we're obvious Jeffersonians, and as I'm an Englishman, I expect he's rolling in his grave to see us making a modest homestead out of his federalist, neo-feudal mansion.

That'll teach him, the elitist old bugger.

I canned tomatoes on the weekend, and plan to do another batch later today. I'm having a bit of a day off first -- I've been in the office for three days solid writing a report and my butt is sore from sitting at my desk. I have to go see the doc, then shop for Aimee's birthday gift.

Aimee will be 35 years old on Sunday.

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