Thursday, November 19, 2015

The autumn is here (or I couldn't think of another title)

By Yulia

It seems just yesterday the spring was upon us and we were impatiently waiting for the warm season to come. And it came. It came suddenly, full of greenery and flowers, endless sunshine and refreshing breezes, chirping, humming and buzzing. It offered us its abundance of food. Speaking of food, here are some snapshots of our fall harvest. 
These are Thelma Sander's Sweet Potato squashes. A good producer here. Its mellow taste reminds one of a potato and can be used like any other acorn squash, although I found it to be less sweet. We mainly used this squash for making so-called "lazy varenyky" ("lazy pierogy") or "palchyky" (aka "little fingers"). This variety ended up being my mom's favorite, because she doesn't like a strong pumpkinny flavor. I saved some seeds and we'll be growing these again next year.

Some smaller specimens of squash. Most of these didn't reach maturity, but make for a good fall decor on our windows on the veranda. 

Boston Marrows on the other windowsill of our veranda. These were best made into creamy, spicy soups with ginger, rosemary and cinnamon. 

This is Galeus D'Eysines squash. We haven't tried it yet, so no feedback yet. 

And this is green turban squash. 

Upper Ground Sweet Potato squashes. Not our favorite variety this year. They are supposed to get sweeter with storage, so we'll see--perhaps the taste will improve. 
Our last flowers of the year. Something for our little bees and other insects to rejoice about this late in the season.
I once faintly heard one of our neighbors refer to himself as a craftsman behind one of the baskets at another neighbor's house. So...a few weeks ago while looking at our one and only wicker basket, I thought perhaps that neighbor  wouldn't mind making a few more for us. I asked his wife and voila -- we receive these two lovely baskets! I wanted to pay the man for his work, but he found my sum of money way too high and didn't want to accept it. Instead, we settled on a barter. I gave his wife a few pumpkins and squashes, plus a bag full of pears. (Pictured above is the New England Sugar Pie pumpkin, which we used to make, you guessed it right -- pumpkin pie! Also, apples and some of the last elderberries from our orchard/garden.)

        More apples than we know what to do with. (These are obviously not all of them. We have over 20 apple trees, although we are/will be getting rid of some of the old and sick ones.)
 While all the other apple tress are completely bare at this point, this one is still full of fruit. I slowly pick them off the tree and make apple/kale juice from them.
These clusters of edible mushrooms (we consulted my parents to confirm this, since we're not fungi experts) have sprouted all over our lawn in front of the house next to our evergreens.
    Our corn wasn't the best this year. And the mice decided to feast on the little corn that we did have.

 Our cauliflower was tiny this year. It didn't get enough water during our drought period.

Also, more grapes than we know what to do with. These are wine grapes. They are sweet, but also have a lot of acidity in them. You can't really eat more than a handful. The previous owner used to make wine every year, so he had planted more than a few of these grape vines on the property. We're gradually getting rid of them, since we're not big on wine making. Instead, we've planted a few of our own sweet varieties. My grandpa shared some of his own grape creations with us. He breeds his own varieties. A grape enthusiast of a sort.
Here's the grandpa himself. He's 83. One of the best guys I know. And the best dresser ever -- "Grandpakins, I love your style!"

There is still some food available in our garden. These are late fall radishes and borage leaves. We also have turnips, rutabagas, collard greens, cauliflower, sprouting broccoli, mache or corn salad, kale, plus other greens and salads.

A few weeks ago, while my parents were visiting us, we took a quick trip up the hill to collect some rose hips. It's very pretty and incredibly quiet up there. The whole area is a green vastness of forests, agri-fields and long hedges in-between. It is in those hedges that we find our rose hips, sloe, hawthorn, wild flowers and herbs. 
The bushes are full of thorns, getting nipped by them is inevitable. 

My dad walking with his bag full of rose hips to the car and Toma's butt, because she's always nearby. 
My mama 
The harvesters.
Our loot. 
Aside from harvesting food, our lives here are also full of other experiences. Michael says that animals really like us, because all kinds of creatures keep congregating at our house. This adolescent domestic pigeon spent a few hours sitting on the roof of our mudroom.  
Our Laska was a bad cat so I had to lock her -- temporarily -- in the mudroom. There was a weasel (also called laska in Ukrainian) running around our patio and Laska wanted to go after it. We already have experience with one of our cats, Levko, killing one of those weasels and I didn't want to let it happen again. Laska didn't seem to mind being in there. She just plopped her butt on top of the apple and stared out the window looking pretty.
 Turns out we have another spring in our tiny village. It's hidden among trees and doesn't have much of a set up. Some villagers have told us that the water here is great for making spirits.

Things we find on our walks out in the back fields: Chemical trails. Naturally, the local agribusinesses are all about protecting and maximizing their crops. Their choice is now clear to us -- a crop protection product from South Africa -- not natural. Oh, where would we all be without our precious chemicals!? I'm giving this both of my thumbs down. 
Levko makes a bed out of a lot of different things. I wish I could sleep that easily.
On another walk up on the hill from our village. This time we were on a hunt for hawthorn (it's the red hued tree in the picture) and sloe. 

We assume there was a natural pond here at some point.
We found Toma in our apple orchard two years ago on Halloween. She's our little ghost child who appeared out of nowhere. And she surely scared us. We were terrified, not knowing what to do with this little pup. We didn't want a dog, at least not yet. There were so many other things to think about and to take care of, and having a dog was not on our list. But, we had no choice, or rather -- there was only one decent thing we could do -- to invite her to be part of our family. Today, we can't imagine our lives without Toma. 
!Adios, amigos!


  1. What a beautiful and informative post, with lot's of pictures. Thank you.

    1. We like to both read and write posts with lots of pictures!

  2. The color variants of your squash and corn are amazing and beautiful.

    FWIIW, extra apples can be stored over winter. See, for some storage methods:

    You an also make apple cider. But if you do not want to make wine, then avoid making apple cider -- it is even more difficult.

    1. We like nice corn and squash too!

      We did put some apples away for storage. We also use them to make apple pie and juice.

  3. This is my favorite type of post from you guys! I love to see what you have harvested and what you are planning on doing with it. Also, love pictures of your land!

    1. Thank you for your comment! We'll make sure to do more of these posts.

  4. I love this post. So beautiful, so rich with produce. I look forward to learning so much from you guys. I am a total beginner and feel blessed to have some land in this much misunderstood country.