smells; carrots

Tuesday, June 25:

   You can tell when it is really muggy by looking at the floor in the basement, where dark lines of condensation map out the cold water pipes dripping above them.  Gardening, and building the milking parlor at the monastery, have been our primary occupations, as well as the chores which never go away:  milking, feeding animals, moving fence, moving water tanks.  By ten a.m. our clothes are saturated with sweat, and dirty blue jeans look more like the hide of some less-than-attractive reptile than like clothing.  Also:  farming is not a good occupation for anyone who can’t take pleasure in smells.  Lots of them.  Of widely varying provenance, like cow dung and pigs and sweat, clover and honeysuckle and tomato vine and crushed mint.  Dog.  Warm honey smell from the hive boxes stored in the shed.  Laundry drying on the clothes line.

   Half a bed of carrots is going to seed in the big garden.  They are some of the Nantes we put in last fall, then had to leave uncovered when a December snowstorm tore up one of our low tunnels.  They alternately froze and thawed – mostly froze – all winter.  In the spring they sent up fresh new leaves over the soft, black frozen ones, but the roots themselves would have been woody and tasteless had we pulled any to eat.  Carrots, like beets, are biennials, meaning they set seed in their second year, so we kept these as an experiment in seed saving, one we know at the outset will probably be a failure since most of the popular carrot varieties, including many of those we plant, are F1 hybrids and don’t set seed true to type.  You can save seed from a hybrid, and with good luck it will germinate and grow, but what genetic characteristics it will exhibit are anyone’s guess.  Anyway, when the flowers, like Queen Anne’s lace, have turned brown and curled up into little birds’ nests, we will cut them and hang them upside down in paper bags.  Then we will pull the gnarly roots and feed them to the pigs, and save a little more money on pig feed, which is what we are all about.

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