Monday, July 4, 2011

Blessed be the workers

Monday morning, July 4, 2011

I’m stealing time to write. Outside my door, work continues despite the holiday. Harvest needs press upon us. The milo header to our combine sits some twenty miles away. The milo is ready. I’ve yet to try the combine: who knows what surprises and misadventures await.

Hay dries in a field and should be ready to bale by this evening or tomorrow. Rox orange cane is ready to be stripped and harvested for syrup. We’re set to work our herd of Brahman cows Saturday morning.

The syrup cane was planted in a field of corn; sixteen border rows of corn blocked entrance to the cane. I decided to hand harvest this corn, estilo Mexicano. I envisioned the process of cutting and stacking the whole corn plant as some awful back-breaking job, but it turned out to be much easier and faster than I expected.

Juan, Abraham and Senon taught me the process. First the corn is cut: each man takes four rows, cuts and piles the stalks as they go. Later the small bundles are gathered and removed, or conversely stacked in the field, standing on end in large bundles, to be removed and used as needed. In our case we moved the stalks to the barn on a trailer and removed the ears by hand.

Being an arrogant white boy raised on a healthy dose of diesel fumes, I assumed our way of harvest is better, but now I see advantages to the old way. To begin, you can begin harvest while the corn is still partially green. Combines require the field to be totally dry. The stalks make good feed for ruminants; I discovered my goats prefer them to baled coastal Bermuda hay. Working alongside my friends, sweating in the hot sun proved enjoyable and satisfying in an elemental way. We’ve lost more than we know by insulating ourselves from the ground that feeds us.

In the garden we pulled what was left of tomato and cucumber vines and worked the soil after removing all crop residue. Pepper plants remain from the spring garden. We cleaned around them; now we must water and protect them from summer insects for a fall crop, Lord willing. A few volunteer watermelon vines continue producing outstanding fruits along with a dozen or so large volunteer okra plants. We planted sweet potato slips; they have now rooted and begin to grow. New cream peas are up and growing as are young okra plants. Orka, sweet potatoes and summer peas are about the only crops hearty enough to stand South Texas summer heat. The time for planting fall beans, corn, tomatoes, etc. draws near.

Heat seems to have taken its toll on progress at Leah’s pottery studio. The clock continues ticking and the first week of August doesn’t seem near as far away as it once did. The old red rock general store sits and waits for a roof and a floor. I don’t know how this will be done, but it must be done.

The harvest is plenty; the workers few.

Back to the field. Blessings to all who work with their hands.

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