Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's a Farm Life!

I know I've expressed this sentiment before, but I really love going to the Farm.

The company is, of course, the primary reason, but I also appreciate the remote location and the sudden hush that seems to fall over the world once we get there.

Not that everything is silent: around the lake we might hear the muted honking of Canadian geese, the peeping and gulping of assorted frogs, or the plaintive cry of the killdeer nesting at the water's edge.

On top of that, the insect chorus offers a rhythmic, restful background for the gentle swish of leaves ruffled by a sudden breeze or for the lengthy sigh of the tree limbs and trunks as they dance in the wind.

It's a slice of heaven, and I always feel so much more relaxed there.

And then there's the food.

I'm not talking about the food from the kitchen -- though I've been known to whip up some decent meals there or enjoyed good dishes at the hands of others. I'm talking about the wild food I'm learning to find throughout the year as the Renaissance Man and I go on walkabout.

This weekend I took most of my foraging hikes alone, but I had a good hint from the RM as to where to start. He had discovered that the west fence row had a handful of trees he thought might be hickories, and he suggested I check for nuts.

Being a little nuts myself, I thought this was an excellent idea, and with tote bag slung over my shoulder, sturdy boots on my feet, and work gloves and walking stick at the ready, I headed out into the west field for a ramble.

Sure enough, after crawling under the electric fence, dusting myself off, and heading up the shaded valley of the fence row, I found hickory trees interspersed with the wild cherry trees. And while I spotted the many green orbs dangling from the branches, I found plenty of brown and cracked spheres on the ground, several with the pale tan nut shell peeking out.

I took my sweet time working my way up half the fence row, gathering hickory nuts wherever I could reach them, until my bag was half full and my back was well worn out.

With a good night's rest, I was able to head back out today with work gloves and shovel to do some work in the garden (or what's left of it). I had already pulled the remaining tomato plant as the late blight had struck the Farm and left this poor specimen suffering.

This morning, then, I dug up the sweet potato patch as per the Sister-in-Law's request, working from one edge of the bed to the other to catch whatever I could.

This pile shows only the first part of the harvest: I'm not sure of the total count, but I ended up finding about 10 large sweet potatoes and about a dozen much smaller ones (perhaps about 10 pounds total?). I cured them in the sun for a few hours before laying them on trays and taking them into the house for the Farm Mother to enjoy.

And since I had gotten into a rhythm with the shovel, I decided to head out to the old (read: overgrown) garden to harvest burdock root. Yes, I know burdock (find the big ruffly leaves in this photo) is mostly considered a cuss-inducing weed that spreads everywhere and produces persistent burrs that attach to you and won't let go, but it also has nutritional and medicinal value. So I dug up a bunch of first-year (pre-burr) roots to take home and use in tincture and in cooking.

While in this weedy patch, I also discovered several wild raspberry canes, so I harvested leaves for tea. And from there, I ventured out into the meadow to gather red clover blossoms (saving plenty for the honeybees I met along the way).

I'm sure there's more I could have done or found, but for a shortened weekend, it felt like a very rich bounty, indeed.

And the RM? He had fun, too. He mowed for hours, getting in touch with his inner (well, more like his outer) power-tool-loving self.

It's a hard life!

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