Saturday, October 19, 2013

Live within your Harvest

I ended up at the local JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts this week, seeking black lace for a sewing project for two of my grand daughters (I am making them aprons and chef hats to wear while helping their mom in the kitchen (they all love to cook) and a "grill monster" apron for their younger brother, who loves monsters and like to help mom when she grills. Yep, mom is the grillmaster in their house.

Found the trim, and fabric for the Bear's apron (aren't family nick names fun!) and this sign in the holiday decor. Yeah, it's imported crap and the full price was such a shock that it went right back on its peg hook. Then I saw the sale sign for the whole display and decided "what the heck." I will probably make one some day, but not now and without this one kicking around, it would surely slip my mind.

"Live within your Harvest" What does it mean? What did the manufacturer... the designer... have in mind with this different, and rather counter-culture, saying? What do YOU think it means?

For me, it resonated immediately, as I am re-dedicating my country living lifestyle once again to focus more on something akin to homesteading and less towards feeding the world (in other words, market gardening.). I know I will not completely "live within my (FARM) harvest" no matter how much I want to. And even in the olden days folks would make the trek to town occasionally for such things as coffee, tea or sugar, even if they grew everything else. And so shall I, though I hope by learning to keep bees (the new "livestock" I plan to add next year) I shall reduce my dependence on "store bought" sugar.

I do not live alone, though, and my other half grew up very differently than I did and has lived a life very different from mine. Though he is changing, his default setting, should I find a missing ingredient for a planned mean is "shall I go to the store?" He was, for a long time, a city dweller and often bought groceries daily, on the way home from work. So we must compromise, as all couples do, though since I do the cooking and meal planning, I am increasingly focusing on eating what I grow.

Another problem is that he does not like a wide variety of veggies, especially those most commonly served cooked. I can't complain, after all, I have a GUY who LOVES SALAD!  LOL And corn, peas, and green beans in their cooked form, occasionally Brussels sprouts, and cabbage when part of a cooked dish. And, oh, let's not forget staples (in our house) like potatoes, onions and green peppers. However, winter squash, cooked greens, beets, carrots in their cooked form... need not apply or at least not very often.

But he is learning and so am I. Proto-thoughts of garden plans for next year are beginning to flit about my brain. Getting a greenhouse or all season tunnel up must happen. I need to try sweet potatoes again, not loose the beans (both fresh eating and dried) and hopefully have a decent harvest of corn. I have before, but this was not a corn year. Keep the 'maters off the ground and the potato harvest at the same level. What happened to the onions?  How to set the garden up... what should be wide rows and what narrow and somewhat closer together, so that the tractor can cultivate between, with the plants ducking under the engine as it passes? How tall, how wide? 

We have had a protracted and mild autumn. There are still carrots and lettuce, kale, cabbages and chard, celery and some unripe (as of the last time I looked) all-but-lost pumpkins out there and some of it needs to come in or get covered. Late autumn weather is poised to arrive this coming week. It's time to plant garlic, clean up the asparagus and strawberry and bush rows, apply cardboard and mulch for protection against winter and spring weeds.

Meanwhile, my stance with one foot in what I consider "real life" and one  in town job/mundania continues to feel like I'm about to do the splits. The part time job turned all but full time this week (and didn't quite make it only because I forcibly put the brakes on. For the next couple of months, though, that will be the harvest that I tend most often: the bi-weekly paycheck. It will be appreciated for its ability to bring the materials for the wood stove installation, and repair (so I hope) of Artie, the old farm truck.

The harvest may vary, but the need to live within it remains.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dark of the Moon

What do YOU do at the dark of the moon? 
No, I'm not thinking "Transformers" or even Pink Floyd (that was Dark SIDE of the Moon, anyway), but of the almost monthly event between waxing and waning where the sky is devoid of any hint of the reflecting orb. Does this time have any significance to you?

It does to me, as does the waxing phase as the moon's light increases, the brilliant full moon, and the waning phase as the light fades. Both the dark and full moons seem, to me, to be times of balance. Between them we have the growing phase; good for plants that fruit above ground, for cutting hair that you want to grow, and for working on projects that will bring increase to your household as the light increases and the darkening phase; good for root vegetables, tubers, and plants the increase below ground, like alliums, for trimming hair, nails, hooves and claws when you don't want them to grow quickly, cleaning (banishing dirt) and for de-junking... things that may disrupt increase.

Now, the dark of the moon (the "new moon" and a day on either side of it) are a powerful time for introspection as well as for beginning those dark phase projects. With a little bit of attention to this cycle, you may find yourself falling into it without really being away of energies at play. I realized this today as I set out to work in the garden.

My original plan was to take the flame thrower to being burning weeds seeds prior to the fall tilling. This IS the autumn, after all, and time to be putting the garden to bed in general. But the winds were too high by the time I got to the garden for fire to be an option, so I took my cart and figured I would at least walk down, see what could be harvested and go from there. I knew there were a few last table cucumbers, and those vines to pull, which I did, and I found that one variety of squash vines were dying back (though we have not had a killing frost yet) and telling me that the fruit could come to the house, so I did that also.

Next I knew I needed to look at the long-neglected tomato rows. I have written before about my dismay at the waste, as most of the bumper crop was damaged by poultry, slugs or rot, do to my not having kept the fruit off the ground, yet again. My attempt at the "Florida weave" was a failure. The plastic step-in posts actually bent, the fiberglas rods leaned and the nylon twine sagged. The fruit load was just too heavy for the structure. As I began dis-assembly of the row, I looked for edible fruit. I did find some, but most will be going back to the earth. Not a terrible thing, but not good either. But it is, I was told, the time to let go of it and simply to move on to a different, and hopefully better, support next year. With that in mind, I took in what the failed structure and plants told me as I worked my way up the row, untying twine and pulling posts.

What I learned is that the next support system will need to be designed to lean towards the east, with suitable supports, and my paper mulch applied under the support and under the lean, to help retain moisture and keep down weeds with less work. I can set the support so that the plants grow up through it at about a foot, but growth after that stage will need to be on top of the wire support with the fruit being allowed to hang down through the wire. This should work for the varieties of tomatoes with longer vines. I do need to keep the sections of 2"x4" welded wire fencing shorter, to make removal easier, rather than deploying an entire 50 or 100' roll along the row. Extracting the support from the vines is much easier when it all comes in shorter sections.

Some of my sauce tomatoes this year grew on very short vines that would not work with the system I just described. Unfortunately, my tomatoes got all mixed up this year (and I do have a plan in place to avoid that problem in the future) so figuring out who is who may prove difficult. But if I can, I will use a horizontal support for them, only about 8" off the ground, for the plants to grow up through and lay on top of, keeping the fruit clear of the ground. This row will also be paper mulched.

Dark Moon supper tonight will include one of the newly picked squash and spaghetti, with a sauce of garden onions, celery, green peppers and some of the most damaged, ripe tomatoes. I will also bake a chocolate cake and offer some of it, with a toast of dandelion wine, in honor of the first dark moon of the newly born dark half of the year.