Harvesting community

There is a stand-up freezer that takes up a significant portion of the sparse kitchen space in the little yurt (seen here towering against the wall behind Aria and her double hat creation).

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Last spring it was almost empty.  But it is now earning its square footage.

We originally bought this freezer years ago for the basement of our previous home. At the time we were getting pork from a local farm, giving our deposit and then paying the final amount when picking up our neatly packaged portions. This felt good, supporting local, knowing where the meat was coming from, the people it came from. Really, we thought we were getting as close as possible to our meat source.

This past weekend Josh went to friends’ to harvest the pigs they’d been raising, a plan made before the piglets arrived into their woods. On Saturday Josh stood with him while the shots were fired, while they took a moment with the animals in recognition. Then met with still other friends who were also bringing in more of this same harvest.

On Sunday six of them gathered again to finish what they’d started. All had various levels of butchering knowledge, the one with the most freely sharing his space and advice and dancing skills.  Josh used his years of sub-wrapping experience from his long ago restaurant to wrap the many cuts into white parcels labeled for pulled pork, pork tenderloin, bacon, etc. Much was put through the grinder into ground pork to be spiced and made into sausage as used.

Then it was done, Josh remarking that he would do it this way again, how it felt right. He packed it into this freezer and we were quickly off to another harvest – cider pressing.  Sunday afternoon was spent with five other families dipping apples into vinegar water, plopping them into the two cider press hoppers, hearing the crunch as they were churned into bits, whirring the churn wheel around and around, and then whirring it backward because an apple was stuck yet again.

I have no pictures this year, just blissful blisters from spinning the wheel.  Both children were off with so many others, running through the fields, climbing trees and pig house roofs, eating honeyberries and green peppers and kale from the garden, and of course drinking cup after cup of fresh cider.  The wee one harvesting a bushel of chestnut “porcupines” and bringing them home to give their prickles haircuts (perhaps to match the ones she and her best friend gave each other earlier that week…).

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By the end of this past weekend the freezer was full to capacity. Jugs of apple cider and white packages of pork tucked around the earlier harvests…

…the mackerel.  How the yurt door would squeak closed in late summer as Josh and Caden headed out with fishing poles before Aria and I were out of bed, off to meet friends at the dock. Two hours later they’d pulled in, Josh calling out “mackerel for dinner!” Caden’s smile told the rest of the story. How that boy loves to fish.  So much so that we could not keep up with eating it fresh and into the freezer many went.

…the bags of blueberries from an earlier Sunday spent blueberry raking, perhaps a mandatory rite of passage living in Maine. When a friend mentioned a field they had access to, we soon found ourselves with rakes in hand, buckets in tow, stooping over low bushes laden with so much blue, ducking into cars when the thunderstorm roared a bit too close, then sitting on the ground picking stems and leaves out after the berries whooshed through the winnower.  Then we were homeward bound with 100 pounds of blueberries.

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…the 19 chickens that were harvested well before the pigs.  I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of the non-plant harvesting. But if we’re going to have those summer chicken dinner picnics on the beach and roasted chicken and chicken soups all winter, then I do feel I should participate in that process somehow. So while Josh worked on the chicken processing parts that required some of his clothing to actually be thrown away after, I worked on churning out food for the dozen or so harvesters, post-meal clean up in our friends’ kitchen, bringing drinks, helping the swarm of children when needed.

Our children came home with stories of what they saw as chickens were carried from the field they’d lived in up through the various stages before many of them came to be in our freezer. Part of me cringes. But a bigger part of me knows this is important for them to be aware of as omnivores in this world. And then there’s that part of me that reconsiders vegetarianism…

…the giant bag of brown rice flour from the co-op to feed my sourdough starter so she keeps feeding us.

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…the chaga chunks, enough for chaga chais the whole year through.

…the jars of freezer jelly made when friends had too many grapes to know what to do with.

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….the batches of pesto for that day all too soon when basil will not be at the ready for fresh batches from the garden.  It’s hard every year for me to REALLY believe that the garden will be hidden away for months.  There are still tomatoes coming out, mesclun mix, basil, parsley, fennel, kale…

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And flowers, oh the flowers that have streamed inside with children over and over.

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But now there are morning fires.

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Soon we’ll be especially thankful for that packed freezer, and the brimming refrigerator, too, full of lacto-fermented kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, dilly beans, nasturtium capers, ginger carrots, dehydrated sungold and cherry tomatoes.

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Much of the kimchi and ginger carrots and saurkraut are thanks to Josh trading friends’ garden vegetable overflow for helping process and create the lacto-ferments for both of our families.

Once upon a plan we wished to be self-reliant, raising and growing our own food ourselves.  I’m not so sure anymore.  That seems rather lonely compared to the many ways and places that harvest happened this year, communal bounty…

2 thoughts on “Harvesting community

  1. Oh the memories this stirs. I can remember as a child growing up on a farm with 6 other siblings and then our cousins who lived there also, they had 8 children. We raised our own animals knowing that we would have to butcher them when the time came. I can remember processing 300 chickens one weekend. We children were the elected pluckers. I remember being so amazed as my mother and my aunt carefully cleaned the insides out so as not to break any unlaid eggs. If the eggs weren’t with shell yet in to a baggie they went to be frozen for later use. Somehow starting at such a young age it seemed natural.
    Then when the potatoes were havested, oh my. The bigger potatoes were put in a cold cellar and packed in containers of damp sand to keep them from rotting. But then came the fun of dealing with the ones that were just to small for all that, I’d sit and peel those potatoes for hours at a time while my mom would can them. Of course we canned just about anything and everything.
    Not enough people do this anymore, sadly.
    Enjoy your beautiful life.

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