Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Harvest Time

A bountiful basket

The Harvest
-Franca de la Pena

Golden sheaves stand ripening
in the setting sun
Bounty of a fruitful harvest
A year's labor well spent.

From tiniest seed to trees laden
with sweet promise
The earth gives forth her joy in abundance.

It's hot. Really hot. The mercury hit 102 in Davidson on Saturday. And today looks like it's going to be in the upper 90s. Doing the chores in the barn is now a sweaty, stinky enterprise, even in the early mornings and late evenings. Summer has descended upon us, and it looks like she's here to stay.

Inca Jewel Sunflowers line the garden fence.

But we're not complaining. Not for a second. For alongside summer's heat come the biggest, best harvests of the year. Baskets of sweet peas; bunches of deep-green broccoli; bowls of salad greens; mounds of juicy cucumbers; bouquets of cheery zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds; bags of okra spears; aromatic bunches of basil and sprigs of oregano, dill, parsley, mint, and thyme; platters of tender bush- and pole beans; and of course, enough zucchini to feed two armies. These are some of the things we have harvested so far here at Little Bent Creek Farm. And there is still much to look forward to: the carrots, corn, onions, celery, leeks, and peppers have yet to fully mature.

Romaine and Slobolt Lettuce have fed us for weeks.
Heinz Paste Tomatoes slowly ripen on the vine.

Every trip out to the garden these days is an exciting adventure. "Look, mama, look!" the girls exclaim, "The okra is ready to pick!" "This green bean is so long!" "Mmmmm . . . these peas are sweet!" "Ouch! That cucumber is prickly!" Although I've enjoyed harvesting produce from the gardens I've had in the past, I had never had nearly as much fun at it as I have this year. For this year, I've gotten to share in my girls' elation as they see the plants they helped start from seed, transplant, water, and weed now offer them mouthfuls of pleasure and fulfillment.

Yellow Dent Corn towers over the Three Sisters plot. 
Danvers Carrots form sweet fingers underground.
And it's all just so pretty. Truly, does anything beautify a kitchen counter more dramatically than a basketful of freshly picked garden produce? Or a row of canning jars filled with the fruits of one's own labor? I don't think so.

Recently canned strawberry jam, blackberry jam, and kosher dill pickles

Zinnias and zucchini 
No matter what economic challenges or limitations she may be facing, a gardener in the midst of the harvest season is rich. To be able to nourish your family with food you've grown yourself is to know a kind of wealth that cannot come from earning a wage. It is the sort of wealth that one immediately wants to share rather than horde (especially when it comes to the zucchini!); a kind of wealth that instills humility and awe rather than pride. It is a kind of wealth that makes one want to whisper prayers of gratitude all day long, . . . and to never ever complain about the heat.

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