Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Summer Backlog

Summer Backlog

It’s been far too long since I’ve “blogged.” All I can say is that it is summer and the garden and travels are keeping me away from the computer. Excuses, excuses! For awhile there I was over-run with garden produce, especially tomatoes. Now I have plenty of pizza sauce stored in the basement. Lots of other stuff too!

We went to Virginia to visit Laura and Brandon and see their new home awhile back. They bought a brand new townhouse with lots of stairs. On the middle floor it even has two staircases. You might say it has a built-in stair climber for exercise. It will be great to visit them and not have to stay in a motel. While we were there, Laura and I made grape juice. We also visited a winery, a flour mill, a pottery, an herb farm and the Cyrus McCormick farm where we saw the actual blacksmith shop where 16-year-old Cyrus created the first reaper.

A few days after we got home the great spinach scare was in the news. I had to gloat over my own freedom from bagged spinach and a lot of other supermarket wares. Nearly everything we eat lately is coming from my own sources—either our garden, or places that I am well acquainted with. We are mostly vegetarians during the summer since everything tastes so wonderful straight from the garden. We supplement the vegetable and fruit diet with some seeds and nuts, grains and beans, and eggs and cheese from our local farmers. It sounds almost romantic, doesn’t it?

I do feel a kind of romance about my life. But growing and putting away crops is sometimes difficult, time consuming work. That was made quite clear to me on a hot day when I volunteered (or rather begged) my neighbors to let me help make hay. Nine-year-old Edna was learning to drive the team, Rex and Ron, while her father, Reuben, loaded hay. I talked them into letting me learn too. It was a bumpy ride around the field on a wagon with no rubber tires. The horses weren’t as easy to manage as I imagined. Esther suggested they might not be used to the chatter between Edna and me. I was surprised how touchy they were to the tension on the lines and the amount of skill it takes to manage two lines for each horse. I also helped load bales onto the elevator. My neighbors don’t bale the hay until they take it back to the barn. That seems an odd rule and adds an extra step in the whole process but it’s their way. Reuben only mows and dries a few loads each week since he has another job off the farm.

I like the idea of small farms and fields and home-grown food. The old ways of crop rotation and the concern for tending the land is an important value that I saw in my parents and grandparents although we never really talked about it in quite that way. I grew up in an era when farmers were making a transition to being more businesslike in their work, which I admit provided a decent living for us. Now I am more aware of other issues, including the damage to the earth thanks to agri-business and the “experts.” I suppose all the revolutions started with Cyrus McCormick who was tired of swinging the scythe to cut a field of grain. I cringed to see a field of no-till that had been wiped clean of vegetation courtesy of Round-up on the way down the lane to visit old Cyrus’ farm, located near the Virginia Ag research center.
There is a good mini-history of the agricultural revolution written by Art Bolduc in the summer issue of Farming Magazine. It was fun to see the home place of Cyrus on our trip to Virginia and then read that history and see the old ways still being used locally. But my trip around the hayfield made me realize the reason farmers want those labor saving implements.

This winter I’ll be baking with the stone ground flour I bought at Wades Mill in Raphine, Va. It is far superior to other flour and I have a stash in my freezer for holiday whole wheat rolls. It was surely been a good summer in so many ways. Maybe sometimes the best thing I can do is suspend my need to be an observer of life and dive into the real thing for a spell. Guess that’s my best excuse for being so negligent here on the blog.


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