This past Sunday we had planned on doing a big hike but life intervened, and my husband had to work. September is arguably the best time of the entire year for hiking. The temperatures are cool but sunny, with brilliant blue skies; the leaves are starting to change; there are also no fallen leaves as yet to cover tree roots, potholes and other tripping hazards; the lack of leaves also makes the hiking trails still visible; and best of all, NO BUGS!
Rather than hike alone, which I can do any other day of the week, I decided to use the day doing all the chores that would put our house into “autumn mode.” We will be leaving Maine this weekend for the duration of the Jewish holidays, and returning next month when the cold has already set in, so spending the day preparing the house in this way was quite sensible.
First I went through our closets and drawers, making two piles: “Put Away” and “Give Away.” The put-away pile is all our short-sleeved and lighter weight shirts, pants and my skirts, and socks. Then I brought down our huge storage bin of warm clothes, and filled the closet back up, this time with turtlenecks, sweaters, and down vests and jackets, tights, wool socks, and long underwear. Next to the front door/mudroom I replaced the bug net hats and bug spray with wool hats, gloves, and blaze orange vests (for hunting season, so we won’t be mistaken for a deer by hunters who might be a little trigger happy). I also brought out the winter blankets.
Then, with some regret, I started uprooting my garden. The temperatures are such that at this point, nothing is going to ripen further, and weather reports are now calling for frost at night. So I decided to pick whatever was left (a few red peppers that never got red, a couple of tomatoes and lots of green tomatoes, the rest of my kale and Swiss chard) and put the spent plants into my compost bin. I turned and smoothed out the soil and added a few scoops of compost. I will plant lots and lots of garlic in October, so now the space is ready. I am pretty much done with fishing for the year (although I am hoping to try ice fishing for the first time this coming winter) so I dumped the tub of live worms that were stored in my fridge into the garden soil.
I also replaced my tired purple petunias by my front door with some cheerful purple asters. Right now every store in rural Maine is fairly bursting with mums and asters (and pumpkins, which came in early this year, and corn, which came in late).
Then it was on to the screen porch. We took out the screens; I hosed them down and once they were dry, put them into storage until next Spring. Acrylic panels went up in their place. The nice thing about the panels is that when the sun is out, even in freezing temperatures, the porch gets to about 65 degrees thanks to passive solar.
Next came the wood shed. Currently we have an over-abundance of cut and split wood due to some trees we took down last year. They have been drying outside on the wood pile all year and now it was time to stack the pieces neatly inside the wood shed. Our house is so energy efficient that despite last year’s long and brutal winter, we only used 1.5 cords of wood! (Typically people might use 6 – 9 cords to heat a house sized like ours, so this is really fantastic.) We still have plenty of wood stacked in the shed from last year, so I could only bring in about 1 cord’s worth as there wasn’t room in the shed for more due to the wood that was already there. So I got out some large tarps and covered the wood pile, where it will continue its “seasoning” process (drying) for another year. I also gathered kindling and put that in a pile, and brought several logs into the house since we will be using our woodstove for the first time this year any day now (according to weather reports, evening temperatures will be below freezing by the end of the week).
Once my husband finished work, he did the final year’s weed-whacking (the bees, who get grouchy in colder temperatures, were not too happy with him getting close to their hives, and a dozen started swarming him. He was lucky to get only one sting.) I removed the summer tools from the shed, cleaned them and put them in the basement along with tomato cages and flower boxes, and took out the autumn and winter tools (rakes, shovels, and the long-handled scraper that takes excess snow off the roof) and put them where they’d be handy when needed.
By now I was getting hungry and a bit tired. That’s when I remembered the huge kosher rib steak that’s been sitting in my freezer for a special occasion. I originally planned on grilling it for our 37th wedding anniversary last week, but we ended up going to a friend’s wedding on that day and we had dinner there. I thought a grilled steak would be a great way to officially end the summer. So we put some logs on our fire pit, made a campfire, and when the fire died down I started grilling the steaks for my husband (I don’t eat red meat) and a turkey burger for myself.
We ate dinner outside around the fire, just relaxing, breathing the nippy air, and reliving and relishing summer adventures and looking forward to Fall. Life is good.