The harvest tide creeps in with the same subtle insistency as the maritime influence, and with its own appropriately seasonal peaks and valleys. Jars that sat in vacant rows on their plywood shelves in April jostle one another now, heavy and colorful, jewel tones of tomato and peach (not too many of the latter), deep purple grape jam, mosaic salsas, muted colors of dried apples, apple sauce and sauerkraut, ambers of honey, maple syrup, apple juice. The laden boards groan, and so do we, bringing up yet another bucket of tomatoes, more bushels of peppers; empty jars are getting scarce now, but we won’t willingly let anything good go down to the pigpen without taking what we can for the pantry first.
The winter-squash patch, where we lost half our plants to bacterial wilt carried by striped cucumber beetles, grew rank and filled the empty spots with butternut squash, martin house gourds and luffa. With our beloved tromboncino, which cooks up well as summer squash but, left to mature, attains more than a yard in length, mostly neck, stores into mid-winter, and, roasted with garlic, onions and quarters of bell pepper (which we freeze for just this purpose), is beyond all praise — as we say, butternut squash and tromboncino will fill the dry cave and overflow into other spaces, and culls will feed the hogs and chickens, and worm them at the same time (a property of cucurbit seeds, according to old farm manuals). God is good.
One-tenth acre of mangel-wurzels have done well this year, perhaps redeeming itself after a stunted crop last year, and promising a ton or more of red-skinned, white-fleshed roots, for pig fodder, mainly, but delicious when peeled and sliced into julienne, a good substitute for apples when no fresh fruit is available. Deer have had their share of the field corn and the pigs will have to make do with what is left, along with mangels, winter squash culls, hay, bean haulms, whey, buttermilk, and table scraps. Feeder pigs average about fifty bucks for an equal number of pounds, after which the farms feeds them, with just a few bags of grain to carry us over the low spots. Home-dressed, our pork costs us substantially less than a dollar a pound, and generates tons of good organic compost into the bargain. This is as it should be.