Mountain Musings: On the Seasons
Mountain Musings – A guest column by Dottie Simmons who lives in eastern Humboldt County describes life at her rural homestead:
Musing on the seasons, on the year ahead…
“Winter is an Etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” Stanley Horowitz
I love this quote. One reason I live where I do is a deep need to feel all the seasons. I am connected, this life is connected, deeply to the journey of our planet around the sun and what each season demands of us… and gives us in return. And that begins with beauty. A good thing, since each has a load of work specific to the time of year.
And it is the beauty and tasks and variety brought by each season that I have been thinking about. There is, as with everything, a balance, a harmony to be found that matches each part of the year. Right now, post – Holly-Daze and deep into winter, enjoying the bounty of the previous year and planning for the one ahead. Winter is a time of rest and moving slower here. A time of rejuvenation for us and the meadows and forests around us and filled with the glory of the earth blushing green, washed clean of summer dust and sometimes buried in the silent pristine beauty of snow.
With the rain and sometimes snow our life turns inward. I don’t ‘Spring Clean’; rather I use the winter season to tear rooms apart and deep clean. Sorting and saving or discarding the flotsam and jetsam of the past year. This is done rather in fits and starts as I am easily distracted by a cold, indoor day as an invitation to sit by the woodstove and read.
We still have greens and garlic in the greenhouses, mature cole, greens, and carrots in the garden to supplement the pantry goods, but they need little tending. A small seedmat and light is set up indoors where, by late winter, seeds are sprouting for the seasons ahead.
Spring brings an explosion of green and fantastic growth. Winter’s new shoots seem to grow visibly with warmer, longer, days. If you mow, as we do, for defensible space or otherwise, you really notice how fast things grow in the well-watered earth. In the garden it is all prep and planting balanced by the cool weather crop harvest. Spinach and lettuce, brassicas and peas. Herbs are putting out wild growth and fruiting perennials are blooming and buzzing with pollinators. Spring demands a full tilt into all the tasks at once. Sore muscles/warm nights & hot water under the stars…
We mark the time with the arrival of different species of birds, their courtship and nesting, as well as the frogs deafening chorus and then eggs in the pond, and all manner of wildlife welcoming new life into the world. It is a season of promise.
As we move into summer there will be more planting, now of the more delicate plants. In our location we don’t trust it to be frost-free until June, so we wait to plant tomatoes and peppers, basil and cucurbits. In the hot weather they catch up quickly. Harvest will begin in earnest with summer squash and beans and herbs, berries, and even cherries. The preservation of our garden harvest for the year ahead will start and increase with each passing month. But unlike spring and fall, summer is actually a calmer time, more evenly paced with longer days to enjoy.
Then it comes… you can feel it in the air, smell it, taste it… the change. One day you wake up and you can just ‘tell’ autumn has arrived. The time of full on harvesting and putting up food for winter. Starting winter crops and starting to fill the woodshed with wood that has been drying in the summer heat. It is cider time, sometimes pear as well as apple. It is the time when the pattern and populations of animals starts to change as geese start flying and other birds and animals start moving down from higher elevations where they have spent the summer. Some, like the Turkey Vultures, even move from here down to the coast. Amphibians burrow into the mud and reptiles hibernate. Trees lose their leaves, plants wither, grasses now golden and dry from summer heat and drought. The world slows down around us.
And then, someday, it will change again. The winds shift and the clouds come and, if we are lucky, it turns to rain and cooler weather. And we build the first fire in the heat stove and wrap up the year and settle in to enjoy the rewards of the season’s labors. Winter is the season of rest and the gateway to new beginnings.