Friday, October 02, 2009

Harvest 2009

I am not yet used to the traditional ceremonial seasonal (too many al`s??) calendar dates like Autumn Equinox that passed 10 days ago. Yet whenever I realize one of these dates has passed, I feel as though it is something to which I should be paying closer attention. That I do not do so suggests to me that I have a good distance remaining to go until I reach something of a balance between self-centeredness and, hmm, whatever word suits the other end of that spectrum.

This line of thinking relates to the "harvest" theme in that personal insight may be harvested at any time of the year, wherever one may be. Consciousness provides this bounty.

Looking back at the two seasons past, spring and summer, it is easy to see the disappointments, personally and otherwise. Planned tasks which remain unfinished, some even un-started. Lack of rain leaving the ground parched to the point of large cracks in the fields, pastures, garden and yard, even though the well pumped worked hard to irrigate the latter two. Finally today, a day of rain and drizzle allows for reflection back over these things.

But this reflection also reminds of the great bounty that was received despite the weather and time spent at things that can later feel wasteful. Despite the dry, I am 1.5 days from being done bringing in all the hay from the fields. Assuming a typical winter, there should be plenty of feed for dad`s cattle without having to buy any. We even managed to lay in 2 small fields of fava beans as silage. This will be a nutritious addition to their hay on especially cold days. Once the hay is in, we`ll hire a trailer and driver and bring in all the round straw bales as well. Our 3 grain crops managed to produce a good amount of straw, also despite the dry, but if the damp that has come today persists, we may not be able to bale up the last field. Given the arid summer and fall so far, we will likely get the full 3 fields of straw in. Just two of them will mean there is plenty of straw for bedding when needed over the winter.

On a side note: since we have such a small herd now, and the winters have been relatively mild, we do not go through a lot of straw. This means we have a buildup of a few years now, of old straw (and hay) bales. As such, I have YEARS worth of worm bedding, carbon for compost piles, mulch, etc etc. The large amount of our own straw that we have not been using, plus all the local large scale grain farmers whose combines just chop up and blow their straw back out on the ground (which doesn`t send a whole lot of nutrients back into the soil), it amazes me that there is NO straw bale construction going on around here. How I wish I had access to some capital...

Back to Harvest 2009, the garden that initially seemed like it was going to maybe not produce much at all, finally ended up turning all the irrigation into a pretty decent yield.

Some might recall that I planted a patch of the garden in the Three Sisters manner, combining corn, squash and climbing beans. Well, late frosts did in the squash and the climbing beans. I ended up with one pathetic runt of a squash plant, one larger squash plant that managed to blossom but was not able to bear fruit, and one lone bean that didn`t climb at all but remained very bush-like...and which produced perhaps 4 scrawny pods. It was also looking like the corn might not turn out to much, but it ended up producing probably 250 delicious ears of corn. We ate steadily from the patch, plus mom was able to freeze about 150 ears. I`m tempted to do two patches next year.

A large patch of potatoes produced decently, although the white potatoes are mostly fairly small. The reds, of which around 150#`s were sold, paying for most of the cost of the entire garden (other than time spent seeding and maintaining).

Our beans, however, produced very little this year...maybe 3 lbs worth.

The peas were much better producers, although I feel the patch was too small. Mom got a decent amount frozen though.

The onion sets turned out quite nicely, yielding a decent amount to store. Those grown from seed did alright as well, and the greenhouse still has a few growing.

There is a nice amount of tomatoes ripening off the plants now, or frost would have done them in. They`ll be canned soon. The greenhouse tomatoes have provided us with cherry type tomatoes for every meal for a good 3 months now as well.

Both the garden and greenhouse cukes produced decently as well, although one section of greenhouse cukes were overwhelmed by roots from adjacent tomato plants. The same thing seemed to happen to a small group of melons that dad put in one bed with some tomatoes...a good lesson here it seems.

Thanks to my brother`s lovely wife, mom was introduced to kohlrabi (sister in law is German where it is very popular) and so two patches were planted to a lovely result as well. Seeming to be a cross between cabbage and turnip, I doubt I will be fond of the taste but I`m sure its enormously healthy, like both cabbage and turnip. They and many of the other vegetables will go into the delicious soups that mom makes and freezes.

This year`s radishes seemed to be a disappointment. I`m not fond of them so I don`t tend to notice, but my dad loves them and I don`t recall seeing him eat many of them at all. I think many went woody very quickly, and then to seed.

The pumpkin patch was late to get going seriously, but it still produced a few `kins which are currently ripening indoors. I`m not sure why they were more successful than my squash.

Mom also ended up with a couple of rows of pretty kick ass looking sunflowers too (sorry Linda, I`ll share pics later tho). They drew honeybees like nothing else. I had forgotten that about sunflowers. This really got me thinking about wanting to set up a colony or two.

Mom is also looking at getting into growing gladiolas on a small commercial scale, so she set in a nice big patch of them which did their thing well, according to her. I don`t really know anything about them but she was happy with the result. I will definitely have to add pictures of the bulbs we pulled though. They look very cool, with all the baby bulb stalks and such. I don`t think I have seen anything like them before. Pretty flowers too, I must add.

We are hopeful that we will be harvesting pullet eggs by the end of the month as well. Mom`s young flock of laying hens are doing very well, although they look nothing like the other Isa Browns that mom has. I got the nest box built and installed a few weeks back and once I add walking rails so the birds can more easily access each nest, I will do a post with pictures of the summer`s progression from chick to laying hen.

We are down to two of the old hens that I mentioned in Old Lady Tractor
. One died suddenly one night a few months back. Nothing seemed wrong with her but she had been the injured escapee mentioned in that post. Then the other darker feathered bird started to decline as well. She didn`t seem to be suffering but one day mom pointed out that she couldn`t even get up off her side so I went to have a look. Sure enough the poor old thing was laying pathetically on her side, legs sticking straight out in the air. So I got the axe and went to put her out of what I felt must be suffering. As I did so, I thanked her quietly for what was given to us through her, and I hoped that we had given her a decent life...although obviously not an ideal one. In the end she was, or is being, harvested by nature itself, as I deposited her remains where the carrion creatures would do what they are meant to do, and what is left will be nutrients for more life.

I can`t help but wonder where the feeling that the harvesting of this life has more significance than all that vegetable life mentioned earlier. I AM thankful for it, but I did not express my gratitude with the harvesting of each life, as with the bird. Perhaps that is just ease as there was only the one bird and a whole LOT of vegetable ones. Ah well, that is for subsequent consideration I think. I have been sitting here long enough now.

I had wanted to mention that I feel there was significant harvest this year, that had nothing to do with caloric consumption or income or anything like that. I gleaned a great deal from this summer, not the least of which was a re-appreciation for truly productive physical labor. This is something I intend to continue. The other really significant harvest gained this year was a reconnection with my parents. It has not been all roses, by far, but it has been good...very good. It has also solidified my intention to maintaining this focus on what I feel to be proper living in preparing for much different times.

In the end, I think it has been a very good year in terms of harvest even though it has been an expensive year, due to preparations for the future. But such preparation will, hopefully, help to ensure future harvests. We`re thankful for what we have, and what we have the potential for.

Peace and comfort, to all.


MoonRaven said...

I am glad for your good harvest--both in terms of crops and in terms of learning and connections. May it be a harbinger of even better harvests to come.

SoapBoxTech said...

Thanks MoonRaven.

linda said...

What a great post! I forgive you for the sunflower thing Soapbox, and am very happy that your mother got some!
I also missed the Equinox even though I was aware of the date.
However, this year was also a good one for us. While we didn't get as much of a harvest as you (for space reasons) we still reconnected emotionally to the land. I feel very much a part of a cycle now.

It was wonderful to read your description of your harvest.
Kohlrabi is the best! I have it planted for winter and will plant more tomorrow. I just discovered it myself. If you happen to get woody ones, then a Polish friend told me that his mother used to stuff the woody ones with meat (similar to rolled cabbage).

I look forward to the photos! This post was one of your best yet!

SoapBoxTech said...

Well thank you, Linda.

linda said...

Thanks for the photos. Kick ass sunflowers, indeed!
I have gladiolas growing wild on the land and love them. The neighbors keep pointing them out though as if they are rats! I'm not getting rid of 'em! Didn't think about "market" at all!