The Peaceable Kingdom: Picking Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs

Homesteader Nancy Bubel describes picking end of season fruits, vegetables and herbs, making wine, their summer camping trip and the inevitable shift back to school.

| September/October 1971

September . . . and, as we homestead into a third year, we're picking vegetables like mad. Corn . . . tomatoes . . . cabbage . . . broccoli . . . carrots . . . chard . . . beans . . . beets . . . soybeans . . . celery . . .     potatoes . . . cucumbers . . . squash. Somehow we get it all canned/frozen/eaten/given/sold. When the garden reaches its calmer, browner, seedy days later in the fall we'll spread manure and dolomite. Then, in the winter, we'll toss wood ashes, sawdust and manure right on the snow. The earthworms will sleep, deep down. Beginnings? Endings? We see it more as continuity, the whole vitality of the land.

The summer has been good. We've had plenty of everything—eggs, milk, vegetables . . . and too much of some. Next year we hope to do better in the fruit department, though. Our Lodi transparent apple tree bore three apples this year. Three. We brought the harvest in on a small plate. Now, what do you do with three cooking apples? They hung around for a few days till I decided (stewed 'em with a meal.) We had bought two bushels of organically grown transparents to make applesauce, but wanted to experience our OWN apples separately!

We camped for a week in West Virginia. Not long enough (or perhaps short enough!) to become instant experts on Appalachia and mountain folkways . . . just long enough to become fascinated by the little towns . . . the spirit of the mountain people . . . the wells with their buckets at the ready . . . the marvelous foraging . . . the remedies and herbs and cookery of people who for years have been making it on their own. We must go back!

Mary Grace has so many wild herbs, remedies, sachets and herby teas that I've cleared off a shelf just for the collection. All the fat and charming little jars that have been too interesting to discard but too small for jelly, have now found their purpose: mullein salve, borage blossom syrup, rose oil, sassafras tea. Looks like we're ready for anything the cold days might bring.

Things have been humming in Mike's combination darkroom-winery. Crocks of brew stand in a row — mead, rhubarb, blueberry, wineberry and tomato wine. Now's the time to start wines; fermentation is liveliest when weather's warm. Winter's for tasting and aging. Some we sip; some we let age. Next summer we'll break into our first batch of elderberry wine, aged for two years.

A friend gave us a copy of Henley's Twentieth Century Book of Formulas, Processes and Trade Secrets. An Everything book. Want to know how to make vinegar, whitewash, fly paper, soap bubble liquid, glass marking pencils, how to detect food adulterants, waterproof things, silver mirrors? It's all here. And more. Good bathroom reading.

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