Processing the Harvest

23-Sep-2014

The tang in the air from our chillis' cooking catches the back of my throat still, as it lingers after a day spent processing and preserving.

Each year the cycle of my year is more and more connected to the 

ancient celtic festivals with the sowing, planting, growing and harvesting.  I see the wisdom in those earth based celebrations from older times.

One of the joys of permaculture in food systems research is trying out new crops. We find we like chokeberries and micro-climate management (and a great summer) gave us water melons which brought wonder and delight to many. We harvested both easily, amazed to be be overwhelmed with all manner of melons, and made a new taste discovery with chokeberry jam. It is similar in texture to blueberry, but has a tartness somewhat like blackberries with more earthy overtones. 

The long summer stretching into late september kept many old faithfuls filling my basket over and over. Perennial's in the forest garden did well but the abundant annuals needed preserving there were so many.

Cucumbers were made into relishes, and tomatoes processed in a myriad of ways, dried with basil, cooked into pasta sauces.   Home made ketchup for my youngest son. He has a mixed identity of influences and his own unique one, perhaps found while wwoofing when he was only two because  he has italian leanings. He makes home made spelt pasta with eggs from his own hens regularly and loved the home made sauce on it. The wonders of "open space" faciliation meant that he gave a demonstration to an enthusiatic group at the All Ireland Permaculture Gathering this past summer.

It was the blueberries that brought the pinnacle to our foody celebrations in the form of a long missed cultural food for my American husband. In most ways he has adapted after 23 years in Ireland, but his first blueberry pie after all that time (cooked extra specially by his mother here on a visit) was a taste bud nostalgic visceral highlight to be savoured and enjoyed by all who witnessed and participated.

The lingering longest summer in memory is giving up its hold now, and while we still have gathering in work to do, apple pressing and administration calls urgently now, we are nearly ready for winter lock down. Slow time comes with the darker days and we can review our crops and stores. Those that were abundant beyond expectation like tiny tiger the cat producing 6 kittens and others like the celery and some poor little chicks failing to thrive.

These are echoed in the mix of the years organisational activities at Carraig Dúlra: the resounding success of our first permaculture design course (PDC), the new spruced up look of the land, and websites and yet the failure to fully address our financial viability. These things push us to try harder, but for now at our years end we celebrate. Soon like the soil we’ve been tending with care covering it up to protect it from the heavy rains with green manures and straw mulches leaving it to rest. The billions of life forms in the soil that keep us alive through their generous sharing of nutrients with our plants and the gentle pollinators who help give us fruit also slow down or hibernate. I will be moving to quieter activities too like reflecting in my inner millings and in this blog on what next for me, chatting with our new advisors about Carraig Dúlra’s future, with team mates about next year’s permaculture gathering and more winter dreaming topics.