My hands were freezing, scooping mushy ice from the bottom of my chest freezer. I could have been patient and let it melt completely, but I was expecting delivery of half a pig from a Braham farmer and needed the freezer defrosted sooner rather than later. 

When my delivery arrived, my small chest freezer fit the 53 pounds of ham, bacon, hocks and chops easily with enough room to add a deer’s worth of venison come November. 

That same day, I cut my garden herbs to the ground, binding and hanging bundles of thyme, oregano and rosemary to dry. 

When the leaves fall, storing up the bounty of the summer feels like instinct doesn’t it? 

Bears are fattening themselves for hibernation and squirrels are busy gathering their winter stores. For our cold-hardy ancestors, storing foods like dried fish was essential to survival. Sure, I’ll eat lutefisk (I prefer it with cream sauce) but sure would hate to subsist on it. 

For me, preserving the harvest is a hobby, but there’s a sense of security that comes with having a plentifully stocked pantry. 

With current inflation driving up the cost of food and everything else, I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about ways I can add to my pantry without adding to my bills. 

I predict many hunters will be less particular about what type of deer they harvest this year so long as the tags get filled. 

Let it rot

There is an abundance of crisp, fall leaves on the ground. They offer some great opportunities I hate to see go to waste. It’s free exercise to rake them up, free entertainment for children to jump in their piles but it’s also free fertilizer for lawns and gardens.

Many people who like tidy yards choose to burn their fall leaves, but to me it has always seemed a waste. Burning adds more carbon to the atmosphere where we certainly don’t want it while taking carbon away from where it can do the most good: in the soil. 

Adding leaves to the soil increases its nutritional value and ability to hold moisture — a boon for both lawns and gardens. 

Let leaves benefit the soil in three ways:

Simply mowing them right onto the lawn is a great benefit. If you have too many leaves, this can smother out the grass. 

Compost them. A good compost pile needs a good mix of both “browns” (carbon-rich materials like leaves or straw) and “greens” (nitrogen-rich materials like kitchen scraps, manures, and fresh grass clippings.) Mow over the lawn and leaves with a collection bag, providing both a good mix of browns and greens. 

Make a mold. “Leaf mold” is composted leaves without adding a nitrogen source. Without a nitrogen source, this process can take 2-3 years. Simply chop up leaves (or leave them whole), moisten them with water and store in a pile or wire bin. Fluff every few months or so to speed the process. The result is a duff-like mulch similar to what you’ll find on a forest floor.  

Another option is simply to leave the leaves where they are. They don’t do much harm on the ground and actually benefit many butterflies, moths and other creatures that rely on leaf litter as habitat. When it doubt, just leave it to rot. 

Kirsten Faurie is the editor of the Kanabec County Times. She can be contacted at editor@moraminn.com or by calling 320-225-5128.

 

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