This time of the year is usually bitter sweet for me. If you have been outside lately, you are sure to have noticed the leaves starting to turn. The kids are back in school, and the Alaska State Fair is in full swing. Sweaters and hats will soon be pulled from summer storage and an inventory of winter gear is in order. Fall is always beautiful, but it brings a close to the vegetable garden, and the flowers, and the warmth of those long summer days. (Not that we seemed to get very many in Alaska this year!)
There are LOTS of garden chores to be done. The remainder of the vegetables need to be harvested so that the greenhouse over the raised bed can be broken down and stored, the soil is ready to be amended so it can rest for the winter and the yard needs to be combed for random tools that haven’t already found their way to storage. Canning and preserving have been happening for about a month now, but I’ll keep on until there is either nothing left to preserve, or I run out of jars and storage space! And if you are from a typical Alaskan family like mine, there are also Moose hunts, as well as Rabbit and Grouse, and the freezer is stocked with fish (although not as full this year as some years past.)
Fall tends to be my time to reflect on the past season, thinking about the things I accomplished, and the things I want to accomplish next year. My garden has expanded quite a bit, including the addition of a few fruit trees, a new flower bed, and the beginnings of some landscaping projects that will likely take several years to complete. I feel like it was generally a bigger success than last year, which gets me excited for what next year’s harvest will look like! I am planning a few new additions to our list of must-grow plants, as well as taking a hard look at the ones that just don’t seem to like to grow here. Bird houses need to be hung and a few more raised beds will likely be built, and a dedicated herb garden on the south side of the house is becoming more and more necessary as I cook from scratch as much as I can now.
Despite the end of summer, and all the goodness Alaska has to offer us in the season of endless sunlight, there are many great things that fall brings with it. Warm boots and flannel shirts, hand-knit hats and gloves, bonfires, ripe rose-hips, and crisp clear mornings are all part of the call. The work slows down, and the home cooked comfort foods come out, as well as more of the extended-family meals and celebrations that we were all just too busy for in the last few months. With kids going back to school, we are forced into routines and bedtimes again, which is sort of a welcome thing for me. Its hard to explain to a three year old that its bedtime when the sun is still shining brightly through her bedroom window!
I think that my favorite part of this season, even more than the beauty of the colored leaves and snow-capped mountains, would have to be that smell after the very first good frost. You know the one I’m talking about, where the over-ripe berries have burst from the freeze and thaw, and the fallen leaves are damp and musty smelling.
When I step outside and smell that smell, paired with the sharpness in my nose from the cold air, I always have to stop and breathe deep, because it only lasts for a short time, and then everything goes dormant and the snow blankets it all until next spring… and next spring is what I will spend my winter dreaming, scheming, and planning for.