Harvest Times Blog Posts

Seasons–Autumn Leaves are on Their Way!

Autumn leaves are on their way!

Winter Harvest–Ice Harvesting: A Winter’s Crop

Although the ice trade still exists today, its heyday was during the 19th century ice harvesting which was commonly referred to as the “frozen water trade”.  While snow and ice had been collected and stored for use in summer for as long as anyone could remember, it wasn’t until a 25-year-old Boston entrepreneur, Frederic Tudor, set about to commercialize the harvesting of ice that it became a booming business.  However, Tudor’s first harvest that he attempted to sell didn’t go over so well.  He sent a ship full of ice to sail and sell in the West Indies in 1806.  Upon the ship’s arrival though no one was interested in the product as people just didn’t understand the benefit of everyday use of ice!

Prior to this ice was only available to the wealthy who had the means to afford their own ice houses.  It was not a product that had mass appeal as it does today.  For the most part the storage and preservation of food was not reliant upon ice.  People just didn’t understand the concept of cooling down a drink with ice.  Physicians didn’t understand how ice could reduce fevers either.  People simply didn’t know that they needed ice.  While the use of ice houses, a building insulated allowing for the storage of ice into the summer, was commonplace in wealthier households as early as 1660 in England, the everyday use of ice simply did not exist.  In addition, ice harvesting was a dangerous business.

So in order for the frozen water trade to become successful, Tudor had to convince people that they needed ice.  He took it upon himself to go about the country convincing bartenders to sell chilled drinks and taught restaurants how to make ice cream.  It wasn’t long before people fell in love with the idea of a cooled drink.  By 1821 Tudor had created a real market for ice in several cities.  Now that Tudor had created a market, he set about to develop tools to ease the harvesting of ice.  It was in1826 that Tudor’s foreman, Nathanial Wyett, came up with the idea of using horses to plough cut the ice. [1] For in truth frozen ice became a field in need of harvesting.

Ice harvesting commenced when a foot of ice was on the river or lake.  This typically occurred in January through March in the New England area and in December through February in Norway, two major geographical areas of ice harvesting.   A crop that was dependent upon nature to freeze the field.  And just like any other harvest–the field had to be cultivated in order for it to yield.  Once the water started to freeze it was essential to keep it clear of snow as the snow would slow the ice from freezing at a deeper depth.  So the field was cleared of  weeds just like any other field.  Only the weed that needed to be cleared from the field was snow.

Once the field was ready for harvesting it was then cut or ploughed into long rows and then once again cut across the rows to create the blocks.  Interestingly it was often off-season farmers who worked at the harvesting of winter.  The harvesters  came and cut along the ploughed lines in order to release the ice from the field.  Ice was pulled from the river or pond with ice tongs and sent off in wagons to be stored in ice houses.  The ice harvesters wore special corked shoes and the horses had spiked horse shoes allowing them to work on the ice.

As with all crops, weather can have a positive or negative impact on the harvest.  Mild winters, referred to as “open winters”,  impacted the ice harvest as it was essential for the ice to be 18″ thick in order for the horses and men to work safely on the ice.  Unseasonably mild winters resulted in ice famines, of which 1880 and 1890 being the most extreme.  These ice famines led to the development of commercially produced  ice.  Ice harvesting eventually disappeared  for the most part in the early 20th century as it then no  longer was considered primarily a winter harvest.

At the peak of its production at the end of the 19th century, “the U.S. ice trade employed an estimated 90,000 people in an industry capitalised at $28 million ($660 million in 2010 terms), using ice houses capable of storing up to 250,000 tons each” [2]

Click this link to watch a fascinating and historic way of ice harvesting — Ice Harvest Film circa 1919

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

~An Old Irish Blessing

Marian (McCoy) Boveri


[1]  http://mentalfloss.com/article/22407/surprisingly-cool-history-ice

[2]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_trade

Winter Season–Living Off the Harvest

Fall harvest celebrations were traditionally held to express thanksgiving for the abundance of plenty that could be stored up and lived on during the scarcity of the cold and dark winter.  Historically winter’s survival was dependent upon the harvest.  A poor or lost harvest meant certain desperation as concern for survival was indeed a real and pressing problem.

Winter's Harvest in the Barn

Winter’s Harvest in the Barn

Winter is a time for living off of the harvest.  In modern life, full dependence upon what can be harvested and stored is uncommon as food is pretty much accessible year-round.  If you look at the harvest as the results you have in the various aspects or fields of your life; however, the harvest does indeed once again become important to store up in order to survive life’s winter seasons.

What do you do if you find that your time of plenty was not so plentiful?  How do you live off the harvest when all you can see are lost hopes and dreams?  What do you do when your daily life has become a struggle just to survive?

Being caught up in the need to survive–even on an emotional level–can lead you to living in a suspended “crisis mode” known as “fight-or-flight”.  This primitive protective mechanism was important when confronted with a saber tooth tiger that required actual physical activity in order to survive.  However, today’s saber tooth tigers and failed harvests are oftentimes psychological stressors such as missing a deadline, traffic delays, financial issues, and such that do not require actual physical activity to escape immediate danger.  Nevertheless, the same “crisis mode” of “fight-or-flight” gets activated.

What you may not realize is that constant stress can cause you to actually get stuck in this “crisis mode” and start living everyday in mere survival.  When you get stuck in living in survival your decisions become impacted negatively.   Your ability to cultivate the seeds needed to have a good harvest is inhibited.  In essence, you get stuck living in the winter with no harvest stored in the barn to sustain you.  Excessive stress and a life lived with continual short-term emergencies lead to becoming overwhelmed.

So how do you change out of this “survival mode” and back into cultivating positive attitudes and beliefs?  How do you move away from focusing on just the short-term survival and start focusing on long-term results?

  1.  Increase your physical activity.  On the surface you may think, “How does exercise change my world?”  It gives your body a chance to engage in the “fight-or-flight” and burn off all the excess stress hormones.  This will lead to a clearer mind and more introspective thinking.  Even 10 minutes of activity will help regain clarity.
  2. Change your environment.  What you surround yourself with will impact your stress level. Changing your physical environment to reflect a more peaceful reality is essential.  Sometimes this may be getting out of toxic relationship or leaving a stress-filled job.  Changing your spiritual environment by seeking an understanding of your God-given purpose and direction will change your focus from just surviving to long-term thriving.  Spending time in prayer will help to bring peace and clarity.  Resolving to release negative feelings of worthlessness, shame, and guilt will help to build a more positive environment.
  3. Change your perceptions.  One of the easiest and effective ways to change your perceptions is to use affirmations.  Affirmations have the ability to change your beliefs through continuous repetition by replacing the negative thoughts with more positive ones.  Focusing on affirmations can also help to quiet the mind which is key to moving beyond the anxiety and fears into a place of clearer understanding, truth, and love.

What ways will you start storing your harvests in order to survive the winters of your life?

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

~ An Old Irish Blessing

Marian (McCoy) Boveri

Summer Harvest Time–Strawberries

Strawberry Harvest

Strawberry Harvest

It’s strawberry season with the summer harvest lasting from the beginning of June well into mid-August in most states. Strawberries are one of summer’s favorite harvests and cultivated through-out the country.  Having originally grown wild and eaten as far back as the Roman times, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that the strawberry was widely cultivated. Amazingly there are now over 600 varieties of strawberries all originating from just 4 or 5 species in the wild.  They are now grown in every state with California and Florida being the largest commercial producers and having the longest harvest seasons–from January all the way through to November with the peak seasons in these states being April through June.

Fresh strawberries can be found in supermarket stores but don’t forget your neighborhood farmer’s markets and local farms where you can pick the berries yourselves to enjoy them at their freshest.   The flavor ranges from tart to sweet with the flavor of the strawberry at its peak when just picked.  The larger the strawberry the more water content; the smaller the strawberry typically the more intense the flavor.

Strawberries don’t ripen after picking so make sure the strawberries you choose have a nice red color and are firm and plump with a green cap that appears fresh.  And don’t forget the smell!  Fresh strawberries have a delightful, fresh and sweet bouquet as they are a member of the rose family.  Remember, the key to enjoying your strawberries is to wash them just before using.  Strawberries will absorb water like a sponge so it is best to wait to rinse them.  Store them in a moisture-proof container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days for optimal flavor and best before 3-5 days.

Strawberries should be hulled for freezing or if not eating directly out of the hand.  Hulling involves removing the inedible green cap by placing a knife tip under the green cap and slowly turning.  Once you have made a full circle you can then just pull off the cap and a small amount of white part which is attached to the base of the stem of the strawberry.  There is also a strawberry hull (see below) that you can purchase to do the same task but the knife should work just as well. Strawberries can also be frozen and stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.  It is best to freeze them in a single layer before placing them in containers for freezing.

Some of the ways to enjoy the fresh summer harvest of strawberries:

  • Cut up in a bowl and pour cream on top, sprinkle with sugar if desired
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar of a good quality
  • Cut up and put into a fruit salad with your choice of fruits
  • Dipped in dark, milk, or white chocolate
  • Dipped in yogurt and if more sweetness is desired follow with dipping in brown sugar
  • Fold cut strawberries into whipped cream for the easiest of desserts Strawberry Fool
  • Cut up the strawberries, sprinkle with sugar, let sit and use as a sauce over ice cream
  • Put them in a blender with some milk and ice cream for a strawberry shake
  • Create a salsa adding some simple ingredients such as in this Strawberry Poblano Salsa

Of course strawberries can be preserved in jams and jellies and made into baked goods.  Some popular baked goods include strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry crisp, and strawberry tart.  Click here for a variety of strawberry recipes to enjoy.  Whatever way you decide to enjoy your strawberries remember the harvest is sweetest just picked from the vine.

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.  ~ an Old Irish blessing

Strawberry Hull:

Note: This above link is part of an Affiliate Program with Amazon.

Thanksgiving Traditions–A Harvest Celebration of Gratitude

Thanksgiving, as we have come to know it, is a day set aside during November in which to express gratitude for the blessings received in relation to the harvest.  It comes at the end of November when the harvest season has finished and the many tasks of preserving the harvest have been completed.  As with all traditions, it is also a time of remembrance and a way of connecting the present to the past as well as to the days to come.

Harvest season was traditionally a time of preparation for the long winter ahead when food was scarce and surviving the winter was indeed a challenge.  So many of us today are disconnected from the struggles that the winter season brought to just survive.  It is through the traditions of taking time out to be thankful for all we have received and been given that we remain connected to those that went before us.

Thanksgiving Blessings

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year be mindful of the traditions of the day–both old and new.  It is these very things that keep us connected to all generations.  Sometimes it is the simplest of things that create our special memories.  Be conscious of these traditions–both large and small–this year.  Take time to treasure your family through the traditions of the day.

Thanksgiving is also a great time to take stock and reflect upon the fields we have sown into during the past year and assess the yield they have brought in harvest.  What have the harvests of your fields produced?  Did you sow into a field and then cultivate it so that the harvest was abundant?  Did you sow into a field and then have the seeds eaten by the birds (oh and they will come) or did your field become choked with weeds?  Were you a good steward of all that has been given to you?  These are the things to reflect upon in our gratitude in order to have a chance to secure a better harvest in the future.

So I invite you this Thanksgiving to celebrate the harvest of all the fields of your life.  Count your blessings not only in abundance but in lessons learned.  Take time to reflect upon your fields.  Ready the soil of the coming year through the reflection of your blessings and even your lessons.  There is always something to be grateful for and it is through thanksgiving that we cultivate our fields for future blessings.

Wishing you and your family a most blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! stock-graphics-vintage-thanksgiving-postcard-0006

Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

~An Old Irish Blessing

Fall Harvest Traditions: Jack-O’-Lantern and Sugar Pumpkins–Carve or Cook?

Did you know that most of the pumpkins we see these days are cultivated for carving and not for eating?

Connecticut Field Pumpkin

Connecticut Field Pumpkin image from website

Most of us are familiar with the large pumpkins primarily used for carving that are commonly found in the stores around this time of year.  These pumpkins are either Connecticut Field Pumpkins or Howdens and both weigh in between 10 and 20 pounds.  The Connecticut Field Pumpkin is actually an heirloom pumpkin of the Native American Indians and colonists and is the perfect image of a pumpkin as we know them.  Their taste is more plain and bland, not sweet, and their texture is stringy and somewhat watery for pie.  They have thin walls, a large seed pocket, and relatively small proportion of flesh compared to the size.

Howden Pumpkin

Howden Pumpkin image from website

Howdens were developed in the 1970s by of John Howden of Massachusetts for the primary purpose of carving.  They are actually very similar to the Connecticut Field pumpkin but have more uniform ridges, a thicker wall and sturdy stem.  These are the pumpkins primarily found at supermarkets and roadside farm stands.  They were developed primarily for look and suitability for carving.  Since the 1970s these are the pumpkins that we have come to more commonly know.  Oftentimes these pumpkins are cooked and the resulting dish is disappointing as these pumpkins were developed for looks and carving as opposed to taste.

Sugar Pumpkins are Smaller than Carving Pumpkins

Sugar Pumpkins are Smaller than Carving

One of the better pumpkins for cooking is the sugar pumpkin oftentimes referred to as the pie pumpkin.  This pumpkin is a cousin of the Connecticut Field pumpkin but smaller as can been seen in the picture above.  These pumpkins have a thicker wall and are sweeter and drier than the carving pumpkins and are less grainy.  One pumpkin will typically yield the amount of puree as a 15-16 oz. of canned puree.

Have you ever tried cooking a carving pumpkin and been disappointed?