Is it the wrong time of year for a post on why you should glean? I think not! I’ve actually been contemplating this part of our lives. To date, gleaning has played a huge role in our natural food supply. And I’ve been thinking about our food as of late!
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, let’s take a quick look at what this practice is!
WHAT IS GLEANING?
Gleaning is gathering produce after the rightful owner has harvested all he/she wants. While the principle usually applies to crops or produce, its also possible to ‘glean’ in the meat department as well!
Gleaning requires nothing of yourself other than showing up, harvesting and taking produce home to consume or preserve.
WHY DO IT?
Gleaning (usually) costs nothing more than time and gas money for travel. And a bit of muscle power, of course!
Gleaning is a way to get your hands on otherwise expensive food.
The thing I love most? The majority of glean-able produce is spray and pesticide free. Where we live, large farms/orchards that use such sprays won’t allow you in to harvest leftover or fallen fruits. Against their policy, I suppose!
When gleaning ’round these parts, the only food you can harvest is what grows in the back yard. By barns. At the edge of farmer’s fields. Where nature is the only thing that has touched it. To me, this is worth something! And unlike expensive organic produce (that does have exposure to minimal sprays), it’s free!
ITS A HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE FOR URBAN DWELLERS
Our rental home doesn’t have much for a yard. Because we don’t plan to be here long term, there are some things we cannot grow/raise ourselves. Like fruit tree. Berry bushes. Nuts.
Instead of sitting back and sighing over our situation, we choose to pull up our socks and get busy. Somewhere out there, someone does have an over-abundance and would be happy to share it!
DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
We put out adds on our local farming facebook page. We call neighbors. When driving, we look for produce that is falling to the ground, then stop and ask about harvesting some. We put the word out that we are willing to glean and do a good job of it.
BE NOT ASHAMED
Some folks find gleaning to be a wee bit humbling. Asking for food? Doesn’t it sound…well…beggar-like?
Or stingy? If you’re obviously not in need of money, won’t people potentially see you as a penny-pincher and a measly old skinflint?!
My theory is this: if you are neither beggar nor skinflint, why play into that kind of thinking? Why not tell the truth:
“Hello, my name is Autumn. We glean because we are saving to buy a small farm and start a family. Gleaning helps us cut back on the grocery bill and provides our home with good, clean food. Clean food is really important to me because of health issues. Thank you so much for letting me come harvest today. Can I clean up underneath the tree for you, to express my thanks?”
Know what? Most of the people we gleaned from this year came out of their homes and chatted with us while we worked. Some even helped! They want to know where we were from. What we were going to do with the produce? Why do we glean?
One thing always leads to another and before we know it, we’re learning all kinds of things!
THE BEAUTIFUL THING ABOUT GLEANING
You make connections! You get to see other folks, their setups and techniques. You form acquaintances. And some of those acquaintances deepen into something more.
Like our elderly lady friend who lives just down the way. She raises chickens, beef, hogs and peafowl. Over 50 hens and pounds upon pounds of apples have come from her place, free of charge!
And now, she just agreed to sell us pig fat after she butchers next month. Delight of delights! We get to see the animals, the environment they are raised in and even what they’re being fed! Shucks, we’ve even hauled wheelbarrows full of windfalls over to those pigs!
I know. You’re thinking “why would someone want pig fat?!”
Because pig fat, when rendered down, makes LARD. And lard is a wonderful thing, can be useful in baking and cast iron cooking.
Gleaning benefits our lives in many ways!
Wonderful as it is, there’s a catch with gleaning. Poor crop year=less available produce. You must be willing to “roll with the punches.”
Some years, plums may do well and everyone wants to get rid of them. And other years? You may go without! So is the tide of gleaning.
And in years of plenty, you must learn to say ‘no, no, no!‘ Everyone offers you their fruit. Like this year. With apples.
By late fall we were turning down offers because we had already put by:
-40+ quarts of applesauce
-7 pints of apple butter
-10 gallons of fresh-pressed apple cider
-5 gallons of apple cider vinegar
-3 boxes of winter storage apples for fresh eating
Sometimes I wish I could take it all. But no! A person would lose their sanity trying to preserve the goods before they went bad!
GLEANING MEAT/MEAT PRODUCTS
We take old birds (both ducks and chickens) from the locals. Many folks here keep laying hens but either don’t like butchering their gals when the eggs stop coming or don’t know how to make the meat chewable.
We take, skin/clean the birds and freeze them, until they’ve accumulated. Then? The pressure canner is put to work. And this gal has a full day before her!
We’ve put up as many as 50 gleaned birds in one year!
Fats are also a big deal in our home and something that can be found locally! We make use of both tallow and lard in our home. Whenever we can source it, we do!
If you cook with lard or make soap, a local butcher shop may be able to give you fat in its raw form. Should you have neighbors down the road who raise pigs or beef cattle, ask about purchasing fat from them, come butchering day.
THE IMPORTANT THING ABOUT GLEANING
You’ve got to know how to preserve gleaned produce or it will go to waste, along with the time and effort you invested into harvesting. Make certain you have a game plan before loading up!
Don’t get carried away by the “free-ness” of it! Though the food may be free, time and energy is still required to preserve it.
Apart from that? Make sure the food is in good shape, then fly at ‘er!
GET YOUR GLEANING ON!
Gleaning can be a wonderful thing. Ain’t no shame in it! Gleaning is a way to connect with neighbors and like-minded people. It puts good, spray-free food on the table and helps cut back on the grocery bill. I love it. And its an essential part of our home!