The View from Mattie’s Pillow

After a three-week rainy period in August, we have been enjoying a long sunny fall these past few weeks. The leaves turned so gradually from green to gold to tawny orange, that it’s been hard to note the time when the turn began or shifted from one phase to another. The temperatures have gone up to the seventies every day, at least in some places. And, knock on wood, there has been no frost in the garden yet.

We are scrambling with winter chores, but the bright days and warm air make it hard to keep the sense of urgency we get when we are haying or cutting wood after a bite of frost. Today we had our friend Steve Sayer come out to wire the back Arctic entry, which will double as a tack room once we finish the insulation and inner walls. I spent time in the corral, working on my new manure composting bins, based on a design I found on the Horses for Clean Water website.

The tomato plants in the greenhouse are still green and putting out flowers. The vines are heavy with green tomatoes, still ripening. If I can time it right, I’ll leave them out there till just before the first hard frost—lengthening the season with a space heater for a week if need be. Then I’ll pick the tomatoes and store them in newspaper in a dark place to ripen. We may have them till November, if we’re lucky. The lemon cukes are still producing fuzzy, pale yellow round cucumbers that taste so delicate and faintly of lemon. The peppers, all the varieties we grew this year, are turning a hot red, long commas and parentheses of them dangling from arrowhead shaped leaves.

So much to do, but I feel the season in pause. I long for it to stay into November—as if I were longing for the place I live to shift and become central California or Provence. I often feel as if the change of seasons here in the Interior is not so much a change of light—though it very much is—as a slippage of geography. In summer, we slip south, so that Alaska may actually be where it appears on some maps—somewhere west of Catalina Island. And by fall, we’re chugging steadily back north again to nestle in under the Arctic Circle in time for snow, the aurora, ice fog—I’ll stop at that. It doesn’t bear too much thinking about, though it does bear preparation.

The horses are growing in winter coats. Sam’s coat is an inch long or more by now. Mattie’s is shorter, but velvety and dark, almost dappled. They approve of trucks turning up the driveway with loads of hay.

As for me, I am tired after a day shoveling manure and loading hay. The moon is a pale oval, like a smooth oyster shell dangling over the mountains to the south. After the long summer of gardening and riding, I have plenty to think about and write here. But the moon coaxes my sleepiness. It will have to wait till tomorrow.

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