Monday, September 8, 2014

Sustainability and the Harvest

The harvest has been unbelievable this year.  Not sure if it is the result of years of progressive soil building, technique and plant selection or the weather and mother natures sense of humor... but it has rocked.  This bounty has gone hand in hand with a meditation I had during a yoga practice recently.

To set the stage, I was dealing with the feeling that things were changing too fast.  The kids were going back to school, while my semester was about to start.  To make it more acute I had just returned from a conference with new ideas of how to change everything I was doing.  My oldest was dealing with the jitters of starting middle school and to top it off I lost something rather valuable and was really frustrated with myself.   

So I went to go do my first yoga practice and I was looking forward to a routine that was second nature to me.  I found out the class schedule had changed and  the class was going to be a new one hour class in another format.  I knew these classes were coming but had not thought to check.  

In this class, like many, the instructor told us to choose a purpose for our meditative aspect of the practice. So I focused and decided to see what the question should be.  The answer was that I should consider the path I should take to get through this time of transformation.  Through the practice, I kept  focusing on sustainability. 

This journey grew through my practice.  It started with the recharge that comes from harnessing Mother Nature in harvesting her fruit.  Then it went to the joy that comes from seeing the fruit of your labor transformed into something that will sustain the family throughout the months to come.  Then there was the creative buzz of going beyond the obvious and creating interesting things to enhance and to share.  If you have ever canned, processed, or dried food you know this buzz of sustainability.

I began to think about all the things I had processed this summer.  My garden beds had produced incredibly, and I had the luck to have some farmer bounty accessible as well.  I started with early asparagus and greens, peas and garlic. it moved on to loads of cucumbers.  

I lucked in to a big bunch of cucumbers, about 120 lbs, by going to the farmers market near closing and making a deal for a farmers left overs.  A friend came over and joined in on the fun and we canned 98 large jars together.  We had two water baths going in the back yard for most of the afternoon.   

Then the tomato harvest started.  Even with sharing with friends I had the most prolific tomato harvest ever.  I grew two areas of tomatoes this year, one was for determinants, producing a bunch of tomatoes all at once. The other was in-determinants,  producing tomatoes consistently throughout the summer.  The first to come in where the determinant.  I skinned and crushed batches of tomatoes,   planning on spreading the love through many meals to come.   

The in-determinant type I grew were the amazing Ivan.  I purchased the Ivan a coupe years back from a family down in the river bottoms and saved seeds. They said their family had been growing this tomato for 150 years right here in Missouri's humid, hot and unpredictable climate.   As the big Ivan's started to come in I made some hot salsa using hot peppers, garlic, fresh picked corn, and southern beans.  It turned out fantastic.  

Well, the tomatoes continued to come in and I canned and canned tomatoes, hardly keeping up with the volume. Then a friend dropped two boxes of Amish tomatoes at my door.  This promoted a sauce making endeavor that resulted in 11 pints of pizza sauce and 28 of pasta sauce.  I continued to make trays of lasagna, meat sauces, and stews.   

It did not end there.  I recently made an amazing plum chutney with the first plums I had ever harvested from my trees.  After reading a bunch of recipes I winged it and made this delicious thing with lots of raisins, dates and spices.  Eggplants have also been processed into babaganoosh with tahini and lemon and my own garlic.

So where am I now you may ask?  Currently, I am sitting on three full paper grocery bags full of pears ripening. I am planning on making a few items including preserves, chutneys, and butters.  The grapes have come in on the back fence and I can't even think of what to do with them.  The tomatoes continue to flow and okra has started to be frozen for future gumbos.  

So how is nature's recharge going?   I am thankful for all the amazing food that has come, and continues to come out of my small suburban home.  The ever changing harvest has not surprised me or alarmed me.  It at times, has tired me and stretched my imagination and determination.  But it has not overwhelmed me and it has proven to be very valuable providing sustenance for my family and friends.  

Change is great if you can change with it, taking its bounty as it comes.   The key is to keep going and keep changing to adapt to what is flowing your way.  Putting in the hard work and receiving the benefits of the energy exchange with nature can sustain bodies and souls.  This strength and balance in yoga as in life can help us flow.