Sunday, October 18, 2015

Everybody Talks About It

First frost. I always made a big deal out of it when my daughters were little, showing them the frost on the ground and the icy windshield in the morning.

First frost. It means something. To us ordinary suburban types it means that yes, most of the warmer days are behind us. We really need to pull out the warmer clothes if we haven't already. We may be getting ready to break down and turn on the heat.

First frost means more than that to gardeners and those living in agricultural communities. I'm sure blogger AnnieRie could tell me much more about what this means to farmers. I did a quick look-up:

"Growing seasons is stated in terms of frost-free days, i.e. the average number of days between the last frost of spring and the first killing frost of fall or winter. Most agriculture requires a frost-free season of at least about 90 days."

Things like the first frost in the Fall remind me of times long past when everyone's survival depended upon astute observation of nature. Activities that most of us now would think of as hobbies were crucial in self-preservation--observing sunlight, weather, stars and moon, keeping track of animal and insect behavior, measuring years in landmarks of growing and harvesting.

And all community life centered around that cycle. Planting and harvest. The birth of baby animals and the time for slaughter. The enjoyment of fresh foods and the preserving or "putting up" of foods to tide one over the cold, non-growing Winter season. Community festivals, probably even weddings, were interwoven with this rise and fall of days and seasons.

Of course, anyone who is a farmer today is still quite keenly attuned to this. And while they have the benefit of up-to-date, scientifically researched materials and methods, they also rely on some of the age-old folklore. It comes with the territory.

I went to the Within Reach Festival yesterday (more about that tomorrow) and it was chillier, I think, than anyone had expected it would be. Sometimes it can be 78 degrees here in October. Festival organizers brought in those tall contraptions that look like miniature street lamps but generate heat. I made sure I was dressed warmly. So did most everyone else. And there was delicious hot soup.

But there was a feeling overall of puzzlement--how could it be "so cooooold?" And I was reminded that festival planners for outdoor events can do many things, but they can't control the weather. As "highly advanced" as we are, we cannot operate as though we are the gods of the natural world and with the assumption that exists only to serve us. It does not.

A tip of the hat today to gardeners and farmers, and to my friends who are educating their children through immersion in nature. And don't forget: Farmer's Markets last only a few more weeks. Come find out what's in season.


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