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Homestead Happenings: he grew, he stinks and it’s fall

2010 October 4

We finally threw Col’s sandals away last week, the ones he’s been wearing, sockless, since early May; the ones that carried the stink of fermenting river mud, chicken poop and summer foot-funk; the ones that were hand-me-downs X 3; the ones that were disintegrating in chunks; the ones that his toes were creeping out of.

Which is to say 2 things. 1) Col grew this summer! If you haven’t gathered from photos, Col is petite – only a smidge taller than his 3 year old sis; people frequently ask if they’re twins.  2) I have come to the somber realization that 5 year olds have the capacity to stink. I remember when Col’s baby-sweat was as benign as cherry blossom nectar; I could have scraped it off his wobbly neck and sold it as a skin elixir. I would have once eaten dinner off his tender toes. But now, it pains me to say, the kid has fire-breathing morning breath and his shoes are frequently quarantined outside.

So, Col grew, he stinks, and it’s fall!

occasionally stinky but perennially cheerful

Our outside days are clearly numbered. But even as the sun cashes out earlier and earlier each night, I am comforted by the predictability of seasons. Because it doesn’t matter how much I’m wringing my mind over stuffing little limbs into snowsuits, our planet is tilting away from the sun right on schedule. And like photo-editing software, this realization resizes my place in this universe, cropping me down to where I belong. No matter what my mind is clinging to or pushing away, in October the northern half of this big blue ball reclines away from the sun and the aspen trees explode into a thousand yellow pieces.

Who wants the kindergarten update? All that elk talk last week hijacked our normally scheduled programming. Most mornings Col claims he doesn’t want to go to school. I’m thinking this has more to do with the total buzz kill of getting dressed. If he could, he’d jam his pajamed feet into his fetid sandals every morning and swelter in his own little fleece sweat lodge. Col defends his reluctance to go to school by sullenly explaining how “the teachers make us push our chairs in when we get up from the table. And when we get 100 pennies in the jar we have to have a party.” Glad I chose Montessori boot camp for Col!

itinerant work crew harvesting winter squash

The harvest continues, mostly because, bizarrely, we haven’t had a frost yet. And much as I hate to benefit from global warming, I’ve almost reached tomato nirvana, a state in which you realize, there are enough tomatoes in the world.

We’re drying all the sun gold tomatoes in the greenhouse.

dried sungolds are like tomato licorice

it only takes 5000 sun gold tomatoes to make this!

And roasting the romas.

Despite the saggy, deflated look, roasting tomatoes distills the very essence of quintessential tomato-ness. Who's with me? Instructions: Slice tomatoes in half, place cut side down on baking sheet. Sometimes I add garlic, onions, and salt. Drizzle olive oil on top and bake at 350F for 1 1/2 hours. Blend into sauce or leave whole. Freezes well, though too much oil to safely can via water bath method.

The kids have been helping with everything despite their tendency to be irrevocably distracted from a task by a moth wobbling across their peripheral vision. This weekend I asked the kids to pick the sungolds and bring them to me where I’d cut them in half and lay them on the drying rack. Rose complied beautifully. Col, meanwhile, shuttled the cherry tomatoes to me via dirt-encrusted bucket which he then unloaded onto a toy dustpan before ping-ponging them into the corner of the drying rack where he spent a long time arranging the plump fruits in a circle and dropping rose petals in the center to “keep them company. The tomatoes love roses.” When I reached for the tomatoes to slice them open Col blocked me. “Those are my babies,” he said, rubbing their bald, orange heads with his grubby hands. I tell you, that boy is not a rule follower, which is reason # 44 that he may not thrive in public school.

We dried plums too.

And I made the most delicious plum butter, which is simply a matter of simmering plums down to a thick, purple paste in which the plums give up all their water in exchange for becoming their sweetest self.

My friend Sue and I were both lucky enough to buy 40 pounds of tomato seconds (tomatoes with blemishes, cracks or yellow shoulders, all of which I’m sure I’ve suffered myself) from Stone Free Farms. I calculated that after making 9 quarts of stewed tomatoes, 6 pints of roasted tomato sauce and 5 cups of ketchup, the cost came to roughly 90 cents/cup. Sue and I were at preschool pick-up doing tomato-math, inserting into the formula our co-op’s recent sale price on cans of Muir Glen organic tomatoes to determine if the purchase of 40# of tomato seconds was worth it.

I didn’t count any of the work it took to spin 2 boxes of fresh tomatoes into 45 cups of storable tomato products because I realized that instead of my labor lowering the value of the ketchup, it increased it. I could probably buy a can of organic, stewed tomatoes from the store for less than 90 cents/cup, but I could never buy the gorgeous autumn days spent turning our kitchen into a factory of tomato perfume; or the empowerment in making my first batch of ketchup; or the pleasure in growing food and supporting neighboring farmers. I could never buy the moments of imprinting on my children that our hands can create a meal, from seed to table.

Rose sneaking pears off the drying rack

* I loved your paradise comments; I always suspected that paradise could occur in many places.

* Col has a great time at school once he’s there.

* Store dried fruit/veggies in glass jars and poke holes in the lid for air flow.



21 Responses leave one →
  1. October 6, 2010

    You have just inspired me to get picking in the garden this morning. I think I’m ready for our kitchen to smell like tomato perfume too. :)

    I have been noticing that Theo is starting to smell more human and less sugary, buttery baby. Sigh. It’s official: they’re growing up.

  2. Ami permalink
    October 6, 2010

    Wonderful fall post! How lovely for you to be frost free… and here on the coast, we are having a very sexy “indian” summer. I hate that word by the way, where did it get coined!? In between ravishingly warm, sultry days, we’ll have a cold, foggy one, and so there ARE mushrooms peeking up, the blackberries are off the hook and I was happy to buy a pomegranate in the store the other day. Lastly, pumpkins have already been dutifully hunted at the infamous “patch” and Cole LOVES his school… which is a very unique, private school… we recently checked out a couple of public schools, in my striving for perfection, and I quickly deduced that Cole would not thrive there… too distracting and too many kids…
    SO – I can feel the earth turning from the sun in my world, too…. what’s different… here, I’m getting ready to plant a winter garden! :)

  3. Melissa Neta permalink
    October 6, 2010

    Love this post, your gorgeous kids, your insanely good writing!

  4. October 6, 2010

    No frost? You dog. If I couldn’t have a real garden this year, at least I get my kicks watching yours! Thanks for keeping me pumped for *next* summer : )


  5. October 6, 2010

    i’m communing with you as i simmer found apples (peeled by children) into sauce. xx

  6. October 7, 2010

    Yay Col, for growing!! Isn’t it a bit concerting when such little people start getting BO and stinky feet? I can’t even imagine what it will be like to have grown teenagers in the house. Yuck!

    Thanks for the tomato post, I have been thinking about trying to preserve some this year.

    Thanks also for the chuckles and your wonderful writing.

  7. Judy permalink
    October 7, 2010

    Love the picture of Col in the aspen grove!

    Do tell us every time he outgrows his clothes! yay!

  8. October 7, 2010

    That first picture is gorgeous! He looks very grown up to me.
    I’m envious of the bounty…what a harvest. I’m already dreading those mealy pink grocery store Romas that will be kicking around within weeks.

  9. October 8, 2010

    i have to say i have also noticed the smells that have started to come from my sweet first born (also five!). his snotty noses make my blood turn cold and gives me the sweats as i try to wipe it and make him look like he is not a dripping faucet of snot. we have our first frost warning for tomorrow night and during the day i will be stripping our basil plants:) and tomatoes. maybe i will dry those last tomatoes…i forgot about all that business, thanks for reminding me:) xo, pennie

    • 6512 and growing permalink
      October 8, 2010


      We have our first frost warning for tonight. We picked all the tomatoes and basil and squash and peppers and it actually felt good and right, like it’s time. However, feeling cold today and noticing that it was 60F was a little disturbing. It’s a good thing fall buffers us from heading straight into winter.

  10. October 8, 2010

    How do you find time for all that picking and chopping and roasting and mashing and blending and boiling and canning?? Does the air at 6512 have magic superwoman properties?

    • 6512 and growing permalink
      October 8, 2010

      It must be all that “help” I get.

  11. October 8, 2010

    And incidentally, my five-month-old has recently lost every whiff of his newborn sweetness. We have recently become bathe-that-stinky-baby-every-night folk!

  12. October 8, 2010

    Two things:

    1. On the advice of one very wise preschool teacher, I had my boy get dressed THE NIGHT BEFORE, and sleep in his clothes. For, like, two years. Sweat pants, t-shirts, seven sets of each. Because getting dressed was beyond a non-starter. I was pretty sure he’d be taking this habit to college.

    2. Suddenly, at 5 1/2, he dashes up and gets dressed, lickety split. I don’t even know when it changed.

  13. October 8, 2010

    Oh boy, do I know about non-rule followers. Mine likes to make up the rules (and the concepts, and the basic facts/fictions, and the names, and so on). She has created her own world system that I’m pretty sure doesn’t coincide with the one required in an 8-3:30 public school day.

  14. Anonymous permalink
    October 8, 2010

    yum…. you inspire me. those tomatoes look divine.

  15. October 8, 2010

    Oops – that anonymous comment was me. Different computer.
    But also wanted to add….
    home-made ketchup!!!!
    I am more than humbled.
    You rock.

  16. October 9, 2010

    That is a whole lot of goodness crammed in one post, Rachel!
    I LOVE the photo of Col with leaves falling on him!
    Yes, I agree, little kids can stink. Getting dirty is worth the smelly mess, though, and YUM to all the preserved food. Man, you have been busy!

  17. October 10, 2010

    I love how in synch we are! Doing the same things except you are way cooler with your drying racks and bull elk. Although Margot’s feet don’t stink yet so -1 for me but then +1. Seriously the sentence about Montessori boot camp and the few before had me giggling out here on the couch while my family sleeps.

    We haven’t had a frost yet either! “They” are saying Tuesday. I am happy about it as we finally have cauliflower, beans still coming and well my tomato heartache is a bit lessened as the greens continue to blush.

  18. October 12, 2010

    I can’t believe it took that many tomatoes to make just that quantity of sundried goodness. Looks like you guys have been keeping busy during harvest time. I’m sad to see the tomato season go but at least you’ll have all year to savor the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.

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