Sunday, 14 October 2012

Harvest Season on the Urban Farm

The air has turned cold, the frost hit this week, and leaves are falling. Time to put the backyard to bed. Patio furniture, hoses, pool, flowerpots, windchimes, lawnmowers, tools, all tucked away. Lemon trees and oleanders brought indoors. I spent about seven hours yesterday digging, washing, peeling, blanching, and freezing carrots. Of course I didn't thin them well enough in the spring, so many of them are about three inches long, which makes peeling ridiculous. But they are so sweet and tender and golden and good! Nothing like the woody, bitter, but beautiful ones you buy in the store. It feels good to know the freezer is full and we can enjoy them in the winter.

The only things left to process are the onions, cabbages, and ground cherries, which are still determinedly producing despite the cold. And the rabbits, of course. They zip away from under my feet, scaring the bejeebers out of me every time. I assume they'll find somewhere warm to stay for the winter, burrowed into the straw or under the hedge. Goodness knows it looks like the mice have already taken up sanctuary in the shed.

We've put away the fountain, and yesterday we watched a miffed little bird hopping around where it used to be, looking for a drink. "I could swear it was right here!" Hop hop to look at it from another angle. "Nope, not here either!"  We'll have to rig up something else for them that won't freeze.

I used to detest the Canadian winter, the six or seven months of gray and bitter cold. The interminable putting on and taking off of layers of clothing. The mounds of steaming boots in the hallway. The eyelashes frozen together by the time the bus arrives at the stop. The darkness of it all. Three things changed my attitude toward the season, though: a) peri-menopause ("Six months of sub-zero temperatures? Bring it on! I'll get out my shorts and flip-flops!" b) heavy doses of vitamin D all winter, which works wonders for my semi-Seasonal Affective Disorder, and c) gardening. I put so much energy into my garden now in the summer that I'm thoroughly worn thin and wrung out by the time autumn comes. I've gotten my money's worth. I've gotten my fill. I don't resent having to put the garden away and go indoors because by then I am thoroughly satiated with the tastes and smells and textures of summer. It's enough to sustain me through the dark hours until spring. I can relax and wait and know that there's nothing outside demanding my attention (well, except shoveling snow, but that's what teenage sons are for). In winter, I can rest.

Until about February, of course, when the seed catalogues arrive and I start scrawling plans on graph paper. After all, a man's dreams should exceed his reach, or what's a garden for?

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