When it comes to food, what’s more satisfying than a meal you’ve made yourself? How ’bout a meal you made yourself using mostly things you’ve grown or produced on your own?
Our vegetable garden is huge. We eat from it all spring, summer, and into the fall. And we put a lot of food by for the winter. Today I noticed that it’s time to cut the garlic scapes, the curly part that grows from the green part of the plant, providing an edible mild garlic flavor long before the garlic bulbs under the ground are mature.
This spring we’ve enjoyed fresh spinach, mesclun, and asparagus. (The bunnies ate my snap peas 😦 ). As the cool weather crops are soon to peak and bolt, we anxiously await fresh beets, beans, and carrots which are soon to grace us with their mid-season availability. The Romaine is beautiful right now, at the peak of quality and flavor. I’m thinking big Saturday lunch salad!
Asparagus season is finishing up, but I still have a huge bunch in the refrigerator, and there are still some spears popping up in the garden. Some blanched, sliced asparagus would be divine in my salad.
Warm weather brings everything in abundance, and fresh eggs from my laying hens are no exception. Some slices of hard-boiled egg would go quite well on my salad. We’ve had chickens for about 4 years now, and we could never imagine ourselves without them. The eggs are so delicious, and my free-range hens work hard for us! We have no waste here–they eat any kitchen scraps we might have. I also compost right in their run, and by giving them room to allow their inherent chickenness to shine through, they dig and scratch looking for insects and worms, turning and oxygenating my pile of organic matter and breaking it down in record time. That compost is enriched with their poop, giving me the best natural fertilizer for my garden.
And so lunch came together from things mostly grown or produced right here at our house. We had a salad of fresh Romaine lettuce, with blanched asparagus, and sliced hard-boiled eggs. I added some roasted sunflower seeds and golden raisins that were both store-bought. But those garlic scapes made a delicious salad dressing made with sour cream and homemade Greek yogurt. The milk used to make the yogurt and that which we drank with our meal is local. We buy it directly from a farmer right down the road. I bake bread too, and so a slice of my Whey Good Bread (folks, you heard it here first!!) was perfect along side this home grown and homemade dish! Whey is the byproduct when you strain yogurt to make Greek yogurt.
Yes, lunch today exemplifies an aspect of the type of life we enjoy is rural upstate New York. The days go by slow and without pretention for the most part. Where some see dullness, I see a life worth living. I see the magic in each ostensibly mundane moment, and I feel grateful and satisfied for all that I have.
In these routine moments of uninterrupted life, I have time to think, to appreciate. The fragrance of Persian lilacs descend on me as I investigate the ripeness of strawberries. No, not quite ready… any day now. But I know I don’t have to worry. My son has been doing his own investigating and I know he will alert me to their readiness with red finger tips and stained lips.
It was a good spring for tree flowers and the crabapples were spectacular earlier this spring. My young orchard of various fruit trees were also glowing with blossoms despite their young age and small stature. The general absence of bees earlier this spring was alarming, and as a result my fruit trees are bare save one apple tree. This small miracle of life frames my view as I turn to watch my son “just doing my work, mama,” as he likes to say.
Life brings both frustrations and rewards, a duality in everything around us. Small towns can be the centers of gossip and xenophobia, but at the same time I am thankful for neighbors who get together for drinks and conversation, unplanned and at the ring of a bell–a custom we were invited into our first summer in this house. We also have folks that truly look out for one another, neighbors that are always willing to lend a hand.
My day began with the unexpected offer by my husband to watch the kids so I could go Mt. biking at beautiful Gilbert Lake state park. Some time for myself (much needed and seldom taken by stay-at-home moms), only to return to a house of disaster as the multi-tasking gene is recessive on the Y chromosome. I’m not angry… it happens every time! I love my husband. He’s my best friend and an ideal partner, and above all else, a fantastic father. I find the dichotomy of pride and frustration with one’s partner to be normal–a point worth laughing about! For example, I am proud of him for his contributions to our all volunteer fire department and EMS. He might save a life driving the ambulance, and he’s ready to participate whether there is a structure fire or an accident. And I stand in awe of him for he has also seen a life taken far prematurely, and to be witness to such an event takes an incredibly special kind of person. On the lighter side of his volunteer work, I am slightly annoyed for he is ‘wasting’ yet another beautiful Saturday afternoon to proctor demolition derbies at the fairgrounds!
When my daughter, Mara woke up from her nap, she immediately called for her brother, Oscar. “Okkah, Okkah,” she yelled, and we joined him in the yard. In an effort to help out and do just as her older brother, she too wanted to carry eggs back to the house. With an egg in each hand she smiled and beamed with pride and happiness. Then in a quick gesture of those emotions, she clapped both eggs together with gelatinous drips of raw egg running down her arms. She loves her big brother and tries to be just like him. After he dropped his pants and peed against a tree, she did the same, not fully understanding what it was all about. But there she was, facing the tree, pants around her ankles, with a large cloth diaper bum for all the world to see!
It is my children that complete me and give me my greatest joy in life. It is by watching them watching life and learning from every bit of it that uncovers magic in the mundane. It is precisely the routine everyday occurrences–the banal perhaps–that interest me. These moments bring me such satisfaction and joy, and expose the sublime.
Can you claim you are truly happy? I am happy, and I think it comes down to being willing to deeply appreciate that which one has, rather than constantly focusing on what is to come or what is to be achieved. Perhaps these are ridiculous ideals, applicable only to me, but I think not. They might not be profound by any means, but this mentality keeps me smiling and keeps me grateful. I couldn’t ask for anything more.