Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gloating time

Late August in the Pacific Northwest can be a stressful time—we are pulled three ways. The mountains call; the air is cool and the bugs are gone, so it is perfect backpacking weather. School is starting, with all of its painful indoor meetings before the kids come back. And the tomatoes and apples, peaches and blackberries, are all pouring in at once.


This last week was apple and tomato processing central in the kitchen. I harvested at least a bushel and a half of Macintosh apples off of our tree in the front yard, climbing up the 14 foot orchard ladder and stretching as far into the tree as I could to grasp the last, biggest, reddest apples from the central branch. After tucking them into the basement, the whole house smelled of apples for a week. I sliced and dried many of the iffy ones and chopped the bruised ones into applesauce, using my new food mill to strain out the seeds and skins. We have, right now, 5 quarts of dried apples and fifteen pints of sauce, which should keep us this winter. I dreamed of latkes and applesauce in December while the puree bubbled in the pot. There are still three trays of fruit in the basement for fresh eating, as well as pies and crisps. It is nice to be apple independent this year.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I hauled home about fifty pounds of tomatoes from Sunbow. The first 22 pounds rode home on my bike on my last day of work for the summer and were processed after a long afternoon of school meetings. The second round was finished on Saturday. I sliced the fat, red fruit in half—or, occasionally, thirds—laid it on sheet trays, and slid it into the oven to roast. Forty-five minutes or so at 350 degrees wilted and concentrated the flavor. I then transfered them into half pint jars and processed them in the steam canner for thirty minutes. I can get a good rhythm going when I have time—two sheets always roasting, the canner always dancing, the metal milk crate slowly filling. While everything cooked, I cleaned the rest of the house. By Saturday evening, there were 55 halfpints of tomatoes sitting on the basement shelf, waiting for winter pizza and pasta, and soup. The rest of the years tomatoes will be dried or turned into salsa—small batch, when you have time after dinner projects.

The basement shelves are filling up. Before the tomato harvest, there are still huge holes. I’ve made pickled beets and plums, dried and canned plums and peaches, blueberries and cherries, strained honey, and created a few dried herbal tea blends, but there are gaps. Now, the shelves are almost full (which is good, because we are almost out of jars) and it is time to gloat. When I bring something new down, I have to shift jars around and then, when everything is resettled, admire for a few moments. Gloating season has begun.





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