This weekend, our little neck of the woods was visited by three storm systems that brought with them some “unseasonable” amounts of rain, pretty high, unfriendly winds, and a quick and somewhat depressing end to my just begun love affair with the new season of autumn. I felt cheated.
Because even though the Pacific Northwest is known for being a wet place and all, our late Septembers and Octobers really are usually quite beautiful, with a fair share of beautiful, sunny, crisp, fall-like days. Sure, there are rainy days in the mix, too, but we don’t usually feel inundated until much later in this precious season. And so earlier last week, when I had finished the wild and overloaded part of this year’s tomato harvest, and the shorter day length started to make for shorter work days, I found myself breathing deeply into this sweet time of the year, ready to relax. So much less hectic, but still so abundant.
I was already revelling in these changes of schedule, of harvests. I love the beginning of each new season so equally, I have to call them all my favorite. My taste buds were singing, happy and excited for the new foods on our plates. Our meals were a perfect combination of the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Arugula, lemon cucumber, and colorful mixed cherry tomato salads with balsamic vinaigrette. Roasted zucchini and sweet red pepper tossed with turnip green pesto. Kale, glorious, delicious kale, back from a summer’s hiatus and cooked into stews with beets and the last of the tomatoes, the sweet, paste varieties. I had even gotten to a little fall house cleaning and the kids were all working their way into our homeschooling groove. It felt perfect.
And all in all, this whole year has been pretty perfect. Especially on the farm. Busy, yes, and a bit of a scramble on the labor front as I realized about halfway through the year that “the farmer” wasn’t joking when he said I needed to take over the farm business for him while he expanded his woodworking one. But the weather! The weather this year was perfect. If you have followed along with us for long or been part of our farm community in real life, you know that the weather has not been so perfect these last couple of years. And so, this–this was wonderful. So wonderful I even mentioned earlier this year that I thought it was a little gift to us from the universe, a nice, soothing balm for our farming wounds from the year before.
And it really has been. But as I took notes and made plans for next season, I tried to remind myself that I can’t really expect anything, at all, from the weather or a growing season. Especially not perfect.
As farmers, we tend to take the most immediate data and apply it first to the coming year. It is assumed, and generally true, that the issues that have come up in prior years have already been addressed, and so each year we tweak things a little with the added layer of knowledge the previous growing season has given us. We can’t always plan for things we can’t conceive of, but those we have seen and dealt with, we generally will always plan for, even if they never happen again. The question that kept coming up for me was how to adjust plans after a great year when you know you can’t plan on another such year again? And I wondered, is that a good way to live, to not count on the perfect year? Where was my faith, my trust?
The truth is that each year, perhaps besides our very first, has always been as good and bad as it could be, perfect in its own imperfect way. And maybe I cursed us without knowing it, as I thought about all of this, but I don’t think so. I do tend to go forward, believing. And I really was sure that this season would end as perfectly as it began, until this weekend’s weather changed that, pretty dramatically. All that “unseasonable” rain led to part of our growing space that was still in production going under water. “Surprise, surprise”, the world seemed to say, because even if we know that our lower field, a seasonal wetland, is destined to go under water every fall with crops still in it, and even though we know that no matter when this happens, it never feels good, we also felt like we knew the general time frame to expect this to happen, which was nowhere close to this early!
But it did, and it is kind of terrible, but it is kind of okay too. Those things we have learned already, from other seasons, had led us to plant our rows in this field in a manner that let the water move away from the vegetables as much as possible, and this meant that at first, especially, the water didn’t pool where crops were planted–a good thing! And this year, we had a separate field for our fall greens that we had observed would stay dry longer than other spaces, and this field, my field of greens, stayed dry and harvest-able–so, so good! The crops in the field that did, eventually, get too wet in the end, were summer crops we could say good-bye too, like zucchini and pickling cucumbers, or crops we could store, like carrots and beets and our winter squash planting. It took more work than I imagined it would to harvest them all at once, but I did, and now they are out of the water and ready to store for the next few months as we finish out our CSA and market harvests for the year. All good!
Not a perfect, happily ever after ending, but a perfectly okay ending, this storm proved to be.
And that is kind of my favorite secret of being grown up, anyway. The knowledge that happily ever after isn’t perfect like we may have imagined it would be in our limited, juvenile experiences. That it isn’t always smooth sailing or just right conditions that will make us happy. But, rather that it is vastly more perfect for being messy and hard. That growing, sometimes on our own, sometimes together, but always, growing, is the important part, not any particular outcome or expectation we may have once put our faith in. And that, truly, in all times, good and bad, it is, life, important and wonderful, for what it is, our life.
This weekend’s deluge was just another interesting part of our story, something to experience with both dread and then gratitude, something to laugh about for its absurdity, to learn from in small and big ways. My children love having water to splash in and their adventurous, happy take on things reminded me to lighten up. And as for growth, yesterday, in rain gear and water past my ankles, bringing in those storage crops, I experienced perhaps the hardest day of work I’ve had out there in those fields this year. And it left me feeling sore and tired, but it also left me feeling wildly alive.
And in that moment yesterday, I felt such a deep connection to that land, deeper than I have even felt from living here on it for seven years and helping Andre run the farm business on it for six years, and even more than I have from seeing it deeply with my writer’s eyes and loving it greatly with my big, old heart. This year of really working hard with it, this soil and land, has tied me to it even more. It is powerful stuff. I felt schooled, in the best possible way.
And so today, even though some of us in this household, including myself, are under the weather after so much weather this weekend, I still feel great. The sun is shining, I do believe we will still have plenty of lovely autumn days to come. And I do think I may just be able to relax, proper like, beside the first fire of the season, soon. And tonight for dinner, maybe we will dip into our first acorn squash too. Both have not quite been necessary yet, but both will serve to kind of rekindle the love affair I do still want to have with this time of year after our somewhat stormy start.
And I’ll let this weekend’s deluge drain away down my back, smooth and easy, so that I can move forward without too much weight to carry, while I simultaneously keep it flooded in my veins, as all good parts of our story are, perfectly imperfect as that may be.