Sunday, November 7, 2010

Autumn Winds

In Birdland we’ve had mild weather for so long that we’ve almost forgotten that winter is coming. We haven’t turned on the furnace yet, but this morning I put on two sweaters and then carried in firewood for the season’s first fire. The coming winter begins a whole new arrangement, and the wood stove, which acts as a plant stand all summer needs cleaning. The plants must find a new home. As I move them to the table I remember that the stovetop can be my slow cooker for the apple and pear butter for the final fruit of the season. Life has been so full since last winter that I’ve almost forgotten how much I love cooking soups and stews on the top of the woodstove, and the memory comes back in snatches, like a pleasant dream. The fire has caught now, lighting the glass in the door cheerfully, and I fill the kettle for tea and place it on top of the stove. It will take a while to boil there, startling me with its whistle after I’ve long forgotten my tea, but then I will have hot water for tea all morning and into the afternoon.

The woodpile is full, thanks to our neighbor, Tom, who came last week with a trailer full of firewood, cut to the size of our stove. We are lucky to have such caring friends. I heard Ursula bark and went out to find Tom at the woodpile. Together we stacked the logs, and then I went inside for a little jar of apple butter—small thanks for a huge favor, but I hope his family enjoys it. Winter can be long and lonely and cold, but we get by with help from our friends.

The wind has hit us heavily this week—tipping over my picnic table and tumbling my Adirondack chair across the yard. The wind keeps us awake at night, but makes Ursula’s crocheted discs sail twice as far, and she joyfully races into the field after them, leaping to catch them on the fly. It blows my laundry off of the line and my mail out of the box. The wind blows the leaves off the trees and around the yard, and sometimes into the next county. Last week I built a new mulch bin out of wooden pallets. It is a three-sided framework to pile leaves and sticks, and it took only about five minutes to screw together. I had to reverse it when I realized I had set it up facing east so that the western wind would blow the leaves right out. I turned it around, and now the wind will blow leaves into the bin. We put two wheelbarrow loads into the bin and stomped them down. We could probably fill six more bins with the leaves in our yard, but the point isn’t really to rid the yard of leaves. The wind will do that. Instead, I’m thinking of the rich, dark leaf mulch we’ll have for the garden in the spring.

The radio warns of frost tonight, and I’ll go to the garden and pull last of the little yellow pear tomatoes off the vine, and pick up any apples and pears that have fallen since yesterday. I’ll cut the tomato vines to hang in the basement; the remaining green tomatoes will slowly ripen. Then I’ll walk down the road and hunt for yesterday’s mail, thinking about the ripe but slightly wrinkled tomatoes we’ll have for our winter salad to remind us of the last sunny days of autumn.

Blow in Beauty; Gather Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the change of seasons and community. She has kittens ready for adoption.

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