Observing Summer’s End on the Farm

Author Jenna Woginrich reflects on what the summer’s end means for her and her farm.

| November 2013

In One-Woman Farm (Storey Publishing, 2013), author Jenna Woginrich shares the joys, sorrows, trials and epiphanies during a year on her own land, while finding deep fulfillment in the practical tasks and timeless rituals of the agricultural life. In this excerpt from the section, “Autumn,” Woginrich shares her thoughts on summer’s end and how she prepares the farm for colder months.

November: Summer’s End

November mornings are a frantic place to spend your time, at least in Washington County. The parade is over. The skeletal trees hang around like horror-film extras, and every day we expect flurries and frost. And even if we’re not made jumpy by meteorologists, we don’t let ourselves get too comfortable either.

We use these Days of Grace to prepare for the months ahead. The certainty of winter falls heavy, and you can’t drive three miles into town without seeing dump trucks full of firewood, sliding past the fuel-oil truck chuggin’ toward you from the opposite direction. No one is coasting. Farmers either use every moment to finish those sacred last-minute tasks before snowfly or they’ve already sealed the envelope on the season, far more concerned now with deer camp arrangements.

1 November. Samhain

Back in the eighth century, Pope Gregory chose November 1 for All Saints Day’s because the Celts were then already observing a fire festival known as Samhain (pronounced sow-en, Gaelic for summer’s end).

Lots of rumors and mythology swirl around the old holiday, but Samhain was not about sacrificial goats or satanic rituals. It honored family members who had died during the harvest year. It was a time to take inventory of seeds, herbs, and grain stores for the long winter ahead. Perhaps it developed its current dark mystique because it said goodbye to the daylight half of the year and marked the beginning of the darker half. And with the work of growing the winter’s food done, there was finally time for both reflection and sorrow.

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