The fall is here, ushered in with several rainy days. It is cool and damp this morning. The forest stands still and green; the trees that died this summer due to the drought stand out, brown leaves identifying them. Already mid-September, time passes quickly. I remember when spring was here last, how much I dreaded the arrival of summer. It was so hot and dry ! The only good thing about the dry heat was the respite from the ticks and the biting mosquitoes. The last four days we have had wonderful rainfall. Mosquitoes abound once more, but nobody cares. We are all thankful for the rain and cool air.
It is time to bring in the wood I will need this winter. I am ahead of the chore, as a very hard-working young man came out two weeks ago and cut up some felled trees for me. He brought along his sister to help. The three of us worked together, Cody using his large chain saw and Fawn and I picking up the heavy 18-inch-long logs and trudging out of the woods, arms loaded. We put all of it at the edge of my drive. Now it is just a matter of getting the wood split and stacked, which I will do. I have a “grenade” that was gifted to me some years back by my neighbor, which helps immensely with the splitting of the logs. Last year I purchased a new wheelbarrow and I will transport the split wood to the stacking area, next to my cabin.
When I get all this accomplished, I will call another young man friend to come clean out the chimney. It is a chore I tried to do myself, but discovered I am not strong enough. First off, I do not have the height one needs to guide the long pole with its chimney brush at the end of it, down the chimney, then manipulate it, up and down, to break loose the built-up soot. My cabin has a second story, so the chimney is at least twenty-two feet tall. One must be agile enough, as well, to get up on that part of the roof, tools in hand with which to remove the chimney “hat” (I know there is a word for this, but I cannot think of it). One must also carry the pole extensions and brush. There is usually a lot of soot built up, and when it is not eliminated, smoke backs up into the cabin. I learned all about this one wintry night, years ago, as the temperature dropped and I tried to light a fire. Ever since that night of frustration, I make sure to have someone sweep the chimney.
Another endeavor that comes this time of year is the planting of the garlic. This will be the third year I plant garlic alone. It is greatly satisfying to have homegrown, pesticide-free garlic available to share and use in meals. This year the labor should be less intense, as I will use the tractor and its tiller implement to turn the soil. I will add some llama manure to the garlic plot, and once all is planted, there is still plenty of hay to thickly mulch it. The garlic will start showing its growth quite soon after planting, and it will go through the winter unhindered. It is heartening to visit the garden on a freezing-cold, mid-winter day and see the garlic poking out through its blanket of mulch. It gives the promise of a generous harvest, come summer.
Raised by my parents within the Christian church-going tradition, the songs from those early years of Sunday school and church are embedded deeply. I know this because I hear “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” each time I harvest any food from this garden. I heard myself singing this just this last week as I processed more tomatoes and made four more quarts of yummy salsa. Two years ago, as I canned many quarts of pears, I recall hearing the song then, as well. Whenever it pops into my head, I sing it in silence, over and over, as a completely relevant mantra. I am thankful, and I realize each day how blessed I am. I no longer attend any church. I do not need to. All I have to do is wake up each morning, look out my windows, hear the birds of the forest, work in the garden, plant and harvest food, gather and stack wood, and wander about in my heart/head throughout each day, alive. Days of the seasons come and go: hot and dry in the summer, cool and damp in the fall, freezing cold and icy in the winter, and beautiful, fresh and new, beyond words to describe in the spring. It is no wonder I am thankful!