Kate Flora: Does anyone else feel a wee bit of sadness as the days grow shorter and the nip in the air and the slant of the light signal that the long, lazy days of summer are coming to an end? I certainly do. Even though fall is my favorite season, it also reminds me that another year is passing and another winter is on the horizon.
As a gardener who comes from a farming family, I’m very aware of the cycle of the seasons. Springs in our country farmhouse saw flats of seedlings on every windowsill, getting ready to be planted in the garden. Summers were a progression from early crops like lettuce, spinach, peas, and radishes to the later beans, zucchini, and summer squash. Still later came the sprawling vines of cucumbers, pumpkins, winter squash, the adventure of digging potatoes and braiding onion stems to dry in the basement and the tall stalks of corn. One year I remember my father planting little round watermelons, and the back of the pickup filled with those melons and cantaloupes.
Summer evenings we would sit around the kitchen table after dinner, often with company from New York or New Jersey who had come to Maine to enjoy the cool breezes and swimming in the pond. While the conversation flowed, our hands would be busy with snapping beans or pitting cherries or slicing peaches or shelling the dried shell beans. Mom, always a botanist at heart, would have us pick out the red beans from the pods of mostly speckled beans, and those would be saved for next year’s planting. She wanted to know if this selection would eventually lead to pods of entirely red beans.
Later in the evening we would play card games with the windows open, hearing the exuberant lunatic cries of the loons floating up from the pond.
It may be no surprise that I’m so interested in food and cooking when so much of our lives revolved around the raising and preservation of food. When I go into houses with pristine kitchen counters and entries that hold only boots and shoes and coats, I am reminded that in our house, there would be wire egg baskets of potatoes and onions under the desk in the kitchen, and ripening tomatoes rescued from the frost laid out on newspapers on the counter. The floor of the shed would be covered with winter squash and acorn squash, as well as a few pumpkins. In the cellar, an alcove held shelves for the canned food, and baskets of potatoes, while onions hung from the ceiling.
I still find myself coming home from the farm stand or farmer’s market and putting my collection of many colored tomatoes and pickling cukes and zucchini and summer squash and perhaps little turnips and a cheery bunch of radishes into a basket on the counter so I can admire them.
There is much talk now about being locavores and eating what is grown close to home. Back then, it wasn’t a choice, it was just how life was. Sadness when the last fresh tomato was gone. A scramble to use up or freeze the squash as it threatened to go off. The force it took to split a giant blue hubbard squash. Even the surprise of going out in the spring to harvest parsnips.
The rest of my family seem to have, or had, green thumbs, while I joke that I have a green credit card. But living so close to the land growing up has imbedded a deep sense of how our seasons are connected to the land, and to survival, and how dependent on nature we all are, whether we know it or not.
It’s Maine Crime Writers “Where Would You Put the Body?” contest – late summer/early fall edition. How do you enter? Send a photograph of your chosen spot to: WritingAboutCrime@gmail.com with Where Would You Put the Body in the subject line. There will be prizes for First, Second, and Third place–books of course and other Maine goodies. You may enter no more than three photographs, each one entered separately. They must be of Maine places and you must identify the place in your submission. Photos must be the submitter’s original work. Contest will run through the end of September.