In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Unexpected harvest

We arrived home from a few days' absence to discover that the garden fence had been broken through and the deer and the sheep had helped themselves to just about everything. It was no use trying to figure out who the first culprit was. The garden had quickly became a well-known party destination. The sheep and the deer did not need Twitter to learn about the latest happening place. Some irresistible force drew them -- the fragrance of cabbage leaves released into the air? the faintest wafting of tomatoes? -- and they came streaming and leaping, essence of wildness, from the rocky lighthouse shore and the deep forest recesses.

Deer poured gracefully through the ragged new doorways that blossomed everywhere along the net. The sheep, less graceful but still enthusiastic, somehow maneuvered their bodies inside too. I would have liked to have watched their silvery entrances and their moon-lit party. They were not being vandals, after all. From their point of view it had nothing to do with us. They were being wild things. I imagine them feasting inside the broken walls, a luminous medieval altar piece come to life. If there exists a Church of the Wild Things -- which there probably is, all around us, even though we have not yet noticed it -- this could be its image of the abundant love of God.

But I had a point of view, too. I was sad to lose so much: cabbage and squash, cucumbers and zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, beans, chard, mustard, mesclun. The first day I stayed away from the garden, a bit stunned. The next morning I found a couple of sheep wandering about inside it, casually exiting as they watched me approach. That day I mended the holes, using twine to draw the netting back together. It wouldn't be strong enough anymore, now that the animals had tasted paradise. But maybe it would keep them out until we could put up something better. There were still things to protect inside the garden: parsnips and leeks and potatoes and asparagus. The things they spurned.

Later Skipper brought over a bright orange flounder net. Its nylon roping is heavier than the herring net we used for the first layer. The fence will have layers, now, of teal and orange. If such a thing is possible, it will be even more beautiful than before. And not only will it stop any herring that are trying to get in, but now flounder, too.

On Sunday Mary and Leroy d'Etremont tied their skiff to the dock and walked up the hill with bags and bags of vegetables from their garden in Pubnico: zucchini, at least twenty cabbages, a huge sack of glowing red tomatoes, dozens of peppers, squash. We had asked if we could trade vegetables for the meals Greg will make the shepherds when they are here to gather and cull the sheep later this week. But they just gave it all to us. "I wasn't going to have time to process it all anyway," Mary told us. "I was too busy this fall. The garden got away from me. It's better for me to bring it to you." It's still a barter as far as I'm concerned, but I'm learning that barter is less the exchange of one specific thing for another specific thing and something more profound and simple: a way of doing and being, a way of tasting the ordinary goodness that weaves its way through a broken world.

Today Greg is making sauerkraut and rainbow slaw, and for the freezer tomato soup base, braised cabbage, bags of chopped bell peppers, zucchini loaf. Today the kitchen is a little food factory. The season's harvest is unexpected and bountiful and we are grateful.

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