October 16, 2012

Gradual Hibernation

Visitors have kept us going all summer, bringing fresh energy and new perspectives. There has hardly been a pause between one visit and the next, yet somehow that never seemed to matter. Now however - with no more planned visits until Christmas - all of a sudden, tiredness strikes.

Stepping back for a moment we remind ourselves that we have asked for neither pressure nor stress. So we make a decision that to some may have been blindingly obvious: maintain a small area for our winter nest in order to eliminate the need to heat the whole house and to relieve the pressure to finish the new kitchen downstairs in a hurry.

So (with the help of dear Große Maja) we manage to reshape our little kitchen upstairs within a day and install a small Küchenhexe – a cast iron burner with a hotplate on top - found rusted but sound and surprisingly economical on wood.

In order to make space for it we had to get rid of the fridge. Very soon a fridge will hardly be necessary here, with a good few months of minus temperatures ahead of us. So we build a sturdy set of shelves in the entrance space opposite the new wall and stack it with the contents of the fridge, along with fresh produce and open jars. The entrance now smells like an organic shop and beautifully sets the scene for the cosy gourmand life to be found on the other side of the heavy velvet curtain.

All the preserves have now been moved down into the cellar beneath the little house – the cellar below here is far too creepy and crumbling for me to venture far into it and will be much better placed to house a central wood-fired heating system at some point in the future.

We certainly have enough passata and pickles to see us through the winter (and plenty of apple mousse!) but we will need to ration the chilli sauces and raspberry jam.

The last of the usable tomatoes came out at the weekend and we are hoping those left hanging on the vine will ripen enough for seed. Whenever Flo has put some tomatoes aside to save seed I have stumbled across them and 'rescued' them! I can't bear waste, but must get used to the fact that next years' fruits require the decay of just a few of today's finest specimens.

Bringing the wood in was another timely action spurred by my visiting uncle for whom wood is never far from the conversation. The seasoned piles left by the previous owners will certainly help us through a chunk of the coming winter, but it is clear that this year and the next will need to be subsidised by bought-in wood that is ready to burn. All that we have cleared this week and will clear in the coming months will need at least two years to season well.

With so much produce now safely indoors, we begin preparing ground to host winter crops and our prized elephant garlic. As outdoor operations gradually wind down we look forward to earlier nights and dedicated time for some sound planning (along with the endless stoking of fires).

Weekly column 'A Taste of Earth' published @  www.porkandgin.com

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