A week ago, we had a sunny day with the temperature reaching the low 70s. It’s been all downhill since then. Well, as far as temperatures go. Daytime highs are only in the 40s and nighttime temperatures are in the 30s. We’ve had quite a few rainy days and this week the forecast shows a few snowflakes mixed in with the rain. I like the various seasons, including winter, but the transition from warm to cold, from rain to snow, from t-shirts to coats is always a bit of a shock. It’s sort of like jumping into a cold lake on a hot day. Once you get into it, it feels refreshing, but the first plunge into the cold is a numbing shock.
The leaves of the trees are becoming more colorful every day. We’ve moved from t-shirts into sweatshirts and jackets. EJ bought cider on Friday. The price has risen steeply–from about $4 to $10 a gallon–but it’s just not autumn without cider. I like drinking cold cider, but I like drinking hot cider even more. I heat it on the stove with cinnamon and cloves added to it. Yum! We’ve planted a couple apple trees every year and now that they are beginning to produce, we are discussing the possibility of learning to make our own apple cider.
We finished harvesting our garden and canning, freezing, or drying our produce and then moved into doing odd tasks to get ready for winter. Much of early- and mid-autumn is not-too-hot and not-too-cold so working on projects is enjoyable. EJ finished building new birdhouses and installing them on the wooden posts which help hold up the fencing around the apple trees. The fence protects the trees from hungry deer in the winter and nesting birds from Theo in the summer. Yesterday we saw some birds checking out some of the houses.
I have never been able to cut homemade bread evenly. It’s always too thin or too thick–sometimes on the same slice of bread. So in addition to making birdhouses, EJ used a wooden cutting board to make me a bread slicer. It works dandily and now I can slice bread evenly all the time.
We’ve spent several weekends working on organizing the garage. This is a long-term project. Our garage is big enough that EJ wants to have things grouped into areas: An area for his lathe, drill, saw, etc. An area for butchering deer. An area for the exercise equipment. An area for his desk. And so on. We’ve been moving the equipment and tables into the areas he wants them. I lightheartedly complained that some of them are heavier than Thor’s Hammer. It took our combined efforts to move them inch-by-inch to where EJ wanted them. This winter we hope to bring buckets of smaller things–such as screws, bolts, and nuts–into the house and sort them by size and type into containers.
With our harvest finished, we let the chickens back into the garden until next Spring. It’s enjoyable watching them happily clucking as they eat what remains of the garden.
Our chickens continue laying eggs throughout autumn, gradually tapering off as it gets colder until they stop altogether sometime in November. They take a few months off and begin laying again around April. I was finding fewer eggs and thought that maybe the hens were beginning to stop for the year but then I found a cache of eggs half-buried in the straw in an out-of-the-way and hard-to-reach place in the coop. I have nesting boxes provided for the hens but some find their own preferred places. Usually, I know the location of their hiding places but they still manage to surprise me now and then. I have an empty feed bag in the coop that I use when I have to get the hard-to-reach eggs. I put it on the straw and kneel or lay on it so I don’t get chicken poop on me when I stretch to get the eggs. I also have a scoop that I use to extend my reach. When I have gathered the eggs, I fold up the feed bag and tuck it away until the next time.
Sometimes as I work, I think that stretching out to gather eggs, digging holes for posts, lifting heavy straw bales or feed bags, moving heavy equipment, and other tasks is a rural person’s version of yoga, pilates, aerobics, and weightlifting. Who needs boring exercises when we can work around our little homestead doing things that improve our lives?
A tufted titmouse is currently fluttering at the window. It appears that he is trying to tell me that the bird feeders are empty and I need to fill them. I better stop writing and go fill the feeders because I don’t want angry birds in our Enchanted Forest.