By Lisa Marie Stahl
With fall present, so are the end-of-the-summer projects where I live. Our colony is like a busy ant colony; hurrying to get all our winter supply of meat and vegetables in before the snow flies.
Currently, were involved with the fall cleaning of all the colony buildings and the individual homes. All the vegetables still left in the garden have been gathered. Soon, well be planning our fall clean up of the colonys yard. Well also be stocking up on our winter supply of meat.
But this fall, and for the past six or seven, we didnt gather sunflower seeds.
Its always been a tradition to gather sunflower seeds, which wed roast to snack on.
Years ago, our gardener would plant about two to three acres of sunflower seeds. In the middle of the fall, usually at the beginning of October, after they had finished their complete growing cycle, wed set a day aside to clean up the sunflowers.
My, was that a joy for the younger members of the colony. Theyd join us right after their English school classes were dismissed that day.
The way you could tell that the sunflowers were ready for threshing was when the weight of the seeds weigh down the head and make it bend forward. And the blossoms would wither, turn brown and fall away.
The heads would be cut off with a six-inch stem left on to use as a handle. Then each of the ladies would use a stick to hit the heads so the seeds would bounce out and onto a large blanket so they could easily be gathered. Wed use a special stick with a handle and a rounded tip, so our hands wouldnt get full of blisters.
When this process was done, theyd run the seeds through the wind so all the unwanted debris would filter and blow away.
The seeds would then be stored in onion sacks and left outside to dry for several weeks. Before being roasted, they are soaked in water, corn starch and salt so they get that store bought taste.
During the last several years, our gardener stopped seeding sunflowers, because he said they can be bought cheaper than putting in all the work required in raising our own. But our ladies said, in spite of all the work, it was something they looked forward to each fall. Nothing was more beautiful then going to check on the sunflower patch during the summer and seeing hundreds and hundreds of bright yellow sunflower faces smiling at you.