Sunday, November 1, 2015
Now it's November
The dogs are unsettled today, a carry-over from yesterday’s first day of resident deer season and the parade of heater hunters that drove slowly, so slowly up and down our dirt road seeking elusive quarry. Every year we joke that we could set up a coffee and doughnut stand at the driveway’s end and easily earn enough for a good dinner out. But we do not, instead we go about our business, steadily moving through the dwindling list of chores that mark the end of summer, confident that the deer that have grazed our field in late summer, does with still wobbly-legged fawns, have somehow learned to read and know exactly when the hunting season begins. They have made their way to the deepest cedar swamps, bedding down to wait out the flood of shooters.
November is one of my favorite months of the year. Between the blowsy brilliance of October foliage and the impending snow of December, the world seems to pause, catching its breath and bracing for the freeze. The air is sharp and clear as glass, and the fingered branches of trees lace the horizon, festooned here and there with the scarlet berries of mountain ash and scarlet elder. As I drove to town this morning, squads of Canada geese winged swiftly south along the invisible flyway they have flown for centuries.
The small wild creatures who share our twenty acres are busy, too, in the last preparations for winter. As I fertilize and mulch the asparagus, laying down a thick six inches of shredded straw and hay, a pair of red squirrels along the wood row squabble and shout over territory, stopping occasionally to perch on top of the old plough and scold me too. I suspect they are laying claim to the reddening asparagus berries that must make tasty fare through the winter months. The squirrels and blue jays, and even an occasional whiskey jay, gobble up the rusty berries and then in the spring, vagabond asparagus ferns, delicate as the finest Irish lace, pop up with abandon. We mark the spot, usually with a bit of orange surveyor’s tape, and let them grow wild for two years before digging and transplanting them to the bed.
We are entering our tenth winter here, and the second after my mother passed. Although we miss her, and oft find ourselves pausing to consider what her absence means, we are glad she is at peace, and we are free to move on with our lives. We have laid a new patio, planted elderberries and Saskatoon berries, and dug post holes for a short row of hops. We have visions of home-brewed beer to accompany our usual blueberry and raspberry madness. Bruce has constructed a new compost bin, the previous three well filled, and the resulting compost making its way to bare spots in the lawn, the garden, and my herb garden, which proved too ambitious a project to complete in one summer, especially since Bruce is still healing from severing the tip of a finger in late August. We watch the weather anxiously, planning out days for the last mowing of the lawn, the resetting of the dog fence, and feeding raspberries, still on the list of things to do before the cold freezes us indoors.
We put up a new ShelterLogic garage this year – 10 by20 feet, and big enough to store the tractor, the lawnmowers, yard furniture, and other farm bric-a-brac that has seemed to grow around the yard, and got stuffed in the small storage shed. That too has seen improvement; after six years, it is now sided to match the house and sports a burgundy red double door, and a barn quilt that Bruce gave me for my birthday. Our life becomes more ordered.
A decade ago when we moved here, friends thought we had lost our minds, and while we wonder that ourselves on occasion, this is home. The wildness speaks to my soul. Chasing moose out of the apple trees, and checking for skunks, or perhaps worse, wandering coyotes, before letting the dogs out at night have become part of the routine. We have fallen into the routine of life in a wild and largely unsettled part of Maine and it works. The freezers are filled with homegrown vegetables and fruits and local meats we buy from friends, confident they are raised healthy and contribute to our own well-being.
After a long day of outdoor chores, the warm rush of supper-scented air is a blessing when we enter the house. The dogs dance and greet us with abandon, following us through the routine of drawing shades, pulling closed the insulated curtains. The pace slows. Work brings us to rest, curled on the couch with afghans and slippers, settling ourselves as the darkness settles, catching the occasional gleam of a distant neighbor’s yard light when the wind dances through the shadowy firs. It is a good place to be.