It's the early part of March and Ohio has that beautiful tendency to promise spring and then rip the hope away all within 24 hours.
The chicken house has a few fat American style hens in it now and one very flamboyant rooster with a now frozen comb. I saw the weasel bounding around the electric fencing on the perimeter and he must have found a hole as I no longer get a 3 eggs a day, which is most disappointing. I sent my faithful hound after it, but she was a bit confused and put the ducks back into the creek instead. She sniffed around for the weasel's home after it got away and I emphatically tried to get her on the right trail. A herding dog she is, but a scent hound she is not, in spite of her best efforts. My foster pit bull seemed happy to sniff around in the wake of the foul creature but to no avail either.
My sister has moved into the house at High Mill in order to try to finish the renovations I started almost a decade ago. The goats are tethered outside clearing brush around the strawberry patch that will be replanted this year, although perhaps with something new and we will rotate the strawberries somewhere else. They are much more productive when you treat them like an annual crop you replant every couple of years. The brutal winter cold will show with a shudder through the perennial fruit crops this year as I got lucky for quite a few years growing marginal crops but this will be the test of my cultural practices. I plant them. I tend them. I hope for the best and when the weather throws things at me, I just have to smile and see how it goes.
My mother's house has turned into a tea testing laboratory. I got a lot better at saving and drying the herbs from the garden last year and so the mason jars and coffee cans are filled with different dried green leaves along with quite a few bulk herbs and tea leaves I found online.
We put them all on the table and start mixing, starting with a base of black, green or herbal and building a flavor that we are going for from there. Cup after cup has hot water poured over the leaves for a taste test and then a slight modification until the desired effect is reached.
I have developed a deeper appreciation for a well blended tea. I am digging into books about the benefits of herbs to make infusions that are delicious and beneficial for different ailments. And the seed ordering process reflects the blends we are putting together.
In fact, the seed ordering process this year directly reflects the activities of the kitchen in the winter months. It's almost a formula based on how many onions, sauce tomatoes, and broccoli romanesco go into one dish as to how many plants I would need in the garden to supply me with this meal this time next year. Granted, the pasta and cheese needed to complete the dish do not have a spot in the garden, but it's something nice to strive for.
My tiny apartment is a fermentation workshop, with hard cider mead bubbling in the corner, a finished rye I.P.A that just got bottled, edamame and flour on it's slow fermenting journey to soy sauce, and authentic lactic fermenting cabbage burping it's way into different flavors of kraut on my table. The dehydrator is filled to the gills with meyer lemons with some keylimes waiting in the wings for the next round and both of them will hopefully find their way into teas next summer when the herbs are green and full.
So this year is filled with hope, in spite of the snowy slap in the face. This year is going to start in a fury of apple blossoms, giant rhubarb leaves unfurling, grass flushing green for the goats to graze, seeds fighting out of their hard shells into tiny whisps of green, and the epic battle between weasel and hen and guard dog will wage on. Hopefully through all this I will come out wiser and we all will be well fed and happy.