Welcome back to Magnetic North, where harvest started before summer did this year. I think most would agree with me that the first dog days of summer came not in July, but in early August. And just as they came, so too did the first of our winter food.
Fifty some bales of hay. Lovely, solid, square bales carried one by one into my garage by a local couple I’ve been lucky enough to connect with. Fact is, knowing a good source of hay is as much a treasure in these parts as knowing where the big blueberries grow or rainbow trout bite….maybe more so.
Standing inside the stuffed garage after my friends leave, I inhale deeply and sigh. For fresh cut and baled hay, even though it’s been dried a bit, imparts a deeply satisfying scent. A perfume. Think cocoa on a cold night. Or just-ground coffee beans in the morning.
And, to a woman with six growing goats, a llama and eight angora rabbits, all of which gobble grain like candy, the smell of a garage full of hay says I can cross one big worry off my to-do list. The worry of “Will I have enough hay for all those hungry mouths when all the world turns white?”
Other harvests come as surprises, albeit anticipated surprises. Nick and Kristin Wharton leave bags of produce from their farm every week. This week it was glorious rainbow chard, garlic, red potatoes, green onion, cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini.
How long has it been since I had groceries delivered to my home? I think 40 years, back when I lived in Cleveland and shopped a dinky little neighborhood grocery. Sadly, the home deliveries and even the weekly shopping stopped when the butcher took leave of his senses and gave me a little squeeze as I left the store one day.
How times have changed. Well, at least I can brag about the home deliveries again!
Other harvests come in the form of berries: strawberries planted under my cherry tree, wild raspberries from the woods and meadow, and perhaps blueberries if I can ever find a day to zip up the trail to my friends’ cabins. I hear there has never been better picking.
Aside from these, I have the usual luscious eggs from my sweet hens and silky angora fiber combed off my bunnies. The litter of four is just about old enough to go to other homes now. So each time I tend them I torment myself with whether to sell them all or keep just one. Or maybe two.
Add to all of the above the odd sightings of this particular summer: the bulbous spider who insists upon spinning her web right inside the door to the coop so as to catch my face every morning; the flock of new phoebes hatched over our side deck; the great number of jewel-bright garter snakes - my count is over 30 so far - darting through the grass and among the straw bales; the luna moth clinging to our siding one June afternoon, her soft green wing tips trembling even as she dozed in the sun.
And then there were the memories of things not seen: last summer’s fox kits from under the barn and tool shed; the Canada goose orphan gosling growing into her wild nature down on the pond with the annual mallard flock; and bright shadows of old friends, Lucky the goat and Ollie and Jubee, the twin yellow Labs, all gallumphing ahead of us into the woods.
Sometimes it’s almost more than I can take in. Sensory overload, so to speak. And when that happens, as it does almost daily, I wander in my books of poetry. Here is what I found when considering the harvests of this late-blooming summer and all that have come before:
It’s by my very favorite author/poet/crone-sister, Margaret Atwood.
And it is titled, The Moment
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.