Once past the middle of August, life in the country takes on a different tempo. One of the earliest signs is a faint flush of darker color in the upper leaves of the euonymus. It will be a vivid dark red eventually but by that time there will be other colors as well in the sumac and Virginia creeper and finally the maples.

Nothing can be done to speed or delay the process. The joe pye weed produces its dark blossoms. The hummingbirds begin to move south. The goldfinches raise a late brood when seeds are most available for them. And the garden begins to produce the results for which I have been working since April.

Now beans must be picked every two or three days, raspberries every day. The zucchini must be constantly checked, the broccoli watched for new sprouts, and the cherry tomatoes pile up in a bowl in the kitchen. Carrots, potatoes, and parsnips lurk below the surface; easily forgotten in the rush of the surface crops. This year I remembered to start a late crop of snow peas and spinach. The spinach is producing the best fall crop I have ever had and the snow peas promise a crop in a another two or three weeks.

The orchard is producing as well. It’s a bad year for apples; last year’s bumper crop is a pleasant memory but this year I will be searching for the few apples formed. Peaches, on the other hand, are promising my best crop ever: three trees with branches bending under the weight. One year the raccoons got to the peaches before I did and broke branches off in their efforts to get them all. This year I have fencing surrounding the trees and hope the raccoons will be sufficiently discouraged. I tried putting out hav-a-hart traps for the raccoons but caught a skunk instead, so that strategy must be reexamined.

In short, it’s the time of the agricultural year when life moves into harvest mode and there’s much to keep track of. I am also aware that I am only a part of what’s happening. What’s happening is a result of planning and hard work, yes, but also of the unpredictable pattern of the weather and even less predictable actions of wild animals. Fortunately, though my life is enriched by the harvest, it is far from dependent on it. The harvest is gift and grace. It’s a time to be grateful.

1 Comment

LibbyAugust 24th, 2006 at 7:57 pm

Dad, you’re making me hungry! I hope some of the produce makes it into the freezer to be shared with your less fortunate (or, OK, less forethoughtful, if that’s a word) family…like me!

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