We’ve harvested the first broccoli, the first cabbage; both while the tomato plants are still hanging from hooks in the shed, as we ripen the last few for the table. We’ve spun the honey from the hive, and left the bees enough to get them through winter.
Every year, I go through some kind of shock. Surprise at the pace of the seasons. Disappointment as I realise I’ve missed the moment for planting one crop or another. Elation at the new things coming from the garden. The lessened need for watering, or filling wallows. The incredible, exhilarating feel of cool air in the lungs as I climb the hill to move the cattle.
Our wood stack is finished, thanks to a couple of very hard-working volunteers who stayed most of the last month and helped with everything from waiting at table to picking up pig poo. The work is never done, and a couple of extra pairs of hands enabled us to catch up on chores. They helped ensure we have enough firewood for both the heater and the cooker. It’s an enormous sense of security when the firewood is stacked – at least we won’t go cold this winter.
As the heat leaches from the soil, and the light from the days, things change in flavour. I’ve been eating the last of the autumn strawberries; pale in colour but great in the mouth, thanks to some dark black mat they grow on which absorbs heat. The frost – earlier this year than others I’ve lived on this patch of dirt – has sweetened the red Russian kale and cavolo nero. The radishes aren’t as pungent, I don’t think, as they became in the height of summer, which gives them more versatility.
Our lifestyle changes too. We get up a little later at this time of year. I’m more loath to leave the house quite so early when there’s ice on the troughs. My son takes himself to bed around 7pm, rather than the 9pm that he usually chooses to settle down in summer. When the light vanishes between five and six in the evening, it’s time to lock up the chooks and to come indoors. Time to spend a bit more time cooking. To enjoy inside play. To catch up on a bit of reading, or preserving, or, just possibly, to catch up on some sleep.
Before we know it, the days will already be lengthening. I’ll blink and miss the bud burst of the quince and get hit with leaf rust once again because I wasn’t prepared. I’ll get busy and not find time to plant all the bushes and trees I want to get in over winter. I know this, and yet I’m okay with it.
We live by the seasons, are motivated by the seasons, and try to work our lives around the changes in nature around us. And most of the time that makes every day a wonder in its own right. Because right now, while I’m loving the cooler weather, I know there’ll come a time when it begins to get warm again, and I’ll be just as excited by that moment as I am by this.