Just as plants employ the cycle of photosynthesis and respiration to convert light, air, and water into energy and back again into CO2, so go the cycles of farming seasons. Seed to sprout to fruit to compost to soil to seeds again. Every culture’s agricultural calendar takes into account times of abundance and times for fields to lay fallow. Fallow fields aren’t lazy. Under a blanket of clover, they are gathering up nitrogen in the soil to feed the next season’s crop.
A farmer’s seasons are like rhythmic breathing each year: a lung bursting inhale starts with the summer harvest and is exhaled in a long egressive ssssssssss in December. From selecting strawberries to surprise rain, from seeing the first Gravenstein apples at sunrise to sorting and sampling the harvest, to snapping together boxes and bringing crops to market, it is all part of the big breath that takes us to the end of one season and on the next.
To take the full measure of the fall exhalation, and the bounty of fall harvest, consider the season’s colors on your table. Pumpkin orange Fuyu Persimmons, ruby red Pomegranate seeds, and bright yellow-orange Clementine segments have the same beautiful jewel tones of Vermont at leaf peak. The fruits, just like autumn leaves, turn brilliant colors when the chilly weather unmasks the anthocyanins and carotenoids in their plant cells. Sugar, brilliant color, and nutrients have all burst out in joyful exclamation of flavor after a long season of work.
- Heidi Lewis
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
To Autumn by John Keats