LAKE MACBRIDE— Today begins with two Tylenol® for the headache caused by I don’t know what. Perhaps it was the lack of fresh vegetables and protein in meals made of potato bread purchased once a year from the grocery store, evenly toasted and spread with salad dressing, topped with thick, red slices of tomato. An annual ritual of the tomato harvest in Big Grove Township. With coffee and writing, the headache is receding. It’s 4 a.m.
There was no harbinger of how it would in the local food system this fall. Farmers need help for harvest: picking kale, squash and tomatoes, selling apples, and cleaning onions and garlic. Add the work of preserving some of the harvest, gardening and just living, and it is a full life. Suddenly, I’m working four paid jobs, and a lot that aren’t paid.
More than the pay, which certainly isn’t a living wage, is the value of the experiences. Some of which I’ll recount here to provide a flavor of an Iowa life in September.
Last Sunday I sampled Dolgo Crab Apples and liked them so much, I made five pounds of them into Dolgo Crab Apple Butter.
Picked the pears from our tree. There was about a bushel of them.
A branch broke on the Golden Delicious apple tree. The fruit was ripe, so I picked it from the branches.
Perhaps the best tomato harvest from my garden in a single day.
Canned diced tomatoes, four quarts and 27 pints. Plus about three gallons of juice.
Roasted peppers and marinated them in olive oil with a clove of garlic.
Froze bell peppers for a farmer friend.
Put up a dozen ears of corn in the freezer.
It all takes time, with little reflection, which perhaps will come when the work is done, if ever.