Harvest Day on a Homestead
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Today we’re planning to bring in the remainder of our potatoes. We’ve had two hard frosts where the temperature fell below -5 for several hours, so the rest of the garden has already been harvested, along with most of the potatoes. The only things left are the beets, carrots, part of a row of cabbages, some tomatoes in the greenhouse, and three rows of potatoes.

We’re getting a later start than I’d hoped, though. It seems like everyone needed to sleep in this morning. By the time I’ve got a pot of apples on the stove and we’ve had our breakfast and family worship, it’s almost 10:30. We put on jackets and gloves and finally get outside. We’ve got a few hours of work to do and the forecast is for rain starting around noon. But God is merciful and maybe He will extend the dry weather by a few more hours so we can get the potatoes in before the ground gets wet.

We haven’t had a decent rain in about a month-and-a-half, so the soil is dry. Local farmers are in the midst of wheat and canola harvest, so a soaking rain is not what they want right now. On the other hand, the moisture is badly needed and will help to prepare the ground for spring seeding.

10:30

Our tractor pulls the potato plough down the rows of potato plants that have been blackened by frost. The bright red skins of the potatoes pop visually against the dark soil. Indeed, God has made all things beautiful. He blesses our labour in the field with beauty. The aspens are yellow, geese are flying overhead, and there are piles of red potatoes lying in neat rows around us. God is so generous!

We pick up the potatoes by hand, sorting small and green ones into boxes to use as seed for next year. Potatoes damaged by the plough go into a bucket. We’ll clean them up and use them for supper tonight.

It’s been a challenging year for gardening. June was much colder and wetter than usual, which set the plants back. We had frost in the second week of June, which is late, even for our northern location. There was so much rain, it lay in small lakes across the garden. Even cold weather crops, like spinach and peas, that tolerate early planting turned yellow and didn’t grow. The cold wet weather lasted into July. But it came with some benefits. The flea beetles that devoured all our Asian vegetables as quickly as they emerged from seed planted in early spring last year, were not to be seen this year. It seems the wet soil spoiled their eggs. We didn’t see cabbage butterflies either until late July this year, which gave the cabbages a head-start.

Then August came along, and it was a scorcher, with higher than normal temperatures and no rain for weeks. The flea beetles and cabbage worms came on with a vengeance, spoiling the kale and turnips, and attacking the cabbages. We stretched row cover cloth across the cabbages, but after two weeks, the fabric deteriorated, leaving the plants exposed. The Danish Ballhead cabbages, with their densely packed leaves have only surface damage from the ugly worms, but the cone-shaped variety I planted have looser leaves and are bored through to the core. They’re a write-off.

Because we live surrounded by big-ag canola and wheat farms, our small organic farm doesn’t stand much of a chance against the explosion of resistant pest populations that reside in our neighbourhood. I realize we’re going to have to step up our game plan if we want to harvest anything from the mustard family. I plan to do some research over the winter and come up with some strategies to try next year.

We’ve been happily surprised by our potato crop, however, in spite of the difficult growing conditions. We expected to have a problem with “hollow heart” because of the heavy rains and intense heat. Hollow heart is a star-shaped hole that forms in the middle of potatoes when plants have been stressed and there is a sudden change in growing conditions. We’re thankful for a good potato harvest, with plentiful good-sized tubers, no hollow heart problem, and very little scab.

1:30 pm

It’s starting to drizzle, but all the potatoes from the first ploughing have been put in the shed. After a second ploughing to turn over what was missed, we do a quick final gleaning and load the leftovers onto the quad trailer and haul them to the shed. God is merciful and generous!

2:00 pm

The potatoes have been boxed and put into temporary storage. We’ll move them later and store them in the house over winter. My husband is planning to renovate our basement cold-storage room over the next little while to improve its efficiency. He’ll change the shelving to allow for greater storage capacity and will insulate the interior walls and ceiling to keep the cold in and the heat of the house out.

Our cold storage is simply a basement room that has a small wooden door that opens to the outside instead of a window. The door has a screen-capped pipe that allows cold, outside air to come in.  It’s been working well for us, especially for squash and pumpkins, which kept firm right through the winter and well into the summer. But maybe we’ll be able to keep the root vegetables crisp longer if we make some changes.

After putting the potatoes in the shed, we head back to the garden. It’s raining lightly as we gather up the last of the cabbages. They’ve survived a couple of hard frosts, but they’ll split if we leave them out in the rain. We cut the heavy stems and trim damaged leaves to get them ready for storage.

3:00 pm

With the potatoes and cabbages put away, we only have carrots and beets left in the garden. We’ll leave them outside as long as we can and will harvest them just before the ground freezes. That’s also when we’ll plant the garlic. Gardening is almost done for the year.

We head to the greenhouse and pick a couple of buckets full of red tomatoes before heading to the house to process them.

4:30 pm

We sit down to a simple but hearty meal of vegetables that we’ve grown in partnership with God, realizing that without Him nothing is possible. We’re thankful for the sunshine and rain that’s come on time in sufficient amounts. We’re thankful that He’s protected our crops from wind and hail and other devastating forces.

Gardening, after all, is an act of faith. Especially in the times in which we’re living now, nothing is certain. We can’t count on the sun to shine – heavy smoke or prolonged cloud cover can blot it out. We can’t count on enough rain to fall at the right time – drought is becoming more prevalent everywhere. Wind, hail, fire, grasshoppers – these and a myriad of other malevolent forces could wipe out our crops in a moment. Our wholesome garden produce reminds us of our total reliance on God for everything.

5:30 pm

Supper dishes have been put away, but the kitchen is a mess. The table and counter are loaded with boxes of apples, buckets of tomatoes, washing bowls, and processing equipment. The washed apples go into a large pot and are put on the stove. When they’re cooked, we put them through a hand-mill and make applesauce. We fill the waiting jars and put them in the canner.

While the apples are cooking, we wash the tomatoes and pack them into the jar of our high-speed blender. After whizzing them into a soupy puree, we pour the tomatoes into freezer bags and lay them flat in the freezer. We’ll use the frozen tomatoes for soups, pasta sauce, and chili during the winter.

8:30

The last jars of applesauce are simmering in the canner when we sit down for family worship. It’s been a full day and we’re all tired and ready for bed.

We’ve been asked by visitors, “Why do you work so hard? Why don’t you just buy what you need?”

The answer is simple, and complex.

The simple part is, we are simply obeying God’s commands. We live in the country and grow a garden because God, through His prophet, counseled us to “get out of the cities” and that “no line of manual training is of more value than agriculture” (Education, 219).  We count on God to bless us for obeying.

The more complex answer involves points on naturally grown versus conventionally grown produce, and food security. We grow our own food because we believe there are significant differences between eating what we grow ourselves in contrast to eating what large corporate farms produce thousands of kilometres away. Growing our own food also means having enough for ourselves and to share with others.

Yes, growing your own food is hard work, but there are many blessings in it. Ellen White wrote, “The earth has blessings hidden in her depths for those who have courage and will and perseverance to gather her treasures. Fathers and mothers who possess a piece of land and a comfortable home are kings and queens” (CL 18.2).

We count ourselves rich to have a piece of ground that will yield a bountiful harvest as a return on our labour. But even greater are the spiritual blessings that come from obedience and working in partnership with God. He is generous! And by His grace, He will have a bountiful harvest. My prayer is that my family and yours will one day soon be gathered into His heavenly garner.

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