Harvest Moon, Hunter’s Moon

Grange Gardener!
Well, isn’t the season winding down, though? And I am winding up my garden hoses.

Thought of you on the Harvest Moon in September, wasn’t it beautifully enhanced by smoke in the atmosphere? Southern California firesmoke drifts all the way up here. Distress in one place leads to beauty in another… every stick has 2 ends, how like Life, what?

There was frost for the againth time here in Hermit Hollow, and some handwashables left on the clothesline overnight have a rubbery crunch…. picked all the tomatoes about 10 days ago, ha ha! smart me… now they’ve finished ripening and are heading into the freezer. Better plant more next year– the bounty from a bumper crop a couplefew years ago is ‘most used up now.

So how was your harvest? A rough year for us, with the late discovery of that cute little rabbit who had devoured all/most of the seedlings I set out, what a puzzle that was!– definitely not slug damage, but in 20 years here, no previous rabbits!! My housecat Jazman used to bring them in occasionally, and am I missing her now!! Hardly got any beans, lettuce or peas thanks to that longeared little dickens… but these days, lettuce thrives up on the deck in some big pots. The dog’s territory.
Meanwhile, the little rabbit stumbled into a HavaHart trap and is now a mile or 2 down the road reestablishing theirself…

The corn, the corn!! I planted in late May, really late for Ms. JumptheGun here, but even I was impressed by the lateness & coldness of Spring ’08… craftily had carried my corn seedflats into the bathtub room every overnight and managed to convince ’em to sprout… to no avail!! Temperatures in the garden were most discouraging for them. You’ll recall I was planning a Corn Feast for our family reunion midJuly… then when that deadline passed, we could’ve held a neighborhood CornFest for August… but even today the poor little ears are still too young to leave their mothers!! The sheep will be glad of them, though.

Given these exaggerated geographical gardening conditions I’m smart enough to never try growing cantalopes (again)… but I’m ‘specially delighted with butternut squash. They always come through, even when pumpkins are lagging ‘way behind. Bless their pearshaped selves… a dozen in the draft closet will become imitation punkin pies for the Holidays.

So we are grateful for blueberrys, raspberrys (they’re still producing madly, but not sweet, not tasty, & succumbing to black fungus spots), a bumper crop of little Arctic kiwis, and grapes, GRAPES!! The muscat grapevines have buried the carved cedar guardians by the driveway. Not QUITE as sweet as they could be, not quite smokey-flavored yet. but still DEE-LISH. Maybe I can propagate some next spring if you’re interested. They make the BEST sparkling wine– Moscato, even more elating than champagne.

Now I did want to bring up another harvest, in line with October’s Hunter Moon… the matter of animals.

On a well-rounded homestead there are animals as well as plant life. This fiber fanatic has a few angora rabbits and some Shetland sheep grazing our small meadows (and fertilizing the place). We also have a flock of hens, charming girls who will soon be allowed out to ransack the spent garden for bad bugs and small sprouting weeds…

We regard these beings as companionable. They certainly all have personalities and intelligence– and since reading Craig Childs’ essay on ravens in his latest book I have been unable to regard any life form as less sentient than I– check him out, I’d lend you my copy! We take delight in their daily antics and solicit their attentions.

At one point we were raising angora rabbits. We had this previous agreement with the mother: those unsuitable for fiber would be put in the freezer. (If you put out your feelers, you can tell if matters are copacetic with animals.) She was okay with this, and we were respectful in our procedure– it was actually a ceremony, with smudging and dare I say Last Rites, thanking the little guy for their stay with us and their contribution to our wellbeing.
Some days, we just didn’t feel up to all this and would postpone until the atmosphere shifted. It really was an impactful event.

Butchering is a edifying job, once you get your surgical objectivity lined up: bodies are quite tidy and well-engineered. We’d package ’em up neatly and leave ’em in the freezer ’til we’d forgotten their names.

Nowadays I have only buck rabbits so as I can let them out all together to romp on the pasture. The females are territorial and fight among themselves, whilst the bucks just hump each other. Make love not war.

Then there’s this matter of BALANCE: on any well-run, well-rounded small homestead comes the problem of death, being responsible for both ends of the Lives we have taken on…
One of the young Shetland sheep turned out to be a HOGJAWS. Viewed from behind, she was quite the blimp on those toothpick Shetland legs! We often witnessed her getting butted broadsides out of the hay. I was about to go get another dozen bales from John Downing to make it thru the winter!! Plus, the whole flock had gotten edgy– rude & pushy when I came out with the feed.
So. We’ve put away sheep here before, but with Richard feeling all puny I bustled her into the dog kennel and drove down to Mohawk Valley Meats. For a slaughterhouse I find their attitude… courteous.
Loaded the sheep into a holding pen, moved the truck and returned to say farewells. She walked over to my extended hand, nuzzled her nose into it and looked me straight in the eye… unexpectedly.
This is the 4th time I’ve made this journey with an animal, and usually they are too distracted by the new surroundings to remember me. It was as if this one had seen the Big Picture and relieved me of any personal blame for it. What a little queen. When smitten by the hand of Fate, may I be that gracious!

And you, dear Neighbor-may you be walkin’ on sunshine, these beautiful late autumn days!

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