milk, tomatoes, and swear words

Thursday, August 25:

We woke up at three-thirty this morning to a peal of thunder, and our first thought was of the laundry which was undoubtedly still on the line, undoubtedly because each of us was sure the other had not taken it down. Second thought was a determination not to get out of bed and race the rain to get the laundry in. The knowledge that it was out there getting soaked reasserted itself for the next two-and-a-half hours, every time a roll of thunder broke into our sleep, detracting a little from the satisfaction of the warm bedclothes and the knowledge that we were getting much-needed rain — but only a little.

Isabel is giving a bit more milk now that the pasture is greening up. The dozen or so cornstalks we carry to her each day is probably having its effect, too, and we get about six gallons per diem. Of these, four have been going to the summer calves; but last week we began the process of weaning two of them, cutting both their morning and evening milkings by a pint or so. The extra half-gallon makes all the difference in the kitchen. Coupled with her increased yield, it means there is adequate cream for butter, skim milk for mozzarella, ample drinking milk, and milk for yogurt. The butter and mozzarella we had frozen in times of plenty just barely held out over her dry time and the ten weeks of starting the summer calves; in truth, we had to buy three pounds of butter, at various times when yield could not keep up with demand. But last Monday, a baking day, we had three pounds of mozz for our pizzas, and enough butter for the twenty or so pounds of dough that went to make eight loaves of wheat meal-and-potato bread, and six dozen whole wheat sandwich rolls.

The garden is giving us buckets of tomatoes, albeit not entirely of the varieties we intended. There’s always a slip somewhere. Whether the fault was in Mom’s planning, or the marking of her seedling flats, we do not know, but somehow what should have been twenty beefsteak tomato plants have turned out, in fact, to be about two beefsteaks and eighteen or so large cherry tomatoes. Did she order the wrong seeds? Or were the dozens of seedlings we gave away this spring, thinking we were parting with extra cherry tomato plants, actually the desired beefsteaks? At present, we are too embarassed to ask the people who received the seedlings. Skinning and seeding cherry tomatoes takes time, but it can be done.

And, as we say, the garden is giving lots of tomatoes. We have to date canned some two and a half dozen quarts of salsa, and about one and a half quarts of pasta/pizza sauce. That may not sound like much to the big operators, and in fact it doesn’t sound like a lot to us, who have in our less carnivorous days gone through gallons of pasta sauce, but the fact is that now the meat we raise is one of the cheapest things we eat, and we eat a lot of it. Hamburgers, steaks, chicken, chile con carne, ham, bacon, sausage. Meat. We don’t have to put up as much sauce, just enough for tomato soup on Fridays, and pizza, and the occaisional spaghetti and meatballs or lasagne. With another couple dozen quarts of sauce, some plain tomato sauce, and maybe some rotelle tomatoes, we will have all we need for a year of good eating.

S-3 worked for the TOR’s this morning, so S-4 and S-5 worked on the pigpen. The drop-in wall on the east side is complete, and looks sturdy enough even for three big pigs, as these will be in six months or so. S-4 is building the gate now, a simple board door framed and braced. S-5, when he was not needed in the barn, had pity on Mom and took over the job of freezing corn, putting up six pounds of cut corn, and cooking on the cob what we would want for dinner.

Mom, released after dinner from the daunting task of preparing for her nineteenth year of homeschooling, weeded the raised beds and picked what we from the South call “a mess” of beans. We wonder what the origin of that term might be. Southerners also, when circumstances seem to require it, “cuss”, and it was a man from Honduras whose first language, naturally, is not English, who pointed out to us that this word is simply “curse”, pronounced in a Southern drawl. Delightful. When colloquial differences are so delicious, why are we engaged in a race to cultural homogeneity?

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