Finishing

It was after 10 when the moon rose, illuminating long rows of hay bales stretching across a field alongside a quiet country road. And me, stacking the bales in the bed of my truck, country music coming softly from the radio into a night air dominated by the songs of ten thousand crickets.

Around 11, the hay was in barn. Not yet in the loft–its ultimate destination–but close enough at the end of a long day. Time then to shower away the itchiness and settle down for a few minutes, with a book and a glass of wine.

 

They’re Everywhere

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When I left home for college in 1978 I had never seen a deer in this community. I suppose there may have been a few around, but they were extremely rare.

Nowadays I see them everyday. They’re a major nuisance to gardeners, to say the least.

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The amount of wildlife here now compared to when I was growing up here is remarkable. Wild turkey were very rare then. Now they’re common. There were no coyotes, bears, herons, geese, or eagles. Now they’re fairly common too.

In my first 18 years here I only saw one hawk. Now I see them daily.

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This big one watched while I bush hogged field, so he could swoop down and grab any unfortunate critter who made a run for it.

Even the wildlife that we did have then is more common now. In the last week I’ve discovered a rabbit in our garage, and one in our hoop house. We used to have to flush them with rabbit dogs.

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A bunny watching me do chores

Squirrels used to run and hide when a human approached. Now they just watch us pass, entirely unconcerned.

We had possums and coons back then, but not nearly as many as we have now.

So why is wildlife so much more abundant now? I suspect it’s partly because there is far less hunting now. It’s also possible that they’re retreating here from areas being developed. A big reason, I believe, is that the environment is less toxic now than it was then.

Whatever the reason, these days, they’re everywhere.

Squash and Onions

Yesterday I spent our 4th of July holiday as I have for the past few years–harvesting onions. We have a beautiful bumper crop this year, the best we’ve ever grown I think. Maybe, for once, we won’t run out before next 4th of July.

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Most of the day was spent with the onions, but I also picked green beans, blueberries, zucchini and squash. I enjoy celebrating that kind of independence.

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We grow yellow squash, but only because we’re market gardeners. We’ve grown lots of different varieties over the years, but if we were only growing for ourselves we’d grow nothing but Zephyr. It’s the tenderest and tastiest squash we’ve eaten. And beautiful, to boot. Highly recommended.

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To my American friends, a belated happy Independence Day! And to all, I hope you had an enjoyable day yesterday, whether you celebrated a holiday or not.

 

 

Putting Up Food

We practice seasonal eating, meaning we orient our meal planning around what’s in season at the time. For example, last night for supper we had a stir fry, made from the last of this years Chinese cabbage and the first of this years garlic, squash, peppers and onions. Cherie has discovered some great new recipes lately, using Google to find new ways to combine what we have. Last week she made Swiss chard and zucchini enchiladas that were amazing. She also made a great dish from squash and kale.

With food coming in year-round here, we could eat fresh without ever having to rely on stored food. But of course there are going to be times in the winter when we want tomato sauce, or asparagus soup, or zucchini bread. Et cetera.

So we can, freeze, dehydrate, and pickle. We also cure and store potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic and onions. Even when we’re not eating fresh from the garden, the great majority of what we’re eating is always from this farm.

Of course putting up food in the summer is just one major task to add to already impossibly long list of things to do. It is very difficult to keep up with nature this time of year. Right now it feels like we desperately need to put up squash and wild blackberries, for example. I worry that unless we make the time to do that, they’ll be gone and we won’t have any for the winter.

And that brings me to what I expect is a very common homesteader mistake: putting up too much food. We do it every year. When the gardens are cranking out more than a family can reasonably eat, it’s only natural to start preserving it for later. It’s important, however, to take stock of what not only what you have, but what you need.

I’ve been bringing in green beans lately and Cherie feels the pressure to put some up. But the other day she told me that we still haven’t finished eating the ones she froze two years ago! Likewise blackberries. I worry that the window will close on them, but Cherie points out that we still have blackberries left from last year.

But it just feels wrong not to save what we can’t eat fresh. Oh well, it’s a nice problem to have I reckon.

As a reminder, for any interested I now have a new blog focused on local history. You can find it HERE.