Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gratitude

I'm writing from a motel in Denver. We left yesterday morning at 5 am.

Last week I was concerned all week that the corn I'd planted would come ripe after we left for Colorado. Either Chuck or I would check it nearly every day and find plenty of unripe corn but not much that was ready.

Becca arrived Thursday (YEA!!!!) and we had fresh corn for supper, but even Thursday evening my guess was that the corn was probably only about 1/3 to 1/2 ripe. We were trying to guess who we knew that might want to pick their own corn so that the beautiful crop would not be wasted.

My garden is at the point where the enthusiasm stage is making way for the reality phase. The chard never materialized, and some of the squash has already withered away, making it clear that while I can prepare all I want for a wonderful garden, the end result is still not up to me. The corn was the first crop of the year that I knew was a sure thing. I was getting a little bit obsessed with being able to harvest that corn and put it in the freezer.

Chuck was doing a great job of reminding me that vacation was important and that the world would not end and we would still eat good food even if we did not get the corn. There are friends and family who might really enjoy the great corn so we could enjoy giving it away.

Friday morning he went out to pick. Nearly all of it was ripe. But Friday was the day before vacation, and Laura had to work so it was also a day of watching Luke. We would do whatever we could.

Becca and I started washing the corn and Chuck asked Tim to help him pick. But Tim likes washing with Becca better than walking through the tall corn and I was anxious to pick with Chuck so we traded. Chuck is a lot faster than I at picking and husking but it was good work and we laughed as we made our way through the rows.

Becca and Tim hard at work washing corn. Then I had Chuck join them because he picked most of it...but it was too late to get a picture of him in action.


By around noon we were done picking and washing, I'd started the water for blanching, Laura and Luke arrived to join us for 'clean out the fridge before vacation' lunch, and it was time to pick up the van from a lube and oil, etc.

After lunch Mom and Dad arrived to pitch in, Wes joined in to help cut the corn from the cobs, and soon it was a party. Unfortunately I forgot about getting my camera out until after Wes had quite cutting the corn. He was getting tired of cutting himself along with the corn.

Chuck was working hard to get last minute field work and grinding feed done before we left so we needed to get some food to him in the field. Laura left for work and soon after, it was time to rock Luke to sleep for his afternoon nap. When that was done I joined the work in progress in the kitchen.

Here is Dad hard at work. He is unapproachable as far as speed in getting corn from cob to bowl. But he loves to pretend that he is trying to catch up with the rest of us slowpokes.


Mom usually does most of her work in the kitchen cooking and cooling the corn, but I got this picture of her cutting corn after I took over in the kitchen.

Tim worked hard, but doesn't look enthusiastic in this picture. He was great help.


It was so great to have Becca home for this.


Here is the finished product, ready to be stacked in the freezer.


By supper time we'd cut 118 cups of corn and packaged it for the freezer. Greg joined us for our corn harvest meal: Sausage links on the grill served in wheat buns, corn on the cob, fresh cucumbers from a friend's garden, watermelon, and ice cream.

Out of all that work, I picked maybe 1/4 of the corn, washed about five ears, cooked and chilled about half the corn, cut five to ten ears, and packaged all of it. Obviously, I would not have been able to complete this job on the day before vacation by myself.

So I'm grateful.

I'm grateful that the corn was ripe before we had to leave.

I'm grateful for family that is enthusiastic about helping and so much fun to be around.

I'm grateful for a safe and good drive to Colorado after a night with only about 2 hours of sleep.

I'm grateful for a brother that would go to my house in my absence and search for the cell phone I forgot, when what I really forgot is that I packed it in a different place that I usually do...thanks so much, Larry!

Finally, this picture isn't from doing corn, but I had to add it. Luke really enjoys Chuck and makes tiny squeals of excitement every time Chuck comes in from outdoors. Chuck was doing the Regier Grandpa thing and feeding Luke ice cream after Luke's bath the other night when we were babysitting.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Mostly about gardening

This morning Wes ran his first 5k race, and did it in 22 minutes and 12 seconds. He did pretty well and didn't seem extraordinarily tired or out of breath. It was fun to watch him come in and finish the race...but I forgot to bring the camera. This is Wes later today, when he was posting about it on facebook.

A gardener seems to be driven to post about their garden. Year after year spring comes, seeds get planted, weeds get pulled (or not), vegetables ripen, yet each year it seems miraculous and gardeners post about it. I'm no exception.

My week last week began with the last day of wheat harvest. My garden has a large area that was unplanted and the weeds had taken over. The whole patch was filled with weeds that were at least knee high. It took me all of my available time one morning and an hour the next to finish the job. While I worked I was bitten by countless mosquitoes, but I didn't notice it. I was wearing long sleeves and long pants, and was focused on the task, so in the afternoon when I observed the masses of red itchy spots on my shoulders and arms I was surprised.

When I was pulling the weeds Chuck offered to till the space for me. I gladly took him up on the offer, but it seems that all of the rototillers we usually borrow were currently out of working order. I called Dad and Mom, knowing that their garden tractor was also not working. I'd forgotten that they had an old garden tractor. They brought it over and Dad tilled it for me. The dirt was wonderful and mellow.

This year and last year I had late gardens. My spot just doesn't get enough sun and wind to dry out in the spring and I couldn't get stuff in early enough. I've been reading gardening books and discovered that raised beds dry out more quickly in the spring. I decided to take advantage of all that mellow soil and built up four raised beds. I planted green beans in one of them and winter squash in another. The other two are still unplanted, but will probably have some kind of legume to build up the nitrogen for next year. I plan to build two more beds as soon as the west side dries out a bit from my soaking the corn this week. I have a few potatoes to plant, and there will be some fall spinach to put in later.

The next two pics are of the new raised beds, now that the weeds are pulled and the aisles are mulched. This is looking from the northeast corner of the garden.


and this is from the southeast corner of the garden.


While I'm showing the garden I might as well show the rest of it now, before the weeds spring up again. These are the oriental long beans east of the sweet corn.


The tomatoes are north of the corn, and the peppers are next to the tomatoes. There are a few newly planted sweet potatoes between the tomatoes and the corn in a tiny raised bed that is a little bit hard to see in this picture.



Near the house I have flower beds with some herbs in planters. This is some summer savory, which is wonderful with green beans.


Next is basil and cilantro, and in the rectangular containers on the sidewalk are some Thai basil seedlings that I want to put out around my tomatoes to keep bugs away.


Behind the basil and cilantro is this huge sunflower. It grew on its own. I didn't plant it, but I have a soft spot for sunflowers, so it towers over my flower bed.



Today we ate the first ripe tomatoes from the garden.


This week as I worked out there in the sun, sweating, with no breeze because of the trees on the south side of the garden, I thought about why I love doing this so much. I realized that if anyone was telling me to do the pulling weeds and moving dirt and carrying straw for mulch, I'd resent it. It wouldn't bring me nearly the joy that I get from working this patch myself.

Admittedly, it isn't all joyful. It is great to plan, research, and try new varieties and methods. It's so much fun to watch the seed sprout and grow, and the crops develop. But sometimes plants seem stunted for no explainable reason, or bugs take over a crop, or just when the squash is lush and green and threatening to take over the whole garden the plants overnight just seem to shrivel up and die. Those times aren't so great.

But still, there is something motivational about working my garden to grow my food. Once I get out to the garden I see more and more things I'd like to do before I go in, and before I know it the time I've set aside for it is gone. It would be different working in someone else's garden.

I think that is one of the pieces it is important to understand in looking at farming and the future. When you are working your own ground, planning for it, trying new things, making improvements, etc., you have such a strong personal investment in it. There is plenty of work that would be only drudgery if it wasn't part of the bigger picture of what your dreams are for that farm. The challenge is how to include more people in that dreaming, experimenting, investing themselves and finding it exhilarating. Is there a way to offer that to more people?