Time to harvest, to prepare or to head south

The focus shifts to harvest and food preservation, and a hummingbird appears to have taken advice to head south.

The time for gathering and preserving the fruits of the trees and the fields and gardens has arrived. (Pixabay photo)

Bumblebees worked furiously to gather nectar from the red flowers while ignoring a hummingbird that was doing the same. Although the hummingbird didn’t ask for advice it was offered.

“You’d better head south before it’s too late.’’

The bird’s pending journey to Mexico or South America is possible because its wings beat up to 80 times per second and even faster during courtship. Two crows shout from the electric line, perhaps out of boredom or anger because the bird feeder is empty.

A few milkweeds, which were left to benefit monarch butterflies, stand in the larger flower bed. A mullein — with its straight, long stalk and velvety leaves — towers over them. The plant has been used for centuries to treat arthritis, liver and other problems though its benefits largely remain scientifically unproven. A burdock has escaped the pointy shovel and is fat with burs. A close relative of the cocklebur, it, too, supposedly can ease sore throats and migraines, although its contents must be boiled to eliminate toxins. No one who spent a day spent pulling both weeds in soybean rows have anything good to say about either weed.

The garden has slowed down in the cool weather. It requires patience to wait for tomatoes, peppers and eggplant to ripen. In any case, all available quart jars have been used and the freezer is filled with frozen fruit and vegetables.


A neighbor brought over wind-felled apples and apologized because many were bruised and wormy. They were sweet and sour and froze well. Such apples wouldn’t appear on store shelves but make fantastic crisp and pie. My mother spent many a fall day collecting apples, peeling and discarding damaged pieces. A worm, she often kidded, added protein.

My wife, Kathy, insists that we must stock up on food given coronavirus uncertainties. Quart jars and lids are impossible to find on store shelves.

“We might get some in next month, but I wouldn’t hold my breath,’’ a friendly store clerk said.

The shortage may be caused by renewed interest in gardening and canning. Market watchers say that people have more time on their hands, and gardening is good for both body and soul. The rebirth, they say, rivals the victory gardens planted during World War I and World War II. I’m not sure today’s families would tolerate the ration cards that came to be in the second world war. Butter and flour, tires and farm equipment were rationed to help in the war effort. Families collected tin cans, used lard and bought war bonds to fight the war. The nation fought a common enemy then. Now, our enemy knows no borders and many among us know someone who has died or been sickened by the virus.

Two semi-trailers transported two partially disassembled new combines through town on the main highway. It’s heartening that soybean and corn prices have increased with harvest’s approach. Horrible storms that wrecked crops in Iowa and in other parts of the Midwest has caused the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reduce production estimates. Big Chinese purchases have also helped.

“You know,’’ said a retired farmer waiting in line at the convenience store, “that green combine probably costs three times what my dad paid for our farm.’’

His father bought the farm after he returned from the war, and his son worked it until retirement. My parents, after renting a place for several years, purchased theirs in the late 1950s.

Like countless others, they worried as December approached that they might not have enough money to make the annual farm payment. Somehow, against what seemed like long odds, they managed to do so.


I tell them — when visiting their graves at our rural church — that they are owed great thanks for sacrifices made. It’s doubtful they would consider what they did a sacrifice. They had, like many others, worked hard to create better opportunities for their children.

The hummingbird hasn’t been seen for several days, so maybe he listened to my advice; the burdock has been dug out; and the wind-fallen apples are in the freezer.

Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.

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