Wednesday, October 24:
Last year at this time we were in haste to develop the spring which now waters the big barn in all but the longest of cold snaps; this year we are hurrying to finish the water system that will keep the steers frost-free this winter on the monastery pastures. One of these days, maybe, we will run out of big projects needing completion before snow flies. Most of today was spent gathering supplies for the tire tank we hope to build this Saturday under the west pasture spring; here the water runs fast enough that we hope, by keeping the water underground before it enters the tank, to keep the flow from freezing. That would mean being able to run the steers on grass at the monastery all winter, saving the baled hay for the milk cows in the home pasture.
The last few preparations for the winter gardens are gradually being made. The bed is composted, tilled, and raked for planting next year’s garlic; ashes in buckets wait in the barn for someone to spread them over empty beds to be tilled in the spring. Hoops and sandbags for the high tunnels are spread on the lawn in various states of incompletion. Every length of row cover or clean six-mil plastic film that can be found is hunted out and examined for holes. Only the warm weather of the last few days prevents us putting the first layer of protection on the winter carrots and salad greens.
Next to the river the poplars scarcely admit of the season by the yellow cast of their huge leaves, but on the bluffs above the maples are bare and only the oaks keep their foliage; this is shades of russet and brown, with the occasional deep scarlet of a lover’s rose. Elsewhere the woods have lost their impenetrability, black boles standing out against a carpet of yellow. In the ditches sumac, blood-red, flashes like a heliograph when it catches the sun, and now is the time to mark out patches of wild asparagus, clouds of ferny yellow, for spring foraging. Our family news is like the weather, warm and cold by turns; one son has left us to return to Minnesota with his lovely family, while another proposes bringing home as his wife a woman we have long loved and admired. We are joyful and sorrowful.