On Monday our last batch of poultry went into the freezer. Since mid-May, poultry processing has been a weekly (or bi-weekly!) event around here. On Sundays just at dusk, Andrew catches the next day’s birds. Before sunrise, he rises and fires up the scalder. Then, with Sylvan either on my back or more often under the watchful care of one of our wonderful babysitters, we get down to business. We’re pretty efficient by now and know our roles. I’m a cleaner–scrubbing down the stainless steel of the table and the chill sink, eviscerating the plucked birds, and checking the finished product for errant feathers. Andrew does everything else (and sometimes joins me). By noon, we are usually finished: birds chilling in icy water, feathers and offal composted, hearts and livers all neatly packaged. The routine has given shape to our week, even as we eagerly anticipated its end. Chickens dictated when other farm work could be done, when to go to town for errands (when delivering chicken, of course), when we could go away for the night (never). Now, suddenly, we are free!
As if to reinforce the sudden change in our lives, the thermostat dropped Tuesday night and we woke to the sound of our furnace roaring in the basement. “Welcome to fall!” it huffed. “Get ready for winter!”
Packing the freezers Monday, Andrew breathed a sigh of relief that everything fit (with room to spare!). All twelve of our chest freezers are humming away, thankful for the cooler temperatures that make their jobs easier. Of course, we’ll need to play freezer musical chairs with the additional freezers at our new market in order to make room for the two whole beeves that we bought from our friend Ron Holter, but now at least we know–there is space for everybody.
The greenhouse and high tunnel are filling up as well. One more arugula seeding and a last tiny bit of transplanting are all that stand between me and our first winter CSA pick up in November. The greens and reds and purples in the tunnels stand in stark contrast to everything outside, which is fast approaching brown by way of orange and yellow.
Too often Andrew and I keep our heads down and power through from sunrise to sunset. Clean the house. Cook some food. Wash the diapers. Chores. Weeding. Begin a new farm project. Run errands. Sleep. But I saw the forecast Tuesday of impending chill and decided to sit inside the change for a while, rather than racing ahead to whatever it brings. Besides, Sylvan had hit the picket lines with a napping strike (demands: more cuddling, less crib) and I needed to find a way to wear him out that wouldn’t leave me exhausted. So I strapped him to my back and went for a walk.
We snuck past Patou, napping in the sun, and then up the hill, beyond the now empty chicken shelters. As our flock dwindled into fall, the shelters emptied gradually; they ended the season loosely arranged across the hillside rather than in the tight diagonal formation of mid-summer. We continued across neighboring fields (same landlord, so that means it isn’t trespassing, right?) and onto a graveled track in the woods. As we walked, I strained to recall the names of trees from my college dendrology days. “The oak family is all called ‘Quercus,’ Sylvan,” I explained, looking up into the canopy. “And the maples are ‘Acer’. See how prettily the maples change before they let go of their leaves?” Though I couldn’t see him, I felt him bounce in his seat, which I chose to interpret as interest. We crossed stream beds in the ferny understory, climbing slowly toward my favorite spot–a huge empty pasture high on the mountain and surrounded by forest. By the time we reached our destination, the bouncing had stopped, as had my commentary. The wind picked back up as we came out of the trees.
On the edge of the forest, Sylvan and I paused to welcome fall and say our farewells to summer. Goodbye chickens. Farewell turkeys. We’ll meet again come spring.