The foliage says it, the calendar says it, and some of the produce says it (squash! apples!). So despite the lack of frost atop Windy Ridge here in central Maine, it must be fall.
Flocks of blackbirds flying low are certainly a sign. They fill the neighboring treetops and broadcast their dissonant cacophany, like an orchestra tuning up. This year the red winged blackbirds also like my popcorn on its 10-foot stalks, but I discourage them. I keep thinking of one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books where Pa’s crop was completely eaten by blackbirds. We are in no danger of that here, but still…I shoo them.
It has been a bumper year for everything. The pole beans and raspberries are having a second flush, so I am picking pounds of each. Brussel sprouts are ready, though I am waiting for frost to sweeten them. Kale is lush and my go-to dinner companion. Carrots fill the fridge and apples fill the garage.
What a year for apples! We have picked bushels from our heirloom golden delicious tree and I have sampled apples from all around the neighborhood: my neighbor’s winter bananas, another neighbor’s russets (Roxbury?), baldwins, mystery apples from a neighboring town, hard, sweet-tart and perfect without spraying. They fill the house with pies and sauce and crisp.
This year’s peach crop sits in jam jars in my cupboard and my new freezer is filling with everything else.
Today I pulled most squash vines and set the butternuts to cure. At the rate we eat squash, these will last all winter and we still have the alien pink bananas to contend with. They seemed like a good idea in the spring, but now I’m a little scared.
We also finished winnowing oats today. The pillowcase threshing method didn’t actually work that well and we switched to scraping the oats over hardware cloth mounted on a board. We’ll see how they taste.
And so we scurry like chipmunks to get ready for winter, wood stacked, larder filled as if we don’t have the store’s bright and brimming shelves. It must be a primal urge and many seem to resist, but somehow I can’t. I don’t really want to ignore it anyway because it’s in the mad harvest that I find satisfying tangible accomplishment, something hard to come by in this virtual world.