It's fall in Vermont!!! As I look around at what needs to be done to prepare for the winter season it would be easy to become overwhelmed. Food to be put up, herbs to be dried, tinctures to make, gardens to be put to bed. As I grab my favorite cup of adaptogenic herbal tea, I will make an attempt to prioritize. Just in case old man winter decides to show up early, I will have the most important things done.
I set my dryer for herbs on my kitchen counter where I can keep my eye on it while I'm chopping, peeling, boiling and jarring my jams, relishes and pickles. As the kitchen seems to be the place where all the inhouse activity is right now, I set up a temporary table to hold it all and chose the most ripe fruits & veggies to deal with first. I can check my dryer every hour or so to make sure herbs are dried to right "doneness", color still good and just the right crispness. That's my indoor harvesting style.
Outside on good days, I pull all the residual vines and stems to put in the brush pile, chop my comfrey for the last time and add it to my compost for nitrogen fixation, and clean up any signs of rotten tomatoes or potatoes so that spores will not infect the soil for next year. I might even scrape up the top half inch of soil there in order to better guarantee a sporeless start for next year. In addition, I will rotate the plantings so that those two vegetables will be in another location next season. Tools need to be washed and oiled, fencing and supports put away, shrubs wrapped, and hoses emptied of residual water so they won't freeze, coiled and hug up. We'll run the rototiller one last time to loosen up the soil and spread the winter rye crop. If we have leaves to rake from the trees shedding, we will spread those around as they break down well and continue to add good organic matter to the soil. Sweep the potting shed and lock the door and we are done outside.
Meanwhile back in the kitchen, there are piles everywhere. It's a sight to see, but it's also a sign of the provision we have received from the earth's bounty. As I dry my herbs, I will put them in clean glass jars and into the apothecary closet where they will be ready to tincture and otherwise process later during the winter months when I have more time. I will make sure we have enough elderberry syrup and echinacea to start the winter cold season. There's nothing else to be done, but to begin with the biggest pile of vegetables and start the freezing and canning process. Should anyone come to visit they will automatically be invited into this maze of bounty with a paring knife and a bowl. You wanna talk with me these days, you'll have to indulge in kitchen work. The gift is, you'll be able to take a few things home with you.
After dinner, I sit down and try not to nod off too early. The days are full and I am tired but satisfied that I have participated in stewarding a most precious gift. My dreams are full of eating fresh vegetables and raspberry cobbler in the middle of winter as the snow flies.
Over 40 years of Herbal and nutritional experience.