Bread and butter pickles in a mason jar. There...Image via Wikipedia

It has been particularly hot this summer.  Oh sure there was that late freeze, back when my apple trees were all in bloom, that destroyed my fledgling raspberry plants and seriously stunted my baby strawberries, and just generally insured that we would have no fruit on the farm this year.  Add that to the discovery that the power company, which has a right of way across the back of our land, mysteriously sprayed only the quarter mile or so where last year we picked a bumper crop of wild blackberries (which were ready around the same time as the baby!), and it adds up to little or no jam to make this year.


Jam is a staple here, with all of the lunches we pack each day for school and work, homemade jam from our own fruit is a special, as well as economical favorite around here.  However, in some sort of divine balancing act, we have had the best year ever for cucumbers.  I planted just four plants, perhaps a tad early, and we have been literally over run.  They even outproduced the zucchini!  I have taken three or four bushels out so far, and despite the fact that the dreaded cucumber bug is now starting to attack as evidenced by the drying dead leaves, I still have maybe half a bushel more waiting down there. With that many cukes, you just gotta make pickles.  So far we I have made about 35 quarts of bread and butter pickles, and 7 quarts of dill.  All hot water bathed and stacked neatly on the shelves in the pantry downstairs, they await the school year when they will be turned into pickle and cheese sandwiches and fill lunchbags and stomachs.  (This year I have used a packaged brand of pickling spices by Mrs. Wages® , though, I must try to find my mother’s recipe, handed down from her mother and her mother.  They were better, though just slightly, but they were a lot more work.  If and when I do I will post it.  (The Mrs. Wages are nearly as good though, and way easier)


Of course, all that pickling and canning had to take place as usual, during the hottest, muggiest weather of July.  Today, though, I awoke to the sound of a Thunderstorm overhead.  It is cooler, and not a lot will be done outside this morning.  Oh how I wish I had some fruit to make at least a pie.  We may just have to buy in…



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A Northern Mockingbird spreads its wings. Pict...Image via Wikipedia

I am listening to a northern mockingbird outside in the big maple below the garden, as I have most mornings this summer.  I delight each day in listening to his enthusiastic impressions of all the birds around here and some I can’t even identify.  I have even tried to count them several times, but I get lost as he occasionally repeats a favorite and he offers them in random order.  He is usually so passionate and energetic that I can’t help but join his mood as I sip my morning coffee.  It has been a particularly rain free and hot summer, so he has had a lot of good mornings to sing.  This morning, though, he seems a bit off.  His delivery is not as crisp, he takes breaks – usually he goes on for hours – and he seems to be using just a few of his favorites, the robin, the kill deer.


I think I know why.  For the last several nights, my baby has been waking up hungry, and I have had to get her a fresh bottle.  As I pass through the the hall to the kitchen, illuminated by a bright full moon, I can hear a hundred bird songs out in the maple.  At midnight.  I can’t help but wonder why he is up singing in the moonlight.  Oh, I was young once too and may have sung the occasional midnight operata, but I put that down to the foolishness of youth.  But what biological imperative, what evolutionary adaptation – what the heck is that crazy bird doing?


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This is my first post of any kind in a really long time. My old blog was just getting started when I completely changed my life. I still need to edit my profile as a lot has changed. No longer am I the socially challenged bachelor living deep in the mountains of Penn’s great woods. First my children joined me, then a wonderful woman came into my life. We all have moved to a great little piece of property, a farm some 30 or 40 years ago (and soon to be again), I have a great new big family and a new project. No longer hunting and gathering on my ridge, like mankind before me I am progressing into agriculture. I still intend to catch up and share my ideas thoughts, opinions and techniques from the Indigenous Gourmet and Backpack Bistro days, but now the focus is on my Back-Yard Farm.


No longer content to eat and feed what I find and where I find it, I am intent on producing much and someday all of my food. Not forgetting what I have learned, but adding to my repertoire. The Indigenous Gourmet is not hanging up his hat, just changing it.


I am posting my old profile here mostly as a reminder to myself of who I am and where I came from as I begin my new journey.


Profile circa 2004 – 2008: I live with my two noisy children on a quiet mountain stream, still searching for the quiet balance and simple life that continues to elude me. To that end I am regularly visited by my beautiful fiance who humors my eccentricities and encourages my explorations.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to get back to work.

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This morning my son and I are trying to replant the entire garden that has been destroyed by the deer. The deer here are a mixed blessing; venison is an important part of the local diet, and a part of the beauty of the local landscape. They are fewer here lately, some say due to recent changes in the game laws. I don’t know. Just a few years ago there were so many deer they were a danger when driving and even a nuisance to be fenced out of your garden. Not it seems they too have joined in the flight to suburbia. To their detriment. By moving among the masses they have attracted the attention of the media.


“Hazardous and out of control,” the headlines read. And so, for whatever the reasons, the game laws changed. I don’t pretend to understand the bigger plan, but since hunting doesn’t take place in suburbia, but rather out here in the hustings, the result I have seen is fewer deer in local freezers and on local tables, while deer seem unchecked in the more populous areas.


The increase in hunting and hunters flows outward from suburbia. “Sport Hunters”, Folks who often do not like, much less eat venison, none the less feel the yearly urge to brag about the deer they got. Recently, talk about the size of “the rack” have been giving way to tales of the numbers of doe or the several tags the intrepid hunters were able to fill out and thus prove their prowess. Many of these deer are wasted, a few perhaps given away. The ones that do make it into a freezer are still often discarded. Much meat will sit unused until next year when it must be thrown out to make room for the next deer.


A few years ago, when I first moved here, the winding mile or so of road up over the top of my mountain might have had two or three cars of hunters on opening day of buck season. Everyone had a reasonable amount of meat and the braggadocio of the size of the rack was often answered with “you don’t eat the antlers”. Though deer were more common, we had, really, less trouble avoiding the nuisance aspects. Perhaps we were just more used to it. The last several seasons, I have counted over two dozen cars, with several hunters each on the same road on opening day. Most of theses cars are not even local, but out-of-towners coming to “the mountains” for a little fun. This is on a road that gets fewer than a dozen cars every day.


Which brings me back to my current day. Lately I have been watching a (very) few doe in the evenings, only one of which seems to have a fawn with her. Thus, far in the season, my garden has been relatively untouched, and I suppose I have been a little lax in its defense. After all, I reasoned, there is plenty of food for the deer to browse, and if I share a little, it will mean more meat this winter.


This morning as I make my rounds, coffee in hand, I see my entire garden has been decimated. Stems devoid of leaves where my tomato plants lived, basil, uprooted and devoured, only the woody root ball remaining. Where my lovely rows of peppers with their promise of colors and flavors only tiny footprints and piles of pellet-like scat. Radishes, lettuce, everything but the onions gone.


Once, I might have been more philosophical about the loss, balancing the disappointment in vegetables with the promise of meat. Now, I’m not so sure. The young does and the sole fawn stand a greater chance of ending up in a suburban landfill. It is little wonder many of the daughters of the suburban sportsmen forgo meat as a social statement, considering the current trend of disrespect for all of our food sources, animals, plants, even the soil.


As my son, an early riser goes to the house to stir his sister and we all begin the process of salvaging, replanting, strengthening our barriers, I wonder. Is there a parable in all of this?


I hope America always has the resources to recover these losses.


Thank goodness for CSA.






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