Spirit Vegetable

Last week, I was craving some pumpkin bread, so I pulled out my next-to-last North Georgia Candy Roaster and…well, roasted it up. 

There are a number of reasons why winter squash are my spirit vegetable. Their season is autumn, which is the best season. They come in a lot of different colors, many of them orange. Pumpkin cake and squash chana masala are delicious.

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Mostly, though, I love winter squash because they are so chill. Easy to grow. Easy to harvest. Easy to store. Tomatoes get cracky if they don’t like how they’re watered. Beans and stupid cucumbers have to be picked every 2 or 3 days lest they become enormous, inedible beasts. And eggplants…I don’t even know what the eggplants want except to spend their whole lives as two bug-eaten leaves that refuse to turn into a functioning plant.

But squash will grow through neglect. Weeds? Whatever – they power through. Harvesting? Whenever you want! A pumpkin will just sit in the sun and wait, hoping you remember to bring it inside before the first frost. And then you don’t even have to eat it right away! Winter squash will store for months and be at the ready when you’re craving some pumpkin bread.

Last week, I was craving some pumpkin bread, so I pulled out my next-to-last North Georgia Candy Roaster and…well, roasted it up.

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I love this heirloom squash. It is said to be the originator of pumpkin pie. The fruits are crazy fun to look at, but also so easy to use. Many squash are actually death traps. Trying to cut into a pumpkin or recalcitrant butternut is a hazard to my precious knitting fingers. Not our good friend the Candy Roaster, though. She has nice thin skin, but isn’t too delicate to store for a while (like Delicata squash can be). Her shape is conducive to cutting, and once cut, the seeds are a cinch to remove. I  have so much love for this rare, heirloom vegetable!

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…as do the chickens who get the seeds. And the goats who try to steal the seeds from the chickens.

I roasted the squash until it was tender and then divided it in two. Half the squash was cooled and then put directly in the fridge to wait a few days. Half was scooped into a bowl, blended with my stick blender and then immediately became pumpkin bread. I love this recipe from Dishing Up the Dirt because it uses honey instead of sugar, calls for whole wheat flour, and contains chocolate chips. It is my go-to pumpkin bread recipe now. I did make the vanilla bourbon glaze (because bourbon), but neither Bill nor I found it to be necessary. A few days later, I made Maple Pumpkin muffins with the leftover squash. Also delicious.

There is only one Candy Roaster (and one butternut) left in my squash storage for this year. It’s a good thing spring planting is just around the corner!

Knitting for Sanity

But, whenever I feel overwhelmed, I know that I can sit down for a few minutes, or a few hours, and return to the routine of knitting.

There are so many times when knitting has made my life more comfortable – handspun socks hugging my feet, or a double layer of shawls keeping my face warm when I work in the barn…the sweater customized to fit just how I like it.

Mostly, though, knitting has kept me comfortable by giving me a productive way to chill out. I take small projects with me whenever I go out and know that “waiting” will be a task expected of me – appointments, restaurants, Bill wandering through the hardware store pondering shelves and shelves and aisles and aisle of pipe fittings.

Knitting has been a key part of my sanity for the last few weeks, especially. I am comfortable with routine and predictability. Spontaneity tends to make me anxious. My library, for example, is only a few miles from my house, but I need at least three days of lead time before I’m comfortable planning a trip. To return books. It takes me three days to get ready to drive five minutes – in a totally straight line – and jump out of the car to plop books through a slot in a door. An event which involves actually interacting with people requires at least of week of mental psych up.

The last four weeks have been anything but routine. We’ve experienced disruption on top of disruption. Some were permanent (my husband was laid off as part of a merger at work – we’ve had nearly two years to plan for the possibility, so we’re ok), and some were temporary (I got the flu! And this extreme cold weather, which changes the farm routine significantly – and broke our pipes…and our furnace). But, whenever I feel overwhelmed, I know that I can sit down for a few minutes, or a few hours, and return to the routine of knitting.

Except when I had the flu. That was four days of sleeping and whining with a small amount of banana eating.

The repetitive motion of knitting is very calming for my brain and my body. The feel of wool soothes my soul. Beautiful yarn colors and lacy stitch patterns delight my eyes. And most importantly, knitting is a show of optimism for the future. Adding a few rounds to a sock, or finishing a sleeve on a sweater is a profession of faith that sometime soon, this knitted item will be used – hopefully during a happy time. I may be struggling with two weeks of single degree temperatures, but a lacy sock means that summer will come and there will be a time when 18 layers of clothing are not required. Perhaps, at this moment, I have the unwashed hair, and body odor of someone who hasn’t crawled off the couch in a week, but knitting on a sweater proves that I know some day I will be germ-free, take a shower, brush my hair, and (with at least seven days’ notice) leave the house to meet up with friends.

The last few weeks of 2017 were disruptive, worrying, and difficult. Knitting helped me remember that the trying events were temporary, and helped me stay sane(ish) as we were getting past them.

I’ve got delightful projects to share with you soon! In the meantime, please enjoy some scenes from the farm, which is firmly in the grip of winter.