Today marks the turning point from summer to autumn, though the trees abide by their own calendar and began announcing this change last week. The air, too, brought autumn before September 22 when last Thursday the temperature dropped below 30 and frost settled on the field. We have one cord of wood stacked, another pile to chop, and more to pull from the standing dead trees at the edges of the field. I love the cozy nights and mornings, and the days that still warm up enough to shed the layers we don in the early hours. I love the way fall boldly embraces transition, how the mountains glow and seem bigger, how autumn throws beauty across the landscape and splatters color like a child flinging paint onto paper. I love this season, how it won’t settle for whispers, but demands us to burst forth as well, and to just as boldly announce our light to the world.
The stacked branches of old an apple tree warmed our yurt this morning as Edge lit the first fire of the season. The nights are dipping down into the low-40s and even high-30s now, and we wake snuggled in bed, bodies warm and faces cool. Chai, though it already graced most mornings, has become a staple again, the thick milky tea warming us at dawn and lifting our eyes after lunch when we wish for a nap.
This morning the Worcester range, too, was snuggled in bed, a blanket of fog pulled all the way up to the peaks. The last few days have been gray, though not dreary. Instead, the cloud cover and brushes of rain make all the colors brighter. The flowers at the top of the garden stand with a sudden brightness that almost trick me into thinking they could last all winter. The trees are turning, too, tinging the edge of our field with the first burnt colors of autumn, and like the flowers these colors glow warmer under the gray sky.
Rain is due this afternoon. This morning, though, we head to the mountains for a family hike up White Rock. I look out to see that the range, like us, has pushed off its covers, the valley fog now translucent wisps of clouds slowly lifting away.
And so we go~
Sometimes I wish I could move as easily as the seasons change: a subtle shifting from day to day, the hot August sun giving way to cool nights, red edging on maple leaves slowly transitioning trees from the green summer to the bright and rusty shades of autumn. It doesn’t seem to bother the trees–the wind comes and the sun goes down earlier, and they give way to the next phase as naturally as they did from winter to spring. I look out and see them standing as sturdy as before, flexible and grounded at once.
But what of those times when the wind turns to gusts, and the weather suddenly shoves cold arctic air over us? What of those times when the branches break and the frost comes too soon, and the dreary gray of November sets in too early? I imagine that, unlike myself, the trees have the wisdom to let go, to get on with the season at hand as if it is like any other gift.
What I am saying is this: I don’t always know how to move with ease. I don’t always know how to be gentle, how to soften myself, how let go of my own expectations and attachments.
But I look at the trees, at their leaves shifting in the wind, their branches bending to catch a bird, and I think, maybe I should start with breath. To breathe deeply and ground myself in the present, and to see that this moment, too, is constantly shifting, energy either moving freely or blocked.
I choose to move freely.
And even as I write this, I feel a small stone of fear inside that I won’t always do so. So to that stone I say: I won’t always move freely. I forgive myself for this. I forgive myself for the hard times and the forgetful times and the angry times. I forgive myself for the fear.
Outside, the trees are changing colors, getting ready to shed their leaves. Breath by breath I am shedding, too, getting ready to move into the colder nights–those nights that throw the sky open and expose everything down to our own exhalations. It’s not always easy, but birth never is. And that’s what this is, after all: every season an invitation to be born into the present.
We cupped our hands hands and raked our fingers through the bush, producing a heaping pile of blueberries in seconds. The 20-year old bushes were full and ripe, so heavy with fruit that we circled the same bush three times, harvesting from it as if we were coming to it anew each time around. From bush to bucket, we worked quickly under a sky threatening rain. We picked so fast that it didn’t matter how many berries Waylon took out of the bucket to eat–his appetite couldn’t keep up with our hands and those bushes.
Just under two hours later we finished, our buckets 50 pounds heavier, and our berry-filled bellies heavier, too. And so we’re ready for the winter: strawberries and blueberries piled in the freezer, and canned peaches stored away. Of course the lamb and chicken will help us through the cold months, and the vegetables, too, but summer’s sweetness is what truly brings sunshine into the yurt on cold winter nights–when the night falls early and the wind and snow blow outside, what better way to warm a home than a peach blueberry cobbler? Berries ripen in the summer, but we pick for winter, ensuring our desserts will bring us through to another June.
“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” ~Mark Twain
Pennsylvania peaches are here–the one summer fruit we buy in crate loads that wasn’t grown in Vermont. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, plums, pears: between farms, family homes and friends’ homesteads, these are all within picking reach. But that bitter almond turned delectable juicy sweetness that is the peach, for that we get excited to hear that refrigerated trucks are driving north.
I canned them for the first time this year–in the past we’ve always gone the route of freezing, but this year our freezers are packed with chickens and lamb at the moment. For that reason, and for the memory of a gift of canned peaches last winter (how wonderfully accessible–no thawing required! and the slices resembled their fresh counterparts much more closely than our frozen bags did)–I set to work peeling, coring, and slicing each peach, heating them in white grape juice, packing them into jars, and canning them in a boiling-water bath for 25 minutes.
That’s what I did with the first crate, at least.
The second crate has been purely for fresh eating. It’s not hard to go through a crate of peaches. The perfect snack on a summer day, their juice runs down the corners of our mouths and onto our shirts, and we readily slurp them up. Beyond the yogurt and peach breakfast and the sliced peach snack, we’ve been devouring peach salsa (chopped peaches, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and salt), marinating fish in peaches and ginger, and slicing the fruit in half to heat in the broiler and top with ice cream.
There are perhaps 10 peaches left, which means I’ll need to pick up another crate soon, this time to make and can peach puree for the winter. Funny how all this bounty makes me think of winter, but I assure you I am utterly present in each bite of peach. It’s only after I’m done eating that I envision a cold winter evening, a wood fire warming the yurt, and the joy of pulling out a sunny jar of peaches for dessert. I assure you, I’ll be wrapped up in the moment then, too.
It’s blueberry season, and yesterday I took Waylon to our favorite pick-your-own farm in Craftsbury, VT. I got a bucket for each of us, and Waylon crawled and walked (with help) between the bushes as I picked the berries out of his reach. It went like this: one berry for Waylon, one for mama, and a few for the bucket. We managed to pick 7 pounds before nap time set in, and with tired eyes Waylon held onto his bucket as I carried him back to the car.
So this morning: blueberry pancakes! It was Waylon’s first taste of pancakes–gluten free so papa could eat them, too–topped with butter and the last dribble of maple syrup (time to buy some more). He smiled and pointed at the plate, and from his blueberry-stained mouth it’s safe to say he liked them.
Seven pounds won’t last long around here, so we put them in the fridge for fresh eating. This afternoon will surely call for a smoothie, and tonight’s dessert menu is a blueberry crumble. We haven’t yet mastered the gluten-free pie crust, but it’s a necessary baking adventure that we’ll soon begin. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Until then, happy Saturday!
At the end of these hot summer days, it’s just as important for the dogs to have some fun as it is for the farmers to cool down. The dogs (or doggers as we like to say–dogger just might be Waylon’s first word) laze around in the sun, sometimes out in the high afternoon light, other times finding refuge in the shade of the wood line or on the cool concrete floor in the farm store. They raise their eyebrows as we walk past, noting our pace, our direction, the tones of our voices as we greet them. They know when it’s worth getting excited.
When the words “load up!” are said, the dogs jump and wag and get into the car, ready for wherever it is we may take them. The good car rides end at the pond, with a stick to fetch. When we arrive, the ducks swim away, the dogs splash in, and we all relax into the coolness of water at the end of the day.
Green. It’s suddenly rolling across the fields and bursting out of the trees. This morning as I stepped out into the sunshine, my whole body felt happier.
“I know it’s not summer summer yet, but it feels so good!” I said to Edge.
“You can say it’s summer. If you say it’s summer now, it lasts that much longer,” he replied, and so I turned my face up to the sun and smiled.
Last night we had dinner around a campfire: roast chicken and ramps, a salad of baby kale, chard, pea shoots and wild spring beauties, plus local bread and cream cheese with rhubarb chutney made by our friend Mary’s family, and a spattering of cider and homebrews. Dinner ended with homemade (gluten-free) apple pie and ice cream, and as the sun set over the Worcester Range, Edge and Jeremiah took out the mandolin and fiddle and played into the night.
A fitting start to summer, indeed.
Cool nights still linger, but I’m calling it summer now. The winter was long enough, and I’m ready for the season of campfires and song.
*The snipe, who has recently returned to the field, lets out a wild call that vibrates in your chest and pulls you outside.
*A rising moon, just cresting the treetops in the Southeastern sky, pours deep yellow light on the pathway to the barn.
*In the greenhouse stove the bed of coals is thick and glowing–it only takes a few minutes to load heavy logs and feel the heat go up.
*Walking back, you notice how the entire expanse of sky is illuminated by the moon, how the brightest stars shine, speckled across the blue night.
*Climbing back into bed, your baby snuggles into your body: his legs scrunch up onto your stomach, his head nestles into your chest, and a calm settles into you as you drape one arm around his body. This moment is a long breath in and out; it lasts all the way to morning.
It was 17° when I walked outside yesterday, and though the air dropped as I drove down into the valley, it still felt warm at 9° after the subzero temperatures of the past week. This morning, too, is mild, but unlike the last two days of sun, the sky is muted gray. The air feels heavy with water as the trees slowly drip melting snow onto the roof, and in the soft gray warmth of the morning, the chickadees’ calls sound somehow casual, as if they, too are lazily waking from sleep.
It’s the first day of spring, and as the equinox marks a noticeable shift in the daylight and length, I am also feeling a shift within me. My internal landscape mirrors the external, and the sun is reaching its rays through the tangled briars and frustration to loosen their thorns and turn their energy instead to blossoming. I find happiness in simple things again–a quote on my tea bag, “Inspiring others towards happiness brings you happiness,” brings a smile to my face; the feel of potting soil on my hands enlivens me; the thought of seedlings emerging in a few days propels me forward with hope and grounds me at the same time. It will likely be weeks before the snow really starts to melt, but I feel spring waking up nonetheless.
This morning I am thankful for winter’s lessons, though they were hard to learn at first, and I am thankful for the optimism of spring and the new growth this season always promises.