Friday, October 1, 2010

Fall has arrived

Sabbath eve, October 1, 2010

Nice weather for harvesting hay arrived this week after a rainy month of September so we’ve begun cutting and baling hay once again. Our barns however are full of small square bales so we will probably roll most of the grass into large round bales, a much less labor intensive endeavor.

Pecan harvest season draws near so the guys have been cutting, stacking and burning limbs and branches so they can mow the grass under the trees in the bottoms. My dad recently acquired additional acreage where the Guadalupe and San Marcos Rivers intersect; the new plot has almost 6,000 pecan trees of various improved varieties. I am less than well-versed in the art of raising pecans and more than a little worried about my new duties.

The new place is extremely prone to flooding, so every rain event from now forward will be a cause for consternation in my house. In these parts, the best grazing land is that created by flooding rivers, which also means that the best land is also the most dangerous for livestock. Quite the conundrum.

Those living on the gulf coast share similar concerns. The ocean provides bountiful food, scenery and entertainment; ports also provide work to those shipping or receiving goods from foreign lands, but proximity to the water brings the dangers of hurricanes and tropical storms, and now, hazards related to off-shore oil spills. Want the one, you get the other too. Life on the cutting edge appeals to me. I’d rather face death than live a boring life.

Speaking of the gulf, the Discovery channel has been airing a program called Swamp People, featuring a handful of Louisiana Cajuns that earn their living hunting alligators. While some might consider this a dreadful occupation, you’d be hard-pressed to get those people to walk away from what they do, or better spoken, who they are. I find Louisiana a foreign environment but I identify with the attachment these men and women have to the country that feeds them. I’d guess their transition to collapse will be much less drastic than that of someone attached to a life of leisure in a city or a suburb.

As Mike Ruppert is known to ask, would you rather fall from the penthouse to the sidewalk, or from the sidewalk to the curb? Ain’t much below when you already live in the swamp.

I got a call from a man named Dale today. Dale is my resident feral hog hunter. He’s black and works all the time at feed yards and livestock auctions. For fun he goes out at night with dogs and hunts hogs. I won’t go into details for you because I don’t want to draw heat on the man but I will say this much. The only tool he carries is a long sharp knife. Feral hogs have no natural predators in this country and multiply like crazy. They can be very destructive to gardens, fields and pastures. They also are a good source of food for those so inclined. I have a number of jars of canned feral hog meat in my pantry.

While some would wipe the hogs out, I like the idea of having such a source of food available in the wild. So we only hunt them sporadically, mostly when they’re destroying crops after planting or near harvest time. We also have deer and wild turkeys in the area, but hogs provide lard in addition to meat which I find indispensable in cooking for a southern palate.

We dug our first sweet potato this week. I’ve been pleased with the way they performed in our garden and am considering trying a larger plot in the field next year. There’s almost no way to plant the things other than by hand, with cuttings from the vines, so this may prove to be one crop where my idea of hand labor has a chance of working.

I’m getting soil ready for onions, broccoli, cabbage, beets, spinach, turnips and carrots, all of which grow through the winter in this region. Our pepper plants survived the summer and are producing lots of peppers once again. I have a crop of black eyed peas I hoped to harvest as dried peas, but with the unusual amount of rain we’ve had, a lot of the dried pods are molded. Thankfully I have only four rows of these instead of twenty acres worth (like last year).

We planted 120 acres of oats in our fields this week, to be grazed overwinter by cattle. If conditions are right, we’ll have the option of pulling the cattle off in mid February for a spring harvest of hay or grain. If conditions aren’t right, we can allow the cattle to graze them out, reducing the amount of hay needed to get our animals through the winter.

I have four partially constructed green houses needing covers. And very little time to do all the work on my plate.

Each year carries new challenges and one year is rarely like another. If you plant crops, some will fail. But you have to risk failure in order to learn what if feels like to win.

Best plant your seeds and trees. And you’d best harvest your crops when you have them. Lots of people plant crops; quite a few less harvest a crop. Wise is the man that harvests his crop.

Life goes on and we all have to eat.

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