This year's harvest: Peach jam, apple sauce, tomato sauce and peach chutney.
I look out at the leaves changing color on the trees and give thanks that fall
is here and winter
is coming. It's the beginning of the farm's down time. I used to resist the first freeze of the fall, hating to see the tender summer annuals so vibrant the day before and dead as a doornail the next morning. I used to dread fall and winter, looking upon them as seasons of darkness, as seven months of tolerating life before finally seeing the first leaf buds again.
But as the busyness of summer gardening, milking, cheese making, canning, and classes slows down, we can slow down with it — it's part of living seasonally. It's part of bringing all of your energy in, preparing to curl up for winter and rest so that in the spring, you are rejuvenated and ready to burst forth and flower again.
We can watch YouTube
and learn more about forest gardening, greenhouse growing, soil building, and cheese making. It gives us time to ponder why every last one of the 25 cucumber seedlings I planted in May kicked the bucket before even reaching ankle height; to be thankful the tomatoes and beets were so prolific; and to notice that completely shaving the caterpillar-eaten leaves off the kohlrabi plants did
serve the purpose of eliminating caterpillar habitat, but also stunted their growth to kohlrabi peanuts.
We think back to the spring kidding season, when we had the most goat births ever (12), and also the most deaths (six). We saw a bobcat down in the ravine for the first time in four years, but saw no bears for the first time in five. We put 40 chickens in the freezer and contemplated eating rattlesnake
Fall and winter is when twice-a-day milking dwindles to once-a-day milking, and once-a-day milking slows to no milking. The goats are bred (recall Mr. Stinky
?) and their energy goes to keeping themselves warm and fed for the winter. Our goats are all around 6 years old — slightly past peak milking age — and although not ready to head for the geriatric ward yet, their bodies realize they have no more babies to feed over the winter, and their biological clock slows down sooner.
All in all, no milking means our carpal-tunnel-stricken hands can get a rest. They can leave the repetitive, index-to-pinky-finger-drumming milking motion in our memories and join in the debate of whether or not to buy a mechanical milker next season, and so can we. We've actually had two enforced "sleep in" days in the past few weeks — almost unheard of at our house.
Last year at this time, and again this year, we realized that although we love where we live, we want a smaller house and more land. There is no time to think such thoughts in spring and summer, but fall and winter provide a clean slate on which to write all the ideas for the future. Some will take hold, some won't. (Perhaps we'll open a creamery, perhaps not.) But whatever we do and decide over winter, we'll be ready to go, full steam ahead, when the first goat kid arrives and the first spring garden seed gets planted.
Until then, you’ll find me curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Lindsey is a city girl turned urban farm girl. She and her family are the proud stewards of a few milking goats, a lot of working chickens, an organic garden and a budding orchard. Just around the corner is the city. But she, and her farm, are hidden by the rocks. Follow her on Twitter (@goatcheeselady) and FaceBook (The Goat Cheese Lady) or visit her website (thegoatcheeselady.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Lindsey at: email@example.com.