Through the Year

This year has been full of weather quirks. Summer is reaching into September, with temps in the 80's and high humidity. We have been extremenly dry - my violets are all shriveled and brown, and the tips of many leaves are brown and sere. Every plant is stressed from the lack of rain. The high humidity is probably the only thing that causes them not to die, as every morning the grass is heavy with dew.

The dog days of summer - named for the constellation Sirius which is prominent at this time of year - are here. With it comes the bounty of the garden. The tomatoes are just starting, but right now I am inundated with cucumbers and summer squash. That means pickling is in high gear.

July is already upon us, and the bees and other pollinators are busy fulfilling their mission. There is always a swarm of activity outside in my garden and in the fields, and the air is filled with the soft buzzing and humming as they go about their business. The other day, I must have gotten some small insect (fortunately, not a stinging or biting one) stuck in my hair. I could hear a small whizzing noise in my ear, but I couldn't tell exactly where he was. I unclipped the barrette that keeps my hair out of my way when I am working, and shook my head and fluffed out my hair.

It's June, and the roses are fantastic this year, their heavy blooms bending the canes with their weight. Perhaps it was the harsh winter, and lots of nature's pruning of the canes that resulted in such bountiful flowers. I am awash with fragrant petals, and have been working on capturing their essence.

I'm hoping that March will be milder than the past month. The snow is still piled higher than I've ever seen here. The cold temps are not allowing for much melting of snow. Pruning the fruit trees will be a challenge - I'll definitely need to do it on snowshoes, but the bonus is I may not even need a ladder. My small plum tree has snow up to its lower branches - that's about 4+ feet. No melting is probably a good thing - otherwise we could be flooded!

February has arrived - my least favorite month of the year. It's cold and the snow has been gaining on us here in Central Mass. We have somewhere around 45" right now, and more snow is predicted in the coming week. As long as I don't lose power, I'm OK with the snow. But I will gripe about it - arms, shoulders and even hands are complaining. One good thing about being out in the cold and snow is coming in to a warm house, and having a little chocolate, especially to drink, is fine and conjures up memories of childhood.

As we head into another new year, we often take time to look ahead to new adventures while remembering the past year's challenges. This past year was one of many culinary creations for me, as I dealt with bumper crops of cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash, as well as many other vegetables and fruits. Being a good New Englander, I could not let the excess produce go to waste, so I turned to many days of canning, freezing, pickling and fermenting. I used old recipes and found new ones, delighting in the taste sensations I found.

It is appropriate that the first week in December is National Cookie Week, as it is at this time of year that I think about the cookie baking that I will do for the holidays. I love going through old recipes, from family and friends, as well as experimenting with new recipes that sound intriguing. Through the years, I have participated in cookie swaps, spent one whole day painstakingly painting icing on butter cookies, taught Girl Scouts how to make gingerbread houses, and generally baked my way through the holidays.

This year, the weather has cooperated and I have been able to process some of the persimmons from my tree. This has been an exceptional year for the harvest, and I am pleased to say that I have at least "done up" some of it. Each year, I watch as the persimmons fall to the ground, getting squished and dirty. I always eat a few, but then other tasks keep me from doing something with the pulp of this amazing fruit. Until it is ripe, the persimmon is quite astringent, and I had always thought that a frost was needed to ripen the fruit.

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