Midsummer Mooching

Editor’s Note: When we see the word “mooch,” most of us think of Webster’s second definition of the word, “to beg or sponge.” However, the first definition is actually “to wander aimlessly; to amble.”

Mooching, in my opinion, is an underrated activity for both adults and children.

In July, the harvesting of the garden begins in earnest. That means plenty of activity – harvesting, making hay, freezing, canning, jam making, dehydrating.  Preserving produce becomes a priority through July and August.

But before then we have Midsummer’s Eve. These really are the salad days – and I’m not just talking about lettuce.  The first early spuds will be harvested by month’s end. But that is over a week away. The legumes need feeding and the brassicas need weeding but we are playing a little bit of a waiting game in the garden at this point.

Midsummer – the summer solstice or longest day- also signals that we need to get out and see our fellow country folk before we are whirled away by a lengthy list of ‘to dos.’  So I am going to put in a strong pitch that everyone spends some time cultivating mooching while the going is still good.

Out here in the country we still see atavisms of Midsummer revelry. The pause before the frenzy of harvest was marked with social events and get-togethers. On the Feast of St. John (June 23rd) folks light bonfires and invite people round to stay up in the murky midnight twilight.

This involves live music, singing, swapping stories and gossip, letting the kids run around after each other until, worn out, and they fall asleep in a parent’s arms. The last St. John’s Eve bonfire we attended was high up near the twin hill peaks of Sheebeg and Sheemore, immortalised in song by blind harper Turlough O’Carolan. We could see other bonfires twinkling away over the region from our hill’s bird’s eye view.

In Ireland this is when the summer festival season begins to swing. There are fleidhs (flaawse), traditional music schools, craft events, agricultural shows, ploughing competitions, and arts festivals – every sort of event to lure us out in the long light.

But mooching- proper mooching- is probably best approached as a more solitary activity.  As a child, active mooching meant lying on my tummy watching the activity of an anthill for hours. It meant reading to while away the long, hot hours of the long, hot summer vacation. It meant taking a slow walk at sundown on a beach collecting seashells and listening to the tide’s ebb and flow.

Mooching is never done at a faster pace than a stroll.

To me, mooching means spending time swinging in a hammock in some shade, or catching a few rays from a bench. Remember, we are going to be awfully, full-on busy over the next two months. This is the time when nature designed for us to have a little pause and to relax our sense of purpose a tad.

So before the summer social whirl or harvest and home produce chores really grip us, take these few days to downshift. By all means, while in your hammock you may make lists of what you will need to be doing in July and August. That’s permitted. Make sure you have  jars, freezer containers, and bottled pectin or jam sugar.  You can make lists of what to pack for your summer vacation. You can dream a little. You can think and plan as you rock on your porch swing. Dozing off to the buzz of bees might appeal. It’s going to be hectic for a while. But right now just take it as slow as a stroll.

Nature is telling us that the light is now on the downward curve until we have the shortest day just before Christmas. So savour this moment of pause. Give thanks for all the wonderful gifts of friendship and fruits of the earth that will be harvested home over the next couple of months.

About BeeSmith

I was born in Queens, N.Y, reared in Pennsylvania, did university in Washington, D.C. Then I moved to England for nineteen years. I lived first in London and then in Leeds. After my partner's sister died of cancer in 2000, we decided to take the leap of faith and move to Ireland to be nearer his family. Despite our friends thinking we were mad and feckless, it has worked out. The angels really do look after fools! We have a cottage on an acre and a quarter three miles from where the River Shannon rises. We have a polytunnel to grow vegetables and fruit organically, a small orchard of apple trees and plans to create a sacred space on the land over the rest of our lifetimes. We share our home with two tortoiseshell cats, Zelda and her daughter Zymina, and three dogs, Murphy, Pippin and Cara.

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