Yeah, it’s been a while. And it’s just within the realm of possibility that some of you have been wondering what’s been going on here over the last three months. Well, I’m here to tell you!
Winter was what was going on here, seemingly for the last several years, and there just wasn’t much to tell. Would you have liked to read about how we had to dig the truck out of a snowbank for the third time that day? Or perhaps about how we were running out of both heating oil and propane because the delivery trucks couldn’t navigate our icy driveway? Or how the snow cost us two taillights and our sanity?
I didn’t think so.
But then, yesterday, it finally ended. Yesterday was the day, at last, that the ice that had entombed our lake broke apart and melted. Our 110-acre lake went from completely iced over to completely ice-free in 36 hours. And, with that, spring broke through.
The filthy piles of snow that lined the driveway are all gone. The ground is soft underfoot. The perennial herbs are doing their magical perennial thing, and sprouting little green shoots. Today, we unwrapped the fig trees. We cleaned out the raised beds. We let the chickens range free.
As we take inventory, there’s good news and bad. The oysters are the bad news. Because our seed from 2013 had almost 100% survival, we had many more oysters in the harbor over the winter than we usually do – probably 60-80 thousand. Usually, the threat in the winter is ice, which can push all your equipment off to Portugal, but most of our trays were still where we left them. The oysters, though, couldn’t survive the low temperatures, and it looks like we have about 90% death. It’s heartbreaking, seeing all those beautiful, near-legal oyster shells empty of oysters. But we knew it was a risk leaving them out in the harbor (the alternatives were also risky), and we’re picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and starting over.
But let’s talk about the good news: bees! We were very skeptical that our hive would survive what was one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record, but they appear to have come through, probably because Kevin built them a hoophouse-like shelter that kept snow and wind off, and probably helped keep the cluster a little warmer. Outside temperatures haven’t been high enough for us to open the hive and see what’s going on, but we’ve been slipping pollen and fondant under the inner cover, and we’ve seen the big crowd of bees. They’ve started foraging, but there isn’t much out there yet. We are cautiously optimistic that this will be our first successfully overwintered colony.
Also on the good news front, we ended up not running out of heating oil or propane, and we found that our sanity returned pretty quickly once the snow started melting.
And then there’s the closets. The reason we stayed on the Cape this year, rather than fleeing for warmer climes, is that Kevin wanted to do a little home improvement, in the form of adding some much-needed closet space. He moved a wall (our guest room is now a little smaller), and configured two spacious, functional closets where two cramped, odd-shaped closets had been. It was only when I put all my clothes in one place that I realized just how ratty and outdated they really are.
While Kevin was renovating, I was also working. Honest. Some of you know I write a column for the Washington Post on food supply issues – and I’ll confess that it’s one of the reasons I’m not posting here nearly as regularly as I used to. The column, I’m happy to say, is doing well, and I’ve been nominated, for the second year in a row, for a James Beard award. So that’s good, too.
All winter, we’ve been eating down our supply of venison, chicken, and fish, and we’re very much looking forward to the beginning of the season in which we add to, rather than subtract from, our larder. To that end, the sugar snap peas are going in tomorrow, with the radishes. Our hoophouse functioned as a woodshed over the winter, and we’ll clear it out and begin planting there, too. Kevin will unwrap the boat and make sure it’s running smoothly. Our first viable fishing isn’t for a few weeks yet (tautog and squid), but we want to be ready when it comes.
And, as it does every year around this time, hope will edge out experience as we look forward to a fruitful, interesting, successful year.
January 1, 2015 By Tamar
First, let me wish you all a happy new year. I hope 2015 is a year of good health and good food. It is also traditional, at this time, to give a shout-out to peace on earth, the universal perennial hope for a newly minted year. You’ll be happy to know that we here at Starving are doing our part. Frequent visitors will recall our meat chickens, of blessed memory. We got them at the end of August and slaughtered them at the beginning of November. Cornish cross chickens are not the most … [Read More...]
December 10, 2014 By Tamar
Back in 2012, Kevin and I set a goal of getting 20.12% -- OK, call it 20% -- of our calories from what we grew, hunted, fished, and gathered. I kept a monthly tally and added it up at the end of the year. It was an interesting exercise. We did it because, the previous year, we’d spent an inordinate amount of time on procuring our own food, and the calorie total came to an anaemic 11%. After all that effort, 11%! It was demoralizing. We’ve never aspired to self-sufficiency. In fact, in … [Read More...]
November 23, 2014 By Tamar
When you cook something you’ve never cooked before, there’s always trepidation in the first taste. I get that I-sure-hope-this-doesn’t-suck feeling every time I try something new, whether it’s a dish I’ve concocted or a recipe I’ve followed to the letter (that noise you hear is Kevin snorting from across the room – his way of expressing incredulity at the idea that I have ever, since the dawn of time, followed a recipe to the letter). There are factors that increase the … [Read More...]
November 6, 2014 By Tamar
It’s been six years and change since Kevin and I moved to Cape Cod and, in that time, we’ve killed a lot of things. Hundreds of fish, dozens of birds, three pigs, assorted varmints. (No deer yet, but this is my year. I can feel it.) Yesterday, we added 13 meat chickens to the tally. We take killing seriously around here, and we do it with care. We give our animals the best life we can, and we try and make sure death comes to them with as little pain and distress as possible. Slaughter day … [Read More...]
November 4, 2014 By Tamar
I want to tell you about a book. Before I do, I have to warn you that I am biased in the matter of this particular book. Its author is my friend. She and I have written for the same editors, in the same publications. Kevin and I have been the lucky beneficiaries of her skill in the kitchen. But none of that stops this book from being the best book on preserving that I’ve ever seen. It’s Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving, by Cathy … [Read More...]