When the leaves turn red, yellow and orange in this neck of the woods, they truly are spectacular. Which is why I now understand, why “going to see the leaves” can and will command top dollar if you want to stay overnight at a local inn or B&B in the upstate New York or New England area. Luckily we have the Red House, where such a stay is virtually free. And while our view may not be lake or mountain front, we do in fact have the “field” and all the surrounding trees which in the fall are absolutely gorgeous.
A few weeks ago I did manage to prepare the ground (the soil that is) for believe it or not, next year’s garlic crop! Now if it seems like we just pulled out last year’s crop, we did! (And as previously mentioned we still have quite a few cloves to consume.) This time however, I at least had an inkling of what I was doing and what the outcome would be. Cut the scapes, cut the scapes, cut the scapes so the garlic will fully grow! Ok, got it.
I did, however, plant less garlic than last year. Somehow last year, I managed to get nearly 100 cloves in the ground which I had purchased at a local garlic festival. This year, I planted 75 cloves. When I was planting them and counted what I had put in the ground I was tickled. 75 seemed to be the “special number” this year and since we just celebrated my Dad’s 75th birthday this past September, I had mixed feelings about both.
The fact that I planted next year’s crop (hopefully) from garlic that I had grown myself made me quite proud. Thinking of my Dad turning older than I ever could have imagined he would be left me feeling a bit nostalgic.
How exactly could my Dad be 75? See, he was a young father (a mere 24 when I was born), and when we were living in Munich, Germany, he was the guy who used to take me to midnight movies at the tender age of 12. Why at midnight you might ask? Well because the midnight show at the Europa movie theater was the only place in Munich (at least in 1973) where you could see an American movie in English. The fact that it was across from the Munich railroad station, (and thus like most neighborhoods surrounding a transit hub rather seedy) was a bit odd especially since during the day the theater would primarily show x-rated movies. (Hint for younger readers: there are no x-rated films out there anymore, you’re either watching true porn or they cleaned it up and made it an R-rated flick.)
This meant that in 1973 I saw Soylent Green and Papillon with my Dad in addition to The Sting and The Exorcist. I know The Way We Were also came out in 1973 but since that was definitely more of a chick flick, I don’t I think I saw that movie until many years later when I was in college.
The fact that some of these movies might not have been appropriate for a 12-year-old was irrelevant, which is probably why even to this day, I blink rather rapidly when I hear the words “Soylent Green” (even though I liked Charlton Heston, especially in Ben Hur) because I’m still terrified of the thought of people being chopped up to create a new food group!
As if that wasn’t enough, I remember putting my hands over my eyes when I saw Steve McQueen in the scary leprosy scene in Papillon where everyone seemed to be wrapped in dirty blankets but minus a limb or two. This probably also explains why once I was old enough to babysit, I strongly discouraged the kids I was watching from building any sort of fort structure made out of old blankets or sheets.
But I guess the Red House has made me grow up a bit (even though I like most New Yorkers did spend some very formative years living in Brooklyn dealing with mice and roaches and other unsavory things) so that when I was cleaning up the property and found a dead mouse a few weeks ago, I didn’t run shrieking from it. I actually took a picture of it.
Then I went back to deal with the mess we’d made of the field by not mowing it. While originally the thought of creating “paths” with areas that would be filled with wild flowers was a good one, the idea wasn’t properly executed. The wildflowers grew on the perimeter of the property (which I didn’t plant) and not in the middle (where I did plant.) Consequently, there were very large prickly weeds growing out of the soil with quite a few cotton ball-like looking things, too.
I have looked at numerous gardening sites to try to determine what these are exactly, to no avail. Kindly send me a note, if anyone knows their name (other than a pain you know where.) They are extremely prickly and will tear through even the toughest pair of gloves I discovered.
Still, I decided they had to go, so I took a machete (yes, we actually have one) to the stem, then stacked them all up so that I could drag them, en masse, over to the compost pile.
Now since the Red House property was once an old potato farm, I wondered if this was some sort of weird leftover potato weed. But I don’t think so, know why? Because do you remember seeing something like this sticking out of the ground when Scarlett was digging up the very last potato or radish there was to eat in Gone With the Wind? No, and her hands (like mine these days) were pretty much a mess which unfortunately even Rhett noticed when she went to try and seduce him into giving her some coin to pay the taxes.
But back to the weeds. The other thing that made dragging the weeds to the compost pile bearable is that I could actually get to the compost pile since the day before, courtesy of Craigslist, I found someone who showed up in a truck and for $200 agreed to haul half of the construction mess away. The fact that the guy who showed up with even less teeth than Steve Buscemi in Fargo, made it just that much more appealing.
And now let me get back to the garlic. With those 75 cloves in the ground, I know I needed some hay to scatter over the dirt. Now, if you’re even lucky enough to find hay on Long Island it generally costs around $10 for a teeny, tiny bale. In upstate New York, the same bale is half the price and three times as big!
See, I even put in on the tractor, to show it off! I pulled off a couple of pieces and scattered them on top of the garlic I had just planted and that was that.
So with all this activity, we needed some food. Since I still don’t have a kitchen (and truthfully 2013 doesn’t look promising either for this endeavor), I brought stuff up. Which meant, since I was still in the end of summer mode, I made what I will lovingly call the “Rotten Fruit Tart.” Well, it might sound of kind of disgusting, cleaning out the fridge of overripe, rotting fruit, but the truth is once you cook it, it all kind of comes together anyway. (And, yes, I did throw out the fruit that had mold on it.)
So, there were plums, blueberries, and raspberries to use. I sprinkled the fruit with some walnuts and whatever sweet liquor was in the cupboard that I can’t bear to drink but always have on hand to sometimes “rescue” a dessert. It all got piled into leftover tart crust and went in the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. Bottom line: it looked ok and tasted even better.
I also made bread, a rosemary-flecked loaf that would have been perfect to dip into soup but somehow the weather turned warm and the fish place in Island Park had lobster claws on sale for $25 so how could I refuse an offer like that? Well, since it took me nearly 2 hours to shell all five pounds worth, maybe I should have resisted. I ended up with chunks of lobster meat and somehow managed to pull together a meal we could eat.
But back to the Red House garden. I have celery still growing and brussels sprouts which I realized I planted too early so I’m hoping they’ll mature enough in time for Thanksgiving.
I’ve also made frequent visits to a couple of local farmers in the area, who unlike NYC Greenmarket prices, will sell you an enormous head of broccoli for a mere 75 cents, a head of cauliflower for a dollar, and a cute little pumpkin for two quarters.
In the meantime, I will leave you with this parting shot, a not-too-comfy chair that we leave out in the field year-round. I don’t think you’d ever want to watch a movie sitting on it, but you never know.