The sun is rising later and setting earlier now. There are new sounds in the fields that I didn’t hear a month ago. Yesterday afternoon a gray jay, down from Canada, was calling from the top of an old pine. The elderberries, pagoda dogwood, and mountain ash, a feast for cedar waxwings, vireos, and catbirds, are ripening. Leaves on the balsam poplar are beginning to yellow. The sunflowers are blooming. Summer is winding down. It is time to get ready for winter while the daytime is still pleasantly warm.
I have been extremely busy lately harvesting and preparing food for winter storage and getting my gardens ready for next year’s plantings. So far I have put up 70 pounds of apple sauce made from six kinds of apples, about 20 pounds of summer squash, and about three pounds of kale in the freezer. I also have about 50 pounds of onions harvested and a smaller amount of garlic. There are still potatoes to dig in the next two weeks. The Painted Mountain Corn and winter squash are in the last stages of maturing. They might be ready by the third week of September. The cabbages’ kale, and turnips look good this year. I’m a little disappointed in the tomatoes and pole beans though. A late planting because of the cold spring temperatures and a late frost followed by more cold and then extremely hot dry weather did not do them much good. I’ll get a small harvest of each.
Now that the garlic and onions are out of the ground, trimmed, cured, and in storage. I am preparing their old patch for next year’s greens garden. I have tilled under the mulch and the weeds and am adding manure and bedding from my sheep shed. This will be tilled under and then mulched with spoiled hay. Next year it will be planted with cabbage, turnips, kale, mustard and other cole crops, chard, and red and golden amaranth. Once the tomatoes and summer squash are done I will be planting that area with garlic and yellow bunching onions for next year.
There is a lot going on outside the gardens. Wild asters and goldenrods have been blooming for about three weeks making the meadow very colorful with patches of yellow, white, and light blue against the fading green grass. Various species of wild sunflowers, cut-leaf coneflower, helenium, heliopsis, liatris, tall phlox, and cup-plant have been blooming, too. These are attracting many species of small bees, wasps, hummingbird moths, checkerspot, fritillary, and white admiral butterflies, and syrphid flies. Cedar waxwings and catbirds are scouring the mountain ash and elderberry bushes for food. The heat wave in late July and early August reduced the fruit set on many wild berry plants so these birds will need to work harder to survive. I left most of my currants on the bushes for them and they have been eating from these bushes.
I am noticing different sounds in the meadow now. There are katydids and other rasping grasshoppers calling and brown crickets chirping. There is the buzzing of yellow jackets as workers feed on spoiled fruit under the apple trees. Many new dragonflies are here such as meadow-hawks, swamp darners, and whitetails. The swamp darner is a large dragonfly that migrates south in flocks like birds in the fall.
Tonight, after it got dark I went up to the chickens’ coop and shut the door. I listened to the crickets and looked up at the stars. The sky was clear and I could see the Milky Way, Vega, Cygnus, and many smaller stars whose names I do not know. From the north I could hear honking Canada geese. They were flying in the dark. I stood still for a long time listening. Eventually they were overhead still honking. Perhaps encouraging each other to press on? Maybe. As they flew over me I could hear the loud beating of their wings. I could not see them but I knew there must have been many geese. I stood still looking up until they could no longer be heard. The crickets and the katydids kept on singing long after the geese were gone.