As we turn the corner into late fall with the arrival of November, the farm is awash in color—from the beautiful fall leaves fluttering to the ground in bright scarlet and yellow hues from our collection of Gingko, chestnut, oak and maple trees to the crisp and colorful apples and pears we are still harvesting in the orchard. The birds are busy feasting on the dark purple Evergreen huckleberries, bright orange rose hips and windfall apples both in the garden and orchard. Squirrels are busy seemingly everywhere, burying walnuts, chestnuts and acorns for their winter food.
We are still cleaning up branches and limbs from the wind storm that occurred over this past weekend in Snohomish County, and with the return to this more normal blustery and drippy weather, we are also catching up on some chores in and around the barn to prepare for the upcoming winter. On crisp fall mornings, you’ll find our very tame and social goats hanging out in their barn, and now that they have all day to dream up trouble, they seem to be up to even more mischief than usual. They are a curious bunch, keeping their eyes on both what we are up to and all the goings on at the farm, hoping for treats every time we pass by.
We are also taking advantage of the days by finishing putting up the last of the harvested tomatoes—this fall, we have preserved over 900 pounds of juicy, ripe tomatoes in big batches of our Nonna Pat’s marinara sauce. The orchard apples will be making their way into apple sauces and apple butters, and we are also setting aside spiced pears and beets, and making preserved lemons with the remaining fruit from the Meyer lemon trees that are now pulled close to the barn for shelter from the cold.
One special note: There will be no F&L box the day of Thanksgiving (November 24th), but we will get you all set for the feast in the preceding week’s delivery which, per tradition, will be full of all our favorite holiday provisions. Your weekly delivery will pick back up again on Thursday, December 1st—have a happy turkey day with your loved ones and know that we are grateful for you!
While we are still experiencing sunny, even warm days as we start the month of October, the cooler nights and brisk mornings tell us it truly is fall.
Here at Bella Luna, the leaves are just beginning to turn color—brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange, and the local wildlife are beginning to stash provisions like crazy. Squirrels are busy darting to and fro, carrying off acorns, walnuts and chestnuts—some as big as their heads—to bury for food during the winter months. The blue jays are also busy squabbling with one another, battling the squirrels and each other for hazelnuts.
With the last of the grapes behind us, the apple and pear harvest has officially begun—the sweet, aromatic Macoun and crunchy, mildly-tart Liberty are the first apples to ripen in our orchard, with the Asian and European pears right behind them. (We admit to snatching a few right off the tree while walking past to do chores in the barn or garden, with the donkey enjoying an apple here and there as well!) Soon, we will press and enjoy our first batch of fresh cider, and start cooking up homemade batches of applesauce and apple butter in the farm kitchen.
In addition to the time spent tending our clients’ gardens for our landscape design firm Parterre, we are also hosting a few fall weddings and other gatherings. In between events back at home, we are pulling the last of the heirloom tomatoes out of the hoophouse, which are destined for more batches of our Nonna Pat’s tomato sauce. As the tomatoes end their season, they make way for fall plantings of kale, cabbage and Swiss chard to overwinter for early spring harvest. These hardy crops always renew our excitement for fall and its distinct pleasures—like foraging for mushrooms in the woods or enjoying the distinct flavors of autumn over a cozy supper.
We hope you are also enjoying this most lovely start to the month of October!
Fall is in the air! Here at Bella Luna we are enjoying the best that September has to offer with dewy mornings, cooler evenings and yet still warm and sunny afternoons. We sure hope you and yours are well as the kids head back to school, the late-season produce comes off the vine in the gardens, and the official start to fall approaches.
We are enjoying seeing the blue jays and squirrels dashing noisily about, competing for walnuts and hazelnuts which they hide for winter, and the honeybees busily collecting pollen and nectar, and filling their hives with honey for their winter food. In the garden, we continue the everyday ritual of harvesting fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and summer squash from the beds and hoophouse; the rainbow of colorful dahlias and perennials in the cut flower garden are thriving, boding well for next years’ plant sales and flowers for events.
In the next few weeks we will harvest the apples and pears in the orchard. The crisp, tart Honeycrisp and Akane varieties will be the first to be plucked; next up come the Asian pears, along with the continuing Italian plums and last of the grapes. In the gardens, the kale, cabbage and broccoli seedlings are going into the ground to overwinter (under a covering of Reemay fabric to discourage the pesky rabbits), right as the garlic and storage onions are coming out of it. Cover crops are being sown in the fallow plots along with a healthy dose of compost for turning over in the spring, enriching the soil with nutrients for when we begin to once again prepare for next years’ crops.
We’ve been kept busy with summer with weddings and other special events, and the kitchen continues to bustle even on non-event days with pickling, preserving and canning as we put away the summer bounty. September is always spent crafting big batches of Nonna Pat’s tomato sauce to carry us through the winter months. We are also putting our favorite Parisienne Cornichon de Bourbonne cucumbers to delicious use in small-batches of our signature French-style cornichons. Made using the traditional recipe that we’ve shared with you below, each jar is packed with a Grapehouse grape leaf during pickling to keep these tiny pickles crunchy and crisp.
We hope you enjoy, both the recipe and this most pleasant start to September!
These crisp pickles are incredibly fresh-tasting thanks to the addition of pearl onions, peppercorns and even a fresh grape leaf.
Makes about 4 pints of pickles
2 pounds garden-fresh Parisienne or other cornichon-style cucumbers
3 tablespoons kosher salt
12 fresh pearl onions, peeled
1 quart of white wine vinegar
Fresh tarragon sprigs
Fresh grape leaves
1. Gently wash and rub the spines off the cucumbers. (They should only be 1-2 inches long.) Place cucumbers in a colander and toss with the salt. Leave to drain for about 4 hours, then rinse and drain.
2. Sterilize a potful of pint or half-pint jars and their lids by placing them upside down in a pot of water, covering and boiling for 10 minutes. (Add a splash of vinegar if your water is hard.)
3. Bring the vinegar to a vigorous simmer or low boil in a medium stockpot.
4. Without touching the inside of the jars, remove each jar from the water with a pair of tongs and flip it over on a clean work surface. Place ½-1 teaspoons peppercorns, ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and a large sprig of tarragon in each jar. Add a small fresh washed grape leaf if available. Add 2-3 pearl onions and cucumbers to within ¾-inch of the top of the jar. Cover with hot vinegar.
5. Wipe the rim of each jar and screw on the lid tightly, removing the lids from the water with the tongs. Wipe off any excessive moisture from the outside of the jars, then store in a cool, dark place for at least one month before eating.