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Homestead Happenings: sweeter with frost

2010 October 13
by Rachel Turiel

We got our first frost, and after a growing season which stretched long enough to reach tomato nirvana, it was surprisingly okay. The garden had been on hospice since mid-September, still alive and yielding dinner, though a gaunter more hail-pocked version of its flamboyant August self. Feeling the chill creep down my bathrobe as I did chicken chores in the morning was like taking vitals and knowing it won’t be long.

Last Friday the doctors, I mean the meteorologists predicted a killing frost, and the kids and I rambled around the garden, harvesting all the tender crops. It was a joyous afternoon, all the hands rolling tomatoes into buckets, my heart singing hymns of gratitude for the truest mathematical equation I am able to teach my kids: seed + soil + water + sun = food.


March: tucking tomato seeds and hope into soil



April: thirty six new babies to fawn over



September: Romas blinking like a city of red traffic lights


We picked all the zucchini and summer squash, even the teeny tinies.

Of course there was one last evasive monster zucchini sussed out by Col, inveterate Finder of Things (except for the tiny rubber lizard he’s been sleeping with who evades him at 3 am. Gah!).

The nightly frosts are the new normal and everything has grown unexpectedly sweeter with the change of seasons. The plum butter is like summer itself boiled into a thick purple paste that is so September it makes my heart ache. We’re positively giddy over the meat, and Dan has been passing out packages of elk sausage like a proud father with his box of cigars.

When I crank the reel on my mental home movies, summer has this nostalgic sheen of loveliness, where we all existed in perfect unjacketedness, sucking nectar from honeysuckles while sparrows landed in our hands, serenading our wholesome days. But if you happened to have seen me down at the river during one of those bleachy-eyeball heat wave days when I was desperately searching out a suitable place for Rose to poop while Col inadvertently soaked our whole bag of snacks with giardia river slime, just don’t remind me.

Because right now everything is sort of breathtakingly poignant, like that aspen leaf twirling on its stem, one minute away from falling to the ground. Life is highlighted, smacking me over the head with it’s spellbinding yellowness.

Yesterday when the kids and I were biking to the park at 4pm I realized, shockingly, that we can no longer leave home after naps without jackets. Holy revelatory truth! In a month this will be laughably obvious when we’re all straight-jacketed in a closet of layers, but right now it’s just foreshadowing.


salsa, perfected


I made the best salsa ever because I finally figured out how to can salsa without that watery layer that always develops after the water bath. If you’re interested in details, e-mail me.


Every time my parents call, they ask about the kids and I always answer “oh, they’re just great.” And really, aside from the everyday sibling fallouts, like Rose crying because Col kicked her and me asking him why he kicked her and him explaining “she was in my way,” it’s true. They are so goofily great.


feeding cherry tomatoes to their chickens


Some part of each day is spent like this:

Rose: Let’s say you’re the baby and I’m the Mama.

Col: Okay, and I’m hungry so I’m calling out “wa wa.”

Rose: And let’s say all I have is potatoes.

Col: And I don’t like potatoes.

Rose: Yeah, but I don’t know that.

Rose scootered nine blocks in a row and Col added two plus two correctly and this morning they built a barn for their toy horses with a place to pee and poop and medicine for when the horses get “ammonia.” And our house is never quite clean and sometimes I raise my voice and yesterday I noticed grey hairs twinkling in Dan beard which makes him more handsome and last week Col got an “incident report” from school because he used potty words repeatedly and a family of raccoons ate most of the pears I had picked and I still don’t really know what I’m doing but I’m so grateful.

And one more:

We had this amazing, totally local dinner the other night: barbecue elk, and buttercup squash, chard and salad all from the garden and cucumbers from our friend Lyn’s garden. I gave thanks for all this local food and Col said “it would be really good if that cucumber was from our garden too.” Five year olds! Such sticklers!

Hoping you are feeling the blessings of fall,


27 Responses leave one →
  1. October 13, 2010

    Wonderful! It all sounds perfectly perfect (though the blindingly hot day in the river with giardia snacks sounds pretty awesome too). And I do want to know your salsa secret (as I was organizing mason jars in the basement and realized I have about 800 pint-sized jars from Drew’s salsa, I knew that next year I need to make my own–and get over my fear of the onions raising the pH so that botulism will grow (or borrow someone’s pressure canner).

  2. October 13, 2010

    i really enjoyed this post, your photos paired with words – gorgeous!!

  3. October 13, 2010

    We had our first frost in Denver last night. I heard our heat kick on around 5am and was startled. Fall energy is finally kickin’ in, and how does one not love that?!

    I think I’ll be checking back here multiple times just to gaze at your aspen photo. Took my breath away. Beautiful.

  4. October 13, 2010

    I bet it smells wonderful up there! We haven’t had our first frost down here yet but I feel it coming, up the mountain they had their first snow yesterday :)

  5. October 13, 2010

    i miss the aspens–and the 3rd ave maples

  6. October 13, 2010

    Love this! Funny how potty words get those lovely boys into mischief ;) As usual I’m dreaming over your poetic (and real) recordings of life… and I can taste the elk…. I really can. YUM! The first meal I ever cooked at age ten was diced onions, elk stew meat & potatoes. All fried up in a cast iron skillet while my folks were working nights. I remember my nine year old brother saying “this is so much better than ramen noodles”….. and myself, I had thought for sure I had invented the dish. All it needed was some chard or garden salad… though my brother would not have appreciated that addition!

  7. October 13, 2010

    ps – please oh PLEASE email me the salsa directions/recipe :) I have high hopes of a bumper crop of tomatoes next year…. and *knock on wood* there are gardens FULL of food in my yard. Dark green cabbages and broccoli and basil (still!) and potatoes and oh my gosh!!!! I haven’t killed any of it, and it’s probably drunken with compost tea. Yeah-hoo!!

  8. Ami permalink
    October 13, 2010

    Thanks, once again for your inspiration and lovely words. What I appreciate about you is how much you appreciate everything else. And the everything else in your world is so firmly rooted in the earth and it’s riches. Your family is so wonderful! (How dare they get kids in trouble for potty talk…. it’s so funny!!!) Also, your canning, lack of cleaning, focus on the bounty of the soil and your aspen photo are amazing! Thanks!

  9. October 13, 2010

    You are such a gifted writer, Rachel, that I had to reread the first paragraph three times just to let your words sink in. Food for my soul.

    I envy you your bumper crop of tomatoes and your totally local dinner, but thank you for sharing the stories of them and of your family with us.

  10. October 13, 2010


    I think you are an answer to some kind of cosmic question I sent into the wind. I’ve been looking for a way to fall in love with food again and you, blessed you, are a new source of joy.

    You make it all so real for me. It’s not full of PC this or that. It’s just family and connection and pee and poop and color, always, always color.

    What can I say but thank you. Thank you for so freely sharing your joy.

  11. October 13, 2010

    I wish I could start all over again! Why is wisdom the last thing you get in life :o(
    Everything looks real good and your teaching the kids a beautiful lessson. Ginny

  12. October 13, 2010

    Wonderful, Awesome post! And really I know I’ve said this before, but your writting is truly amazing ;) so detailed, so in-depth, so cynical! So great! I enjoy very much your blog and feel really connected to you by your writting!


  13. Ellen permalink
    October 13, 2010

    Beautiful writing…funny, sentimental, soaring. And fall is such a beautiful alive time of year. I always think of it as new beginnings, rather than endings.

    Here in SF Bay Area, it is Indian summer (hot dry 90 degree heat wave) and so can’t bring myself to cook that local winter squash you wrote about so inspiringly a few days ago.

  14. October 13, 2010

    Fabulous post…and good lord ~ what a zucchini!! :) I think I have said it before, there is nothing like fall in the Rockies ~ I remember it like it was yesterday but it has been over 20 years. I miss it still.

  15. October 13, 2010

    Being away from my beloved mountains, I am desperately missing the beauty of a Colorado autumn. It’s wonderful to see your photo of the aspens and read all about it – it’s almost as though I’m there. I’m also glad to hear I’m not the only one whose house is never *quite* clean : )

  16. nataliechristensen permalink
    October 13, 2010

    Braids! I saw ’em!

    “straight-jacketed in a closet of layers”- yes. For this very reason I too, laude summer. Summer-the-land-of-river-and-sun-and-everything-good. Sigh.

  17. October 13, 2010

    Oh, good. We all love other people who “still don’t know” what they’re doing and are loving it anyway.

    Cheers to autumn!

  18. October 13, 2010

    Yay for the blessings of fall! That chicken and cherry tomato photo is killer! Aaah! I love it. And that conversation between the two with Col in that wee baby bed….I love these peeks into what it will be like with my girls in a few years.

    Yes please on the salsa deets.


    ps love that header photog

  19. October 13, 2010

    A-you’ve got such writing chops. Go!

    B-please tell Rose that I love planting seeds in my pink heels too.

  20. October 14, 2010

    Well, he has a point… it could have been local-er… : )

    Please please please will you send me your salsa details? Thank you.

  21. Melissa Neta permalink
    October 14, 2010

    Love the new header!

    Do any of us know what we are doing?

    I love Rose’s response about the potatoes for the Col “baby”

    Good stuff.

  22. October 14, 2010

    “Yeah, but I don’t know that.” Ha! I just love a kid’s perspective on motherhood.

    Your harvest is so wonderful. Cheers to a dream-meal of elk and fresh squash.

    Love this. All of it.

  23. October 15, 2010

    Thanks for the chuckles and reminders to be thankful. It is good that you are in a place now with your kids where you can tell your mom they are doing well. It’s so easy to focus on the bad and complain about the kids (for me, anyway), and yet they are so funny and precious and wonderful when I think about it. You seem like the kind of friend I could call and just get a dose of reality and perspective every day, plus a few good belly laughs and more inspiration and encouragement about following my creative pursuits. Thanks for writing this blog!

  24. October 15, 2010

    We got our first buttercups from our CSA yesterday. I am so excited to try them. What a beautiful post and a lovely way to get to know you all a bit in one post. And, yes, I have a 5 year old stickler too! :)

  25. October 17, 2010

    Your photo of the aspens reminded my of my favorite camping trip ever- in Colorado in October.

    A feast, this whole post. As they always are.

  26. October 18, 2010

    “it would be really good if that cucumber was from our garden too.” – LOL. Sticklers indeed!

    You have such a blessed, wonderful life.

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