Readers may recall that I typically write about harvesting energy from renewable sources, but I also harvest living, growing things.
This was an excellent fruit production year in Vermont. I filled the pantry with quite a few jars of pear, grape, and apple preserves. Someday I’ll figure out how to keep curculio off the plums without the heavy duty toxic treatment and make plum jam too. The bees did well with strong hives and good honey stores moving into the fall.
The solar harvest was also excellent, filling the batteries almost daily. October is typically a fairly rainy month, leading right into the dismal, gray, stick season of November and December. This year though, it was sunny, warm and dry through almost all of October. That put a damper on the foliage, but the weather is finally turning now. I try to capture at least part of those winds of transition with the wind generator atop a 100 foot tower to help power my off-grid home.
Farm animals are being harvested now too. My own “Back-40” has supported chickens, sheep, and pigs over the years. Slaughtering and butchering animals are two of my most favorite things to be done with. Hunting season is open for turkey, whitetail deer, moose, rabbit, grouse, among others. Every couple of years, when I have the luxury of time to spend in the woods, I hunt for deer; and every so often I get lucky and top off the freezer with venison.
This morning I watched a doe for quite a while as she grazed in the field near my home. She was square in the cross-hairs of my cross bow and well within range. I braced for a long day of tracking, gutting, hanging, and cleaning. Pulling the trigger is the easy part of the hunt. But I didn’t pull the trigger this morning because right behind the doe was a younger, smaller deer whose mother was showing off the best places to eat locally. My sense of respect for family kicked in, and I suspect that the two will be back later this week unless another hunter takes one.
Later, I got to thinking about my own family and how I have more time than money this year, which is different because usually I’m equally short on both. When the money is flowing, I can afford to not take the shot, but that’s an unfortunate habit when faced with the need to feed the family. Stepping off the treadmill and trading money for life offers an entirely different perspective on opportunities that present themselves to replace the need for money. But the decision making process to accept or decline those opportunities also changes. Thinking too much about things always makes them take longer, but hopefully the end result is something that at best makes life better and nourishes everyone, and at worst leaves you at peace with yourself.
I came to hunting intentionally in middle life as a thoughtful carnivore. You can read about that process and my first deer (and my other first deer) in my Back-40 series e-book called Coming into Hunting. Next week, I’ll post an excerpt from that incredible journey.
Where there are doe, there are buck. And when I see him, I’ll probably hesitate on the trigger again wondering why it’s more acceptable to take the life of a hormone-crazed male than a peacefully grazing female. They both contribute equally to the balance of creation. With all this cogitating, it’s a wonder I can eat at all!
It’s been a bountiful year so far. There may yet be venison in the freezer. Tomorrow will tell.
Paul Scheckel is an energy efficiency and renewable energy consultant, author, and hands-on/off-grid homesteader.
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