Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Already the Interior Season

Rain is falling.  I don't really mind, since by this point in the season precipitation could just as likely be the snow that is, indeed, forecast for later this week.  We watered young trees and shrubs reasonably well last week with the accumulated rain as we were storing the rain barrels for winter, but they can only be helped by an additional soaking.  Outdoor work is essentially complete -- a feat of forethought we have not so well accomplished in prior years.  Tools are stowed.  Produce is processed.  The chickens have sense enough to remain dry and under cover -- or, if venturing out, do so in response to their own recreational need.  

All is quiet.  Even the 8-point buck that breakfasted earlier in the prairie near the garden fence has moved back into the woods.  Wet oak leaves -- among the last of those still clothing the trees -- shiver in the November wind; red berries shimmer on the shrubs.  I have had some office work that had been calling for attention, but I have answered it.  Breakfast is passed and lunch remains a distant anticipation.  There will be afternoon errands, but they, too, are hours away.  My eyes have tired of reading.  Even the lone bird perched atop the bare branch at the edge of the woods seems at a loss for how to spend his time.

It's not even winter and already I am restless.

Perhaps like the seasonal wardrobe I've begun switching out in the closet and drawers there is a seasonal imagination that needs switching out as well -- ways to be and be occupied creatively and meaningfully in these gray and chilly months indoors when the field of endeavor is interior to the soul and the seeds nurtured are of a profoundly different sort.

The truth is I rather look forward to these flanneled and afghan-draped days nestled in front of the fire --

--As soon as I manage to shift gears and settle into them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Readying for Winter's Work

The garlic is in the ground, the pepper plants have been stripped and removed with the fruits of the former in the freezer and the detritus of the latter in the compost pile.  I had help -- the same extra hands that sowed the winter wheat last month that is well on its way these several weeks later.  In some ways this has become a "community garden" in ways I hadn't anticipated.  They dug, they plowed, they planted, they picked; in the end they carted and carried and, above all, encouraged.

   Even with all their help they did not exhaust the need.  There are still plenty of braising greens to harvest our way through, and there are enough stalks remaining from this and that, plenty of rows to clean out and plenty of manure to spread to still leave plenty yet to do before we can call the garden "winterized."  More than a few hours and sunny days will be needed to finally put it all to bed, but if the weather cooperates I am determined to get it done -- a first, if it happens, in the four years we have been here.  Planting in the spring turns out to be sexier work than cleaning out in autumn.

But the chicken coops are ready for colder weather -- repositioned, straw bales stacked to deflect wind and snow, power cords readied to supply the water warmers and interior lights.  The changes have created some confusion among the girls, but they will thank me for the adjustments eventually.  When the mercury plummets and dances on either side of zero they will be thrilled to sip water instead of pecking it; they will be thrilled to have some place to walk that isn't dusted in white.  In the next week or so I'll need to decide if the grass needs one more trimming or if the mower deck on the tractor can let go and give way to the snow blower taking its place. 

Autumn, which only yesterday seemed to color the leaves, is already stretching out its arm to pass the baton to winter.  Leaves carpet the ground beneath naked branches.  I am pulling on a jacket when only days ago a sweater sufficed.

Each season, of course, has its own important work to accomplish -- though winter's, for a farmstead, are subtler than the others.  To be sure, there are seed catalogs to dog ear, selections to make and orders to place.  Eventually, on the far edge of the season, we'll be straightening and filling up the greenhouse and whispering kind and beckoning words over seedlings.  But surely there is more to do than these.  In the soil, winter is the season of deeper things.  The cold is needed for over-wintering seeds to crack open in readiness for spring; soil and its multi-form lives, rest and renew as though taking a deep breath.  Sugars concentrate.  Some lives hibernate while others incubate; minerals and fungi, trace elements and organic matter integrate while worms and microbes aerate -- all completely out of view.


Deep inside the soil.

My guess is that there are analogs of the spirit that require their own winter workings -- renewals that will translate into a fertility of being for the growing space that is myself...

...if I can be quiet enough, mindful enough, to give them the space and the depth to happen.