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Friday, September 4, 2015

Rituals of Autumn

I know it's not Autumn yet. It is barely September, but September is a liminal month and even while I am working hard on the late summer tasks of the Putting By Moon, I am thinking ahead. Autumn is one of my favorite seasons.

As a farming/homesteading witch, from early August through the end of October I focus is on harvest and preparing for the season of dark and cold. Starting with "First Harvest" in early August, through Equinox I am mainly working with the garden, "putting by" with thanks to the Gods and the Elements for all the abundance. Even in years like this one, where some crops are REALLY sparse (I had one cucumber plant survive the late, cold spring for example) it is important to me to be as thankful for that one-at-a-time cucumber as for the plethora of beans and peas. All the plants are giving their all and deserve thanks!
One annual fall project -- weed whacking and mulching!

Then, as September wanes, my focus shifts to having the homestead "buttoned up" against the cold and snow. Even though we don't get more than flurries before December, usually, I like to have it done and everything protected by the time the Hunt traditionally begins at the end of October. That also includes putting the active garden to bed and having the fallowed one ready for spring planting.

I feel an urgency this year to get to, and through, the rituals of Autumn. No, I don't mean gathering under the moons -- dark or full -- with a group of fellow travelers. Nor will I be likely to attend a gathering for Equinox. My rituals are more of the "chop wood, carry water" type and though we do not yet heat with wood, the growing piles and stacks of fuel that I see in yards and sheds and barns as I do my errands makes me think that my neighbors may be feeling a similar urgency this year. Or, maybe they are just reacting to the past long, cold winter and the scarcity (and related price increases) of the supplemental supplied they needed to fend of the cold until Spring finally managed to break through.

I've already started picking up odd ends that gather around the farm... broken pieces of plastic fence post, shredding tarps and the like... for the next couple of dump runs. These odds and ends do not need to sink even more securely into the earth over the winter.

I have been taking mental note of the missing kerosene lamp chimneys and each Saturday brings me closer to beginning the weekly Autumn and Winter ritual of chimney washing and lamp filling. Yes, we have electricity, but the warm glow of these lamps is comforting to me and in the dark of winter, when I arise before the house is sufficiently lit by the sun, it is their light I prefer to use to greet the day.

Likewise, I have been making a note of the location of all the flashlights, many of which have ceased to function over the summer. The stash gets fewer each year, because I cannot stand the cold bluish glow of the LED bulbs (and as bright as they may be, I don't seem to be able to see well by them) and the old fashioned kind are becoming hard, if not impossible to find. Soon I will gather all the units up and give them to Tractor Guy for a working-over. As many as can be made to work will be what I use. When one does not light fowl coops and eschews a yard light, it's important to keep flashlights at hand in various places.

Unexpected apples tree
Unexpected apples!
I am also thinking about food storage. "Fresh" storage of onions, potatoes and carrots, mostly. Apples we don't have in that quantity yet, so I pick up local ones from the store through the winter. I DID get a surprise, though, this week of the apple variety. While none of the trees I have planted are old enough to make fruit yet, there is a tree that came with the house. We were not told what it was, but it has leaves that look like apple and an apple growth habit. It has, until now, not fruited however. And somehow it must have sneaked the blossoms past us this spring, for neither of us noticed anything... until yesterday, when Tractor Guy was working the back field and noticed an apple on the ground. Coming back around, he spotted one, then more in the tree. I have no idea what variety or if they are ripe. I will check them with a spray of iodine solution once I acquire some.

Basil, waiting to be dried.
 In the garden, the tomatoes are beginning to ripen -- a good sign here that the Summer season is coming to an end. They are a late season/early fall veggie for me here in Maine. I am digging the potatoes (another fall ritual, which is early this year) and harvesting herbs like crazy! Basil, dill, marjoram, chives and sage are producing in abundance and the parsley is giving a decent report as well.

We are also getting ready to put an insulated box around the water inlet, pressure tank and such under the house and run plastic around the skirting -- inside, this year -- to hopefully keep the water flowing, another Autumn ritual in Maine. Thawing the pipes is a Winter ritual that we would rather avoid.