The Year Without Apricots

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This is a blissful time of year and we have been blessed with many delights of the season. The goldfinches have returned after a two year hiatus, glints of gold everywhere, beautiful blue birds, and cooing doves incant the air.  Our small farm is filled with birdsong from feathered creatures of all types.  Two years in a row now the weather is uncharacteristically cooler than usual, and though the tomatoes cry for more heat, everything else is lush and green.  Mornings with no markets are spent leisurely with a cup of coffee and a few chapters of reading before I wake Doug to milk.  Writing, reading, hoeing rows, watering with a cold glass of beer in hand, visiting with neighbors, friends, visitors to the farm.  Sitting under the canopy taking in the fresh smell of earth after a light rain and feeling the heat of summer on my skin.  It is an enchanting time.

Not yet into the throws of full time preserving, I can, dehydrate, or freeze as things come available.  It is time to dehydrate hordes of apricots for Doug’s favorite snacking.  I hide bags of them in the root cellar and ration them for knowledge that they would be enjoyed in a week if not.  To my dismay, the freeze on Mother’s Day wiped out a good portion of fruit from Colorado’s trees, apricots being one of them.  The organic farm at the market had some from Utah.  Said they were better anyway.  I doled out thirty dollars, a lot as we are still penny pinching this time of year, and took home the apricots.  They were unripe, tart, bitter.  I left them on the counter for a few days then dehydrated them.  They came out tart, bitter, disappointing.  Not only did I waste precious funds and time, but I have no apricots this year for Doug.

Lessons learned.  I cannot have everything I wish the moment I want it.  I am sure there are some apricots at the store from Peru but there is nothing like a local, freshly harvested piece of fruit.  The warm juices of summer penetrating the flesh of a small bit of sustenance.  A treat.  So this year we will be without.  But as nature does, if it misses one year, the next is sure to make up for it.  And next year, with patience, we shall dine on fresh apricots.  This year I should have waited.  Luckily the peaches survived.  They will arrive at market soon.

Power in Numbers (farmgirl power)

3×5 feet of peas planted in early April.  The result?  Three servings of peas.  I kid you not.  Peas might be wiser to grow vertically up an existing fence leaving precious ground space for other veggies.  I used tomato cages for them to grow up on and it worked wonders and they looked great.  I harvested a lot it seemed.  Once I got through shelling them all, I was left with a delicious one time only (“Better eat that last pea; do you know what I went through to put that on your plate?!) side dish.

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I miss peas in January. (Hell, I miss all vegetables in January!)  I wanted to make sure that this year I canned more than four jars (which was a lot of work to put up last year!).  So I ordered two cases from my favorite farm and while we sat at the Sunday farmers market Doug and I shelled peas.  Doug sure made a lot of racket about having to do it.  I promised him that once the boxes were done, we didn’t have to do it again for a whole year!  (I think I had a similar conversation with my son when he was little.)  But a trooper Doug was and we got through an entire box before packing up and heading home.

My friend, Jen, came over to help can them.  We tried in vain to get her young daughter to shell the rest of the other box, but she said sweetly, “No, thanks!”  I got to the rest of that box that evening but half of it had gone unappetizingly gooey.  In all, nineteen pints of delicious (better eat every last one) peas were put up.

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With Jen’s and her daughter’s help, we made quick work of the half a case of apricots and came up with nine jars of cinnamon, ginger, honey apricots for winter enjoyment.

Then they left and I had to finish everything else myself.  It got me wondering about how our revered prior generations achieved such incredible feats.  Almost all my work is within four months.  All growing, harvesting, canning, farmers markets, and everything else that comes up happens in the summer!  I have come to the conclusion that these women were just awesome.  They couldn’t  have been too much different than myself though; how did they get so much done?  I do not have eight willing children to help me.  And then it dawned on me.  What they had was other ladies!  Other like-minded (how the heck are we going to get all this put up by September?) friends and neighbors that needed to get the same stuff done.

Just seeing how much Jen and I and a young girl could do in a matter of minutes to those apricots made me think what ten determined women could do packed in a kitchen (or better yet, an outdoor kitchen!) with vegetables and fruits.  Ten of us could fly through peas and apricots, sauerkraut and jams and jellies so fast the men would want to take respite in the fields!

So friends, there is power in numbers.  Particularly if one does not want to be reliant on grocery stores and large farm whims.  If you want fresh food, you best put it up now.  If you are short on time, gather a bunch of like-minded gals and get to work!  In one day you could fill several shelves.  You could also get caught up on local gossip, giggle like it was grade school, and have the time of your life with girlfriends.  Rest in the evening with a cool glass of lemonade to celebrate.

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Farmgirl Power.