Winter arrived in a flurry of wind with a dusting of frost, turning lush, green eggplants into crunchy, brown bushes overnight.
Other tender plants, nasturtiums and horseradish, didn’t fare too well either, their leaves looking freezer burned. But so many other plants are flourishing, and it seems the frost gave them an extra kick. Red cabbage and kohlrabi, rainbow chard and mustard greens, leeks and turnips, they all look healthy and vibrant.
Some plants defied nature and instead of looking shriveled and puny like their other warm weather friends, they look great. The elderflower hedge continues to produce flowers, asparagus keeps popping up despite numerous cut backs and a heavy layer of compost, and capsicum and tomatoes keep flowering and fruiting. I don’t mind, not one bit. They’re a lovely addition to our winter menu.
This week, after letting the goats glean in the hay barn, I shoveled out most of the leftovers, filling wheelbarrows with mounds of old lucerne, sorghum, and goat droppings. Then I spread the mixture in thick layers over pathways to keep the weeds down, and in thinner layers as mulch around my winter veggies. It’s so lovely looking out over golden paths and garden beds shimmering in the late afternoon sun.
I’ve also been working in the orchards, harvesting the few precious citrus fruits that miraculously survived two hail storms – Tahitian limes, grapefruits, lemons, and lemonades – and getting ready to prune and transplant now that cold weather is finally here.
Since our orchards are mostly comprised of mystery trees and seconds that nobody wanted, it’s been fun to see what survived and what gets chopped up to be used for smoking hams and sausages later this winter.
The nut trees did not fare well in this years’ horrendous heat, so I’ll be replacing them with hardy plums, apples, and pears that seem to totter along no matter what the weather does. The figs, pomegranates, quince, and olives did splendidly, and they’ll be getting a good layer of compost and mulch for the winter. The apricots and peaches came through as well, and they’ll just need a good pruning, along with the apples, pears, and plums, to make a good start in the spring.
The summer and autumn herbs I harvested and hung to dry are now ready. I’ve been stripping the leaves into fragrant piles and storing them in glass jars where they’ll be ready to be used in herbal teas and medicines this winter. They look so beautiful to me.
I started a new job this week and am really enjoying it. My colleagues are good people, comfy to be around and savvy and professional in business. I know I’m going to learn a lot.
I’ve also been expanding my wood-burning, designing new cutting boards and cheese boards, cutting them out, sanding and shaping, getting them ready to be burned. I love working with wood.
Although I’ve been concentrating on prepping my gardens for winter, I’ve still been harvesting, collecting snow peas and sugar snap peas, turnips and eggplants, chilies and rainbow chard. One day I hope to get to the place where all our vegetables and fruit come from our gardens and orchards, but for now I’m happy to have these delicious and healthy things ready for picking.
Soon it will be time to taste-test the apple and banana wines I made last year. They should nearly be ready for bottling and drinking on cold winter evenings. I still have a few bottles of mulberry liqueur and strawberry liqueur, but I’m saving those for later winter when we need reminders that spring is coming.
I feel ready for winter this year, needing that time of hibernation and reflection in my life as I decide what to hang on to and what to let go of. I’m looking forward to cold mornings huddled in bed with hot chocolate and my journal, taking the time to process what is happening around me, and what my role in it is. I’ve got stacks of books piled by the bed, books of thoughts to think, places to see, things to make, and I’m enjoying these shorter days and longer evenings when I actually have time to read them.
What’s your favorite part of the season you’re in? xo