Life Changing Days – Autumn work

Dusty & Pat - Dad's funeral 1964

Two of my brothers by the grain elevators in town.

Saskatchewan

Crops removed before the freeze.

Autumn on the farm is truly the time of gathering, the time for Thanksgiving for all our bounty.  We see it first hand, we do it first hand. There is no history for us in the fall – explanations of how it is done. It is what we do.  Intense work and long hours for all, young and old alike.  It is good to discover new energy in the cooler air.  It is needed.

From sun-up to sundown, with my oldest brother’s help, my dad and he are in the fields.  Crops must be taken before it freezes.  I hear words like ‘bumper crops’, ‘barley with the quality needed for beer’ (always said with joy) or quotas (the amount you are allowed to take into the elevators).

I don’t care.  I want to be a cowboy, not a dirt farmer.  But we all must shovel the grain into granaries or the two-ton truck and take it to town. Everyone helps. Coal and wood is stacked for necessary heat.

Again we are given choices – my sister stays inside, helping mom with canning –  that fruit our uncles have brought and our vegetables.  We all help to gather the potatoes, carrots and beets for cold storage.  I choose to stay outside and help. One of my favorite activities is to haul the huge amounts of bales needed for our cattle. Again I can pretend to be a cowboy preparing for the winter.  My oldest brother and one younger brother and I again work all day, for many days, hauling bales.  We cut the grasses from the now dry sloughs and it is baled too as well as the ‘stubble’ from the harvested fields.  We have competitions with our neighbors – both grown men. Imagine the joy and satisfaction when we haul more bales in a day than they do.

Sometimes to beat the freeze some stay home from school to help. No one comes to complain or charge us with truancy   We just must work harder to ‘catch up’. We know this and don’t complain.  Fall is the busiest time of the year – but there is a satisfaction and peace that can’t be described – until you’ve fought the elements and you win.

Now, we are ready to sit inside, reading, playing cards, laughing and fighting for another winter. You will not starve.  You will not freeze.  Simple satisfaction for a job well done.

Mom with Reg and Dusty

Mom and my two older brothers beside necessary equipment for harvest – a tractor

Life Changing Days – Revitalized

Some people believe autumn is depressing – the sign of the death to come – trees, plants and hot days.  They anticipate with dread –  the snows, the storms and the horrible cold of winter.  I am the opposite.  I live for now.  Autumn is the most revitalizing, anticipated season for me.

Trees in the fall

The many colors of autumn.

The colors of autumn show their power in red maple trees, vibrant yellow of aspens or poplar trees and the wine/red of willows that line the sloughs. The air is crisp and fresh. Nothing is drooping from heat. The energy is so welcome. No longer do I force myself to do activities. Now I wake up fresh and ready to face the day with real energy. There is no longer the knowledge of ‘have to’ – but instead the realization of want to.

Not too much changes in our home activities.   Saturdays are spent cleaning the house – my sister washes our hardwood huge kitchen floor, using paste-wax. I wax it and together, using cloths, we polish it to a glossy shine.   There is no hydro and there is no varnish covering the hardwood.  Maybe my sister likes it, I don’t.  It is confining, staying in the house instead of outside.  But there are good things in everything.  Saturday is the day my mother bakes copious amounts of bread loaves for the week.  For a time I like that sliced, dry store bread but it is short-lived.  Nothing can compete with fresh baked bread.  It is still my favorite smell – fresh baking bread combined with paste wax.  After we completed our tasks and have the house sparkling clean – mom gave us home-made butter  on warm bread.  Heaven.  I can think of no better word to describe it.

St. James Catholic Church

St, James Catholic Church we attend in town.

The road is still clear and we go to church on Sundays.  We still meet with friends and relatives for Sunday dinners.  We still have our cousins to play with.  There is no difference, except we also have our school friends to play with as well. Every one of our aunts and my mother cannot be surpassed for cooking delicious food.  There is still laughter, card-playing and so many kids to play with on Sunday, our day of rest.  Our uncles from British Columbia visit. They bring boxes of fruit to add to our growing piles of vegetables.  Try a fresh piece of warm bread with butter with a fresh peach or pear.  A meal all by itself – or an appetizer for us.

I learned one important lesson.  If you are poor – it’s best to be poor on a farm.  You don’t notice it so much.

Now I must go – does anyone know where I can buy a butter-churn?  I think I’ll bake some bread and let the memories flow.

Yellowing Poplar Tree in First Snow

Snow before tree branches are barren. Yellows peek through.