ANN BAILEY: Fall chores and dreams of spring

Living on a farm, even a hobby farm, keeps me in sync with the seasons.

For example, in the spring, our family readies the lawn tractor, prepares the garden soil and plants our fruits and vegetables and hauls out the patio furniture. I don't mind the work because it's fun to prepare for the summer season ahead. It also feels good to be outdoors without being bundled up and to get some physical exercise that doesn't involve shoveling snow.

During the summer, we're busy taking care of the garden, mowing lawns and doing maintenance work on the buildings and fences. We don't really get much time to use the patio furniture, but it looks nice sitting on our front porch.

This year, as we all know, summer was slow in coming, but September helped make up for the late start. Our cantaloupe and watermelon, tomatoes and cucumbers came through in the home stretch and we harvested a bounty of fruits and vegetables. We also picked hundreds, probably even thousands of apples from our tree.


When Ocotber arrived and, with it, unseasonably cold weather, we harvested the remaining vegetables and fruit in our garden. Earlier in the month when a freeze was forecast, we pulled a trailer next to the garden and loaded up about a hundred pumpkins and a fair amount of squash and gourds. The trailer now is parked inside the barn and there's a tarp over the produce to protect it from the cold temperatures.

We plan on giving the bulk of the pumpkins away to family and friends and keeping a few to make Halloween decorations and to carve for jack-o-lanterns. We shouldn't have any problem giving away the squash, either, because it seems to be a popular vegetable with people we know.

The last produce we picked from the garden was the potatoes, which we left in the ground until about a week ago. We were hoping the garden would dry out a bit before we dug the potatoes, but when no warm-up was in sight and the temperatures were predicted to drop into the 20s for several straight days, we decided we better get them out of the garden. It's very disappointing to have vegetables ruined after you've spent the summer nurturing them. Besides, what self-respecting North Dakotan wouldn't want to save their spuds?

Getting prepared

With the fruits of our garden labors safely in storage, we have turned to other fall chores, such as storing the patio furniture, putting on storm doors and windows and cleaning the horse barn. I also call maintenance professionals to get our furnaces checked and have our septic tank cleaned each fall. As far as I'm concerned, an ounce of prevention is worth for both of those systems.

We've accomplished most of those jobs on our list and hope to get the rest finished by the end of the month. I'm counting on the leaves to start falling soon so we can get gutter cleaning, my least favorite fall chore completed. Once the calendar page turns to November, the weather gets more "iffy" and we know there's a chance that what didn't get done, won't.

Sense of accomplishment

As with the spring chores, I also enjoy doing the fall chores. While I feel a little blue about putting away the summer patio furniture and battening down the hatches for winter, I also get some satisfaction from it. I like knowing that we are prepared for the colder weather ahead and that we have plenty of hay on hand to feed the horses through the winter and a good supply of straw to bed them down with stacked in the barn.

It also gives me a sense of security when I have taken inventory of my children's winter hats, coats, snow pants and boots and know that they will be well-clothed when the first blast of cold and/or snow hits.

Though, extreme cold, icy roads and deep snow drifts definitely present challenges and are the downside of North Dakota winters, there's also an upside. Sometimes the weather forces us to stay at home and gives us a respite in our hectic routines. It also offers me and my family a break from mowing, hoeing and weeding the garden and baling hay and straw.

I'm grateful to be living in a place where there are four seasons. There are good things to enjoy about each one of them and the not-so-good things help us to appreciate the things we like even more. After a long cold, winter, I know that when spring rolls around I know I'll be gnashing at the bit to get back in the garden and on the lawnmower. For now, I'm ready to hunker down and wait for what lies ahead.

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