I look out at the leaves changing color on the trees, and give thanks that fall is here and winter is coming. It’s the beginning of the farm’s down time. I used to resist the first freeze of the fall, hating to see the tender summer annuals so vibrant the day before dead as a doornail the next morning. I used to dread fall and winter, looking upon them as seasons of darkness, as 7 months of tolerating life before finally seeing the first leaf buds again.
As the busyness of summer gardening, milking, cheese making, canning, and classes slows down, we can slow down with it. It’s part of living seasonally. It’s part of bringing all of your energy in, preparing to curl up for winter and rest so that in the spring, you are rejuvenated and ready to burst forth and flower again.
Now, I yearn for the fall and winter. They are the seasons when we can relax a bit. We can watch YouTube and learn more about forest gardening, greenhouse growing, soil building, and cheese making.
It gives us time to ponder why every last one of the 25 cucumber seedlings I planted in May kicked the bucket before even reaching ankle height, be thankful the tomatoes and beets were so prolific and notice that completely shaving the caterpillar eaten leaves off of the kohlrabi plants DID serve the purpose of eliminating caterpillar habitat, but it also stunted their growth to kohlrabi peanuts. We think back to the spring kidding season, when we had the most births ever (12), and also the most deaths (6). We saw a bobcat down in the ravine for the first time in 4 years. We saw no bears for the first time in 5. We put 40 chickens in the freezer and contemplated eating rattlesnake for supper.
It’s the time of year when twice a day milking dwindles to once a day milking and once a day milking slows to no milking. The goats are bred (recall Mr. Stinky?), the days are shorter and their energy goes to keeping themselves warm and fed for the winter. Our goats are all around 6 years old, slightly past peak milking age and although not ready to head for the geriatric ward yet, their bodies realize they have no more babies to feed over the winter and their biological clock slows down sooner than when they were 3 and 4 year olds.
All in all, no milking means our carpal tunnel stricken hands can get a rest. They can leave the repetitive, index to pinky finger-drumming milking motion in our memories and join in the debate of whether or not to buy a mechanical milker next season. And so can we. We’ve actually had two enforced “sleep in” days in the past few weeks. Almost unheard of at our house.
The slow season is also when I get caught up on all of the books I want to read. I’ll read books about whatever suites my fancy. Cookbooks, cheese making books, historical fiction books, whatever I want. I get to curl up in my big leather chair with a cup of coffee and a good book and read. I learn all kinds of things over the fall and winter. Two years ago, I read the whole American Bicentennial Series by John Jakes, a much more interesting way to learn history than the textbooks in high school. Last year, it was Clan of the Cave Bear and Anne of Green Gables. This winter, who knows, maybe I’ll write my own book!
Last year at this time, and again this year, we realized, although we love where we live, we want a smaller house and more land. There is no time to think such thoughts in Spring and Summer, but fall and winter provide a clean slate on which to write all the ideas for the future. Some will take hold, some won’t.
But, come kidding season next spring, we’ll be in a smaller house and we’ll have more land. Perhaps we’ll open a creamery. Perhaps not. But whatever we do and decide over winter, we’ll be ready to go, full steam ahead, when the first goat kid arrives and the first spring garden seed gets planted.
– The Goat Cheese Lady
P.S. This, in its edited version, first ran on the IndyBlog Sunday, September 28, 2014. You can read it here.