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« Farm Life | Main | Neglectful Gardening »

A Dress of Leaves

If I were a season, I would be fall. Born two weeks before equinox the celebration of my own orbit around the sun in early September is when it all begins for me. In the Pacific Northwest, the colors haven’t changed quite yet as almost always a number of long, golden days are still to come but the daydreaming of autumn is fully underway. September is my beautiful fall before the fall. Unlike the distaste of seeing Christmas commerce gaudily displayed too early, the sighting of decorative gourds, ornamental cabbages, cozy sweaters, scarves and boots spread a familiar smile like the anticipation of a good friend visiting soon.

In those fleeting weeks we work to linger, drink it all in, eat dinner outside, harvest the garden, savor everything grown plump and washed out by the expansive summer that finally gives way… We cut back, stock pile, clean up, clear garden beds and prepare for the outside world to become more separate again. We reminisce on summer. Several streaks of intense heat claimed many of our youngest noble fir trees this year, generously planted by friends and children. This summer season was especially tough for needle blight and twig weevil in the grand firs. While we are grateful to be small scale holiday tree farmers and share that growing tradition with friends and family years like this makes us glad we have been gradually diversifying the farm. With such a fledgling orchard the apple harvest was effortless and the hop trellises didn’t bear much this first year. The seasons march right on. Brilliant pumpkins turn from green to orange on the vine. Tattooed, sun kissed arms hoist final hauls of tomatoes, summer greens and squash. The promise of change is always easy until it actually comes.

The change is of course, at the heart of the wonder. I am wild with love for the shifting colors, brilliant hues that don’t typically dominate our landscape and the endless piles of fallen leaves, which literally drift to the earth. A zealot for squash and cider, I dream of brilliant hair colors that matches the leaves and always remember that Halloween when we were the four queens of the seasons and I, of course was fall. I’d live in a dress of leaves if I could. Under the leaves, more under the surface is how this time of year always expands my heart. Looking up from my yoga mat in the misty and grey early mornings I admire the grand White Oak with its expansive canopy of green, turning canary, crisping to orange, burning to brown and eventually falling away leaving bare, gnarled limbs. Over days and weeks I watch the change. This very visual tracking of time is soothingly rhythmic.

The nights grow longer and darker. Daytime skies are sometimes hung in grey. October dances by. November enters and the season is still magical but the sun has mostly left our faces and we can feel the chill. The world has a more inward focus now and the primal pull towards hibernation tugs. As I clip the first wheelbarrow full of fir trimmings, preparing for wreath making, again I have mostly moved on in my mind. I am enamored with frost. The fir needles smell famailiar like the season ahead. The tiny evergreen forest becomes alive for me and everywhere I look the leaves have already fallen.       

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