I have a dear friend who struggles every winter. It’s dark; it’s cold; the days are short; the sun isn’t around. She has Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and needs extra light in the winter to stay healthy. I have just the opposite problem: I hide when there’s too much light. She’s an anthropologist and assures me that my ancestors didn’t LIVE in caves, but sometimes I’m not so sure.
It’s a funny thing for a gardener–I don’t like summer. I’m passionate about gardening in the fall, weeding, seeding, planting, building. I plan great empires of gardening during winter, reading books, drawing designs, perusing catalogs, winter sowing and continuing to build and plan. I start off with a bang every spring, waiting impatiently for last frost dates, buying and planting great volumes of plants and seeds. Then about June, it gets HOT, and I retreat to my cave in the forest. Okay, it’s not really a cave; it even has windows that show the sunlight outside. This year was hotter than the last couple of years, so I was even less motivated to get outside.
But that undefinable moment has come. Deep inside, I can tell fall is coming. About two weeks ago, I got an urge to venture outside and view the devastation wrought by summer. Surprisingly, the yard’s in pretty good shape. Thank heavens for heavy mulch–where it didn’t keep down weeds, they’re not too hard to pull. So I’m hard at work, pulling weeds, taking inventory of beds, planning what gets added this fall and spring.
I started the year with plans to eat more sustainably–local, organic produce is the ideal, and it’s particularly nice if it comes from my own yard. Then I broke my ankle in February, and I’m still walking carefully and putting ice on it in September. Nothing out of the ordinary for this kind of recovery, but not helpful for gardening on a large scale.
Despite that, I’ve learned a few things. I didn’t make huge changes, but I’ve made some small changes. We’re paying more attention to where our food comes from, and trying to make better choices. We switched to some organic canned goods, tomatoes & peanut butter in particular. I can make ranch dressing from scratch, so my house has one less jar of scary chemicals in it, and it’s something we eat a LOT of.
I’ve visited a farmer’s market or two. I’ve gone berry picking a couple of times. I’ve made my own flavored vinegars (chive flower & tarragon in the spring, raspberry this weekend.) I’ve found at least a few things I love to can. The Onion-Maple Conserve was so popular I need to make another batch. I tried Pomona’s Universal Pectin, and the whole family loves lower sugar berry jam. A conventional recipe calls for 6-1/2 cups of sugar for 4 cups of fruit–we’re made multiple batches with 1-1/2 cups of sugar for 4 cups of fruit. It’s amazingly good, and very easy to make. We’ve gone berry picking the last two weekends, picked about 30 pounds of blackberries and raspberries and canned about 50 jars of jam. There’s also a small batch of blackberry cordial steeping.