Since I was a small child, I have delighted in playing in the freshly fallen leaves, kicking them out in front of me, burying my feet in their weightless, fragrant depths and drifts. When I was younger, before the advent of the tractor and leaf-bagger attachment, I would rake leaves in the late fall just for the pure joy of rolling in the giant piles I would create. Now I content myself with swishing through them on my daily walks down to the lake, where they cover the farm roads and woods trails as they morph from canopy to coverlet on their purposeful transformation from photosynthesis back into soil.
We have been putting the farm to bed, as we do each year at this time. We slowly gather up all the trappings of summer, clean them and put them away. Gone now are the patio tables and chairs, the hose reels, the flower pots, the porch furniture, the screens, the hanging baskets. We've brought in the geraniums for wintering in the dog room where they like the cool temperatures and the sunshine that warms them in the east window alcove there.
Now we fill the bird feeders, sweep up the leaves that blow in eddies around the storm doors, wash the windows for perhaps the last time before spring, add a bit of caulking here and there, bring in the rain gauges, close down the barn doors, take off the mowers, grease up the tractors and put on the snow blower and blade.
The fields are now harvested and bare. The crop yields were bountiful this year. We had plenty of rain and a longer growing season than usual here in the mountains, as spring was early and fall lingered warm and long. This past week our 25 acres of soybeans were harvested by the giant red combine and a 4th crop of alfalfa came off the hayfields. I can't remember the last time we got a 4th crop of hay and I am amazed. Is this a result of global warming? It is quite unusual.
Thousands of geese have passed through on their way to the south to warmer states where they will winter over. I've learned that more than 90 percent of all birds are monogamous, meaning they maintain an essentially exclusive relationship, or pair bond, with just one member of the opposite sex. Geese are especially fastidious when it comes to their loyalty. They're well known for the long-term pair bonds they form. I marvel at them each year. I like to image that the same pairs return to Jolico Farm to raise their young year after year because we provide such a pure and hospitable environment, but that is probably just my over-dramatizing imagination.
However, we enjoy watching for their arrival in the late winter and early spring, for geese, along with the robins, are some of the first signs of life to arrive as the grip of winter loosens and the days lengthen and the warmth returns in the spring. But for now the dogs love to race along the lake shore and shoo the geese back into the water from their resting and sunning spots on the lake banks. A few turns around the lake and Mo and Mimi are ready to race through the woods to see what other wildlife they can scare up.
The last of the garden produce has been harvested. This year we had a huge carrot crop and, even though we've been eating carrots throughout the summer as I routinely thinned the crop, I was astonished at how many I was able to dig out of the ground at the tail end of fall. What to do with such a bounty? Carrots store well in the root cellar, but they are the sweetest and most nutritious when they are freshly pulled from the earth. I like to make Carrot-Ginger Soup and I've made about 4 gallons in the last couple of weeks to freeze in small pint- or quart-sized containers so I have it on hand for a quick hot lunch, for Thanksgiving dinner or to give away to a sick friend. This I have done recently as we have a friend who is taking chemotherapy and suffers from the resulting nausea and loss of appetite. Ginger is very good for calming the stomach, so I sent him several containers of my frozen organic carrot-ginger immunotherapy, laced with lots of love and prayers for a return to good health in each and every spoonful...