Yesterday I went through the sad annual ritual of taking apart the tomato patch. I leaned the poles neatly against the barn, saved the ties in a bucket, and ran the mower over the ground to chop up the stalks. I'm not sure why the plants crapped out -- we've had no frost, not even close -- but I guess the cool, damp weather and the shortening days just told them it was time to go. My chilis, on the other hand, are still going strong.
One of the great things about this whole deal of having seasons is that what the fall is really about is getting ready for the spring. I also started to prepare my root zone. The soil was really too dense and gummy for root crops so I dug in five buckets (i.e., the loader on my tractor)of sand. Then I dumped a bucket load of chicken shit on top and did my best to spread it around with a rake. Yuck. The chicken shit has been sitting in a pile since I picked it up in April, and it was still soaking wet with the consistency of drying glue. With luck it will start to break down and dry out a bit in a few days and I'll be able to distribute it better and get the area really ready to plant garlic in a couple of weeks.
I still need to build a woodshed, paint the house, and repair the driveway before the end of this month. Then I'll be ready to hunker down for what, with any luck at all, will be an easier winter than the last one, which set all kinds of records for snow depth and collapsed roofs.
Our ancestors on the African savanna knew a cycle of seasons, but it wasn't much like this one. Yet for those of us who have always lived here, it feels as though it's in our DNA. This slow rhythm, however painful it can be when the world freezes over and the light is sparse, just feels right. But it's already changing, and it will change more in the years ahead, in ways we can't entirely predict. New England is actually probably one of the most fortuitous places to be as the planet grows warmer, but I'm not actually looking forward to it.