This evening we all sat around the table for supper for the first time in over a month. That’s because we moved the workbench out of the dining area and replaced it with our table that was in storage. Friends, this indicates how close we are to finished in the main living area. Our dining chairs were literally falling apart, so we decided there was no reason to give them space in the moving trailer. We are using various stools and benches that work okay, as long as no one objects to vast differences in the diners’ heights at the table. Eventually we will find replacements, but for now we are making do.
Olivia was longing for tater tot casserole, another challenge for us, since we removed the wall oven and are cooking only on the flat top that was installed in the counter. We have a tiny toaster oven, but that wasn’t going to work for a family sized casserole. In the end we made our hamburger/green bean/ chicken soup mixture in a wide kettle, fried tater tots in a griddle, than when they were hot and crispy we dumped them on top of a layer of melted cheese on the casserole. It was quite passable. If nothing else, I hope this summer teaches our children resilience and resourcefulness.
I have my double burner propane camp stove set up on the porch for the few canning occasions that have arisen. This works great, and has been the best investment for my food preserving since I got my first large stockpot. This year with the shortage of canning lids, I am considering carefully what I will bother to preserve or not. I have grown all the herbs and tomatoes for sauce, so that is what I have been making. Today our neighbor stopped in and offered 2 bushels of tomatoes ripening next week. I accepted gladly, then I remembered that if I cannot source the lids, I will have to freeze my tomato products.
A few years ago my friend Caroline gave me some garlic bulbs to plant, along with instructions. I had no idea it was so easy, but I have been growing it ever since. I plant the cloves in the fall, mulch them heavily, and that is it. In the spring I cut off the scapes as they unfurl so that the plant doesn’t put energy into seeds, only into the bulbs. I had about 100 bulbs to harvest this past July. After the garlic was dry, I cut off the stems, cleaned up the bulbs, and stored them in mesh citrus bags that I saved. Hung in a cool, dry spot, this keeps garlic for months.
When we were making pasta sauce, the girls pulled the bulbs apart, then we laid the unpeeled cloves in a pie plate, drizzled them with a little olive oil, and roasted them in our toaster oven. Normally I would do this step in the oven, roasting the onions with the garlic, but since I don’t have an oven yet, we just did the garlic. It took about a half hour at 350 for the bulbs to get soft and deliciously roasted. After they cooled a while, we used a kitchen scissors to snip off the bottom end where the roots attach to a hard little core, then simply squeezed out the garlic paste from the top pointed part downward. I gave it a whirl in the blender with some tomato juice before dumping it into the sauce. It was so incredibly much easier than peeling and chopping 50 cloves! I will never go back to that method.
The girls had pulled apart too many bulbs for the sauce, but we roasted the extra ones anyway and put them in the freezer. Maybe I am the only one who dislikes fiddling with garlic every time I need some, but I look forward to pulling out a clove or two ready-to-go when I make soups this winter.
Tonight the electricity cut out right after supper, so all of our projects stopped. We couldn’t replace the pressure tank in the basement, clean the bathrooms, do our online banking, or even wash the dishes. It was not a problem. We were in the garden, just breathing, when we noticed Lady picking a tomato and eating it. We thought surely we didn’t see right, but when Gabriel threw a tomato for her, she caught it and ate it with relish. We did it a few more times so that we could get a video clip of our dog who is more like a tomato-loving Peight than our children are. Then we sternly forbade her to pick any more tomatoes in a charming about-face that she seemed to understand.
It’s 8:30 now, pitch dark, and we still don’t have electricity. There are a number of scented candles lit about the house, and the younger children took themselves to bed. If you can’t even read, what else would you do? My laptop has a good charge yet, which is why I am writing, but it is hard telling when I’ll actually get this posted. (4 days later, apparently..) I know one thing that needs to go on my list: flashlights. I bought a multi-pack of nightlights a few weeks ago because it is disconcerting to pick your way through an unfamiliar house when you need a drink after dark. A few of my children have inherited my tendency for violent toe-stubbing, but nightlights are only good for the modern life.
This past week Gabriel made significant progress on house projects. First he laid the tile on our bathroom walls and on the fireplace hearth. Then he installed our up-cycled dresser/vanity in the master bathroom, and now we have a tub, toilet, and sink all in one room. It’s pretty wonderful! Addy loves baths, and after her first long soak in a month, she fairly sparkled with cleanliness.
My projects of touch-up painting and sorting through the stuff have stalled in a major case of “Now I am tired of it and if we haven’t needed it yet, we might as well donate it.” We started school, which required focus that left no energy for finding scratched places needing paint. There are a lot of these places! It is beyond trying to leave a room pristine with fresh paint, then have odd construction projects like closet doors whacking into the walls. I have to swallow my “SERIOUSLY GUYS?” because I certainly can’t hang closet doors without making scrapes in walls.
Four days later:
Our electricity was cut off until Saturday morning, when I packed up the girls and went to my sister’s house in Ohio for the weekend. I am 1 ¹/2 hours closer to her, and it seems much more doable to take a quick trip. My parents were there, too, so we had a mini reunion.
I was truly blessed to have a sister who contacted a cousin with connections to her sister in law who had a lot of extra green beans, which we picked up and snapped on Rachel’s porch. I feel much better about the state of my vegetable freezer now. It even contains bags of shredded zucchini so that when I do get an oven, I can make zucchini bread and cake. I don’t know if I’ve ever skipped that summertime rite of passage before.
About that oven: no doubt it’s a trick of human nature to crave what we cannot have. Why do I crave roasted vegetables so much? And cookies? I even find myself wishing to bake a pie, an unfamiliar yearning for me, indeed.
I wonder if anyone else out there feels a bit jaded like I do about the constant RAHRAHRAH that is the state of the world these days. I’m desperately parched for truth, absolutes, and peace that passes understanding. The other stuff has yelled so earsplitting nasty all year, and I’m just here with my ear open for a still small voice who speaks Life and Verity. It’s astonishing, but when I listen, I can hear it right through the din, and I am grateful.