Autumnal Awakenings, or, The Completed List

IMG_6052We did it! We made it to fall! We made it to the slow-down, to the time where we remember hobbies, rekindle friendships, get all of our computers backed up, receipts and bills filed, seeds stored, garlic planted, IRAs fully funded, and we start cooking elaborate meals again! Those things are so fun to come back to after being away from them for 7 months or so. However. I have another, more impressive announcement – for the first time in our 13 years of farming our beloved bottom-land in the Intervale, we have completed the fall clean up list, people! I know. It feels like a unicorn just galloped out of the woods, and gave me a high five!

This elusive end-of-season task list is created with a gravity reserved for similar such projects – creating a will, say or maybe making an outline for a eulogy you were asked to give. This is serious business, and we try our best to put absolutely everything on that list, because as any devoted list-maker knows, there is nothing more gratifying than to cross items off of the list with a big, bold, black, permanent marker. One of my favorite items on the list this year was “have lunch”, which counts even though it seems like that doesn’t need to be on any list, but as I mentioned earlier, we tried to include everything, because with every deliberate left-to-right swipe of the marker, we were symbolically freeing ourselves from our seasonal employ and marching ever closer to the days of indulging in non-farm activities guilt-free. Plus, a page that looks like it was completely redacted is really impressive looking. What can I say? You do what you must.

It is rare that everything gets crossed off, but with the glorious fall weather we’ve had, working outdoors in the shortening days was a rare pleasure. We’d go to our local bagel shop, which had become routine without us even noticing, but once our bagel guy started silently mouthing our order to himself whenever we arrived – we knew we were taking this list seriously – keeping a strict schedule to march towards completion, if that required the same breakfast everyday, so be it. One Spicy Sunrise on a toasted jalapeño bagel, please.

2015-11-17 12.08.33-1We’d arrive at the farm, exclaiming how beautiful it still was, despite the fact that most crops were gone – harvested completely or dead on account of the late hard frost we had on October 23rd. We’d have our bagel sandwiches while watching the dogs rove around and sniff out new & old spots around the farm perimeter. Fully fueled, we’d drag out the list and see what we could tackle that day. We’d choose 3 or 4 items, and get to work. We normally do this cycle until the weather gets too miserable to be out in, or the snow comes and shuts us down, or we just lose steam. This year, none of those things happened – I simply can’t believe it. It was an absolute pleasure to be out in the warm weather, even in a t-shirt some days (!), plowing through our list. It took us about 3 weeks of bagel sandwiches to finish, and when we did the final harvest of the most perfect tiny baby radicchio heads, washed and packed them away in the cooler, we blinked at each other in a little bit of a daze. Wait. Did we just finish our list? We went back and checked the list again, yep – redacted completely. What… what do we do now?

The answer, of course, isn’t that mysterious. It’s just that we tend to be thrust into completion, there’s never this gentle slide into the fall relaxation and mustering period. It always takes us a few weeks to get our non-farming legs; this year we tackled building a privacy fence, removing our chimney and replacing our picture window in the front room. Then we re-purposed the guest room – now my project room. Sewing machine, yarns, and writing desk moved up from the basement and all my calligraphy inks, pens and nibs are out at the ready. We made a great meal, toasted our self-fulfilling success of creating a list we completed in full and thus declared Farm Season 2015 complete! We are poised and ready to rekindle creative inspiration, ruminate on the successes of this season, and reading a few books, or crocheting a few shawls, or making cookies, or starting a new calligraphy piece, or sewing some pajama bottoms, or….

IMG_6151The shift from the structure of lists and farming tasks to absolutely no structure seems on its surface freeing and dreamy, but it actually alarms me each year how hard it is to go from having to do something everyday to not having to do anything in particular everyday – it should be fun! It should be the best thing ever! Instead, I find myself turning into some kind of crazy person running from hobby to hobby like an excitable toddler in a room full of favorite toys, playing with each for a few seconds, getting distracted by another toy, leaving previous toy for dead and moving on to the more exciting toy. Egad. It’s a bit of a mess, but it is fun allowing myself to have unfinished projects laying about waiting for inspiration to bring me back around again.

Well, I’m sure I’ll find a rhythm and each day with no structure will get easier and easier. For starters, I’ll lace up my sneakers and start with a short, attainable run and see where that takes me.

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