|V8, anyone? Disclosure: the 8 includes an earwig and various fungi.|
Sunday, as many people prayed to Jesus or for grid-iron victory (usually both, where I grew up), I devoted myself to cleaning the Summer's fading cultivations. Turns out that I was right on time, because that night it frosted hard, but I was blissfully ignorant about meteorology other than it being a great day to be in the garden. As they all are.
The pitiful other row of tomatoes came out last week, but this time round I went after the hoop house (there's a post about that somewhere). Maybe a third of a milk crate of pale fruit, some of which can be coddled to ripeness, but the rest destined to be a fake apple cobbler. Or something.
So now the hoop house is planted in spinach and lettuce and again cocooned in its plastic. Other beds are pretty much cleaned up, too, and in the process I've gotten the last carrots, penultimate beets, the tenacious tribe of coriander still on the stalk, and all the other leftovers that populate the Fall garden. Not the beautiful fine fruits of Summer, some of it so slug and bug-eaten it gets flung, but I try to waste not.
Slowly working my way down the rows and round the beds, I glean also lessons for next year. Like, I'm the only one who east scarlet runner beans, and all the string beans except for Potomac got tough this year. Or, if I don't cut blackberry soon, it'll reach critical mass and become a monstrous task by Spring. If not Winter.
Harvest time is all about the gathering. Sheaves reaped, families around tables, communities around festivities. Amber waves become tides of food, a pulse of nutrition that will work its way through the populace.
Gleaning is more private. Humbler yields fill the gleaner's bag, and there is an individual acuity required to locating and recovering remnants; patience is a virtue, but sharpness of eye and mind is even better. The very fact that you are approaching a field already harvested means that a few people may each get to go home with a meal, but a big group would go home with a pittance apiece.
Another humbleness hovers like a dusty cloud around gleaning. Some people would never stoop so low. Gleaning puts you with the birds and the rodents, picking up leftovers not even worth the effort of decent society. "Reap" is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin, while "glean" is Celtic; our English speaks of old social orders still. At least neither is Latin.
So for this year, the gleaning is about over. Only melted molded blackberries hang on the vines. The pondering over lessons gleaned can continue inside by the fire all Winter.