Sunday, December 18, 2011

Harvest time

The garden at the Farm was productive this year, thanks to my mother-in-law's green thumb and (I am convinced) the bees, who keep everything well pollinated. In fact, even after some good hard freezes, there is still some Swiss chard that seems quite happy to go on doing its thing until it gets buried by snow. Almost everything else is over and done with, of course, a week before Christmas.
One of the beehives failed (unproductive queen, I think), but we were able to get some honey from the other one. Some we sold, some we ate, and some got turned into my first attempt at mead (now resting in bottles). Next year we hope for more.
The harvest doesn't stop when the garden gives out and the bees hunker down for the winter. The Farm still yields what we need and what we can use. We took another deer this season, a nice buck (after a fat doe last year), and the meat gets shared multiple ways. The little food plots have been visited by birds and animals a-plenty; I "harvested" one head of a sunflower to have a few seeds to scatter next spring.
I don't collect acorns, hickory nuts, or black walnuts, but they apparently feed the deer and squirrels well enough. And the trees themselves are a crop, of course, providing firewood that supplies at least half the heat we need over the winter. (We could probably heat entirely with wood, and maybe we will some day, but for now we simply don't have the time to cut that much wood!) So far we don't need to cut down any living trees: we have all we can handle skidding downed logs out of the steep ravines, and then cutting and splitting and hauling and stacking.
Truly, we often reap where we did not sow. What we "harvest" is not always (and not only) what we planned and initiated and nurtured directly. At least as often, we harvest by simply receiving what the place gives us. This kind of farming isn't far removed from the ancient hunter-gatherers: we try to keep dancing between design, opportunism, surprise, and sheer gratitude. That is the dance of harvest time.