Summer arrived early on the farm this year, with temperatures well into the nineties in late May and early June, and at this point we are at least 5 inches below normal rainfall. The heat and dryness make gardening a challenge. Mulch to the rescue! Not only does it tidy up the vegetable beds and keep weeds at bay, but the mulch saves us from watering so frequently and keeps the water in the soil for a longer time. More energy efficient all the way around.
We grow onions and garlic to store and eat over the winter months. Our other crops include beans, tomatoes, peas, lettuces, greens, squash, melons, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, rhubarb and asparagus, and many herbs for seasoning and healing. We also subscribe to a CSA, our beloved Indian Line Farm, but this year the farmer is on sabbatical, so I feel more pressure than usual to have good harvests. Some varmint or fowl ate my early peas, and thus we had none. Each morning, I venture out to the garden, with my fingers crossed that noting happened overnight and to check on progress. So far, we are harvesting lettuce, greens and herbs whilst awaiting the first tomatoes, peppers and beans.
During colonial days, the kitchen garden was always under the work domain of the woman. Men worked the larger fields with corn, grains and other crops, but women often toiled there too as additional labor was needed. What happened if rain caused your crops to rot; if bugs ate all of your greens and beans; or, if lack of rain caused the garden to wither and die? There was the possibility of trading with a neighbor, but if times were lean for all, then the family would have done without.
Chores abounded for all on the colonial homestead.
Ruth Belknap sums up her 1782 day in Dover, New Hampshire in this delightfully rhyming poem.
Up in the morning I must rise Before I've time to rub my eyes. With half-pin'd gown, unbuckled shoe, I haste to milk my lowing cow. But, Oh! It makes my heart to ake, I have no bread till I can bake, And then, alas! it makes me sputter, For I must churn or have no butter. The hogs with swill too I must serve; For hogs must eat or men will starve. Besides, my spouse can get no cloaths Unless I much offend my nose. For all that try it know it's true There is no smell like colouring blue. Then round the parish I must ride And make enquiry far and wide To find some girl that is a spinner, Then hurry home to get my dinner. All summer long I toil & sweat, Blister my hands, and scold & fret. And when the summer's work is o'er, New toils arise from Autumn's store Corn must be husk'd, and pork be kill'd, The house with all confusion fill'd. O could you see the grand display Upon our annual butchering day,-- See me look like ten thousand sluts, My kitchen spread with grease & guts,-- You'd lift your hands surpris'd, & swear That Mother Trisket's self were there. Ye starch'd up folks that live in town, That lounge upon your beds till noon, That never tire yourselves with work, Unless with handling knife & fork, Come, see the sweets of country life, Display's in Parson B[elknap's] wife.
“Women’s Voices, Women’s Lives. Documents in Early American History,” edited by Carol Berkinand Leslie Horowitz, (Northwestern University Press, 1998), pgs. 93-97, 112-3.
Note: Tim Carman’s recent article in the Washington Post, “For some growers, farmer’s markets just aren’t what they used to be,” reveals some the issues farmer’s face at these markets. Go and buy from your local farmers at your weekly market.
Note: This Friday July 1, b(RE)ce garments [my repurposed eco dyed garments] will be on sale at the Sheffield Farmer’s Market along with local produce, plants, meats, cordials and other treats. Stop by and see us in our green 1965 VW Transporter Van. The SFM is located in the Old Parish Church parking lot, just off of Route 7 in ye olde town center. (Sheffield was incorporated in 1733).