There’s something about August. As a perennial student and now teacher, September continues to mark the End of Summer to me, regardless of what the weather’s doing. As soon as the August long weekend has passed, the shift into fall seems dramatic and poweful. The shadows lengthen, the lawns bleach out, the mornings are darker longer, the nights cooler.
And the harvests shift too. It’s a paradoxical time in the garden; the real crops of summer, the tomatoes, beans, zucchini, and cucumbers start to finally come into their prime at the same time as I start nervously taking stock of what might continue into winter and what I might be once again behind in planting. Will it have time to size up during these cooling, shortening days?
But most of all, this time of year, the pantry and freezer slowly but surely start to fill. The staples that will sustain us for another year are ready to be put away, and each year we gain confidence in our backyard homestead and manage to stock up on a little more, understanding how much we might need.
I planted garlic in two batches last fall, and the last one is now ready to put away. It was a good harvest of almost 60 heads, which should give me enough to replant from my own stock in a few months.
This year I was also on a mission to learn how to grow onions; the beautiful Bedfordshire Champions are a heritage yellow storage onion that was very successful for me. They bulbed up really nicely, and I only seperated these two out for quick use due to potential rot (the rest are curing outside out of today’s rain).
I also tried Thrifty Red onions that have bulbed up reasonably well but haven’t toppled over yet; I’ll take the water right off them once the rain has passed. Between both types, I was hoping for enough onions to take us through the winter, but germination rates weren’t great for either, and I didn’t end up with as many transplants as I was hoping. I’ll go big with the planting for next year, though, now that I’ve had this success!
Also now harvested and ready for storage: 120 lbs (?) of potatoes!
The final weigh in isn’t totally complete, but that’s an educated guess and if anything, it’s conservative. These are the Kennebecs and Russian Blues that we hope will get us through the year, and so far, it’s looking good!
The tomatoes are starting to come in steadily, and the onslaught of beans (first bush, then pole, then dry/shelling) is underway. It won’t be a good squash year, but with a nice September and October, we might get a few. It’s a GREAT year for apples–I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with another 100 lbs of those to store.
And lastly, the freezer is stocked with Sockeye and Spring salmon after strong local returns this year, and Skipper and I are in the thick of crabbing once more. Another week or two and we should have enough crab in the freezer to keep us going until next summer (though, truly, people crab year-round here, and there really is no pressure to store enough for the year. But it’s an intensive routine that’s nice to do in one go).
It’s quite a remarkable feeling to stock up and realize that we will be able to meet so many of our food needs through the year. Protein? Salmon, crab, eggs, and a few chickens in the freezer (well, the extra roosters. That’s for another post. 🙂 ). With any luck, some home-dried beans. Supplemented with purchased cheese, nuts, tofu. Starch? Potatoes! Supplemented with rice, pasta, oats and bread/flour. Veggies? Stored onions, tomatoes, squash; carrots, turnips, beets, and winter greens and brassicas in the garden for as long as we can stretch them. Possibly some beans and other veg in the freezer; there will be a little sauerkraut and possibly some other pickles in the pantry. Dried herbs and garlic for seasoning. Fruit? Apples, frozen rhubarb and berries, jam. Skipper has a batch of his own beer on the go, and the hops are ripening on the vine. Next year they will be in full production, and our cherry and plum trees will slowly come on line as well.
I wish I could find the words to express the awe I feel as I take stock of these staples. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a measure of security, but it does feel that way. As well as just immensely satisfying. It’s a primal, visceral sense of connection to land, people here, ancestors, but it’s also a joyful pleasure in the abundance, the return on months of happy labour, and the signal of winter feasts to come as we share this delicious wealth with friends and family in the months to come.
Here’s to fall!