Winter Reflections

The winter has begun in earnest at Leafhopper Farm. This week, the last of our pears were put to the pot with a pork roast. The Berkshire Gilts were finished on this same fruit this fall. There is so much gratitude in sustenance.

Realizing that the last fresh fruit is gone from the larder, I’ve turned to the dried stock of apple and pear. Its great to still have the nutrition of that fall harvest, but reconstituting with warm water does not bring the crunch of freshness back.

Knowing there is a freezer full of meat, fruit, and veggies offers reassurance to a person in the dark of winter, though here in Western Washington, the temperate rainforest does not bring quite the same haunting grip of cold that New England or Scandinavia might. I must admit my Viking and Scottish roots are scoffing right now.

Hunting and raising livestock has been crucial to sufficient protein production. I’d like to think I could hunt and fish throughout the year for absolute security, but there are seasons and limits now which prevent fully sustainable wild harvest. Perhaps if that was all you did with your time it could sustain you. In fact, I think that is very possible. But what if we all tried to go out and take what we needed from the land? At this time in human history, the attempt would probably prove fatal. That’s actually happening right now on a global scale, but our species chooses to overwhelmingly ignore this uncomfortable or “inconvenient” truth.

As in the wilds, domestic stock is restricted by habitat limitations. To raise enough meat on the land holistically, we’d have to industrialize the farm in a way as of yet unattainable sustainably; but I’m working on it. This year, pork came at a high price, and that was expected. Now, with more planned pasture and heavy rotation, higher numbers of animals will be raised. Pigs and sheep could alternate yearly and become a seasonal crop. I’m taking this next year off to assess fencing, structure, and layout for future livestock efforts.

Animals are necessary in a holistic endeavor if you want enough nutrition to go into your beds for fruit and vegetable production. Chickens are choice, easy, and affordable if you have an egg market.  Use the meat and manure wisely. Leafhopper Farm has implemented a flock system and plans to expand its egg production in 2017. I’m helping to write up an egg coop business plan with some other farmers in the area. Winter is a good time to work on admin at a farm, so there’s more screen time, but less cold exposure.

Trimming the fruit trees, which gave such sweet sustenance, is another winter season activity to promote the growth of future harvest in the orchard. The plan is to take what green wood is trimmed and use it for smoking some of the fine meats on the farm. Right now, work on cleaning the back side of the shop (where butchering is done) will provide clear space for a good working fire pit. We’ll then implement the up-cycled dryer turned smoker. When projects on the farm fold in together like this, we’re layering our systems and maximizing principals best illustrated in permaculture. It’s as simple as that.

Or not, depending on the day, weather, health, and happiness of all involved. As the cold sets in, it’s a comfort to know light is returning. Soon blossoms will bring forth budding pears again, and I look forward to picking them once more. It is good, natural, and hopefully, afforded on this land for future generations.




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