Monday, May 27, 2013

Finishing a Week of Bounty Meditations: Harvest

Surprising  how many times I’ve made my way out to the same tiny village an hour outside of the city.  The wonderful village of Juru keeps calling!  A few weeks ago, spurred on by the dropping temperatures and local preparations for winter here in our region of higher altitude, we found ourselves in Juru once again. 

Eight months earlier, my husband’s eleventh graders helped a number of families associated with our school’s sister school to plant maize crops for the year.  Though a number of foods are planted and harvested at any time of year in constant rotation in the tropics, maize crops are only planted once per year.  But they are some of the most important.  Maize, a white corn equivalent in texture to seed corn fed to cattle in the US, provides millions of families with their staple, sadza.  

During the weeks of harvest, done almost entirely by hand, urban dwellers can often be found returning to their rural roots to help with this important time of year.  Celebrating the bounties that come from harvest become wonderful reasons for community get-togethers, neighbors helping neighbors and friends helping friends.  We were honored to get to be a part of such a special tradition.  What fun!!  

A wonderful community of older women gathered to teach us the art of gathering maize.

Jonas was tickled to find our friend Ryan among the students that came to volunteer.  Here we dive right in.

I asked what this tool was called and received a look of ridiculousness.  "An ax," I was told.  So there you have it.  An ax is used first to chop the cornstalk at its base.  The cornstalks are then thrown into a pile that everyone else shares.
When we got home three year old Jonas asked for a new toy. "An ax!" he said.  "I'll be so so careful."

The husk is removed.  There is very little silk to fight with on these dry ears.

One pile of husk and stalk is made.  The ears of maize are thrown into separate piles on the ground.

The husks and stalks will be laid out to dry and then fed to cattle during the winter.  Good fiber, but little nutritional value.

The maize is then picked up and carried to a cattle cart.  It will be taken to the mill to be ground into maize meal and cooked into sadza. This harvest will be the main food this family eats for a year.

Jonas made a sweet friend. (I am kicking myself right now because his name is on the tip of my tongue.)  "I promise to bring a ball back next time,"Jonas tells him.

The maize ears are put into the cattle cart just before we take tea.  Jonas loves "shooting" his ears into the cart almost as much as I love the fact that the two cattle are named "Acornhead" and "Mazoe."  (Sure, can't remember a child's name; but cattle?  No problem.)

In days previous to this, pumpkins and African cucumbers, planted on the ground to vine up the maize stalks, have been harvested.  The remnants of those plants provide a little green to an otherwise brown field.

Jonas has announced that he will not insist on being carried when he is four.  I'll believe it when I see it. Here we take a beautiful walk that leads us to another house and field. 

Then the work begins again.

 A big but organized mess when all is said and done! Such a fun way to spend a day.  Thanks for including us in your harvest, Juru!