Tuesday, September 16, 2014

hunters and gatherers

The summer season is winding down and so is this season of gardening. This week's temperatures are below what we're used to seeing this time of year, so we're already dipping into the 50s overnight with daily highs just above 70.

I'd rate the summer garden as semi-successful. Certainly more successful than last year, but crops that have done really well in years past didn't produce much this year. Maybe it's time to test the soil and see if it's too depleted of certain nutrients. The big winners this year were the green beans and tomatoes, and the zucchini did okay. Bell peppers were much more successful this year than any other year, and the pumpkins and gourds have been as well. Oh and the hops have gone crazy. There are at least four full 1-gallon bags. Just like last year, the cucumbers had another bad year, when two years ago we couldn't even give away all the extra.

A new challenge this year was a team of groundhogs making an appearance any time the cruciferous veggies or potatoes had leaves. I trapped and relocated two groundhogs, and later spotted the biggest (and still at large - har har) groundhog. Broccoli had never been successful before, but this year looked like it might actually grow. The groundhogs ate the leaves off the broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage. I tried a number of repellents - dog hair, peppermint Dr. Bronner's, fox urine. The leaves grew back once, but then were all eaten again and the plants were eaten down to little green nubs. It was time to wave the white flag and forget about enjoying any of those homegrown veggies.

Before the weather gets too cold and stays that way, I think one more shot at some fall crops might be worth it. Maybe some lettuce and spinach at least. Maybe the groundhog will go into hibernation early, and if not, I have a live trap ready and waiting.

Speaking of trapping, I completed a hunter/trapper safety course a couple weekends ago and am now able to get a hunting license. And I have a deposit on a new bolt action rifle that I'll be getting in the next week or so. I never really imagined myself a hunter, but we all know how I feel about sustainability. As it is, I purchase the vast majority of any meat or fish that I eat from the co-op, which does a pretty good job of selecting farmers who raise their livestock in a respectable manner. I want to be able to do more though, to provide for myself. I worry that we have lost a lot of skills older generations knew so well, and I'd rather not trot off ignorantly into the future. One of the instructors of the course mentioned some numbers that were pretty amazing. He mentioned the cost of having a deer butchered along with the pork he paid for to blend with the venison was around $80. What it yielded though, was the really amazing part - over $400 worth of meat. So whether or not I'll have a place to hunt or go hunting is still up in the air, but I like knowing it's a possibility. And in the meantime, there are places where I can go practice with my gun and gain the skills I need to be a good hunter when the time comes.