The frost has returned to our little corner, the mornings increasingly dusted with white and the air crisp and pinching our cheeks. The ground is returning to a solid state, after weeks of sludgey mud that sucks at boots and unexpectedly shifts and slides.
I’m still clinging to the notion that this is fall, that despite the darkness falling before dinner is ready and the increasingly cold winds that are beginning to blow, that winter is not coming. But the truth is we feel his breath upon the backs of our necks, a warning that has us worrying and making lists of what we need to do before the big freeze starts.
So much of the work of the year is over, yet there never seems to be a shortage of things to do. The meat chickens have gone and were all sold, but the laying girls are still here and needing increasing care as the weather gets colder and the bugs are all gone. The pigs went to slaughter and we now have freezers full of pork, but we still have four animals to care for this winter. Our Muscovy ducks are ready to go to slaughter, but we’ll be keeping some for breeding next year as well as having the laying ducks to look after too.
Stephen has been feeding the meat ducks up by the polytunnel, we’ll be taking them on Monday so he’s been encouraging them up there so that we can enclose them in when the time comes. It will feel odd to not have them waiting for us each morning, lurking in a slightly suspicious fashion on the play structure and garden waiting for breakfast to be served.
The weekend ahead offers our last chance to get the garden dug over and fertilized before the snow begins to fall. Saturday will be a clean up day, it promises to be clear and dry so good for digging and weeding, good for clearing and burning. The cow barns need digging out and the year’s worth of compost needs moving to the garden ready for the planting next year. The polytunnel clean up can wait a little longer as it will stay cosy in there for a few more weeks.
It seems like there is never enough time to get it all done, the season is closing in around us yet I can’t quite seem to let go of the notion that there is still time. Perhaps it is my love of this year’s garden that is making it so difficult, I’ve so enjoyed the process of putting my hands in the earth this year, of seeing what we made from seeds and time and sunshine. We still have onions and carrots to pull, and the cold frame is full of nourishing kale and an experimental crop of late carrots; just yesterday I added another row of garlic to the dug over soil ready for the warmth of next year’s spring.
There’s wood to be split and stacked, pipes to be dug out and lagged, clearing up to do. The last of the harvest is coming in and the freezers are filling up with the meat we’ve raised this year. There’s talk of Christmas wherever I go, it’s around the corner apparently, but somehow I’m not quite ready yet. A part of me is still gardening. Maybe that’s as it should be.