In my calendar, which is rooted in the old Pagan wheel of the year and informed by ancient Chinese medicine & philosophy, Autumn is at hand. I could sense the transition days ago, as the light tilted golden in the late afternoon under clouds that had given rain on and off all day. There was, quite simply, something in the air, a barely perceptible shift. But last night, with all the windows open, the air had tiny teeth of cold, and now it is not so difficult to imagine what is sure to come, the thinning of the green, the yellowing of September, the rush of October, and then, the bite and howl of Winter.
It makes the last days of Summer so precious. We went swimming on Friday at the Rock Creek swimming hole, a half a mile’s walk from our home. It’s deep, and mostly shaded, and the water comes pouring off of Mount Mitchell, so it is cold. Here Renee began swimming about on her own, and gleefully wrote in her journal which we made together, “I learned to swim!” We went crawdad hunting, and discovered a monster six-inch crawdad, which we all tried to catch, but his pincers were so intimidating that we were all too hesitant. The horses from the neighboring field came stepping down to the rocks, their hooves cluttering about on the stones, and McKinley stood there with his hand outreached for that soft velvet treasure of a horse’s nose. There is something magical about this swimming hole. We don’t go so often, because it is so cold, but when we do, there is always a gift to be received.
There is a lot going on here, as always, but with Winter approaching, certain projects are receiving more attention. Last Summer we started the project of renovating the North end of the house, which includes the main entry, the pantry, and a bedroom. The whole thing had to be gutted—only the roof was salvageable, and so one year ago we ripped out the walls and the flooring and the windows, dug a new and adequate footer, built a half-wall of block, poured a concrete floor, and framed in the walls. But we ran out of funding for the project, and couldn’t get windows. J spread Tyvec on the outside, covering the frames for the windows, and we insulated it, too, but for a year the space has been dormant of any real activity. Until now. Windows will be here in a week. The pantry is framed in, as is the bedroom. Drywall is hung on the ceilings. Now there remains some plumbing to be attached to our woodstove, as a back-up source of hot water. The woodstove is on the other side of the bedroom wall, and the pipes go from the woodstove through the wall to the utility room, where the radiant floor pipes and the solar collector pipes and the storage tank all come together.
Then there’s the Autumn/Winter garden. I ordered seeds last week, and they arrived a few days ago. I’m very excited about this, as I’ve never really had a late season garden before, and would really like to be able to harvest greens through all but the coldest of months. To that end I’ve purchased seed for the most courageous of lettuces, as well as corn salad, arugula, pac choi, beets, scallions, tah tsai, kale, turnips, spinach, and parsnips. And of course, garlic. I don’t have room in the garden for all this right now, so I’ll be planting some of them in flats, and I know there will be a great garden shuffle before it’s all said and done, but what fun it all is!
There are other projects that beg completion before Winter bites down hard. A woodstove in my studio. The South porch enclosed. Assorted painting jobs. And while it seems odd to be thinking of these things when the Sun is blazing, now is the time. September will be too late.