Although I feel a bit guilty quoting so generously from Al Fritch, author of “Spiritual Growth Through Domestic Gardening”, I could not find much in his ode to September that did not capture the true essence of the month. It is my favourite time of year, which is probably why this passage speaks to me. Without further ado, here is Firth’s September:
“September starts with Labour Day when golden rod is in full bloom and the crops are being gathered. It is harvest time on farms, when entire families help in an intergenerational enterprise. We hasten in anticipation of autumn chill and a possible early frost. The heavier mists now hang over the valleys reminding us each morning that days are warm, but nights are cooler than the temperature of rivers, lakes and ponds.
Work, even garden work, includes beating the frost and a mutual sacrifice. The birds flock in the evening and nature seems to anticipate what is in store. We pick elderberries for pie, press cider, deep freeze the grapes and continue to use the solar food dryer for beans and apples.
We notice that the late tomatoes have a different taste this month. In the more even temperature of the month the peppers seem to fill the stalks miraculously with each passing day and hang heavy in yellows and greens and reds and purples. Butternut and winter squash are ready to store; we prepare the greenhouse for the first transfers as frost approaches. We trample the late summer woods nearby and find the acorns now falling from the oak trees. We taste the most exquisite of all fruit in the wild, the wild plum. And we hear the reports of hunters — fathers and sons and daughters bonding by bringing home a mess of squirrel. We see deer and rabbit and raccoon as well and hear the gobbling of the wild turkeys. Yes, this is September.”
With the exception of “bringing home a mess of squirrels”, the world Firth creates is a perfect harvest of delights. He paints such a vivid picture of September he stirs fond memories of days past. I remember when I was a kid, my dad would collect my sister and I in his 1950 black Ford and we would drive to the woods (I think it was on a concession in Colchester South owned or at least bordering a relative’s farm) and gather hickory nuts that we would take home, crack open, and pile into a bowl for a cake my mom would make every fall. To be honest, I loved the hickory nuts, and it was hard to not eat the morsels derived from the shells we would crack open with a hammer and carefully dig out. The cake my mom made studded with the nuts was good, but the nuts by themselves were better to my young palate. I have not eaten hickory nuts for years and miss their lovely sweet crunchy goodness.
My family were not hunters, but we lived in the country and were very aware of hunting season. I remember my mom being a little worried at times as we lived next to a lane which led to my father’s abandoned homestead where he was raised. It was thick with trees and grasses and bushes and the perfect place for hunters to hide from animals destined for dinner.
We always had a big garden, and I do remember the plumpness and smell of the tomatoes we grew and how the lovely stench of the earth stuck to the potatoes we dug up in the fall. My mother spent a great deal of late summer and early fall canning things from our garden and fruits she bought in bulk like peaches and plums and pears. We always had the magic of summer encased in glass and lining the shelves of our pantry all winter. And oh, she made the best dill pickles in the world with garlic and dill weed floating in the vinegary liquid and sweet pickles that made grilled cheese worth devouring, and a tangy chilli sauce that made mere meatloaf into a gourmet delight….
September has a “feel” to it. Even the early weeks, which are sometimes as warm as any summer day, give way to a chill at night that reminds us that fall is in the air. I welcome the fall with all its fixings—the geese flying overhead, the promise of a harvest moon, the leaves changing and crunchy underfoot, and of course my favourite fruit, the pumpkin finds its way to porches and decks and front steps.