Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Old Friend.

Posted on | October 19, 2015 | 1 Comment

This is how it happens.  Every year.  I watch the weather reports, I pay attention to the chill as soon as the sun slips below the horizon, I note the heavy dew in the mornings.  But the first frost is not as predictable as the forecasters like to believe.  I planned for Sunday night.  Just like the meteorologist told me as I sipped my morning coffee.  So, in preparation, I set up heat lamps in the kidding barn.  Even though the babies insisted on laying everywhere except under the warmth and light.

I brought in the aloe plants.  Which had flourished so much over the summer…..

….that there were tons of aloe babies to share.

And then I figured the rest of the work could wait until Sunday.  But by Saturday afternoon the temperature was dropping even quicker than the sun.  And by the time dinner was over, I knew it was time to recheck the weather channel.  Which was calling for frost.  By Saturday night, not Sunday night.

So The Other Half and I made our annual, last minute, frantic trek in the darkness—-down to the garden, around the barn, into the woodshed.  Impossible to say how many years Jack Frost has watched us rushing through the dark, shivering in summer clothes, gathering what can’t be protected, covering what we hope to save.  The Other Half emptied the plastic waterers that risked a rupture if they froze and expanded.   I started laying row covers over the lettuce, unscrewed the hose, picked tomatoes and eggplants.  We met by the peppers and I lifted branches and plucked the last of the summer’s crop while The Other Half held the flashlight in one hand and folded hot peppers into his shirt with the other.

I deposited the crops safely in the kitchen….

….and made a tomato dinner salad for dinner.  Because it may be the last time we see the rich red of garden grown tomatoes for a long time.

The Other Half left to pick up Middle from a bonfire and get Big from work.   Pretty and her friend carved pumpkins on the deck….

….and experimented with pumpkin seed recipes in the kitchen.

As I crunched through the first of the fallen leaves in my flip flops, with my barn coat pulled on over my shorts and t-shirt, I was struck by the familiarity of it all.  That strange mixture of surprise and relief that always seems to accompany the first frost.  The end of summer’s burning heat, the beginning of winter’s bite.  A reminder that we are still tied to the Earth’s revolutions, that years may pass, things may change, but we are always bound to return to seasons where we have been before.

In the kidding barn, I cuddled Allie’s babies—-1 doeling and 1 buckling, miniature versions of their mother with frosted ears and glossy black coats sprinkled with moonspots.  These are the last goat kids that will be born here for awhile, but who can say if they will be the final ones?

Carmen bleated softly outside the door.  She lost her buckling a few days earlier.  Pretty found him, still in the amniotic sac, warm but not breathing, when she went to the barn chores last week.  All this, too, is familiar.  Vigorous new life alongside silent inexplicable death.  As mundane in the barn as the scent of hay or wisps of cobwebs in the corners.

Fall may seem like a season of endings.  The foliage wilted, the flowers desiccated, offering up their seed heads to the wind.

The pond shockingly silent with the raucous nighttime chorus done for the year.  The frogs and peepers huddled quietly under every stone or forgotten plank of wood in the barnyard, preparing for winter.

There’s no doubt we are living on the edges now, the border country—-evidence of winter’s decay amid a last burst of summer’s brilliance.

But, oh, doesn’t the chill in the air also hint at sweet, sweet rest?  Nothing but the hardiest of crops—spinach, chard, broccoli, collards—-creeping along all by themselves, sweeter with every frost.

This year’s gourds waiting patiently for a season of frost and cold to harden into next year’s birdhouse projects.

The chores limited to some trees and bushes to prune or transplant (Why in the world did I plant a rose bush to be choked out between miscanthus grass?)….

….but 4 months of cool days to dig and no fear of snakes or yellow jackets when hauling brush.

Early nights, walking back to the house from the barn with nothing but the inky black sky and the whisper of leaves dropping, dropping….

The warmth of the woodstove waiting.

The glow of lights from the deck.

Oh, yes, I remember this.

Summer isn’t over here.  Not yet.  The forecast is calling for 77 degrees by the end of the week.  But an old friend is coming.  Already on the way.  Welcome, friend.  I’m ready for you.


One Response to “Old Friend.”

  1. Jill
    October 20th, 2015 @ 5:44 am

    beautiful. just how I feel about Fall… thanks for the memories…

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