Friday, September 28, 2012


Pickles & applesauce
            With the blessing of his cardiologist, ten days ago Tim stopped taking an extremely toxic medication meant to control his afibrillation: now, for the first time in over a year, he feels, well, well. As a result assuming responsibility of his own health (nobody knows a body like its owner), Fitzgeralds Gardening put in its first full work-week since July.

            We labored for 15 hours over 5 days pruning, weeding, bagging debris, dumping debris, edging beds and mulching one of our regulars’ property. Doesn’t sound particularly taxing, but I suggest most of you probably could not achieve the same manicured results in as little time. For two geezers straddling 60 it was a triumphant (if exhausting) re-entry to the world of gardening-for-hire.

            In addition to the regular job, I’ve contracted to weed a friend's overgrown spread for two hours every Saturday morning with the aim of independently financing my various money-pit hobbies—weaving (lessons, yarns, looms, books), knitting (needles, lots and lots and lots of yarns, books), canning (canning pots, jars, lids, specialized utensils, all the local produce I can find, books), and reading (more books). Most of the writing I do—blog, newsletter columns, the poetry collection I’m whipping into shape—only eats up time, which, as the 1% knows full well, is money. Except in my case, apparently.

            With the advent of our return to gainful activity, however, my above-mentioned hobbies threaten to overwhelm me. I cancelled my weaving lesson last week because I hadn’t done my homework. (“Did the dog eat it?” teased Kathleen, my teacher.) I have three little projects in the works on two looms at the moment, one incomplete, two not even started.

Work not in progress
Work in progress

Almost there!
Meanwhile, on the knitting front, my first-ever raglan-sleeve sweater project lacks only two-thirds of a sleeve, neckline detailing, and blocking. The nearness of the finish line is a goad to my flesh. Plus, on our most recent visit to the yarn shop, I got wool for a new sweater for Tim because I love to start new projects and I’m an idiot.  

Out in the garden, I pulled out most of the remaining looper-and-pickleworm-devastated melons (will try again next spring) and sowed lettuces, onions, rutabagas and turnips in the Grow-Bags. What’s hilarious about that is almost every bag has at least one potato sprout that I carefully hilled and planted around. The rest of the yard I continue to ignore.

Hope springs...
The former melon patch
            On our way to work Monday, Tim and I stopped by Oak Island’s farmers market, where we cleaned out two stalls’ remaining pickling cucumbers and apples, and picked up some persimmons and three cool-looking yellow zucchini for good measure. Tuesday morning, Tim had his actinic keratoses drug-trial check-up in Wilmington, so we took advantage of proximity to Whole Foods and Carolina Farmin’ stores to buy even more cukes and apples. Arriving home at 2 o’clock, we set about making pickles and applesauce.

Eleven pints of
bread-&-butter pickles
            Working together on projects reveals new and fascinating things about your partner. Tim, for example, is a champion apple-peeler, a fact that had heretofore escaped my notice. He skinned 14 pounds of apples faster than I could core and quarter them. Absolutely amazing. And he’s also a whiz at packing jars with cucumber slices and strips. (“I watched a Mister Rogers once where he visited a pickle factory, and the ladies there really crammed them in,” he explained as I gazed at him with wonder and watery eyes over a saucepan of gently boiling vinegar and spices.)

 Eight pints of applesauce, 
minus the quart jar 
we already opened
            In a little over three hours, we reduced 23 pounds of produce to 24 pints of preserves. It was at this point, obviously in some sort of fugue state, I volunteered—hold on to your hats—to cook dinner. No, really, I did. I whipped up one of my two specialties (the other one is baked ziti), a shepherds pie made with North Carolina-raised grass-fed beef from the Greenlands Farm Store on Midway Road and sweet onions grown in Brunswick County, topped with mashed potatoes from our very own Toadflax Farm. With all those local ingredients, even such a pathetic excuse for a chef as myself couldn’t mess up too badly. It came out okay, I guess: we very nearly polished off the whole thing at one sitting, although we immediately wished we hadn’t.

Two pints pickled yellow zucchini

            Later, the dishes air-drying in the drainer, Alex Trebek running the Jeopardy! board with his usual aplomb, knitting in hand, I remembered I hadn’t turned out a blog post for this week. So here it is now. As with all things, I get around to it. Eventually.

Thanks for dropping by.