Monday, November 30, 2015

Farming is local

Many years ago, a friend suggested that I go to Peru to help the farmers there learn the best ways to raise guinea pigs. I declined because I knew nothing about guinea pigs.This fall I actually realized the wisdom of that decision. Not only did I know nothing about guinea pigs, but I knew nothing about Peru. Farming is local.

Dave and I just spent five days in a cottage on the south coast of England. The sheep and cows there grazed in small fields divided by dense hedge rows of bramble rose, gorse and holly. The pasture grasses were still abundant and green in the second week of November. Roses, cyclamen and small amaryllis bloomed in the gardens and the grass. The clouds hung low four out of five days, it rained everyday, and sea spray filled the air with mist when it wasn't raining.The fields were slanted at such steep angles that I doubt the farmer ever tilled them or possibly even ever cut them.

At home, by mid-November, the pasture grasses are short and brown, the leaves are gone from the trees and the flowers have all died. We cut our pastures several times during the summer to keep the grasses from blooming, setting seeds and then going dormant. I have never seen such luxuriant November fields as I saw in England. I'm lucky that the book I used to learn how to raise sheep, The Sheep Book, was written by a shepherd who only lived an hour from our farm. We were raising sheep under the same weather conditions, the same climate conditions, similar soil types and similar weed problems. I got my first shepherding advice from a local farmer. If I'd been reading an English shepherding book, I would have been really surprised. Farming is indeed local.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The death of summer

The Virginia creeper vine climbed a tree in the backyard and I knew that fall was coming. The five leaflets glowed brilliant red against the fading green of the box elder. Red sumac leaves are the first harbingers and the Virginia creeper turn shortly after that.

People talk about the maples that turn the entire world to fire and I do  love that peak of fall color, but for me, that garland of red Virginia creeper winding its way through the forest wakes my eyes up, almost like a neon light flashing "Look at me!"

Another season is passing, leaves dying, nutrition descending  to the roots to be stored until next spring when the first tiny leaves open to delight our eyes after the winter. I don't think of winter as a time of death. It's more like a breathing space, where the outdoor chores slow down. The weeds stop growing. The lawn doesn't need to be mowed. The garden's harvest is all in the freezer or the root cellar.

That streak of crimson in the woods and the golden glow of maples remind me that we're almost done canning tomatoes. Soon I will resume my winter activities - felting, knitting, writing. Fall isn't so much the death of summer as the resurrection of my creativity.