Rethinking Lifestyle

Harvest Time

  • Selena Randall, Guest Author
  • Associate Director (Manitoba Centre for Health Policy), U of M

It was a busy weekend in the garden. Some things are just reaching the peak of their production – apples, autumn raspberries, beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, carrots onions etc. Others are heading to dormancy – rhubarb, herbs, fruit bushes. And other things are coming to the end of the season. There is plenty of colour from the swiss chard, tomatoes, and pumpkins.

That meant, our weekend was a mix of chores – harvesting, canning, drying, eating.

And around us, there is the hum of combines and baling machines – the cereals are in, the straw is being stacked, the soybeans are yellowing as they mature. And there is a smell – poultry manure being spread ready to plough in, pig slurry being injected. Not pleasant, but I’d rather it is used on the land than sent to landfill.

September is my favourite month. I love the business of harvest. Born in September, the month was always one of celebration as I grew up, not least the birthday celebrations for me and my sisters (3 of us with birthdays within less than two weeks), but for the harvest festivals at church. Giving thanks for what has been provided this year, and collecting gifts of produce for the less fortunate. Thanksgiving and Fall suppers are just weeks away, when we will be eating a feast from the land; taking a chance to get together before the cold weather sets in.

For us, it’s also about reflection. Reflection on what worked in the garden and what didn’t. The jars of rhubarb in the cold store are testament to that plant, and I recall stories from a colleague of his grandparents surviving through the dust bowl years in Saskatchewan on their rhubarb stores! We enjoy rhubarb all year with muesli and yoghurt, getting at least one of our portions of fruit at breakfast.

We have enough jam for the year, mostly harvested from wild bushes. And the jars of tomato are starting to multiply. Our dryer has been busy drying kale, and we have spent a few evenings in front of the TV podding the beans – marvelling at their colours and dreaming of the casseroles and soups they will provide. Our carrots are fantastic and we have to decide how we will store them – freezing is the consensus.

Some things have been disappointing – our peppers were eaten by something in the greenhouse. The ones in the garden fared better. Our beets were also munched, and our melons look small. We grew fewer pumpkins this year – we still have puree from last year frozen and dried, but now we are uncertain if we have enough. We didn’t grow zucchini – after days when we ended up eating zucchini in some form at every meal, and with a years supply dried or frozen, I said enough is enough.

But is it? We know we are not self-sufficient, but our little patch has made a serious dent in our grocery shopping these past few years, and as transitioners that makes us proud of our hard work. As we give thanks, we feel satisfied that we are eating with the seasons, and eating local, and we plan for how we can grow a little more food and a little less lawn next year.