Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The whirligigs of the Milkweed

Remember as young children, walking to school in late fall.... the leaves were dancing to the rhythms of the north wind, geese were flying overhead in perfect V formations, sparkling Blue Jays called to the crows in the woodland..... and the Milkweed plants prepared to whirl.  We gathered up the grayish pods, and with great anticipation pulled the silken parachutes that were hanging tightly to the seeds....... blew them into the wind, like soap bubbles , watching them bounce and sway on the lite breezes, doing their swan dance as if to attract the the rays of sunlight and project them onto the tall grasses that opened up their arms to receive all the babies that were about to alite.  Each seed had a definite path way down to the dry earth, to await the cool fall rains that would eventually sink them into the soil to await the arrival of spring.  Mother Earth would soon pull the blankets of snow closely, to protect each young life and escort it into its own journey into the world.

As I walked the dogs down the quiet driveway, the milkweeds that had so boldly presented their pink blossoms not too long ago, and provided comfort to the Monarc Butterflies, now hung their heads down, heavy with burdens of coming year. I purposely do not allow cutting on the South Side of the drive, so the milkweeds  can grow and prosper in peace, with only the deer, or other wildlife mingle and tread paths between the wood lines and the fields.  Its fall..... and so much has been done this year,   The drifting oak leaves throw caution to the wind, and become friends with my shoes, as they too are finding their own place to mingle with the earth..... and protect all the fallen weed seeds the past summer from the heavy snows that are sure to come.  The dark shadows in the wood line, open up with the setting sun, all the hiding places of the squirrels are now in full view, and outlines of deer can be seen if one looks very closely.  They too have changed their colors, blending in with the warm browns, reds and gold of the frivolous grass heads that are daring anyone to defy them, like the cold winter breezes.

The long lonely farm  roads where the corn has matured, and now changed to a golden brown, has the huge reaper with shears not unlike the one we used to shear the Alpacas, travel the distance of the field, eating up each row, spitting out the stalks and keeping the corn cobs, which will later be loaded on trucks, shelled , dried and follow their destination to parts unknown.  Soy beans have been picked, weeks ago, along with the gigantic hay bales that sat unguarded, waiting for tractors and the wagons to carry them into barns for forage later in the year.

It is Fall in the Northland, and I too have planted, cultivated and prepared our harvest to rest in the jars in the pantry, and the freezers that await in the garage.  The horseradish has been dug, and made into sauce, the onions have been dried and spun into powder, along with the wild velvety, yet pungent smell of the hot peppers that did so well in the hot, dry summer we had this year.  The apples have been transformed into juice, along with the tomatoes, and sit with vibrant color on the shelves.  The garden has been washed of its weeds, and vegetation, only the Kale  and Parsley await their fate.  Corn stalks have been pulled and slowly thrown over the fence into the pasture to the alpacas and goats, who share their bounty with the chickens along with the expired broccoli and green plants who have fulfilled their misson.

  My shoes no longer stick to the sugary floors, as the jams and jellies have taken their respectful places on the shelves, and the residue has long been mopped up.....only the squash and pumpkins remain to be put away for the winter and set silently in the garage awaiting their turn....It is fall and a time to take a break from the dirt that has tarnished my nails, and constantly set my back on fire from the undimishable weeds that persisted and had to be pulled for days at a time.

The time has come to become acquainted with the skeins of yarns that have lain silent, and to sew the funny squares again on my sewing machines that have not been used in months.  My material stash calls to me in anguish, as I have not had the time to find the energy it requires...... to sew into practical articles the things that they too are destined for in the near future.  The stacks of copies of quilts I will never live long enough to make .......cover the open spaces that remain, as I have collected them all summer as if to remind myself that there are other things that remain to be accomplished besides the garden.  The cool rainy fall days remind me of the things to come, and all the time I will have while watching the snowflakes cover  and protect the ground from the cold wrath of winter.

However, I will miss  hearing the wind call to me from the wood lines, as the windows will now be closed, and the owls that talk and call in the depth of the ravines....all will be silent.  I have placed the bird feeders now on the outside of the window sill, so I can watch and hear the chattering of the now brown finches, and the harsh dismay of the Bluejays as they banter along the colorless trees, chasing the woodpeckers, and other tree ramblers from their perch.  The redheaded woodpecker delights in the newly made suet hanging above the sunflower seeds that sit in the feeder below, while the nuthatch's await their turn.

The snow fence is the last thing we must set up, as the chicken coop has been cleaned for the last time, and nests filled with hay, wood chips on the floor.  Straw in the goat shed, and all cracks and crannies filled........ so that the wind will not blow in the stray snow that manages to creep in.  The waterers are plugged in as there is already ice on the top in the cool morning, and soon I will have to be carrying water to sheds while managing the snowbanks that seem to want to make my life more of a challenge.

These are the lessons that the milkweed teaches me, it is soon to be a long cloudy winter,...... where the sun no longer warms the ground, and taunts me with the memories of what was and what will be.   I have tossed my memories of the long hearty summer into a book of the past, soon to begin another in the book of the future....so as the seeds of the milkweed will sleep thru the months and begin their own replenishment of the earth next year.  Meanwhile I will content myself with the tracks of the field mice in the  newly fallen snow,  the call of the northern lights in the deep of the night, and watch the mighty north wind wield his sword of cold,...... while keeping warm in front of the wood stove and dissolving the piles of material stash into articles of importance........well maybe......only the seeds of the milkweed knows.,