Sunday, November 7, 2010

in rememberance of

First we were cooks and students of wine, then we were cooks, students of wine, and gardeners, then somehow we have become cooks, students of wine, gardeners,  and farmers.   While the restaurant is closed for our ritual November break, (what’s called stick season here in Vermont because all the leaves are gone and what is left are the whites, grays, and black-browns of bark and branches), the work on this farm has expanded. 

The list of preparations for winter is deep like the impending snows, and holds a different urgency.  New blocks in the vineyard for planting next year must be tilled over; land waiting for the following year worked over and re-seeded with an advantageous cover crop; established vines need to be lightly weeded and composted; posts for trellising must be ordered and set; the roses for the vineyard need to be planted at the head of the rows.  The days of November rain confound.  We are thankful the ground hasn’t frozen yet.  

The new wine must be racked and settled in for the winter; the cantina rigged with heat so it can stay cellar temperature through-out the ensuing cold months; the new rose garden needs to be planted with the young Therese Bugnet starts as well as the beautiful damask Belladonna brought by our friend David just over a week ago.   The old rose garden, overgrown with blue veronica, bishop’s weed, and Siberian iris needs to be cut back.  The phlox, the day lilies, those mats of iris bulbs should be moved.  The roses need to be mulched with nettle and fir boughs, the neighbor’s chicken manure.  The green house, expanded earlier this fall, needs new beds to be made, lettuces and starts moved into their new winter home.  The roof on the studio needs to be re-built, the stairs on the porch mended and stained.  If Time were profligate, we would wash the windows. 

Strange how we find ourselves in a season that is winding itself down, yet the work seems to wind up, almost like a last gasp, a last valiant effort to survive what is thought of as a season of loss: the dying back of the flowers, the falling of the leaves, the rotting of fruit, color leaching out of meadow and woods.  But this farming thing provides an alternative perspective.  Observation brings surprises.  Brilliant green ferns have unfurled beneath the fallen leaves, under the canopy of those naked trees near the brook.  The swiss chard and the beet greens look robust and lined with red, still in their outdoor beds.  I’m pretty sure this is not a good thing, but the lilac buds have started to unfurl in that terrific spring green.  

I’ve never noticed the ferns before , or the lilac buds opening in November, so I do not know if this is work as usual or if the relatively warm and rather wet days have confused these plants.  Yet, I do know that this is the time of year that tricks the eye.  We think of this as a dead season, the landscape around us showing us the change from one month to the next, the transition between summer and winter.  But the soil itself is not hibernating; it is suddenly more alive then ever with worms and nematodes and new humus.   

It is true that soon our efforts of cultivation will be over, and we will be covered in a blanket of snow for these next five months.  We will be left to settle for remembering  the rose garden in bloom, the apples picked from the tree, the plethora of tomatoes that went into sauce we served at that restaurant, the first harvest of grapes.  And like the soil doing its hard work while there is nothing like the fullness of summer to distract, we too will be doing the work of memory which serves to sustain, sift, and stir for another season.

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