Usually I feel a sense of dread or mild depression at the prospect of winter and the cold, bleak days ahead, with nothing to look forward to, nothing to enjoy.
But growing my own food has gotten me back in touch with the cycles of the seasons--in a way that lets me appreciate them. I love the way various vegetables act like bridges. They keep me engaged with the seasons. It’s late October and my chard is still going strong. I still need to harvest a ton of it and freeze it today or tomorrow because I know it can’t last much longer. It’s been going strong for five months now. Plus there’s still the fall beets and carrots in the ground, plus a few straggling peas the frost hasn’t managed to kill yet. In the house I’ve got a half dozen butternut squashes left, and still some watermelon, cantaloupe and zucchini in the fridge. I’ve got rosemary, catnip and basil growing on the kitchen windowsill and today or tomorrow I’m going to get some sprigs of lavender from John’s to try to get to root over the winter. Also, there’s a small bunch of parsley growing in the garden and I might try to take a small division from that to grow indoors over the winter. Yesterday I ordered some garlic bulbs online. It wasn’t clear if they were sold out or not. I’ll have to wait to hear back. They said to order early (mid-September) because they sell out quickly. But hopefully they still have something in stock. And when/if those bulbs arrive I’ll have another gardening task to do that will help keep me engaged with the seasons and the land.
If I have the money to spare I’d like to order some asparagus and strawberry crowns for next year. Of course I won’t get a crop from either of them until the following year, so it would be an investment and I would be operating under the assumption that I’m staying put here for awhile.
Already I’m beginning to plan for next year. There’s still plenty to do over the winter. I’d like to build an open shelf unit to put in the south-facing living room window. That’ll become my dedicated seed-starting place.
If I can afford it (and the landlord allows it) I’d like to build a henhouse and run next year and get a few chickens. Some other things I could work on over the winter: building crates for root-cellaring, building drying racks and a compost sifter, assembling a compost-tea bucket with aerators, building a cold frame. I saw some neat tomato cages in a book. They had painted wood frames with wire panels stapled on. It would be nice to build some of those some time. And some bean tripods.
I was on some cooking forums online the other day and people kept mentioning things like buying an expensive bunch of chard at Whole Foods, or buying some sprigs of basil or other herbs, and for the first time it all sounded rather odd to me. We go to some centralized place in the community to buy expensive food that’s mostly been trucked in from some other place. It seems so unnatural and contrived. I want to nurture my own food, to watch it grow, to pick it at the peak of perfection and be able to enjoy it immediately, if I wish. It seems so much simpler that way.