It’s the first Saturday in October and the leaves on the deciduous trees have donned their autumn finery and are starting to fall. Spiders are everywhere; the harvest moon lights the night sky; the air is crisp and the days are shorter. Gerry is out enjoying an all-day hike with the local club and I have the gift of a day. When I was still working at my corporate job I dreamed of days post-retirement when I could spend an entire day immersed in a good book. I’ve been retired a year-and-a-half and I’ve yet to do it.
It’s not yet noon and three quarts of amber-coloured homemade vegetable stock sit cooling on the countertop. The vegetable scraps, along with coffee grounds we’ve been saving, have been fed to my worms and I’ve done a bit of worm bin housekeeping. The house smells of the granola that’s roasting in the oven. The sheets are hanging outside in the fall sunshine. I’ve just put eight quarts of beans–an assortment of pinto, kidney, black and white–into the pressure canner. (Yes, I could purchase canned beans from the grocery store; yes I could, and often do, cook a batch myself to use for a certain recipe; but I like the convenience of having cooked beans on the shelf.) There are herbs to be harvested from the deer-proof garden and there’s a twenty-five pound box of McIntosh apples on the counter waiting to be cooked and turned into applesauce. I won’t be spending this day curled up under a quilt reading either.
Once, I hated the signs of autumn. I mourned passing of another summer I felt I’d missed, cooped up for most of it inside of my office. Now autumn seems a gentler season, a time to be thankful for the summer that was and to prepare for the winter that is to come.
I found great satisfaction in my work over this summer tending a small garden and preserving the harvest–my own as well as that of other local farmers–but now I am weary. I look at the tomatoes on my kitchen windowsill in varying stages of ripeness and consider those still on the vine in the garden that need to be tended to before the first frost. I am ready for the harvest to end so I can put my canning supplies away. I think about pulling out my knitting basket and settling in for an afternoon in front of the fire, maybe even spending a day reading a good book.
While many Canadians are preparing to head south to warmer climates before the cold weather arrives, I’m looking forward to spending another winter here at home. My canning, freezer, and pantry shelves are filled with the bounty of summer; the last of the onions, garlic, and squash sit curing on the back deck. The worm bin has been moved into the garage where it’s warmer and where the red wrigglers will keep working making vermicompost over the cold months in preparation for spring and another season of gardening. Soon, we’ll move the flowerpots into the garage to make it easier to clear the snow from the sidewalks.
This is what it’s like to live in harmony with the seasons. I read a book recently called A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography by Kayann Short (Highly recommend). In it, the author says so eloquently what I feel:
Follow the daylight and the seasons. Work hard in summer while the light is long and the weather mild. Rest in winter when the days are short and the nights cold. Balance the necessary work with rest and renewal and regeneration. Each season, the land extends forgiveness and we get to start over again.
Before spring comes I’ll be sick of the cold wind and snow and I’ll be impatient for the first sign of spinach to appear in the garden. For the time being I’m appreciating the beauty of autumn, and looking forward to the resting season of winter. This simple way of living in tune with the ebb and flow of the season suits me well. I find myself, once again, spending a quiet afternoon in my kitchen feeling thankful.