Neil Young’s classic song Harvest Moon plays on the local radio, wafting through the halls and rooms of most homes, their doors wide open to welcome the warmth of a late fall season that most people call Indian Summer. This usually happens after September 21, when the day and night are of equal length, 12 hours each. During this lull of beautiful weather, there are signs of harvesting everywhere you look. The moose call gets dusted off, the nets are set for fat fish, and the last berries – usually cranberries, blackberries and gooseberries – get gelled into delicious jams.
The final fall geese, reluctant to leave, complement the succulent ducks of James and Hudson bays for supper. The snow geese, a popular table fare, seem more abundant than ever. One year, perhaps even the saltwater geese, Brants as we know them, may come back in the vast numbers that would block the skies. Lumbering at ground level, the black bear fattens up for winter, hopefully for some good hunter’s feast. The caribou are on the move again, heading for a winter in the taiga forests, a few hundred kilometres south of the tree line.
Ptarmigan, partridge and grouse are also fat for the winter, rounded off by the staple skinny rabbit. Muskrats make the menu for those who enjoy making artwork out of the furs and the great taste of ’rat. Of course, the highly valued beaver, which are actually considered to be pests in the south, come in for a close number two of all things great to harvest off the northern lands.
In the south, in large areas devoid of trees, machines drone away in their robotic harvesting to produce enough food to feed the millions in rural and urban areas. Back home, the drone of the outboard or whine of the snowmobile tries hard to break through the thick silence of the north.
Today our harvesting still provides us with more than just protein, it keeps us mindful that these ways come with the knowledge of centuries upon centuries of respect for the lands and waters that provide for us. I like to think that the grocery store just keeps us full, but not as nourishing as good old country foods. That said, I have to admit that an occasional Twinkie is a welcome treat.
At a conference some time ago, the meaning behind the mysterious disappearances of the Cree workers during these important months arose amid confusion of why someone could leave their jobs just like that. After an hour of explanations, some respect came out from the crowds of attendees. At last, the truth was revealed. In the south, everyone did their disappearing act during the summer months, so that the hard-working farmers could do their stuff, no time for school!
In many ways we aren’t that much different from the farmers, except for the tools. Instead of a pitchfork, we have a hatchet. Instead of a tractor, we got a 4-wheeler. Heck, even the farmers like country music!
I, on the other hand, am content to chew on a fat goose wing, and I’m satisfied by our stock of meats, fowls and fish in our pantry. If only we had turkeys this far north…