Our garden is verdant, and the trees look like lush new things bursting into life. We even have fuzzy baby peaches huddled together on one of the branches in the more vigorous peach tree. Our Montmorency Cherry was profuse with its blossoms, and I feel a tickle of pride whenever people walk by our garden and point or smile in appreciation. I have every reason to be pleased with our backyard orchard culture going into its second year… except our fig trees died. Both of them.
The entire month of April seems to have flown by, and I’m staring at today’s date wondering where each of those the days has slipped away to. Maybe they’re hiding with all the months that have already disappeared into 2017. What hasn’t vanished is my interest in expanding my canning repertoire. The skill for the April Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is quick pickles.
I know that pickling vegetables was a way that homesteaders historically preserved many vegetables and other miscellanies (pickled pigs feet anyone?) through the winter, but I have never much cared for pickles. As a child, I hated them, and as an adult, I have come to occasionally nosh on a pickle or two if they are served on the side of my sandwich. I’ve just never much cared for them. Heck, I still have a jar of pickled zucchini and yellow squash from two summers ago in my stash of canned goods. If pickles were people, they would be the acquaintances to whom I’m polite and friendly but rarely seek out to chat about where all those sneaky April days had vanished to.
One of my foster kiddos, however, loves pickles. She was as interested at the idea of making her own batch of pickles as she was disappointed that we weren’t growing cucumbers in the garden. So, we walked to the grocery store, picked out some cucumbers and other ingredients for the refrigerator dill pickles, and had at it. Let me tell you, making two pints of quick pickles was as snappy as this month has already been. The cucumbers were swimming in their pickling brine and into the fridge before we knew it. We left them to stew for a few days, and we busted them out for our black-bean burgers this weekend. Even I enjoyed them enough to have two, and that admission has to be saying something for any pickling fiends out there. Maybe I’ll have to try out a few more quick pickle recipes.
This is my third year installing a new package of bees. I have hopes that I’ve sufficiently learned from the failures of the first and second year to be able to quip that the third time is indeed the charm. We’ve moved the location of the hive to a sunnier spot (although a truly sunny location is absent in our backyard). Conveniently, that sunny location is near a window in the house… which means that our foster kiddos got to see something few people really get to see in person: beekeepers in action.
I could be writing about the glorious Saturday I spent in the garden, where transplanted broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and Swiss chard and cut up more sod to lay down weed paper. I could be writing about the quality time my husband and I had when he was so thoroughly and utterly exhausted but wanted to play board games and I totally slayed at Agricola. I could be writing about my hopeful trepidation about receiving a new package of bees this afternoon. Or about how my sewing machine still isn’t working properly. Or about the latest farming book I finished. Or about the rich blue roving I’m spinning into yarn with increasing uniformity.
One of the homey skills I’ve always wanted to learn is how to make cheese. I may have too much of an affinity for cheese (never mind cake), but this desire has been as deeply rooted as it has been unsuccessful. Sure, I only tried to make cheese once, or twice if you count my attempt to fix said failure. In those attempts, I never made anything close to resembling cheese. Instead, I made a somewhat goopy milk and cream mixture. The unsuccessful cheese has lingered away in the back of my mind as something to be overcome… at some point in the future. Well, the future has arrived, my friends! And it’s a cheesy as I am!
Maintaining and cultivating a Jewish household is important to me. Naturally, everyone has different ideas of what that means, but celebrating Jewish holidays is a cornerstone of what my Jewish household means. We will celebrate other holidays at other people’s houses, much like we celebrate another person’s birthday though it is not our own.
After chaos of construction, I relished working in the garden this weekend. I planted a few overdue seeds while the kiddos complained of child-labor laws for daring to ask for an extra 90 minutes of help around the yard. (Gasp!) My husband added compost to the garden beds and mixed the other barrel. He set the final garden bed into the slight slope of the hill and filled it with wheelbarrow and wheelbarrow full of dirt. After this miscellany of prep work and post-due planting, our garden is officially, officially ready for spring.