Year's end time to reflect, look forward

The last 2014 harvest from the vegetable garden at Horsefeathers Farm took place Sunday at halftime of the Seattle Seahawks’ NFC title-clinching game against the St. Louis Rams.

It’s been a great vegetable-growing year, capped off with the final plucking of Brussels sprouts from three, skinny, leaf-naked plants that are all that’s left standing in a garden mulched with its winter blanket of leaves. There are a few perennials in the herb garden still producing, most noticeably a rosemary bush that’s trying to morph into a tree.

The rosemary bush came in handy Christmas Eve when I snipped a few fragrant stems for a dear friend who needed them to help flavor the pork loin roast she was preparing for a Christmas Day family dinner. It’s the least I could do for Sandy Wall, whose culinary talents rank at the top of the small circle of friends we gather with for dinner on occasion.

Christmas Eve we feasted on fresh, ocean-caught Dungeness crab from Olympia Seafood. We covered our dining room table with newspapers, doled out a crab to each of the six gathered at the table and dug into those delicious creatures. The diners were evenly divided between those who ate their crab as fast as they could separate the meat from the shell and those who built piles of it, turning their Ceasar salads into improvised crab salads.

After dinner, we adjourned to our recently remodeled family room and gathered around Barb’s Baldwin piano, which had just been moved that morning from her rental home in Tumwater to the place where it belonged. We sang Christmas carols accompanied by Barb on the piano, banged on percussion instruments, and listened to my sister – the only accomplished musician among us – play guitar.

All that caroling made us hungry. Luckily Barb had baked a sweet potato pie with a gluten-free graham cracker crust. Rich and filling, the pie was a big hit, and has advanced past pumpkin pie as my new favorite holiday pie.

The gourmet dining continued Christmas Day with an 8-pound seasoned prime rib from Western Meats in Tumwater. I’ve been going there for years for my Christmas prime rib, and so have hundreds of other people. The Dodge family, headed by my 94-year-old father, plowed through the main course, leaving just enough for a beef stroganaff dish back at Horsefeathers Farm the night after Christmas. (I hope my cardiologist isn’t reading this.)

So here we are, just two days left in the old year, the year I turned 66 and started drawing on my Social Security benefits, the year I decided to start cutting back on my hours at work – down to 30 hours – when January rolls around. I enter 2015 a full-fledged senior citizen still studying my Medicare options and wondering if I’ve built enough of a nest egg to last me in retirement. The planning would sure be a lot easier, if I knew how long I was going to live.

I don’t spend all my time pondering the future. There’s plenty of work to do around the farm; there are always more limbs to pick up from the last windstorm and outdoor faucets to insulate again in advance of another Arctic cold spell. There’s plenty of winter birds to feed, too, including several evening grosbeaks who appear intent on overwintering in East Olympia. They weren’t around last winter, but they were the winter before. Their fall migration patterns are erratic; they only leave their breeding grounds when winter food supplies are scarce or they feel overcrowded.

Grosbeaks are noisy, gregarious birds that remind me of parrots. We’re glad to have them around, even though they gorge on black oil sunflower seeds, forcing us to fill bird feeders daily. Also helping to empty the feeders are the typical winter suspects – juncos, nuthatches and chickadee-dee-dees.

Over the past few years, Anna’s hummingbirds have become regular winter residents at Horsefeathers Farm. I’m not sure how many we’re feeding at the two sugar water stations hanging on the deck, but we see them all through the day, every day. They’re a welcome site as well.

The fence crossing the back pasture has been raised, so the neighbor’s goats are no longer leaping over it to eat my roses and hop plants, along with less desirable plants.

The roof and gutters are free of debris. The fan in the fireplace insert is finally working again. The refrigerator was purged last week of month-old salsa and various other condiments with expiration dates years passed. And the Seahawks have home field advantage all the way through the playoffs. Life is good at Horsefeathers Farm.