Autumn’s arrival

Farm Forum

There can be no doubt that we have entered the season known as fall. This is the only time of year when it might be fun to take an actual fall, but only if your landing zone is a deep heap of freshly raked leaves.

Some folks regard autumn as their favorite season. This time of year certainly has much to recommend: the Technicolor striptease put on by the trees, the sharp tang of ripening corn, the fat Hunter’s Moon hanging in the sky like a gigantic florescent marshmallow.

For those of you with kids there’s a special reason to be fond of fall. The munchkins are back in school, which means you can relax and treat yourself to that well-deserved pumpkin spice frappuccino topped with whipped cream that was whisked by Tibetan monks and sprinkles of grated white Italian truffles and a maraschino cherry that an ancient Lithuanian grandmother handpicked from her orchard and preserved using her family’s secret recipe, a concoction that may or may not have involved crayons that were labeled “Razzmatazz.”

I enjoy fall, but would appreciate the season much more were it not for the knowledge that it’s inevitably followed by winter. It’s as if someone were to say, “I really like Ted, but it sort of bothers me that he’s a serial killer.”

The autumnal equinox turns us Northerners into squirrels. Cooler nights and shorter days must induce hormonal changes that affect our behavior. For us, preparing for winter involves more than just honing the cutting edge on your windshield scraper, slapping a fresh coat of Turtle Wax your snow shovel and polishing the contact points on your jumper cables.

The arrival of fall causes us to scurry about like tree-dwelling varmints, storing up important stuff for the winter, along with assorted whatnots. And like the squirrels, we occasionally forget where we stashed some of these valuable items. Which is actually a good thing because we can thus be pleasantly surprised when we stumble across them later.

Why do we act this way? Mainly because we can’t help ourselves. Folks my age were raised by people who lived through the Great Depression. The overarching attitude we grew up with was “It’s not if the hard times will come, it’s when!”

As a consequence, fall is among our busiest seasons. You say that you’ve canned 90 quarts of tomatoes? Let’s see if we can make that 150! Stone fruits are on sale? We should put up at least a dozen lugs! On second thought, how much do you think the pickup would hold?

Driving this behavior is an emotion that’s embedded deep in the reptilian regions of our brains: I’m not just going to be a survivor, darn it! I’m going to survive!

I have been much afflicted by this autumnal nesting urge. For example, a mound of firewood has now been cut, split and stacked in our basement. The alternative to heating with wood would be picking up the phone and asking the co-op to refill our LP tank. What an inconvenience!

It’s been said that firewood warms you twice: once when you chop it and again when you burn it. That’s a total lie. Firewood warms you dozens of times.

Some while back, a windstorm felled a large ash tree onto our garden. I estimated that it would take a minimal amount of time and effort to cut it up. After ten minutes of yanking on the chainsaw’s starter cord, I was already sweating like a racehorse. It finally occurred to check the gas tank. Bone dry.

Once the tree was reduced to manageable chunks, the wood had to be stacked. I first opted to rest and replenish essential bodily fluids, by which I mean I had a beer. When I got around to stacking the wood, I discovered that the evil tree had fallen in such a way that the heaviest chunks landed farthest from the pile.

Splitting the firewood came next. I dug out my venerable Monster Maul – a steel wedge that’s supposed to be 12 pounds, but feels as though it weighs more than a Volkswagen – and commenced to turning big chunks into little ones. This took a good while as I needed to pause often for rest and rehydration.

Then the firewood had to be carted up to the house and hauled down into the basement, all of which involved more sweating and more rehydration. But now I’m ready for winter, by golly! And that all firewood was free, if you don’t count the refreshments.

I would guess that autumn’s arrival is costing me about a six-pack per cord.

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