Thursday, November 21, 2013

Closing the Door -- and the Book -- on Autumn

We finished, without an hour to spare. 

All week we had been conscious of the season's closing window and all that remained to be done.  There were still trenches to clear of the vestiges of harvest. 
There were fence panels to separate from their posts and organize for winter.
There were leaves to rake for the compost pile.
There was garlic to plant.
The tractor's snow blower attachment needed to supplant the mowing deck.
And there was rain water to store as best we were able, and the barrels -- eleven in all -- that had collected it to store.

And a winter storm forecasted by the week's end.

Early in the week I devoted my energies and what time I had to the garlic.  Readying the trenches.  Amending the soil.  Mixing and sprinkling in some fertilizer.  Nestling and then covering the cloves.  Spreading straw across the top.  Lori amplified the efforts one of the days.  Eventually 10 rows were planted:
  • Georgian fire
  • Oregon Blue
  • German Extra Hardy
  • Inchelium Red
  • Spanish Roja
  • Samarkand
  • Music
There will be no vampires at our house!

Friends could converge on the tractor project this morning, and Lori planned a half-day of vacation to help with the rain barrels.  We hit the ground in the dim light of emerging morning and were well under way by the time the friends arrived for the manly work.  In a fog of diesel we backed, unbolted, disconnected and maneuvered into place.  With the snow blower in place and demonstrated in less time than we anticipated, we expanded our efforts to securing tire chains for extra traction.  The coffee pot empty and the mechanics completed, I waved them goodbye and returned to Lori and the barrels and their water. 

The temperature, chilly from the start of the morning, was conspicuously dropping, and it is tedious work filling and relocating jugs for pouring into storage tanks out of the weather.  By the time that A.M. was slipping toward P.M., however, we had accomplished our intention.  Well over 200 gallons of rainwater had found safekeeping for the winter months' nourishment of houseplants and greenhouse greens and seedlings. 

Breath was fogging as we closed the barn door, and fingers were numbing.  A little water on ourselves and a fresh change of clothes, we headed our separate ways into town and work of a different kind...

...when the rain shortly commenced, freezing onto the windows and pavement.  
So much for the chores of autumn. 
Snow is predicted tomorrow.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Seasonal Muddle in the Mowing

Mowing snow.
It was a first for me.

After our late summer drought was succeeded by continuing early autumn dryness, heavy rains in recent weeks have reenergized the lawn.  Months of scant tractor use gave way to weekly passes over shaggy grasses waving in the fall winds.  This at a time when I have begun to give thought to the onerous task of switching out the mowing deck to the snow blower in preparation for winter.  The Farmer's Almanac, after all, warns me that I'm going to need it. 

But not before one last mowing.

More rains delayed the trimming.  Busy schedules complicated the matter, and of course the time change a couple of weeks ago abbreviated the number of available evening hours.  And then the first snow of the season descended on Monday.  And temperatures in the low teens.  It didn't feel like mowing weather.

Yesterday, however, there was a clearing in the sky and my schedule, and the mercury was sniffing at the 50's.  I changed into work clothes augmented with some extra warmth, and raised the door on the barn.  Leaves had carpeted much of the open space and my mind drifted to mulch as I raced to beat the darkness.  Finishing the front, I steered to the back and the garden surroundings and waded into the curious obstacle protected by the shade of the house.  Accumulated snow.  Unsure of the protocols for such a work, I pushed on through -- blades trimming blades, mulching leaves, and blowing snow all in a single pass.  Summer, autumn and winter confused or conspiring -- all three swirled into a seasonal compost of white stained with reds and greens.

Despite the way that history books date the endings and beginnings of epochal shifts, I suspect that my season-blurring experience in the yard is more representative.
The line between adolescence and adulthood.
The line between student and teacher.
the line between apprenticeship and mastery.
The line between vocation and retirement.
The line between autonomy and community.
The line between life and death.
Ambiguously blurred; inching forward while subtly retreating.  Muddling from one into the other.

Green grass and fallen leaves and snow, all mowed together.

And then today, with any luck, I'll plant garlic.