Planting in southeastern Minnesota finished — save for pea and sweetcorn contracted acres — with June’s sudden approach. The appearance of corn rows has eased concerns about uneven plant emergence as an all-day rain and warmer weather to break the dry spell is anticipated. Much of North Dakota has entered the extreme drought status while parts of Minnesota fall into the mild drought category.
Nonfarmers in these parts marvel at both the size and speed of the machinery seen in fields and roads. The sight leads some farmer retirees to recall when equipment was small, lacked computer-generated precision and cost much less.
I am among those who were too impatient for the calendar and the weather to plant the garden. Mother said it was best not to plant tomatoes and other frost-sensitive plants until Memorial Day. The first frost warning in May brought out blankets and the moving of potted flowers into the garage. The cover-up and moving has been done three times since.
Another challenge — this one involving a hoard of fox and gray squirrels — has emerged. They have taken a liking to tender pansies or perhaps they are digging to uncover lost walnuts. Our neighbor, when the mood strikes, shoots them on sight. At last count, eight neighborhood squirrels have been seen chasing each other among the aging maple trees, eating cracked corn meant for the birds, and ignoring my empty threats.
I used to own a gun to discourage racoons and other vermin but gave it away when the children were little, and the aim became so poor that the broadside of the barn was safe. I missed the gun when a wayward opossum sheltered in an open feed sack. A possum — a creature as ugly as I’ve seen — proves that God has a sense of humor.
People, I discovered, eat opossum. Save for near starvation, the reason for doing so is not apparent. It is, according to the internet, most often eaten in the South. However, a 1947 cookbook published by a famous Chicago culinary school included opossum among its recipes.
I will pass on opossum but I tried racoon once after being shamed into it by a friend who said that a person who feasts on pigs’ feet, sauerkraut and boiled potatoes should not turn up their big nose at racoon. The meat was greasy and no less awful than the porcupine that was baked after it was killed in a northern Minnesota forest. Porcupine quills have an astounding ability to adhere to socks and clothing even after determined cleanup.
People will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough. During the last days of World War II and in the winter that followed, starving Germans ate songbirds, rats, and mice. To bring some sense of normalcy to their lives, desperate cooks shaped sawdust into pork and beef roasts to fill empty bellies.
By some estimates, 30% of all food produced in the world goes to waste before it is eaten. Feeding America — a nonprofit national organization — says that $218 billion in food products are wasted in the United States annually. Dairy products are the most common items that get tossed.
Now that the garden has been planted, thoughts turn to canning supplies. We ran short of lids and quart jars in 2020 and it sounds like supply issues will continue this fall.
Retailers report that they have been told not to expect jar and lid shipments until perhaps October, which would push arrival past canning time.
Tomatoes and other produce are fine in the freezer. By November, it will be full, which is a blessing and a reason to give thanks.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.