fall, farming

Flying South

This morning, I heard the geese before I saw them. They flew in from the northwest, calling to one another, flying that classic V formation. Then they wheeled around back to the north and disappeared from view. At night, I hear the owls hoot and the coyotes yip and howl. The sound of crickets, frogs and cicadas, which is usually deafening, has grown quiet. And there are only a handful of fireflies above the fields in the evenings.

The leaves are rusting on the trees, dropping off the ends of limbs and floating to the ground. The grass only really needs to be mowed every 12 days, instead of every 5. Even the weeds are slowing down. I cut down the last of the okra on Saturday, so the garden is officially done this year. It feels strange. I miss strolling up and down between the rows of beans and corn, seeing the bright green and growing things, as if it was a different garden each day.

I’m already planning next years garden – of course. We need to move several trees that provided too much shade for the far end. I need to space out my tomatoes more. And I will definitely, definitely plant sweet potatoes on the upper end. That way, the vines can run all through the pasture, instead of through the beans and corn and okra and tomatoes, keeping me from tilling in between.

We had some good yields, but more mistakes than victories. I don’t mean that in a glass-half-empty kind of way, it’s just the truth. There is always more to improve with a garden. There is always something else to learn and tweak and change. We planted too many potatoes and tomatoes, but the zucchini barely came up at all. And all the beets we canned ended up spoiling, so those two rows were completely wasted. But we did plant bush beans this year, instead of white half-runners, and I can’t tell you how much time we saved avoiding all those bean strings when it came time to break. Overall, it was a great summer – we had lots more rain than we did last year, which kept it from getting to dry, and will continue to help our pasture recover from being overgrazed.

I love summers on the farm. I love staying outside past 9pm because it’s still daylight, and it just seems a shame to miss something by being inside. I am not a fall/winter farmer. I don’t like pumpkin flavored things. We don’t even have any pumpkins because I neglected to plant any. The leaves will turn beautiful shades of yellow and gold, but then they turn brown and disappear. I won’t hear the wind rush through them, or see the sun filter down to the ground in dapples of gold. And I dread the days getting shorter and shorter, until it seems there is barely enough time to be outside at all.

Fall comes whether I want it to or not. It is time for the land to rest. Soon, I will be stacking firewood and digging out all the sweaters I put away this spring. It will be time to clean fence rows and replace bent t-posts, instead of mowing and pulling weeds.

I will hold my coffee cup a little tighter in both hands, watching it and my breath evaporate in the cool air on my way to the coop. The horses get frisky and woolly, the chickens molt and enjoy a much-needed break from the heat. There will be more time to linger at the dinner table, or sit on the back porch, to visit with neighbors and talk garden plans for next year. Fall is a good thing – each season is not more important than the other. But doesn’t mean I can’t have favorites.