By Becky Nelson
It strikes me as funny that Thanksgiving celebrates “harvest.” Halloween is the rightful harvest celebration. This year, it is very fitting, as we have just completed all but the final crop of high tunnel cucumbers and tomatoes. Halloween is also greeted this year with a killing freeze and a leaf stripping storm that has laid the branches bear for the less-than-appealing month of November.
Last week, before the lingering dreary, dark and wet days, I managed to catch the light just right to make the single black walnut tree I know is on the farm in a blaze of yellow sunshine. A farewell wave from autumn, I guess. There aren’t as many nuts on the tree this year as in some past years, and they appear to be much smaller than usual, probably due to the drought. This beautiful kiss of sunshine was a welcome sight as the reds and oranges of the maples have mostly dropped to the ground and the rust and maroon of the oaks around here outnumber the yellows of birch and poplar, making for a much subdued landscape. The sight of the walnut tree was a reminder of what was ending as we head into the cold months.
We are hoping to coach a couple more pickings from the tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers in a single high tunnel here on the farm, but that is a definite maybe, as frigid temperatures are forecast for the next several nights. We now must turn our thoughts to buttoning up all summer activities and putting the fields and equipment away for a nap. We soon will be harvesting balsam brush for wreaths, cutting Christmas tree and getting ready for the holidays.
The pandemic has changed the face of the store a bit and I am not sure what to expect for the holiday season. Whether orders for pies and gifts are down with folks staying close to home is an unknown and just like the rest of you, I am scratching my head wondering how to best and safely prepare for and celebrate the holidays. For today, I will scroll through my fun photos of autumn and celebrate the beautiful season that is now one for the history books. So much I different, so much I the same.
As winter approaches and hints at cold and blustery weather to come, I notice the changes and hope that there is more of the “same” and less of the “different” for all of us. The non-humans in my life are very much the same as in year after year before. The cattle are now growing their woolly winter coats and feeding on hay with the green of grass in the pastures fading away. The fields, green with cover crops of winter rye, will soon fade to brown. The leaves are mostly fallen and have made a soft carpet in the woods, where we will soon be cutting wood for the household fires and for maple syrup production. The periods of daylight are much shorter and we will be turning our clocks back to standard time tonight. We will be starting our days in darkness and wrapping up our daily activities in darkness.
There is a certain comfort in the normalness of the seasons in this year of uncertainty. No matter what the elections bring to the table, no matter the challenges posed by the current viruses and diseases plaguing the world, no matter the struggles of the economy, the seasons are changing, the natural order seems pretty much in sync with “normal” and we are finding new ways to save lives, save our paychecks and save our sanity. I look forward to the days and weeks to come with hope.
The struggles before us are tremendous, and the necessary adaptations on so many fronts are daunting. We need to stay focused on the solutions and the blessing still to come, however. I am hoping to celebrate the dark and cold days of winter as a time of renewal, just as the trees and the fields will. After the slumber and hibernation of winter, I hope to come to a springtime of hope, rebirth and renewal. It is easy to wallow in the drama and tragedy of today and lose sight of the beauty and comforts of today. I hope you can join me in looking for those bright spots to come, just like that fleeting brilliance of the black walnut tree last week.
Becky Nelson is co-owner of Beaver Pond Farm in Newport, New Hampshire. You can contact her through the farm page on Facebook and Instagram, visit the retail store or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.