It’s Election Day, and the grass is still green. The animals are all grazing contentedly, and the trees that still have their leaves are pouring on the color. I don’t think I have ever spent the first full week of November with my sleeves rolled up basking in what appears to be a full-blown Indian summer … just one more reason to like Kansas, I guess.
Last Sunday, after I finished moving the chickens to their new quarters … their temporary billet was in the garden … I noticed that the large oak tree in the backyard had turned flame orange. That change happened rather suddenly after the hard frosts early last week. And frankly, the explosion of color in the low morning light took my breath away.
Fall has always been my favorite season. I like the way the dried-down corn rustles in the wind. I like the dusty, earthy smells emitting from the vegetation whose only remaining purpose is to condition the soil. When we were in South Dakota, I enjoyed the distant whoosh of grain driers located on neighbors’ farms in the sections adjacent to ours. The three days of bawling calves and cows after we separated them, while stressful at times, was something I looked forward to.
Fall in the country is a great time to take stock. Once the harvest is in, the community breathes a collective sigh of relief. The uncertainty associated with yield is over … price uncertainty might still be there, but at least folks know what their beans made, good or bad. Gone is the worry about timely rains or drying winds. Faces appear less strained. If it was a good year, farm stores bustle with entire families getting fit with new boots, coveralls and shirts. If it was a really good year, that Kitchen Aide mixer changes from dream tool to working partner.
In North Dakota, where I am originally from, fall was well under way by early October. I often wonder if I came to love fall because my birthday falls on the 6th of that month. In our household, about the only day of the year you really felt special was your birthday, and I mean to tell you that my parents pulled out all stops on that one day … or so it seemed. The pinnacle to me was that I could choose any homemade supper and dessert that my hungry little heart desired. For many years, I chose my mother’s comforting macaroni and cheese and lemon meringue pie. When I was in junior high, my tastes had become much more sophisticated, and my choices were homemade pizza (with smoky link sausage) and this amazing chocolate mousse pie.
I still feel pretty special on my birthday, but in Kansas, early October feels more like summer to me. So last weekend, with the grain trucks and combines passing, and all of the other cues right in place, I concluded that everything associated with the season makes fall so wonderful to me.
These photos are once again courtesy of my lovely bride Kate. She went out and took them for me yesterday when I was thinking about this blog. Thanks Kate!
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.