Fall Chores
by: Mike Lushington 

I've just finished cutting wood for another year. This has always been the last of the fall chores for me; ever since I have been doing this sort of thing, the last load of wood has been synonymous with the end of another year of work around the farm and the beginning of the winter season of rest and recuperation. Oh, yes, there is still lots to be done, but somehow the urgency is off now. If it snows tomorrow, and the snow gives the impression of staying for the winter, I can simply close things down, get out my skis, and enjoy the winter. If it holds off, I have an endless succession of puttering jobs to do, but, as I say, none of them has the urgency which has driven me since late August.

The old people used to define security as a barn full of hay, a full woodshed and a plentiful supply of food in the root cellars and pickling barrels. We - Carla and I - no longer worry about the hay because we no longer keep animals. We never did use pickling barrels, except for the occasional bit of sauerkraut or salt pork, but the essential equation still works for us. From early May until now, we spend a great deal of our time planting, weeding, harvesting, and preparing our food for the upcoming year. While Carla spends countless hours processing fruit and vegetables for the freezer (our modern pickling barrel) especially in the late summer and through the fall, I am preparing the ground for the next cycle, cleaning things up, repairing and storing tools - and cutting wood.

We have been living this lifestyle for a long time now - all those years on the old farm in Balmoral and, with a few simplifications, ever since we moved to our present site in Pt. LaNim. I daresay that when we started, way back in the early 1970's, many of our friends considered us to be "Hippies" and I guess that we did, ourselves, at least to the extent that the "back to the land" movement appealed to us enormously. It has continued to do so, to the point where we rarely think consciously about it anymore; it is as though no other lifestyle even makes sense to us. On a personal note, I find that I am most at peace with myself when I feel that I am in tune with the rhythm of the seasons. Since I have retired from "the real world", I can indulge in that sense more thoroughly. I do not have the same time pressures that used to drive me almost to the point of exhaustion back in those days when I had to try to get everything done on weekends.

Still, when I tossed the last big block of wood from the back of the truck onto a pleasingly large pile the other day, I did so with that same sense of satisfaction and relief. Another cycle is drawing to a close. I still have a lot of wood splitting and stacking to do. I anticipate morning of sharp cold when the blocks split at the mere touch of the axe, when a break for a cup of hot coffee warms the hands as well as the stomach, and the wood pile is transformed into orderly rows to cure and dry for another winter. But that is postscript. If I finish it, well and good; if I don't it will be because the snow is too deep, or because I decide to spend more time improving my walking trails in back, or because I allow myself to become sidetracked by an appealing but non-essential project that I have been considering for some time.

Or it may be simply because the skiing is too good, the birding too attractive, or because I want to wander about in the woods, check out what the moose are up to or see if the deer that we have had as visitors all summer have decided to hang around. Whatever it is, the cycle is slowing down now; the time of rest is at hand.

It is most pleasant and satisfying to feel that, at this very simple level, it has been earned - and will be enjoyed.

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