Deep in summer I find myself struggling to make it out of bed before the sun. The days are long and full and since, as they say, you must make hay while the sun shines, we cram those days desperately full.

Not so in these, the shortest days of the year. Coffee and wood stoves and milking before the sun. Everyone into bed before you might even put the chickens up in early July. And, of course, Mabel’s milk and the butter and cottage cheese we make from it.

This raw, cultured cottage cheese is pretty much a daily staple in our diet now because it is just so easy to make. I make it so often we put it in our forthcoming homesteading book.

We are, however, finding Mabel a bit sensitive. Never a full case of mastitis but many cases of a hardened quarter at milking time or milk that doesn’t strain quite right. It seems to coincide with the slightest change in her routine – a slight budge in her feed, a bout of cold weather, or the bull that has recently come to join her for freshening.

Any other milkers experience this?

And into the root cellar we go for pumpkins at least once a week. Pies are, of course, a regular but the children seem to really like a pumpkin stir-fry with a bit of canned longhorn. Pumpkin soup is, apparently, only delicious to Stewart and myself but I am hoping to wear them down yet.

Also down in the cellar are bags of sweet potatoes we found on sale at Aldi and packed away for weekly meals. Perhaps next year we will grow our own?

Speaking of Aldi, the garden is mostly done for this year save these lovely microgreens in mini greenhouses and the patch of Chinese cabbage I am hoping makes it through the upcoming freezes with a bit of covering. So cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are now on the grocery list and, roasted, pair nicely with the garden greens and orange vegetables from the cellar. (Can someone tell me how to grow Brussels sprouts in Central Texas? I might be able to live off of those little green delights and my other favorite, fresh from the garden beets. But truly I would like to grow our own.)

And of course I have several seed catalogs all marked up and am planning away for starting seeds in just a month or so now. You can leave any suggestions here for productive and tough vegetable varieties you recommend trying. Such inspiration I often glean from you all!

How is your kitchen (and homestead) in these darkest days of the year?