Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Autumn and the Foggy Valley Days

Tomorrow marks the Autumnal Equinox. At this time of year we often see the fog rolling into the valley, obscuring our views for part of the morning. As the days get shorter and cooler, the fog lasts longer and longer . . . until one day it doesn't lift at all.

The photo above is taken from above our farm, just a quick walk up the hill, out of the valley. As you can see, just the tree tops are visible in the valley below.

From this vantage point on a clear day one can see clear across the Lower Mainland and even see skyscrapers in cities closer to Vancouver. In addition, it's a fantastic view of the farms in Glen Valley and the Fraser River meandering through. Below is an image on a relatively clear day.

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. We celebrated the Equinox on the weekend with a party for some friends and family. The weather didn't cooperate, so we moved everything into the barn and had a great time.

Equinox is a time of balance. The days and nights are of equal length and we transition from the long days of outdoor labour in the fields to more family time indoors and recovery from the season we've had. We, as farmers, move toward a time of leisure and learning. We are able to pick up books we've been meaning to read. We are able to take days off. But we do this amidst the outdoor tasks that need to be finished before winter arrives. Slaughter day approaches for the goats, we continue to get root crops into storage and finish preserving fruits and vegetables. In many ways, it truly is a time of balance.

Since starting farming, celebrating the change of seasons has gained more relevance for me. My body is exhausted and craving for sleep as well as the warm, savory meals of winter, comprised of root vegetables held in storage. I want to be able to spend more time with my children, going to the library and swimming with them and visiting friends. Marking the change of seasons is a way of celebrating what we have accomplished while reminding us of the need to change pace -- and understanding that changing pace is allowed.

I get a chuckle, however, when I hear people state that celebrating the Equinox and Solstice is flaky. In actual fact, it's marking a distinct change of seasons as the earth orbits around the sun. It's a change upon which all life on earth hinges. And it's much more concrete that any religion we're asked to believe in and celebrate (many religious holidays being, of course, appropriations and abstractions of old pagan rituals based on the change of seasons).

So take a moment to celebrate the arrival of autumn by taking stock of where you need better balance in your life. Take a walk and contemplate the changes taking place and compare what you are seeing to your memories of summer. And if you've been preserving food, take a picture of your canning cupboard or freezer -- for posterity's sake if nothing else. And while you're at it, make sure you've written down how much you actually preserved (for next year's planning).

We talk a lot about balance in our lives. I think it's fine to be out of balance from time to time. That's particularly true in farming when the summer is such a busy time. But it's important to re-balance and make sure we don't try to extend summer into the months when we need to rest.

Spring, after all, is only six months away.

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