I found this while archiving some computer files. It was written 4 years ago and many of the sentiments remain the same and could be easily written any day of the next two weeks. A momentary sadness comes to me as I realize that the horses are no longer with us, nor is the cat that warmed my hands and heart. Such memories remind me to actively take part in every moment that is mine, enjoy the rise and fall of each season that I am blesssed with and to go sit on the porch and rock.
Late in October comes a day when the bite in the air tells me that today’s the day. Check the forecast and realize that not only is it soon, but it’s today… that last day before the killing frost. As it turns out, it’s a day that I work and all through the day I mentally think of the tasks of the late afternoon, in an effort not to forget something. I leave school after the bell with a sense of both urgency and delight at that which awaits.
Home midafternoon, greeted by tail-wagging dogs and the soft whinny of the horses, I change into ‘yard shoes’ and head out back. The cats race past me, into the house, denied their creature comforts and kibble during the time I’m gone, they ignore me. I gather feed buckets and the pail from the kitchen that contains scraps and peels and various leavings from yesterday’s meals and head to the chicken coops. I seldom veer from the usual path… but today take a turn and check on the cabbage and the huge crop of basil. It’s not yet cold damaged and that is good. A last bit of pesto, a few more meals where the basil is fresh and tastes of summer. The first coop contains the youngest of the birds, weeks old, yet feathered and strong, growing fast before winter sets in. It’s warm enough here to have young ones this time of year, if their housing is good and you’re attentive. They’re happy to see me and they need water. They get grains thrown down for entertainment and their ration of high protein pellets. I give them a damaged cabbage for entertainment and nourishment. The next coop contains my ‘old girls’, my steady layers who provide nice large brown eggs for breakfasts and dinners. They’re finishing the molt, so are comically homely, racing around with only half their feathers. I give them extra grains for warmth against the cold night and to help hasten their regrowth of feathers. I gather a few eggs, not many this time which is normal during the molt. The final coop contains the early spring chickens. Two exotic breeds hatched from a bartered swap, growing nicely… nice birds. Two fast growing cockerels who will either be the future sire or grace our table greet me, demanding food.
When I leave the coops, I grab a basket from the feed room and pick the peppers. Beautiful jalapenos’ and pimentos and malabrigios . I gather the green tomatoes, firm and full of promise of ripe redness, but not to be because of the expected frost. I get a handful of ripe red ones. I cut two large armfuls of basil and the fragrance is heady and full. Dropping the produce in the kitchen and the eggs, I pop some leftover potato salad in the oven in a casserole. It sounds strange, but baked and topped with cheese, it’s sort of like a twice baked potato without the shell. Neither of us here tonight really love a lot of leftovers, so I try to be creative on the re-do and this is something we like a lot.
I head out front… get in the mail and begin to take in the last of the houseplants that have spent the summer vacation on the porch and it’s surrounding beds. A trio of plumeria who have a story better told another day and an avocado tree grown by the child off at college. A couple of wispy ferns. The more tender plants were moved in a week ago, some out of necessity while my husband was home in order for him to heft their considerable size for me. The old philodendron that belonged to my great grandmother and which has resided here far longer than the 40 years that I have holds court in the house yet again.
In the last light of day, I sit in a rocker on the porch, joined by the oldest of the cats, whose warmth feels good to my cold hands. I stay there until my nose is cold and red. I take in the dark burgundies of the dogwoods and the oranges and golds of the turning leaves. I watch pecans and walnuts fall and jump as they hit the tin roofs of the outbuildings sounding off like a gun in the silent fall air. I notice that the berries on the nandinas are tinted, not green, yet not red, that in-between color that says fall.
I need to go in, and broil a steak to go with the potatoes. I really don’t want to move. I don’t want the freeze to come and take away the end of summer. I don’t’ want to awaken to a garden bitten and brown. I don’t want to have to dig out my sweaters and jacket and look for woolen socks that were put away last spring. I want to sit and hold the cat and pretend that today is not the day.