“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to harvest….”
I noticed this week that there is a bit of fog in the mornings. And that the nights are cool. And that my garden is exploding with produce. And the stands for sweet corn and rivalling the stands for sweet cherries. Starting this week our summer help begins to head back to college. Seasons. Change.
A time for everything. I’ve had a couple of conversations lately about food and farms and seasons. As a society we’ve become disconnected from seasons as they pertain to our essence. Sure, we enjoy fresh tomatoes and sweet corn in summer–but those can be had at Meijers in January, too. We exchange t-shirts for sweaters sometime in October. We put the air conditioner away and turn on the thermostat in the fall and reverse in the spring. But our very existence is not connected to the seasons and that’s a very different thing.
For example, did you know that hens in a natural system slack off egg production in August and lay eggs out of their ears in April/May? Did you know that the mineral composition of soil changes from spring to fall? Did you know that chicken is a cooling meat that serves us well in summer’s heat while beef, pork, and lamb serve us better in the cooler seasons? Did you know that animals raised as they were intended should be harvested as their feed dictates, ie: in late fall and early winter when the dried grasses are exhausted but winter’s cold hasn’t depleted summer’s wealth stored in the animal’s body. This includes pastured beef, pork, lamb/sheep, and goats. Don’t look for local corn on the fourth of July. “Canning” is a season.
As a society, we’ve gotten used to giving a nod to, but not being dictated to by the seasons. We can eat almost any food we want to any time of the year. We can live and work in temperate environments year round. An increasingly small proportion of our citizenry live so “close to the earth” that it really matters in their lives. It’s always makes me melancholy when I’ve felt that disconnect in my circumstances and it makes me sad to see it for others. Somehow the seasons connect us to something inherantly vital and timeless.
One of our family friends spent a summer in Europe recently. She described how, even yet, most of Europe’s people eat very seasonally. They have small refridgerators and little or no separate freezers. They don’t can produce like we do. When tomatoes are in season, they eat a lot of them. When beans are ripe, they eat a lot of them. I know there are big farms that ship food and that much work has been done on season extensions there, but in Danielle’s experience and conversations with her hosts, the seasons have a say in the food supply.
Our Manglitsa pigs are another prime example of a seasonal food. These are heritage animals. They are not programmed, when raised naturally, to be harvested in April. They are meant for butchering in November and December. They are the hogs GreatGrandpa and Grandma had the neighbors over to butcher, producing the winter’s supply of cured hams and shoulders, sausage (including blood sausage), head cheese, and soup bones. They knew the art of seam butchery because that was the only way to do it. Folks knew back then that they hadto maximize the sun’s free gift to them and harvest happened when the forage was gone and the nuts and roots converted to protein. We had the privilage of sharing our Mangalitsa with a Hungarian gentleman who remembered how his rural family raised 3 hogs every year, saving the Mangalitsa for last when all the forages were trully gone and the animal was prime. That hog provided their lard (a considerable pantry staple) and meat (cured) through the summer. They lived by a very seasonal cycle, making the most of nature’s rhythms.