I have a new ritual. I come home at night from rehearsal or town events or an evening with friends and sit on the park bench in my yard. I always light a candle and spend a few moments reflecting on the day and the beauty of the night sky. With my lovely tree gone, I have the big sky all to myself in my back yard. Of course, I miss my tree. She was the crowning glory. The gnome tree has taken her place with much grace, and I marvel at the sweetness she brings to my yard.
The weather is forecasting a possible frost for the next few nights. I am doubtful it will spread the frost into the town area, but there is that possibility. I am not so frantic about the frost or the first freeze as I once was so long ago with my children. I truly did look forward to that day, and we stopped all other work to head outside to the garden to harvest all that we could. We filled bushel baskets of food, and filled the root cellar with the potatoes, onions, and apples. I braided all the garlic and hung in the kitchen from the beams. Not only did the beams support the garlic, but the herbs were strung from one end to the other.
Once the garden was completed, we gathered the hickory nuts down by the big tree. Next to the hickory tree was a huge boulder. We did not put it there, but perhaps some farmer from long ago dug it up in the field and moved it under the hickory tree. We gathered all those nuts and put those in the barn. The boys would have the task of cleaning them for the winter. We put the walnuts in the driveway so that the tractor would run over them to help with the cracking of those walnuts.
Firewood and wood for the cookstove were a huge priority. The boys knew we would be heading to the woods to cut wood, take it back up to the farmhouse, unload it and start all over again. It was a challenge to learn to cook with wood in the woodstove, but I loved learning how to do it, and there is nothing like an apple pie fresh out of the woodstove!
Chores were essential for my children. Perhaps it worked best because we lived in the country with no neighbors except for the daily adventures of Curt Hasselman making his way down our lane on his bike. We always put Curt to work as well before they could take off hiking in the woods or fishing in the pond.
The other day I read an article about a family that was visited by social services because they had no electricity or running water. We made a choice to go without those amenities for the first couple of years. I daresay, it did not seem to bother my kids, at least I didn’t think so! Now they tell the stories of the farm, and I have to smile. at the way they see their childhood. We decorated the walls with their early kindergarten papers. Rose Clark sent so many papers home, and they all ended up on our walls. The time came for us to take them down to actually put up dry wall and paint. Aaron was very upset and asked us not to be “too modern.”
We stomped out twenty gallons of sauerkraut, gallons of cider and pressed sorghum for molasses cookies. I do not remember the boys ever complaining, although surely they did!
Sitting on my bench in the backyard waiting for the first frost, those memories flood my brain. I see them in overalls and flannel shirts. I see them climbing Doc’s hills to watch the sunset. I do, indeed, live in the moment of my life, but the moments slip back into oblivion as I see my boys on the farm long ago.
Memories are a funny thing. We tend to forget the hard work and the day after day grind of living off the land. I have no regrets. I would do it again in a heartbeat!
As for tonight, I will finish my tea, blow out the candle and call it a day.
“October’s Bright Blue Weather”
and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather.
Helen Hunt Jackson