Autumn Has Finally Come

I’m sitting in the kitchen tending two big stockpots; one is filled with a batch of not-so-lovely peaches that I’ve hovered over since yesterday afternoon, and the other holds about twenty pounds of cut up pickling beets that I’ve got simmering, waiting for a spicy Harvard brine like my Grandmother taught me to make. The 28 remaining chicken babies are out on the porch in the bathtub, squawking discontentedly at me because they want desperately to be fed for the third time today, and Baby is smiling at me, pleased with himself, soaked from head-to-toe because he’s been out romping around in the woods for the past hour. The tomato paste that I had so carefully run through the food mill and had cooking down scorched on the bottom because I left the burner up when I drove down the road to buy a bag of sugar for the beets; the former will be skimmed from the top and frozen into cubes tonight when everything else is bottled and put away. I’ve got six or seven pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes baking in the oven to make hash out of tomorrow, the rest (about forty pounds of so) are curing with my sweet potatoes (not such a good crop) on the kitchen floor, which is strewn with newspaper until I can safely stash them all in a milk crate under the sink.

There are two big crocks of dill pickles fermenting on the drainboard next to the sink; I rescued the cucumbers from the “sharing” table in the vestibule after Mass last week; a notice pinned to the wall above the bags of sweating veggies said that the Diocese of Stupidville has turned their finance records over to a government prosecutor’s office because Judas has been messing with the purse again. This batch of peaches I’m working on came from a little old lady I met at the farm store a few months ago when I was buying canning jars to put up some jam; she runs a food pantry for her church group in the next county over, insists that everybody she meets calls her Grandma and hugs her when she sees them, and now she calls me when they have fruit they can’t get rid of because she knows that I’ll “be a good Ruth” and take care of it. This time it was nearly thirty pounds of very sad looking freestone peaches from North Carolina that I cleaned up and simmered overnight until they were reduced by half to make some almond peach butter. She also gave me three heads of perfectly good cabbage that I’ve packed into a gallon jar to make sauerkraut, and a big burlap bag of oversized carrots that I will likely be turning into relish because I don’t know what else to do with them.

The rain began to fall yesterday in soft constancy bringing with it cool air, the faint scent of spent grass and green light; I am hoping that this is Autumn come to stay.

I have begun to wonder how I ever lived in cities, and why I ever left home for a big city to begin with. Cities come with nothing but stress. I’ve spent my day in the quiet of a warm kitchen, the rhythm of harvest time starting to pick up around me, hands under the spigot washing sink after sink of messy pots and pans and spoons and ladles so that I can dirty them up again, the door open to the cool breeze, the chicks chirping, the occasional scolding hummingbird, the glistening green of my quiet little hillside, and I cannot fathom what I must have been thinking.

…The peach butter is done. The beets are next. I need to walk across the pasture below to deliver a couple of jars to my elderly landlord and his wife before it gets dark so they can have it warm with their nightly bowls of ice cream. The only decision I have to make now is whether or not to put on barn boots or go barefoot.

I must have been crazy to have ever thought that living in a city was a good idea….

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