Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Slow Death Known as Autumn

Astonishingly, the calendar seems to think that it is September 22. I tried to tell it that it must be mistaken, three weeks can't have rushed by like that, but it has stubbornly held its ground. The crunch of leaves underfoot and the crisp acid tang in the air have finally convinced me that it is, indeed, September 22, and Summer Is Over.



Fall happened quickly here. Within the space of one week, my garden necessities went from sunhats and quarts of cucumber ice water to rubber boots and sweaters, and post-garden activities switched abruptly from evening dip in the lake to evenings indoors, simmering canning pots and sipping red wine. Vegetables and meats are now roasted, not grilled.

I notice the change most in the garden, which has a notably different feel. The greens of leaves and vines are fading as pumpkins and tomatoes turn to autumnal oranges, yellows and reds. Now when I empty a bed by harvesting all of its tenants, instead of planting in beets or radishes or beans or lettuces or Experiments, it goes directly into Compost Mode. It gets piled up with grass and garden clippings, leaves, rabbit, chicken, or goat manure if there is any handy, hay, kitchen compost, coffee grounds -- basically anything to build it back up. Late in October, once most of the beds are empty, I will be commandeering some number of pickup truck beds full of horse manure and a round bail of hay to spread over everything. Then everything gets to settle throughout the winter, and the worms have months to tunnel down and up, moving nutrients closer to the surface and keeping the soil breathable and soft, and it is ready to plant (with hopefully much less angst) early next spring: no tilling required.

I suppose that autumn's sneak attack and our vanishing into the September mists for three whole weeks isn't that surprising: Much has been happening. With the help of some veteran farm members, we constructed an assembly line and kill floor for pigs and chickens on the west side of the barn. We then slaughtered and processed 225 chickens. We slaughtered, butchered and sausaged 4 pigs with a charming group of people. We had a lovely Harvest Party. We weaned the piglets and sorted out the new breeders from March's round of pigs (who subsequently unsorted themselves and had to be resorted several times over with various fence repairs). We installed appliances and moved into our new (albeit temporary) kitchen downstairs (ALERT: I have OVENS. As in, plural. AND: at least one of them is actually the exact temperature that you set it to. Also: a dishwasher, a real one that isn't just dish-pan-hands Big Man.) We found a sad tiny dirty loud kitten in a ditch that is now a confused tiny semi-dirty kitten all over the house. Canning, canning, canning. Escaped bunnies. Mysterious chicken behavior. The Boar ruins planning In the Name of Love. Grain prices make grumpy farmers. Details to all of the above will be delivered to you over the next couple weeks.

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