Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Beginning of Autumn

Most people today, when they comment on the weather, it's just in passing- or a minor inconvenience. For farmers, it's a little more dramatic and crucial. Sure, many people dislike carrying umbrellas, or opening/closing windows- but very  few people left actually work outside for much of the day- let alone watch the weather bring forth great joy or massive disappointment,

It's been chillier and darker in the morning hours, and we're still combating the effects of the strangest summer on record (in some ways, even more so then last year's drought). Extreme temperatures have taxed us, but we are so grateful for a nice crop of tomatoes, green beans that are FINALLY making a proper recovery, and the best crop of potatoes I've ever seen. The chilly air has invigorated some of the cool weather crops, and we're worried as the temperatures will climb from 40 degrees up yesterday morn to 85 tomorrow afternoon we'll see another round of crop challenges. We can do very little to mitigate the effects this stress will have on our plants, so we must just try to mitigate our emotions. I am becoming more aware of why so many of the older farmers I know (and respect) are so very hard to read. It's years of roller coasters, huge highs and the lowest lows. I think they twist their face into a non-committal mask to cope with the absolute pleasure of hard work paid off to a field of death that there is no recovery from. If you tried to feel it all, I don't think it would be sustainable.

But Autumn is coming, and she is so beloved on our farm. There are turkey chicks, now several weeks old, in a moveable pen outside on fresh grass. They're not as hardy as last year's group, and have required a bit of coddling, but we are relieved to hear undoubtedly 'happy' chirps coming from their direction in the fading light. Autumn means the end of a very long meat chicken season, and the last of the tender birds will be tucked in the freezer before November 1st. We've one more week with the 8 pigs, and then they too, will close out this part of the season. There will be two new piglets for the winter, so we can get a jump on production and markets for next year- but that's a far cry from the herd of beasts we're now tending.

Today, having a cup of tea with a relative of Kim's- I described this season in a way that can sum it all up. The spring and the autumn are the busiest, we spend the spring getting everything in the ground, and the autumn getting everything out. We will be packing the root cellar, insulating the greenhouse, and picking every last summer tomato. The long wait for next year's tomato is nearly upon us, and so we eat the summer fruits with every meal, hoping to grow tired of them (we never do). As the field work slows, the inside prep will pick up, with a summers worth of berries to melt into jam, and pickles still to make. There's also the heating season to start tending to, cutting firewood, cleaning chimneys- and two farm helpers who need homework assistance several days a week. We're so excited to have our summer visits from Kim's younger cousins roll into the school year, there are few things more fulfilling then watching a 10 year old kiss the nose of a bunny while her brother learns to 'speak chicken'.

Autumn, please come, and bring your apples and cider, your pumpkins and sweaters. Be kind, and long, and full of color. Bring a healthy harvest and fat turkeys. We'll trade you a summer's tomato for your good graces.

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