A chilly breeze ruffles the leaves on the oak trees and the cicadas are singing their last songs as I write this on a late September afternoon.  It’s a little early to be ‘talking turkey’, but in the real world, there are magazine deadlines to be met. And today, the deadline for the November Edition of the Farm And Livestock Directory is staring me right in the face!

I spent some time this morning harvesting the parsley, basil and oregano that managed to survive the many hailstorms of this past summer. The pantry shelves are filling with various ‘tomato stuff’: pasta sauce made with garlic, parsley, oregano and basil grown in my garden, salsa, picante sauce and chili fixings (diced tomatoes with garlic, onions and chopped green peppers).  The apples are beginning to fall from the trees and will need picking in a few more days, after which they will be made into pie filling for crisps and pies. I’ll also chop apples and freeze them in bags for apple breads, muffins, cobblers and tarts.

About half of each of the apples has to be discarded due to holes from the many damaging hail storms that wiped out a good two-thirds of the crop. But oh, how my chickens LOVE the remains!  The chickens are my little recyclers of all things kitchen scrap. My biddies would love to be outside roaming around free range, but the coyote chorus that plays over the hillsides for most of the day and all of the night keeps them locked up inside a very large barn with a deep straw mulch. Coyotes dearly love a fresh chicken to snack on, but I firmly object to the loss of my laying hens.  And, judging from the smell lingering around the barn, there are also several skunk-type critters hanging around thinking perhaps one of these days, the girls will be turned out and they too can snack on fresh chicken.

That’s not going to happen. I have plans to renovate the chicken house and put in a high fence (with a wire lid on it) so hawks and others critters can’t pick them up from above. I will also be sure to use a wire mesh underfoot so the coyotes and skunks can’t dig under the fence.

As I harvest the last of the garden crops, I’m reminded of what an old timer told me years ago: ”Be thankful for what you have; there will be less before there is more!”

My pumpkin crop was a total failure this year. Not a single pumpkin grew, thanks to the hail storms. But there is always next year to try again – hope springs eternal here in ranch country. I try to remember that when we have summers like the one that just passed by. Lots of ‘ice from the sky’ and scorching temperatures that cooked the life out of the pastures.

I will be blessed with some pumpkins from a neighbor. I’ll cut a few cornstalks from a field to put in an old tub by my front door as a reminder of the ‘blessings of harvest’.  A friend of mine who was raised in the country but is now a city dweller decorates her windowsills with jars of produce canned from her garden as a way of saying, "Thanks for the good things of life".

One of the highlights of this time of year is the gathering of family to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with the pleasures of home and hearth. Those who live some distance away come home for the holiday to share memories of the past, and to make new ones. Babies are cuddled, fussed over and passed from hand to hand. Older children are exclaimed over, "My, how much you have grown!" as they renew acquaintances with aunts, uncles and cousins they see only every few years. If it is a fine fall day, many hours are spent climbing haystacks, riding horseback, playing tag and hide and seek in the crisp air. Such is life in the country, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

May your turkey be plump, your cranberries merry and your pumpkin pie, just the way you like it! (I’ll take mine with whipped cream.)

Till next month,
Paula