The Hunting Moon

Seventeen August 2020, the first day of the “Hunting Moon”

If I were to choose one topic on which folks are divided, the subject of hunting is high on that list. People become polarized at the mere mention of hunting, vehemently for or against; rarely if ever indifferent. In a five year survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recorded that 101.6 million hunters, fishers, and outdoors people have visited our national parks to engage in their favorite sports and pastimes. Although I can on some level understand the need to hunt and fish – I am aggressively opposed to trapping in this “modern” age…and don’t even get me started on fox hunting.

I have been to places around this country where if deer were not hunted people would not have anything to eat in the harshest parts of the winters. It is low in fat and calories – a benefit for the folks who have the luxury of venison as an adjunct to an already bountiful diet, but for those millions of people who depend on the deer as their only source of protein they just don’t have the resources to supplement with beef, or as Im seeing the new trend unfold; Bison. Its a victory for the well-to-do and health conscious, but an added challenge for our fellow citizen who are chronically living “hand to mouth”. You could even succumb to malnutrition if venison was your only source of protein. Many a tale describes a trapper or woodsperson, who spends much of the time away from a proper shelter engaged in their craft as being “Rabbit-starved” (plenty to eat, but not enough protein).

According to my most recent haphazard internet search, there are eight million vegetarians and one million vegans living in the united states. Full disclosure: I have adopted many vegetarian and vegan principles to my diet and am the healthier for it. I am in transitions because of some recent “health scares” and I am still uncertain where my diet will land.

I practice a “live and let live” lifestyle (just don’t mention eating turtles or fox hunting and we’ll be good), alway trying to remember that good fences make good neighbors and to each their own, these are not conflicting sentiments in my off-kilter little world and yet a constant discord exists within when I think of hunting and animal consumption.

It’s a somber undertaking, the killing of an animal to feed pets and people, but that is what it is; killing. You can dress it up in folklore and tradition or you can try as we somehow endlessly do to conflate it with your fiercest wishes to live independently and thus become an indigenous person, but its still killing. And it is a choice – It would be wise at this stage to find alternatives or to actually approach it with the most sacred method you can muster.

What better time to ponder all of these life-style choices than a rainy days that brings rosemary cutting into the spotlight. Who among us can resist the insistent allure of the rosemary plant (no shame if you don’t like rosemary, I cant smell burning sage, but lets table that).

One of the special event for this moon is celery – grown to perfect crispness and blanched if you want (blanching is covering the stalks so that the lack of sun drains them of some of their color) along with its important sister crop celeriac – store celery with clumps of soil and roots attached, pack them close and tight and they should last for one or two months – if stored with turnip or cabbage they change to taste of the celery and it is far less palatable.

Brussels Sprouts are fattening up, Collards and Kale are now in such abundance that you will not be able to even give it all away, and we make sure our kitchen is prepared for the second flush off peppers that come every September. Pumpkin and Squash are also coming along nicely.

If you have been diligent around succession plantings then you are coming into the fall lettuce and radish harvests – any cool weather crop that matures into the cooler fall temperatures will have a sweetness that you just won’t get in any other part of the year.

The other special event  is grains. I have seen a great interest in growing local grains and yet I can’t recall ever being part of  harvesting, planting , or using any local grains. It would seem that sometimes the romance takes over and supersedes the advancements that have been made because we want to live at a slower pace in a much simpler time; I’m all for that, but it really does keep coming back to that energetic equation. I can try to revert back to a simpler time by growing my own grain, but grain is available for pennies compared to the sweat and toil I would have to put into replicating an industry that went big a long time before me. I get the romance and I’m on board, but at least lets have a conversation around grain and what we as local individuals really need.

As we enter the the next twenty-eight days called the hunting moon, it is a time of year when I mull over my ambivalence towards hunting and the back to hunter gatherer mindset so popular now-a-days. When I think long and hard about shipping food across the country in every direction, I always wonder how this criss-crossing the globe to eat even became a thing? I mean, I get that people sailed around the world gathering exotic spices when they needed a break from wiping out cultures, but why do we still ship food all around the world?

I suppose it could be that the “back to nature” homesteading mentality more often than not fails to be the innovation it promises to be in people’s minds and on paper, and sadly there are countless many stories that have us just mimicking the struggles that civilization faced before any great innovation occurred.

The Red Corn Moon

Take one pandemic, add a mixture of political ineptitudes, fold in a liberal measure of social protest aimed at convincing too many non-believers that 13.4% of the population matter, sprinkle with drought in one of the hottest summers I can remember – and you got yourself a recipe for one heck of an Armageddon my friend! Remember when this would have been just poetic license and/or hyperbole? Not so much now. 2020 is one for the record books ain’t it? COVID 19, murdering People of Color is legal in all fifty states, 20% of Australia burned to the ground, and in all our military delusion we somehow didn’t see the advantage in keeping the most beloved and trusted diplomat in the middle east alive. Which reminds me, don’t underestimate this drought that is very much underway regardless of a few superficial rainstorms scattered here and there. Alas, my only real question is – “where them hornets at”? 

With all of this “Book of Revelation” Cosplay around death, disease, and famine while languishing in lockdown, I realized, in a sudden, that it’s the first day of the Red Corn Moon!

I sure wasn’t out “in the field” this season, and could further bemoan, any field! Had I been it would have been a day like today, the first day of the Red Corn Moon, a new moon introducing of the next coming 28 days. Had this been any given year in the past my fingernails would have been caked with soil from thinning beets and broccoli, from making room for collards, radishes, and spinach. Potatoes and garlic would be ready to grabble and roast – and if you had any strength left at the end of your twenty hour day you could start batches of root beer and ginger ale (and while you’re at it, get yourself together a nice lot of kombucha); the alternative being to fall asleep with your boots on and do the aforementioned tasks upon waking. 

Your enchanted year-round modular and multi-purpose “Sugar-Shack” should by now be outfitted with all the gear for making worts, teas, and sheafs of any brew your mind and pallet could impetuously conduce!  – all with an emphasis on the medicinal properties of course. After all it is the moon in which we make our first winter medicines in earnest. Any medicinal garden worth its salt would be filled with mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, savory, basil, parsley, coriander, chervil, fennel and bay at this time of year. Flowers the like of calendula, chamomile, st. john’s wort and lavender should delight your soul at every turn about each overgrown corner. Marshmallow is beginning to flower. Borage, Lemon balm, mallow –  yarrow, mugwort and meadowsweet. Nettle seeds are in plenty and ready for snacking by the fistful (fistfuls may vary).

Squash are ready and if your lucky, you get to surprise that someone special with the ripest melon this side of the fall equinox. Had it been a day of planting, it would surely still be the time-approved traditions of sowing beans, endive (to “force” in the Wolf Moon), Fall peas (If you have yet to have a pea that matures in the cool autumn nights then you have yet to have a pea!) – and Lettuce – that essential salad staple that flaunts so many assorted and delectable varieties! I would then be returning home, ideally just feet away, with armloads of strawberries, basil, and corn on the cob. It would have been soba noodles with pesto, strawberries in vanilla almond milk, and an immobile gardener in an over-sized outdoor chair with a lost count of how many ghee and seaweed flaked cobs were at his feet!

No time for twisted edutainment and misunderstood world-wide pneumonias, nor great divides around face masks, nor this seemingly relentless I.Q. test that is currently civilization – there are beds to clear and broccoli to fertilize, disease to catalog and insects to hand pick – the natural world stops for nothing and no one – neither global calamity nor the gathering of war lords. The garden year is rightfully thought of as a flurry of activity leaving no time to rest, so I nudge you towards the quiet in the moments before sleep and dream; speak your poem however brief, invent a new brand of prayer, and sing a song, even if you don’t make it to the end.

As the aimless breeze finally attempts to come the right direction through my thin and tall and single window, I recall a time from a past Red Corn Moon evening – finding a wee cache of birch syrup we had managed to mash out during a particularly blustery, wet, and recent Crow Moon…finding the right proportions for such a small batch of birch beer, five bottles as I recall; we sipped a fleeting taste, a scant libation of legends.

In the twist and draft of dispiriting events both local and global, I still hold a vision of a quiet life in the forrest. Growing all I need for the year and building the most recent me from the ground up. Plenty to eat and owl to wake me back to sleep –  all I’ll need is a note book, a guitar, and a puppy – it will happen; I have dreamt it!

maple syrup

Towards the first drip of melting spring he sets his prow. He bleeds faith into the slush and moss, tightly clamps his eyes and begs a miracle of the seed; the robin waits to chase the crow. There are mothers and fathers in his skin as far back as he can dream. As far back as he can remember there are those that mutter like him and chew their thumbs down to the bone. He wakes in fits and sleeps between worlds. He cradles his newborn who speaks the language of the trees to him before he is a minute old. He is stirred and well-favored by the prancing doe, who bids him “fill your father’s crane-skin bag with magic tools and follow me”. Together they rustle to the land of their forbears. Together they take on grand human forms. Together, they draft a brand-new legend of a pristine world.

Thunder Moon

Six nights from now comes the New thunder moon