The hardest freeze in two or three years came through last week, wilting the whole garden. The weedy sweet potatoes, the remains of the roselle, and the tall pigeon peas were dark and limp when I woke up on that cold, cold morning. The whole orchard and all the pastures were white. The rest of the garden was emerald green and crusted with icy sparkles. Nothing was left untouched. The barley, so green and hopeful, is clumped and streaked with pale brown.
The little beets were crushed and splayed back onto the furrow from which they grew. The mustard greens and kale and cabbage have blanched spots where the frost rested on the creases of their leaves, and the whole garden smells of the sweet, thick smell of death.
We took the chance of cool weather at last to butcher the feeder pigs in the garden. Sad, but as this season is the slow season for other money ventures, selling off pork and filling the freezers was a welcome prospect. We made home-cured bacon, and an experiment with home-cured sausages is in progress.
And now there is room to plant lots and lots of barley – my little bit of treasure buried for the unknown to come. I am busy planting in the garden every day after milking – digging furrows and scattering seeds. It is glorious to see the bright green come back after the cold snap – the carrots miraculously weeded for me by the snap of frosty fingers – all the summer time weeds crowding them out have suddenly vanished, the onions and garlic pushing up through the mulch, and the oats and barley picking themselves up to grow again.
It hurts to lose things so suddenly like that – my garden was so pretty before and looks so sad now. But frost is good for a garden – it kills back the pests and the weeds, and now the winter vegetables will be sweet and crisp.
Before the cold, Ethan had carefully picked all the peppers we wanted to save (there were thousands of the little Tabasco peppers – we have had plenty already), and all the pigeon peas.
Inside by the cozy fire, with hot chocolate on the back of the stove, I made a last pot of rice and pigeon peas with the very last gifts from the summer and fall.
RICE AND PIGEON PEAS
1 cup shelled green pigeon peas
2 cups long-grain rice
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced fatty bacon
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups of broth or water
1/2 cup pickled green tomatoes (optional)
- Roast an onion – either in a dry cast-iron frying pan on medium heat, or in the oven. I set an onion on the stove top of the wood cookstove and let it gently toast while the stove is heating.
- Mince the onion while the butter is melting in a rice-sized pan. When the butter is melted, fry the onion and diced bacon until the onion is clear.
- Add the rice, bay leaf, and clove, and stir-fry a few minutes.
- Add pigeon peas, black pepper, salt, optional pickled green tomatoes, and broth, stir a few times, and put a lid on. Let the rice cook over gentle heat about 30 minutes, until the rice is tender.
- Fluff with a fork before serving.