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Call Me When Harvestís Over

I donít really want to be writing this. No offense. Having this space to write is a privilege, not a chore. Itís just that upstairs there are two massive bags of greens that should be blanched and frozen before they wilt. And maybe 10 pounds of tomatoes to can, and piles of apples and crabapples and rose hips waiting to be made into apple butter and jam. Not to mention the berries and tomatoes we froze and now need to can to make room for the rest of the greens and the pesto. I need to look up how to best dry my stevia plant, and Iíve been itching to buy extra farmers market corn to freeze.

Well, no one made you become an urban farm wife, you might say.

Youíre right. But see, Iím not complaining about all those things. Iím itching to get to them. Iím tantalized by the prospect of having enough frozen garden veggies to see us through to next summer, and love walking in to the smell of apple butter. The sight of two and half gallons of crushed tomatoes lined up neatly in their pint jars on my table is incredibly satisfying, as is the turn of the crank that turns the cooked apples into applesauce, the shoulder ache from trimming too many green beans at a sitting, and the assembly line process Iíve begun to hone that turns a pile of fresh-picked greens into neat little bags piled in the freezer.

Itís been a good year for us in terms of homegrown food. I finally forcibly scheduled enough regular gardening time into my week to make it through most of the growing season without losing my grip on the learning curve, and landing flat on my back in the weeds and rotten tomatoes. Itís been fun, exciting, frustrating, tiring, and empowering. I squished approximately 13.4 gazillion bean beetles, dug up my first potatoes, and discovered by accident that green tomatoes will ripen inside a compost pile.

And all that means Iíve brought home a lot of food. With apple season also upon us and my familyís insatiable demand for crabapple jam, that means we have a lot of produce lying around right now. Produce that takes time and effort to store. After work, after dinner, after kidís bedtime . . . we keep finding ourselves starting these projects late in the evening, or sacrificing a rare weekend day. And thatís why I keep finding myself tempted to leave the computer, leave my deadlines, leave my little office with a view of a brick wall, and get my hands dirty in the kitchen.

Thatís what feels appropriate. Itís harvest season, after all. Canít I get back to this other stuff once it gets cold?

This is what I get for getting myself more entangled in the changing seasons. Iíve always enjoyed the wheel of the year, but my sense of the timing and order was a little hazy: ďWell, the equinox is on March 21, but of course spring doesnít really start up here until a little later.Ē My gardening and foraging this year had me noticing everything from last frost to when the cottonwood seed started blowing.

It was pretty satisfying, but thing is that once you start reconnecting to these rhythms, itís hard to disentangle your brain again. And yet neither my bills nor my deadlines care that itís fall, that the apples are ripening, and that ripe tomatoes donít last forever. Finding that balance feels, though, like the right problem to be working. Iím already looking ahead to planning some time off next September.

I would love to just end this as a little musing about one more part of the slow process of learning on a personal scale to live in a lower energy, more local, more rooted way. But of course Iím not a hermit. And the big news of the past weeksóbanks collapsing, markets tanking, government proving its shameless preference for bailing out corporations over regular peopleóis looming in the background to remind me just how tiny my efforts are.

If Iíd written a whole column on the economy right now, it would have been titled ďSucks to have been right for several decades,Ē by which I wouldnít have meant me in particular, but the legions of people out there who have been called all sorts of nasty names (when they werenít completely ignored) for daring to suggest that banks ought to be regulated, that predatory mortgage fraud was rampant, that market failures are real and dangerous, that corporate welfare is not only unfair but unproductive, and that economies ought to stay connected to realityóto goods and services of concrete value, exchanged with each other to the greater benefit of the community.

Any response to whatís happening right now that doesnít move us in that direction, that doesnít end the deification of Wall Street, that doesnít remove the ďmoral hazard,Ē where financial companies expect to be bailed out in ways they would heap scorn and condescension on any struggling individual for hoping for, is worse than an unprecedented transfer of taxpayer money to the reckless, amoral, superrich. Itís losing an opportunity to get ourselves on a better track and remove from our economic infrastructure some of the overwhelming hostility to building truly healthy, resilient economies. If we donít get started now, itíll hurt even more next time.

Itís harvest time in more than one way. Itís a joy to carry home the bounty of the earth. Too bad weíre all carrying a home portion of what corporate triumphalism has sown as well.

óMiriam Axel-Lute

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