We had our first real frost this weekend which did in the squash and solancea. Much of our lettuce survived and we are still pulling potatoes (1400+ lbs!) out of the ground so the harvest continues for the 3rd month at 100#’s a week. The air is now crisp and fresh and the chores varied and more relaxed -pick a little, clear a bed, mulch one here, plant cover crop there-this is my favorite time of year. Autumn is a fantastic time, cherished by the ancients for its abundance – a season absoutely riddled with holidays and festivals to celebrate the vitality of the earth before the Long Sleep.
The service this morning at our Unitarian Church focused on the Jewish High Holidays. I was deeply moved by the correlations between the passing of the Jewish New Year and my own mindset with the passing of the agricultural one. I too am thinking of things that went well in the past season – the potatoes were a raging success as was the Hoop House -seeds I hope to plant in the Great Book. I also reminisced about things to leave in the past – the onion rows swallowed beneath a Sea of Sedges, the fence rows intertwined with 6′ lambs quarter, and others -things that I hope to leave out of the future. But most of all I was struck by just how my thinking of this season has changed with my growing ecological awareness.
Autumn was often seen as the passing of the year -a winding down, even a death, to the vibrancy of summer. Outdoor activity had often escalated -this is my preferred camping season -the nights are crisp & bug free for glorious sleeping, the understory is open, dry, and full of aroma, and the wildlife is on the move. It is still all of these things, but the more naturally I have learned to view the world, the more I think of the seasons as they are meant to -cyclical.
Now the falling leaves that blanket the soil are also a call to me to mulch my gardens and spread the season’s compost for a final mellowing over winter on the soil. Where before there was death and decay, now there is abundance and the “putting by” of root crops, and even the rekindling of life as vetch and rye shoots forth before the end of the warm sun. It is now a time of new beginnings as the beds and fields are stripped bare with the harvest to the sweet melodies of flitting finches in the cupplants and raucous chippies under the oaks sharing my labors.
Stretching to a longer harvest as my plantings have diversified has greatly increased my enjoyment of the seasons – Summer’s peppers and sauces and now wonderfully augmented by early Spring’s crisp, sweet, frost-kissed Spinach to late Spring’s romaines and now I am awed by the bounty of October’s butternuts, acorns, carrots, and kale. It is a bountiful harvest, with more to be planted as the Hoop House enters full circle with spinach and mache for another winters run. Stretching the harvest spreads the labors and greatly enriches the enjoyment of the tasks. No energy is so full as that which courses through my arms when I first put spade to soil in those early warm days of Spring, no air so warm and moist as walking through the Hoop House’s 75 degrees in January only to rejoice in the frigid cold as I leave with arms full of greens, and no air so crisp and alive as the fields of October as the flocks gather. Spreading the Harvest is to take part in the Glory of Nature varied seasons and what they have always meant. Turn…turn…turn; always and forever.
While Spring and Summer are the seasons of food building, Autumn is now the Season of the Soil. The bounties of the harvest are coming in full, but time is now taken to Give Back. As Nature drops Her leaves and folds Her stems to blanket and feed the soil, so too must we give back to that which we have taken of so freely so that the cycle may begin again, enriched, for seasons to come.
This is our task.
This must be our promise.
Be the Change.