There is a good 12" of snow on the ground, and it's COLD.
But my mind has wandered to the coming spring, and I am eagerly anticipating starting the growing season. It will begin in the basement next month, and should continue, weather willing, into October or November. I am planning to start a few crops from seed this spring to get a head start on my zone's short growing season, especially for long crops like tomatoes. I've also gotten mostly set up for composting indoors and outdoors.
Setting up a small box in the backyard and filling it with yard waste is an easy setup for outdoor composting, and is a much more efficient use of space than grass. (Pretty much anything that produces rather than consumes is a better use of space than grass.)
While I can't start that box until spring, I'm starting to make compost NOW, INDOORS. Through the magic of vermicomposting, I will have fresh fantastic compost in a few months AND it will come from my junk mail and food scraps. :)
My preoccupation with the future resonated in my present this week when I decided to make scones for work-breakfasts. Baking is usually cheap, and scones seemed like a good way to use some sour cherries I'd pulled from the freezer absentmindedly the night before.
What resulted was especially good reheated with a cup of coffee, but it was also a reminder for me at this time of year. Now is the time of planning and nesting: the calm before (after) the storm of planting, keeping, harvesting, and preserving. Winter, though it is a time of general leanness, is also the time to enjoy the fruits of the labor of many months ago.
Some time last summer, my dear aunt pitted gallons of sour cherries, since her trees produced them in such abundance in its weeks of bounty. She gave me pounds of them, which I used mostly at once on cobblers and bread. After days straight of the pure bliss that is sour cherries, I got some sense about myself and froze a small quart bag in late July of 2008. Here, six months later, I am thanking my dear sweet self of July for thinking of little 'ol January me, who has forgotten the taste of fresh fruit other than citrus.
I wanted to make something to stretch the little supply I have, and I wanted something substantial enough for breakfast. I also wanted the berry to really shine, and thus the bread to be just barely sweet. Scones seemed like the answer. I adapted this recipe from Joy of Baking. I used some wheat flour along with the ap flour, and used my fresh sour cherries instead of cranberries.
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. granulated white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
3/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (Do NOT substitute quick oats here. They will not work.)
1/3-1/2 c. fruit (cherries, raisins, apricots, whatever.)
1/3 c. milk
Whisk together dry ingredients, save the oats and fruit. Work in the fat with your fingers or a pastry blender until it's the texture of sand. (This wikibooks photo is right on.) Move quickly to prevent the butter from melting.
Add the oats and fruit. Then, add just enough milk to bring the mixture together. On a floured surface, knead the dough four to five times. Roll it out into a circle 1 1/2-2 inches thick. Cut like a pie into wedges, reshaping them to be equal in height and size.
Brush each slice with egg wash. (beaten egg+water)
After I took these photos, I remembered that I also had some raspberries in the freezer, so I shoved a few of them whole, frozen, onto the top of a few scones before I baked them.
Cook at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned.
I put these under a broiler for a minute at the end to get the surface brown, but you don't want to overcook scones, as they get tough very easily.
This tart juicy fruit was a perfect reminder for me that there is work for every season and that awareness of the our daily duties and their future benefits is a rhythm that my generation has mostly lost and that we must strive to reclaim.
James Taylor insists that "enjoying the passage of time" is the secret to life, and I might be inclined to agree that resigning to and embracing passing time is the best attempt at peace. Enjoying, knowing, and participating in the rhythm of the seasons is important to food, and life. (I also think of this song by XTC.)
I am lucky to live in a place that truly experiences four seasons each year. Heck, even five.
I'll leave you with some photos of the sky this winter has given me, as well as my fancy-new camera can portray them.
That's all for now. What are you plotting for this spring?