Autumn in New England: a rich, vibrant pallet of red, gold, burgundy, yellow and orange shouts from all of the treetops; the homey scent of wood smoke kindles images of winter nights nestling beside a toasty fire; the fainter, smoky scent of fallen leaves beginning to decompose wafts up from under foot; and the raspy scuttling of those fallen leaves dances across the roadways. Though it is a bit early, I envision jack-o-lanterns and apple pies, skeins of geese flying southward and echoes of “Trick or Treat!” just around the corner. Everything seems to come alive in the fall.
It also heralds the entrance into a long winter, where all but the most essential chores here on the homestead, come to a halt. The garden will be laid to rest; the wood stacked; the barn carpeted in a thick padding of straw for the animals. And, while they won’t be needed for awhile, the heat lamps will be gleaming as they hang from their anchors, ready for service. I’m hoping to get a good supply of hay in for this winter, too, as the Farmer’s Almanac says to expect a harsh one. Two years ago it was quite a challenge finding hay after 3 feet of snow fell on New England; I don’t wish to be caught short again. I’m also hoping the power stays on…regardless of how much snow we receive. Two years’ ago, I had goats, chickens and ducks living in my laundry room as high winds threatened to knock out power and, thus, the only source of heat in the barn. If funds permit this year, I’d like to add another source of heat, such as a propane space heater that mounts onto the wall to keep goatees from knocking it over. We shall see…
Fall is also a time where the mind can rest a bit and make plans. This year, there are plans afoot to finally get out of debt and start looking for new digs. While I love my home, this area of Connecticut is becoming too commercial and I’m looking for quieter, greener pastures–no pun intended. Granted, this fixer-upper has little by way of curb appeal but the possibility of turning it into a business may entice someone into purchasing. I swallow down my worries about all the furry and feathery babies who are laid to rest here. Though it will pain me to see a strip mall over their graves, or to see a bulldozer digging everyone up, this area has also become too expensive for a single income household to handle. And I know their spirits will always be with me; what’s buried is only the shell that carried them through this crazy world.
I say that and then I want to weep. I am more attached to this small plot of land than I give myself credit. Despite the fixer-upper state, so much of myself has been put into it, so many memories cling to the walls like a relentless cobweb. Of course, there is also that old bug bear, Fear. Fear of the Unknown. Fear that leaving will not produce the positive outcome I’m hoping for. Fear of what I might have to give up to acquire that dream of a working, thriving homestead where there is land enough to grow my own hay and room for a herd of sheep for my future border collies to herd; I am obsessed with sheepdog trials. In short, it is a fear of success. But I have a long winter ahead of me to decide. And there are as many positives as negatives: being close enough to walk to work, church, the library, the bank, Walmart, and even the grocery store (though this latter is a bit of a haul…). A bicycle ride to the local Agway is possible, too, though some sort of vehicle is needed for hauling hay and feed home. I have quite a bevy of chickadees, woodpeckers, finches, titmice, sparrows, cardinals, hummingbirds (in summer), toads and chipmunks that come to feed here. And a herd of deer that travel by twice a day through the woods just outside my backyard. There’s the free gifts of wild blackberries, jewel weed (great for poison ivy), Japanese knotweed (though an invasive, the honey bees love it), St. John’s wort, red clover, purslane, lamb’s quarters, cinquefoil, curled dock, and, of course, dandelions. The property came with lilac and Rose of Sharon bushes, too. But much of this may be transplanted. Again, I have a long winter to finally decide.
And as the fears and doubts plague me, I look out the window at the faint pop of color just starting to grace the leaves on the old apple tree across the street, and I listen to the endless rumble of early morning traffic rolling by. Despite my refusal to use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and despite the living filter of arborvitaes bordering the roadside, how organic are my vegetables, herbs and fruits with so much carbon monoxide blowing through each day?
Autumn is the perfect time to dream; winter the perfect season for planning…for a spring made for making those autumn dreams come true.
May God bless you & keep you!