American Heirlooms - November 2018




Harvest season is a busy time for our family. We’re weeding, pruning, tilling, canning, freezing, and preparing for a long winter. Bethany and I have had a garden all 19 years of our marriage. We’re passing on this useful skill to our children as we teach them how to grow, harvest, prepare, and store crops. The garden is one of Bethany’s favorite hobbies. She grows strawberries, lettuce, peas, string beans, and sweet and regular potatoes. Our boys like to grow corn, sunflowers, watermelon, cantaloupes, snack peppers, and pumpkins — picture Almanzo Wilder from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy.” We’ve always had a garden, and as our family has grown, so has our plot. The best-tasting fresh food we get is from the first harvest we pull in late spring and early summer. All winter, we eat our canned and frozen produce, but come early spring, there is nothing like the fresh, crisp taste of your own crop straight from the garden to your mouth. As with any weather-dependent hobby, when we find a window to get out and enjoy it, we pounce on the opportunity. During one particular weekend this fall, we found a dry Saturday to tend to the garden after a week of incessant rain. We weeded, tilled, and cleaned up the space, and on Sunday morning, as we looked out over our garden before leaving for church, we felt satisfied about our hard Saturday labor. Transforming it from a jungle was stressful, but as a two-day rain soaked our fresh soil, we were grateful for the small window we had been given.

As our boys learn their way around the garden, I’m also showing them how to fish from the pond. We mostly catch catfish and the occasional bass, but when anything bites, they get excited. Their reactions make me laugh. We invited friends to come catfishing for my son Malcolm’s eighth birthday this year, and a whale of a fishing tale came out of it. Around dark, we went inside to enjoy cake and ice cream while our friend, Marlin Miller, kept fishing. Unfortunately, a suspected 30–36-inch catfish snapped his line, and he was unable to pull in the prize. We decided a landing net should be included in our future fishing expeditions. Sure, Marlin only glimpsed the monster catfish but we all got a great story out of its fight and disappearance. This fall, we made more memories as we went to visit my brother, sister, and their families in New England while also sightseeing the changing leaves. When we sat down to eat at Marvin and Regina's house in Brownfield, ME there was a total of 12 children at the table. At Jason and Michelle's house in Wolcott, VT there were only 11 children at the table. This means each of our children have cousins close in age, and as you can imagine, a lot to discuss. The simplicity of visiting with family, seeing the changing leaves, sitting down to a meal you harvested, or watching your son reel in his first catfish adds to a wholesome life.

As I look at my tilled garden toward the end of this harvest season, I’m already looking forward to springtime’s first harvest and this winter’s fresh supply. And I’m just thankful to have a family who wants to join me.

–Ethan Zimmerman

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