Raking leaves is so peaceful. Nothing says peace like a pile of fall leaves. We saw two swans flying over the fields today. Perhaps they arrived this morning. Perhaps they had just flown in off the sea and were looking for their first place to rest their feet. After flying so many days, does it take swans a few days to get their land legs again? I remember as a child crossing the ocean in a boat, and feeling the boat swaying back and forth for days after we got off it. Tomorrow is the first of November, the day I often see our first swans. Seeing the swans reappear was comforting. Not everything has gone completely kaput.
The peaceful pile of leaves is destined for the garlic and shallot beds. In a week, all the beds will be bedded down under a thick blanket of leaves. Underneath the leaves, tiny creatures and earthworms will slowly devour the leaves, taking bits of leaves deeper and deeper into the earth until the leaves become one with the earth. Perhaps by using wheelbarrows of maple leaves, I can flavor the garlic and shallots with a hint of maple. As they say, it’s all about terroir.
Frost left a light touch this morning, fringing leaves on the ground with a delicate white fleece. It was winter’s first soft walk through the garden. All the garlic is planted. Some tulips and shallots remain for me to safely bury in the earth before we get a real freeze.
On a misty morning, I hear the snow geese flying overhead. When I’m lucky, the mist parts, and the snow geese flutter across the blue sky.
A generous gift of pine needles from friends makes for nice, soft foot paths between the garlic beds. They make a pleasant place to rest my knees when I plant garlic cloves. Happiness are friends with a gigantic pine tree who don’t know what to do with all the pine needles and pine cones that fall from the tree.
The ducks are slurpling through water-soaked grass. Their feeding sounds like a babbling brook. In dry brush and grass they moofle along, filling the air with soft moofles. They chirp, whistle, and grunt too.
Slice a colossal chioggia beet vertically and you get a piece of art in every slice. These slices are destined for a pot of borscht. With chioggia beets, you don’t get a deep red borscht, but it tastes just as good.
An onion I found hiding among the weeds, revealed four developing buds inside. Grow your own food, and you are freed from the tyranny of standards. Grocers and produce buyers demand that the produce they buy adhere to rigid standards of size, color, shape, and weight, which means that any onion you buy in a supermarket has been stripped of any personality. Only the ones which conform to a rigid standard of what an onion is supposed to look like make it onto the store shelves. But grow a row of onions and you get to pick them at all stages of growth, and enjoy an endless variety of sizes, colors, and shapes.
While prepping another bed for garlic, I dug up some garlic I missed pulling up this year. It had already sprouted, sending magical white roots deep into the cool earth. There is more root than bulb. You have to admire a plant that can grow robustly when the earth has chilled.
Back into the cool earth the garlic will go, row upon row. Underneath the surface, their magical roots will spread and intertwine, making a network more intricate and complicated than you can imagine. The next time you walk past a bed of garlic, picture those magical white roots spread far and wide underneath the surface.
The prescription these days for solving the world’s problems are better robots. Robots to vacuum your floor. Robots to water the garden. Robots to mow your lawn. But I doubt any robot will do as good as job of keeping my garden pest-free as the four Cayuga ducks. Watching them scurrying through the leaves and vegetation in search of bugs and slugs to eat is awe-inspiring. They have more intelligence in their brains than any robot Silicon Valley Millennials can conjure up. Millions of years of evolution have honed the ducks’ senses and drive to scour every bit of the garden. I don’t have to recharge them, and they convert everything they eat into fertilizer in a matter of hours. I don’t have to upgrade them every year or two, no need to call support, and they self-reproduce to boot.
While the ducks tend to the garden, I make tofu to deliver to the Anacortes Food Coop on Thursday. There is a pure beauty to soybeans when you soak them overnight under cold, running water. The soft flow of cold water washes away all impurities, leaving plump, pure soybeans.
It feels like a spring day, not the middle of fall. 124 days from the summer solstice, the sun is as bright as a day in late February. Just two more months and the days start getting longer. The ducks have found a dry, sunny spot in a woodshed to dry and preen their feathers. Watching ducks preen melts all your worries away. It’s cheap therapy.
Bicycling to the post office on a day like today is cheap therapy too. Last week I heard Terri Gross interview sleep scientist Matthew Walker. In the interview she made a comment that made me laugh. When Mr. Walker told her that he tries to get eight hours of sleep every night, she gasped, “Eight hours in bed every night! How in the world do you do it? … Most people don’t have eight hours available to sleep.”
It made me wonder if that is really true, and if it is true, what sort of mad world have we made that most people don’t have enough time to sleep? I am a very sound sleeper. Once as a child, I fell off a top bunk onto a hard wood floor and didn’t wake up. When I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t figure out why I was sleeping in the lower bunk because I knew I went to bed in the upper bunk.
Plant rows of garlic, chop wood, clean out the chicken coop, bicycle to the post office and back, rake leaves, watch the ducks preen themselves, take in the beauty of fall, and you will sleep like a log for eight hours without any effort.
The days are woolly and windy. Leaves are everywhere. Branches, whole trunks at times litter the ground. “Go inside, you old fool,” they yell. “You can sweep us up when the sun comes out.”
Inside, it’s a chance to experiment. A time to wonder how to give whole wheat that special something. Give whole wheat two full days to rest and rise, and you have Whole Wheat Sour, whole wheat bread with a pleasing kick. A possibility for next year’s farmers markets, or if you’d like to try it, let me know.
The cooler weather has encouraged the stinging nettles to send out fresh shoots. Their bright green could fool one into thinking it is spring.
Leeks are in bloom. Before they bloom they spin fantastical caps. Maybe not as amazing as gravitational waves, but mesmerizing still. It wouldn’t surprise me if medieval jesters conjured up many of their costume designs from observing blooming alliums.
And after they develop their seeds, onion and leek flowerheads sway in the breeze, looking like long-haired professors gone mad.