farming, Uncategorized

Summer Solstice

I got to spend the longest day of the year in the garden – we finally got the tiller up and running (I learned all about what ethanol gas does to a carburetor), and I got
all the rows churned up before several days of rain. Sadie came out and helped me; we thinned the okra, hoed weeds, and picked a full row of beets. My hands are still stained that deep purple color, and I don’t mind a bit.

She canned a small batch and they turned out amazing. She also made a beet green salad, with plenty of scraps left over for the chickens. This is the first year we have grown beets and sweet potatoes, so far so good. We also canned our first run of strawberry jam, which is a labor of love. Each year, I sort of forget how much work canning is – especially jam. It is hot, sticky, syrupy sweet work with a reward that more than makes up for the hours standing and sweating over the red stove eyes.

But as Sadie always tells me, it’s a way of life. And I remember that each year we have to can. While we hoard mason jars all year long, I convince myself it will be worth it. But in the middle of winter, when the wind is blowing and the snow is falling, it’s nice to pop the thin lid on that mason jar and spread that sweet strawberry jam all over toast or a biscuit. It’s like a little piece of summer in a jar, and you get to enjoy it right then and there.

Right now, the garden is in that awkward, teenager stage. Plants are growing and the weeds are too, but other than the beets, nothing else has any yields. I spent one afternoon tilling up the two rows where the beets were and planting Hickory King corn. With all this rain, I am fairly confident that there will be bright green shoots poking through that freshly turned soil in no time.

Other than that, I am not planting anything else. We don’t have anymore tiny sprouts, but we don’t have any veggies yet either. Which is fine with me because there is plenty else to do. In the summertime, the honey-do list is 5 miles long, and grows everyday. I tell myself I sort of just have to surrender to the fact that I won’t get it all done, ever. Summer on the farm is an amazing mix of sweating in the garden, enjoying fresh veggies, endless afternoons of mowing, and those long summer nights where the sun seems to hang right above the mountain ridge.

I love how the golden hour stretches out as long as the shadows behind the trees, wrapping all that green growth in a beautiful, evening light. When it finally slips beyond the horizon, the lightning bugs begin their slow dance across the fields. The birds finally go to bed, while at the creek the crickets and frogs begin their symphony. On some nights, when everything is finally fed and watered and put away, we sneak out on the front porch and watch the sky go from golden yellow to velvety blue. The stars appear, one by one, as tiny pricks of silver that hang unfathomable heights above my little world.

For all the we pour into our garden, it certainly is a peaceful place. In the early mornings, before the sun begins beating down, the dogs and cats will saunter out there with us and lay in the shade between the dewy rows. Sadie and I will pull stray weeds, check the squash and zucchini blossoms, and talk about how each year we plant more than we probably should. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I am already so excited to taste the first of the cucumbers and tomatoes. With the way things look now, that day should be right around the corner.

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