Homestead Update: What To Do With All Of This Aronia...
Hello and happy Friday to you. It feels good to be writing again, sitting inside of the cool farmhouse while I watch rain fall on the homestead, nourishing our land and pushing those autumn crops to grow. I have a confession to make: I am feeling overwhelmed with life, but in the best of ways if that can be possible. There is just so much to be done! My brain is overstimulated; each day I experience something new. There are apples and pumpkins and winter squash now to be picked, the last of the beans to be snatched now that the bugs have taken to the leaves. The summer vegetables are looking overworked and stretched to their limits. The chickens need to be tended to more closely as the first eggs are due any day now. There are seedlings to water and thin, tomatoes to be canned. There's a little boy who needs more snuggles and is learning to use the potty. We have customers to feed and market tables to fill. It's been a lot, but it's really fun work. Lately I am just having trouble finding the words to describe everything I am drinking in lately, and the blog has taken a hard hit for the past few months in me not really feeling up to photographing and documenting it all. It feels backwards to me because there is no better time than now to document, and yet here I am just trying to breathe.
In the past two weeks we've welcomed the arrival of our aronia berries, early apples, and some winter squash and pie pumpkins. Part of me is actually rejecting the fact that autumn is coming soon - really soon! I cannot believe that in only one week September will be here; the arrival of my birthday and the start of fall. Soon the weather will cool, and we will change over our home to things that embrace coziness. Part of me is not ready. This summer went by way too fast! We spent every single day outside; that's something I don't think I have ever done in my life. In the past, I hid away from summer. I don't really love being sweaty without a purpose. Now that we have a purpose, it feels right. It's my body's only form of exercise, and it's one that I really enjoy because I get something delicious at the end of it.
The aronia berries are something that are both a wonder and a nuisance for our family. It's hard to explain without sounding ungrateful. We inherited over 800 bushes when we bought this farm. In case you are curious, there's more information in this post about what exactly aronia is. There's a fine line here between sentimentality and reality. While I've known myself fairly well for a number of years now, I recently learned that my personality type tends to stand on the line of "truth over emotions" and it's just something that has always been there - now I can embrace it, I suppose. The reality is that these berries taste like dirt. They just do! They are so, so good for your body, but they don't taste good and therefore nobody wants to buy them. Nobody! We bring them to market, and it's like trying to sell dead flowers or moldy onions. Yet there are so many people that become so sad when we say we'll be taking the berries out. It's an odd conundrum; please don't rip out these berries that I don't want to buy because they taste awful! It's honestly just aggravating, and I am ready to take them out so we can move past them.
What exactly do we do with over 7,500 pounds of aronia berries? That part has been hard. No one wants them! We've contacted every possible resource from grocery stores to wholesalers, and the market is just really bad right now. It sounds like the fad of the superfood berry has died, which is fine... We weren't really expecting much from them when we bought the farm at all! We will keep a few bushes for ourselves, but other than that, most of them will come out this October or sometime around then.
That leaves us with the option to just save as many as we possibly can. I have been canning them into jam for the past week, and it really doesn't take many to make that. The farm is open to u-pickers (another hard sell), and I mostly feed them to the chickens who really enjoy them! That's been a bonus. For those I don't pick fresh, I may harvest the ones left to dry in the sun for tea.
Now we wait for the autumn crops to grow and show their bounty. I've planted the tiny transplants, which always scares me. The thing with autumn transplants is that you start them so late and put them in just as the true leaves are forming, at least that is what I have done in the past and have read from others. Perhaps I should start them even sooner next year. The seeds that I sowed (spinach, pac choi, tatsoi, arugula, salad mix, beets, carrots, turnips, and rutabagas) have sprouted from the soil. The radishes are already ready to harvest, and I may have a window to do one or two more sowings. That would be ideal! I am nervous for fall just as I was for spring. Will it take too long for everything to be ready? Will I have enough? Will I have too much? It's questions that never get answered until the final days.
Have you planted your autumn crops? What are you growing this season?