Early yesterday morning while I was enjoying a cup of coffee on the back porch, I noticed some odd movement down in the canyon near the dry creek bed. Fetching my binoculars I observed a fox squirrel rolling around, flipping, jumping straight up, and then back to rolling in the red dirt. I wondered if fleas were irritating him, and he was taking a dust bath? Or could he just be having fun? After all, this time of year is coasting time for the squirrel population. But I also knew it would not be long before they would be busy harvesting pecans and acorns and burying them for winter eating. And they would collect and build a cache of dried berries and other edibles near their winter nests. We would also observe them eating a lot, to fatten up for the cold winter months.
During the months of June and July, even I have been getting in touch with my inner squirrel. As the gardens worked at providing a bumper crop of produce, I kept busy foraging and gathering wild edibles from the woodlands, and then freezing vegetables from the gardens, and fruits and berries from the trees, vines, and shrubs. And again this year, I have spent hours preparing roasted tomato sauce for freezing. My dehydrator has kept a constant hum, drying herbs for cooking and baking, and drying hot peppers to create interesting spice blends. Racks of onions lie curing in the computer room. Baskets of acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash take up space on the dining table. Sweet bell peppers in bright colors – yellow, red, orange and green – fill the crisper drawers of the refrigerator. And now that the intense heat of summer has arrived, my garden is looking very stressed. Most of the tomato plants have dried up. Only a few of the squash plants continue to produce, along with the bell peppers. All of the more tender plants have bolted, gone to seed, or simply withered away in the sun. And for the first year ever, more than half of my sweet potato crop has been attacked by some sort of vine-eating varmint. One by one, something is gnawing the vine off at the root, leaving vine and leaves left to wither in the sun. I wonder if I will have any sweet potatoes to dig in October.
Every year is a gamble with a garden, and I never know what kind of turnout I will have. Still, I spend time planning the layout, purchasing the best seeds, and shopping for tried and true starter plants. I am like every other gardener (or farmer) out there – griping about the hail stones that pelted the crop, or torrential rains or wind that laid everything flat. I surely lament about how little rain we received this year, and how dry everything is. Crops flourish some years, while others are a complete flop. A friend of ours swears it is cheaper to just buy what you need at the store. I have no doubt that could be true, but just being cost effective does not figure in to the equation for me. I believe farming/gardening is a calling. It takes a lot of faith and trust that something good will come of it. Gardening is also a tradition I grew up with. I came from a big family and we raised a big garden every year to help make it through the winter months. And I suppose, now that we eat clean and healthy, gardening could be about nothing more than knowing where my food comes from and that I am creating something I know is nutritious. I also like knowing that I have total control of the preserving process. But to be truly honest with myself, I think the real reason I do this is because it is such an amazing process and it just feels good – a true joy of life!
Maybe I will be a bit like that squirrel in the woodlands and take a few weeks to relax a little and enjoy these dog days of summer. I should be able to coast a little now too, with not having as much gardening to tend to, at least until we see what kind of harvest we will have in the pecan orchard this year. There are pecans on the trees, but we have yet to locate a company who will come here to harvest the pecans. Even if that does not happen, I have no doubt that wildlife in the area, including a huge population of squirrels, will enjoy squirreling away the nuts for winter! And there will be plenty for everyone… I am sure of it!
© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…