Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The good earth

Remember all that raking and sowing earlier in the year - the scanning of the earth for signs of life, the tender seedlings in danger of decimation by super-slugs, the nurturing and eager anticipation? It seems but 5 minutes ago. The bare brown earth greened and stuff grew. The hedgerows blossomed. The sun may even have shone. Now it's harvest time.

There's a sense of satisfaction won from putting your own vegetables on your own plate - I guess the same must be true about making furniture (or a house even) from your own timber or raising stock or poultry to feed your family. You have been involved in its production. The end result has involved your own hard labour. It has mattered. I am reminded of 'The Farmer's Arms' - 'God Speed the Plough'.
Let the Wealthy & Great,
Roll in Splendour and State,
I envy them not I declare it.
I eat my own Lamb,
My Chickens and Ham,
I shear my own Fleece & I wear it
I have Lawns, I have Bow'rs,
I have Fruits, I have Flow'rs.
The lark is my morning alarmer.
So jolly Boys now,
Here's God Speed the Plough
Long Life and Success to the Farmer.
This week I have mostly been dealing with the abundance of fruit and vegetables from garden and hedgerow and thanking the Great God of Deep-Freezing. Big ugly-sweet tomatoes have been simmered down with onion, garlic, herbs and seasoning to a rich gloopy sauce redolent of summer - to be savoured over pasta perhaps on a dark winter's day. Berries of all colours have been jellied. Their flavours intense and tangy - fine to set alongside a roast or game bird, the sharpness a perfect foil to a rich, maybe bloody, meat. We eat and give away those vegetables best eaten fresh, others are frozen. The pantry shelves are lined with shiny jars, labeled with what-where-when. I'm having more of those 'pioneer wife' moments - anticipating the coming cold and the failure of the wagon train to bring in much needed 'vittals'. Pretty soon I'll be eyeing up the neighbouring cows in case the children need leather for shoes....

Onions, red and white, are racked in the garage - as is garlic. Potatoes are waiting to be bagged and stored. This sorry bucketful will be cooked up and frozen as mash à la Delia - except these will not be 'Aunt Bessie's frozen Homestyle mashed potatoes' - they will be mine.

The little trees in the orchard - now in its 4th year - are laden with fruit. (Bless 'em.) Winter vegetables will remain in situ. I am
already planning where next year's crops will go and onions are to be planted fairly soon.

This is not a boasting-book of what we have grown - more a catalogue of amazement and wonder at what a handful of seeds can produce. I am also aware that what is perhaps a hobby for me was once a necessity and that without the summer's harvest a family could face a lean winter.

So it is with this in mind I reflect that it is a good earth isn't it? Fruitful, generally benevolent and for the most part forgiving. For this, sing praises.


Irene said...

thank goodness you have the knowledge to know what to do with your harvest and the storage space to put it all away. i would be hard pressed in this little apartment,but can imagine the joy of home made jam.

Exam Crisis said...

Hi Just gone in the bbc website and you live in the happiest county in britain.


Frances said...

Your harvesting sounds quite wonderful! It's good that you know how to prepare the bounty and store it away, too.

The last time that I had access to a garden, mid-1970's in Brooklyn, I did grow a number of vegetables, from seeds, and still remember the delight that those seeds knew what to do, even if I was an amateur.

Best wishes.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

green with envy over on the other side of the valley, it sounds wondeful and the job satisfaction second to none.

Nikki-ann said...

Our garden hasn't faired so well this year... Some creature ate the carrots (not that get grew very big anyway!), the pumpkins don't seem to be doing much, bugs have eaten the leaves of various things. Although we have had a few tomatoes and one or two other things.

Twiglet said...

No room for a veg patch here so I have grown carrots, spring onions and mixed salad leaves in big pots - good to pop out and harvest your own no matter how small!!
Luckily Wipso lets me onto her veg patch for the big stuff like spuds, peas, beans and courgettes.

Sally's Chateau said...

You can't beat the pleasure of growing your own can you ?

ChrisH said...

Lovely photos... feeling a bit wistful as currently labouring over mountains of towels and bedlinen to launder... nothing productive to show for it!

Pondside said...

I love that old poem. Felt very much that way this week when we took our chickens up to be slaughtered and dressed (also felt a bit lazy at not doing it myself, but there is a limit!) Your garden bounty sounds amazing. We are still in the process of creating soil on our rock - and fencing against the deer. As the topic of food security is more and more in the news, though, I realize how important it is that we have the ability to provide for at least some of our own needs.

LittleBrownDog said...

Firstly, can I just say - I want that cup and saucer! It's just gorgeous!

What a delightful blog - exactly what harvest time should feel like. Every time this time of year comes around, I find myself hatching plans to do things better next year. My little plot has so far yielded about 2lbs of potatoes, thirteen broad beans (yes, I counted), two rather shrivelled courgettes and more sweet peas than you can shake a stick at. V impressed with your harvest - I'm sure you must have put a lot of work into it, and I'm sure your bounty is well deserved.

Milkmaid said...

I think you should boast away at your gardening results, it hasn't been an easy year, my only success has been runner beans, which I have grown up the old ELC climbing frame (My Rabble have bigger things to climb now)I am trying to get some winter veg in and make sure the patch doesn't get over grown so I can have a better start next year. My new school year resolution is to chill out in the garden for half an hour after I've finished work, instead of trying cram 3 hours in at the weekend

elizabethm said...

It is such a satisfying thing, isn't it? Looking at the shelves lined with glowing bottles and jars. Your blackcurrant jelly is a fabulous colour.

Casdok said...

Yes the earth is good.
And sounds like you have done a very good job!