Once again this season – this whirling, swirling season of new gardens and homeschool, birthdays and busyness and expectations, has picked me up and crushed me like a hurricane from the Gulf.
Every day feels so, so busy – every moment so very, very full. I feel like I’m suffocating under all the work. Some days I feel like creeping under a rock with all the books in the Way of the House Husband manga series and not coming out again until everything is different.
In moments when my hands are busy and my mind is free – when I’m milking or weeding or washing dishes or hanging laundry in between the intense rains, I think how long it has been since I’ve felt one of those quiet moments, when everything feels paused and you can lay on the grass and watch the clouds moving by, or just be silent with that sense of what it is to be here, alive.
I’ve been thinking of that catchy phrase I’ve heard – the one about how the friends that don’t make time for you aren’t real friends – but this feels unfair at the moment, when every waking moment of my time is taken up by hauling heavy buckets, or milking, or making the 2nd grader tortuously practice writing a few words, or struggling to get everyone to put their clean, folded laundry away, or trying to make a fire from damp wood so we can have a hot meal.
Honestly, I miss my friends in the midst of busyness like this. When I have friends over, I want to be able to enjoy their company, not have to work while they are there, and I’m finding very little time for that. And there are only a few friends I think can handle coming over and visiting.
The truth is, my farm and home (and me) have still not recovered from when I was gone last summer. There is still junk that accumulated and projects unfinished. I still feel worn out and not myself after that very difficult hike, and then coming home to clean up the incredible mess that had accumulated while I was away.
And right now my kitchen isn’t a place where just anyone can visit. The constant rains this year made it so I have had to delay for months the usual spring clean when I re-whitewash the walls and take everything outside to dust and wash. At the moment my kitchen is sooty, with spiders in all the corners and whitewash flaking off. A mushroom was growing out of the edge of the sink. In the evenings little toads hop around and eat up roaches, giant wolf spiders hunt on the walls, and the cats crash around behind the cooking pots. It isn’t for the faint-of-heart. Maybe real friends don’t mind hanging out with cats, toads, and bugs in your smoky, sooty, ugly kitchen?
My garden, which I got such a lovely head-start on this season, has been nothing but frustrating. All my big, beautiful starts I set out got eaten up. First I thought it was the chickens, and spent hours looping pieces of fencing from the trellis into a chicken-proof barrier – but the rest got eaten up too, and I think it was actually grasshoppers or rats, or even caterpillars. All that remained were nubs, so it was difficult to tell. And with the summer stuff cleared away, all that was left were hot peppers! Clearly they taste awful to almost everyone else, so that’s why they are thriving so well.
So these are my latest recipes – hot sauces. We’ve been picking and pickling peppers all summer, but the hot peppers are in their glory right now. The Tabasco peppers are like small trees – constantly covered with fruit – and are so spicy that all my attempts to make sauces from them are mostly to dilute them and make them edible. These bushes are actually from last summer’s garden. They overwintered. Nothing will stop them.
The first step for all these recipes is to ferment the peppers in brine. I pack peppers into a mason jar, and then make a brine by measuring 2 tablespoons of find, non-iodized salt into a quart jar. I fill the jar with unchlorinated water (chlorine and iodized salt will inhibit the beneficial bacteria that do the fermentation), and stir it well to dissolve the salt. Then I pour the brine over the peppers in the pepper jar until the jar is full, leaving about an inch of air space. I cap the jar, and leave to ferment with a plate under it, or if I have a lot of jars, I put them in a baking dish or a box in case the jar bubbles over.
It takes about 2 weeks for the fermentation to be complete. Once the peppers are fermented, I strain them and reserve the brine to add as extra liquid. This way I can control the consistency of the hot sauce.
PINEAPPLE HOT SAUCE
This sauce used our first home grown pineapple! Two years ago I had planted the top of a store bought pineapple. It didn’t do much until this summer, when a tiny pineapple grew out of the top. Nothing tastes better than a home grown pineapple!
1/4 of a medium onion
1/4 cup papalo leaves, or cilantro, or lime or lemon basil (each one adds a completely different flavor and character! )
1/2 of a pineapple, cored, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend. Add the brine as necessary to get the consistency you want.
MANGO HOT SAUCE
1 ripe mango
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup pickled peppers
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup honey
A knob of ginger (optional)
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend. Add the brine as necessary to get the consistency you want. I think this one is my favorite, like a mango chutney.
TAMARI HOT SAUCE
6 garlic cloves,peeled
1 garlic chive
1/2 cup vinegar (I like the flavor of coconut vinegar or rice vinegar in this recipe)
1/2 cup coconut sugar or Sucanat/jaggery
1 cup pickled hot peppers
1 cup tamari
1/4 cup sherry/mirin/coconut aminos
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend. Add the brine as necessary to get the consistency you want. This sauce is great worth home made pork dumplings! (I should do a recipe for that…..)