Here comes the end
It’s been a dry few months, a shower here or there but nothing worth checking the rain gauge for. A food gardener cannot complain about this warm start to autumn, to them it means an extended season for growing that important food for the family. To a grower it means a few more weeks of summer veg, that by mathematical chance will now linger on vines and bushes a little longer than expected. More red jalapeño than green. More ripe tomatoes for bruschetta. Alas, the seasons are simply playing with us. The unstoppable end always comes, as it does with all facets of nature.
The nights are cooler, the clouds fewer. By late evening the heavens empty, allowing a clear vision of celestial display. The open sky brings cooler nights. Plants feel this cold, they sense the change, either that or they simply run out of energy to grow. Maybe they don’t like the cold, whatever the case may be, it’s the unavoidable end for them. Leaves discolour, bean pods dry, zucchini become stumps. Growth will halt, all progress ordered to discontinue with the hint of the seasonal shift.
We have had the autumn break, that rain we so desperately long for, but we have noticed the drop in temperature. We’ve also noticed the roar of wind that signifies the change of season.
Like a day marked on a calendar there is an annual chore that for me is a very significant event. It’s when I begin to pull the now fully plump beans from the tangled vines. Once proud, optimistic vines of progress and growth, the bean plant is now tired, worn out and hanging on to its glory days. It’s gift to us is the food of its seed. The beans will dry, they will store for many years, and feed us when the garden hibernates come winter.
I pull on the gauntly vines to expose hidden bean pods lurking behind foliage. It’s a brutal technique with no shortage of grunting and yanking. There is a violence, a destructive element to the process. There is no other way. It is the end for this plant, it has to be harvested, it has to make way for the next crop. It’s a process that never fails to remind me of my own mortality. It reminds me that I too will be pulled out, removed, composted, and no doubt forgotten by nature, a measly blink of the eye in a much larger story of time.
Out of touch
Flames licked the side of the large log, sitting awkwardly in the fire. The warmth from the heater was welcome as I lay motionless, huddled under a cosy woollen blanket. It had been a long day, in fact the week had been packed. There was however still more to be done. An overflowing box of green beans sat in the room, waiting for me to hang. Some beans dry on the vines, whilst others are a bit slow, and are still very fresh and green come harvest time. It’s these green beans that I string up, to hang by the fireplace drying for storage. This box is just the beginning. Over the next month I will hang many more beans to dry.
After a few weeks by the fire the beans rattle like a maraca and are ready to be podded and stored. They serve as food, cooked with winter greens like chard, kale and spinach. It’s very much a simplistic approach to food, an approach inspired by peasant existence of the old people. It’s an approach that relies on a bit of gardening, a willingness to work and knowledge of how to cook with the ingredients you’ve grown. It’s worked for people for thousands of years, and it’s a usable approach for any time in human existence, past, present and future.
What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for other people. And it’s not one persons place to say what is right or wrong for someone else. It’s not my place to say this technique is right or better, instead I can simply say, “this is how I do it” it’s up to you to take what you will. It’s not for any of us to say one way of living is better than another. Instead we can simply take the good elements from what we observe around us and embrace them for our own unique existence.