It’s that bittersweet time of year when summer gives way to fall. K.C. and I always take a couple of days off from work to prepare the house, our gardens and the meadow for the long Maine winter. It’s a sweet time of year because the farmer’s markets are busting with the best of the year’s harvest. Tomatoes, kale, onions, parsnips, winter squash, apples, you name it. I’m a foodie, and it’s paradise for me to shop the markets and fairs this time of year.
The weather in Maine during the early fall is simply delicious. The days are warm, the humidity low and the nights are crisp. The leaves of the trees that stand guard around our meadow turn a myriad of mind blowing colors from lime green, blazing reds to fiery yellows. When the sun rises over the lake in the morning, the rays blend in with the red of the maples casting a hypnotic glow through the windows of our bedroom. I scoot closer to KC snuggling up with her under a layer of blankets keeping us warm with the windows still open at night.
Preparing the meadow for winter is no easy task. But, it always has been a necessary labor of love. Mother Nature likes change and if left to her own devices, our meadow would soon become a forest. All of the critters, who use it, including us, prefer this little patch of early successional habitat that is so rare in New England. So, each year I map out areas that need cutting and those that should be left alone until the next year in order to maintain diversity. In the flat areas free of big rocks, I cut the bushes, seedlings and grasses taller than me with my brush hog. The hillier rocky sections have to be done by hand with the weed-wacker or clippers. The soil in the vegetable garden has to be turned over and the perennials trimmed back. Let’s just say that a couple of day’s worth of this winter preparation is the equivalent to a whole week’s worth of my usual exercise. I’m pleasantly exhausted afterward, except for the ache in my back.
KC will don her chaps, helmet and steel toed boots so that she can cut a couple of trees worth of firewood. She’ll drag them out of the woods with the tractor and cut and split them with the log splitter. While she does that, I’ll stack last year’s seasoned wood underneath the covering of the porch for the winter’s supply of firewood.
Once the wood is stacked, we store the canoes and kayaks and prepare the dock for removal from the water. The day is still not finished once the sun goes down. The evenings are for preparing the bounty of our garden and fruit trees for winter storage. On a cold January day I’ll be reminded how worth the effort was when I make a pot of chili using stewed tomatoes from our garden and have a dessert of baked pears from our orchard.
There’s a short window of time to accomplish so much, but each year we manage. We have to, because time marches on no matter what. Just like summer gives way to fall, fall will give way to winter. Before we know it, the ground will be frozen and covered in snow. The days will be short, and I’ll work hard not to let the darkness breed melancholy. The bitter part of fall for me is that it’s the prelude to winter. Winter isn’t my favorite time of year. But, I try to view it from Mother Nature’s perspective. It’s a time to hunker down and recalibrate. To rest the body and soul. To find balance.
So, as I sit here in my sunroom overlooking the freshly cut meadow as the day fades into night, I’m imagining a cold winter’s day after a couple of hours cross country skiing over pure white snow under the kind of deep blue sky that only happens in winter. KC will build a fire in the wood stove while I make us a hearty stew from vegetables we grew with our own hands during the warm days of summer. We’ll sit together in the warmth of our home and be grateful for all of our blessings. Including, the time to reflect and recalibrate that only winter can bring. Peace.