October slipped by with me flat-out busy in the gardens and in the kitchen and in storytelling work (and then in Spain and Morocco) but not on the blogs. Freezer and cellar swelled with the garden’s output, and I worked deep into many nights to stay up with the lemongrass, the tomatoes, the tomatillos, the basil, the peppers.
Now, as we move into November, I’m lured not to this energetic harvesting but to an inner world, to a chair by the fire with a stack of books I’ve been meaning to read for months (Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and Joan Dye Gussow’s Growing, Older among them). For the first time since March, the great outdoors doesn’t seem all that great. Welcome to November in Vermont.
So far this month it has snowed three times (and yes, the month is all of four days old) though none has stayed on the ground; the thermometer dipped below 20F two nights ago, and the garden has given itself over to the gleaners, in our case, mostly juncoes, though the deer, the rabbits, the chipmunks are doing their fair share of picking half-frozen fruits and vegetables. No wonder major holidays are strung through these next couple of months; otherwise we might just hibernate. Yesterday, without real enthusiasm, I planted 100 garlic cloves and will plant another batch this weekend if the rain ever lifts. I understand how some people just never get to the fall plantings…the low- lidded sky inspires sleep or introspection, reflection and reading, not full-on activity in the gardens.
Only the hardiest of the garden lot–kale, leeks, carrots, greens and herbs (and Vermont gardeners-ha)–hang in there without cover. Beneath the tunnels, the peppers wilt and shiver. And so in they come to be pickled rather than dried. The fennel, chard and radicchio are flourishing in the covered spaces, though, and I wish I had planted more transition crops under cover. Next year.
And so I turn from the garden, hang up the trowel for the camera and computer. The canning apparatus for cheesemaking and stews, for uncovering the deep layers of nourishing comfort foods that stave off the winter cold with their complexity and brightness. Now I have to figure out what I’m going to do with the thirty-plus huge jars of gorgeous dried hot peppers down in the storage cellar. It’s time to gain inspiration from other gardeners, cooks and writers as I pull together the flavors gathered this summer. I’ll be back soon with kitchen notes, recipes and menus, but first just a wee nap in front of the fire…