Arctic Zone

Yesterday was cold and wet, rain at our elevation, snow about 800 feet above us.  With the cold was wind, stripping the gold and red leaves from the trees that had not lost their leaves yet.  A good day to stay indoors, but it was Farmers’ Market day and if we were to have meat this week, other than chicken, a trip to town was necessary.  We dallied, not leaving to have breakfast as on most weekends and knowing that there was a home game at the University in town, an attempt to try to miss the traffic seeking to find parking on side streets or failing that, paying $10/car in church lots or people’s yards. Home games are madness in our little town as the university is huge and the alumni dedicated, even in a cold rain.  The market was done, the vendors all thanking us for coming out in such nastiness, but we came home with ground beef, stew meat, onions and radishes, still having greens in the garden and a bit of the last salad in the refrigerator.  Our usual meat vendor wasn’t there, so I was unable to get the ground pork that I wanted to make a stuffed pumpkin this week, unless I can find a package in the chest freezer.   Or perhaps, I will make a pumpkin, chicken curry in a pumpkin shell, there is plenty of coconut milk and red curry in the pantry.

Once home, the winter squash picked over the prior two days were toted down to the root cellar in the basement, two big canvas sacks at a time, many, many trips up and down the stairs.  The shelves look ready to provide well this winter.

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Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, garlic and canned goodies.  This is what is left after loads to northern Virginia and what is upstairs in the pantry.  The freezer stocked with green beans, peas, apples, chicken and a bit of pork and beef stockpiled from weekend trips to the Farmers’ Market.  Our favorite meat vendor toughs it out at the market on all but the worst winter Saturday’s throughout the upcoming winter.

As the wind blew last night, and the temperature dropped, our power failed.  Quickly gathering up the battery lanterns and flashlights and tossing a down blanket on the two quilts on the bed, I settled in with my tablet that had a good charge and the ebook that I am currently reading.  Fortunately, the power only stayed out a couple of hours and we were awakened by the TV and lights coming on and the computer printer doing a self start, though it had been powered off before.

The morning dawned an hour earlier, thanks to the time change last night from daylight savings time.  Yes, I know, an extra hour to sleep, hmmmph, I awake with the sun and get up once awake, my body doesn’t just switch gears like the clock.  As I let the pups out, I realized that we were seeing our first snow flurries and the lightest of dusting on the ground and decks.

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Mountain snow showers are a common occurrence, rarely amounting to anything, whenever there is moisture in the air and the temperature below freezing.  The freeze last night, the first freeze burned back the pumpkin patch and the bean patch.  The greens look sad this morning but will perk back up as the daytime temperatures rise above freezing.

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After feeding the chickens and breaking the ice on their water, a walk through the ruined patch revealed as I suspected, several more pumpkins.  The largest, not damaged ones gathered and brought in, like I really need more in the house.

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Happily, several of them were Buttercup squash.  A couple were tossed into the chicken pen and the rest left to be gathered in the garage or thrown immediately to the chickens over this week once the wind dies down and the temperature rises to a more comfortable range.  This was the first morning that I had to don the heavy barn coat to go deal with the birds.

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The peppers that were gathered prior to the expected Arctic chill have all been processed, the tiny jalapenos sliced and frozen, some used in last night’s chili with cornbread for dinner.  The small bell peppers, sliced and frozen, the ripe habeneros packed whole in freezer bags, the green ones set in a bowl to ripen as you can see they are doing.  They too will be bagged and frozen.  The tiny hot orange pepper that I still haven’t identified, was pureed with vinegar they had been soaking in for the past few weeks and a Tabasco-like sauce made that a single drop burned my mouth for an hour.  The rest of them are ripening on the upside down plants in the garage.  The tomatillos that we gathered were rid of their husks, washed and packed whole in freezer bags, another 3 pounds to be used in Pozole this winter.  A chicken, some tomatillos, a bag of dried hominy soaked, a handful of Mexican spices and a hearty soup to feed a small army is made.

We are lovin’ life on our mountain farm and now must accept another winter is upon us.  We were lucky this year, we got an extra 2-3 weeks before the first frost.

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