Friday, September 08, 2006

Fall Fair Fall Fare

It's only September 8th, I know, but Fall is not far off. When we were living in our small part of Ontario, Canada, the week after Labour Day marked the start of my Fall depression. Now this depression didn't start until the second Fall. The first Fall we didn't know what to expect.

Some trees started to turn around Labour Day. I thought that they might just be sick, or weak, but year after year, the same varieties turned color. Several days later, I was walking over a hill on the farm. When I reached the crest, the wind from the North hit me in the face, and it felt like it carried ice. We had a light frost the next day. Most of the garden survived, but we still had many green tomatoes and cucumbers left. We harvested them all.


And I thought uh oh. But the weather changed again, and we had weeks of pleasant, gentle weather. The trees still turned colors the whole time; Fall in Canada marched on. The weather was pleasant, but there was a foreboding about it. It was as if it was saying, don't trust me, enjoy me now, it only gets worse.

We moved from a travel trailer parked on the farm, to an old, drafty, brick farm house about half a mile away. It had four bedrooms, and bath upstairs, and living room, dining room, kitchen, and entrance hall down. It had electricity, and NO furnace. It had two wood-burning stoves. One was in the kitchen for cooking, (didn't I mention no modern stove?) and one in the entrance hall for heating the rest of the house. The farmer I worked for had me cut down many large willows that were shading one of his fields. I cut it into firewood, and split the larger pieces. I hauled all of it to the field just behind his house and dumped it into a great pile.

Later I found out that this great pile of soft wood was to be my winter fuel. When we moved I shifted a great portion of that soft wood to our wood shed and stacked another 4 to 5 cords around the house. I cut some dead hard wood from the bush on the farm we moved to. That small 2 acre wood had a lot of hard wood, but I was forbidden by the landlord to cut any of it.

We ran out of wood Jan 1. We had had snow on the ground since Nov 1. No one seemed to think we needed to have our quarter-mile drive cleared of snow. When we went to town, we walked to the road and got in the borrowed truck. So I spent my lunch and free time during daylight hours hauling small amounts of wood from the great pile on one farm to our farm house with a small tractor that had a box fitted to it to transport one full-sized pig. What did I know about wood? We started out with wood stacked all over the place. I talked to a few neighbors and none of them had ever heard of burning willow for winter fuel.

Before I start whining let me say we stayed warm, we ate well (mostly chickens we had raised) and waited for Spring; and we waited, and we waited. First day of Spring is March 22. We had snow, and several feet on the ground. By Easter, we had a muddy drive and piles of snow all around; still couldn't drive up to the house in anything but a tractor. May 1st it snowed.

FALL FAIR

I tried to enjoy Fall as best I could, but after that first Winter and lack of Spring, I got depressed four years in a row. We tried to enjoy Fall in Ontario. Churches had harvest-home days with much food; we went to something called a corn roast. Sweet corn on-the-cob was boiled in a cauldron over an open fire; There was butter, salt and pepper and field ripe tomatoes with white bread. We ate sweet cobs and had great tomato sandwiches.

Local villages and small towns had Fall fairs. Traveling carneys would set up shop; sheds were full of prize produce, and live stock was judged. One village had one of the oldest carousels in Ontario. The kids loved that, and the food vendors provided many treats.

FALL FARE

We preserved food. I slaughtered chickens. We raised beef and pork. We ate well. Ms CPB baked bread and preserved veggies. We had no money.

Thanksgiving in Ontario is celebrated on the second Monday of October. I now know why. By U.S. Thanksgiving all of Canada is hunkered down for Winter. Only hockey players, snowmobile riders, and natives enjoyed Winter.

Fall in North Carolina takes a long time to get going. By the time the leaves have turned, Christmas is only weeks away. Back in Canada, after we left the farm, and had some money, and didn't have to provide our winter fuel by labour, Fall seemed to not have that same foreboding. I got depressed anyway. I had months of snowshovelling, cold feet, and dripping nose to look forward to; not to mention slick roads. Each winter we were there, one of the kids' buses slid off the road, and they all had to be rescued by another bus. No one ever got hurt, thankfully. The first four winters I put our vehicle off the road, also.

For many of our last years in Ontario, Ms CPB and I worked for Canada's only commercial classical radio station. We started as board operators; I stayed as one part-time, but Ms CPB soon got a full-time position as the music librarian. Every Fall, the programmers and on-air stars dragged out the Fall music. We played variations of "September Song" (not exactly classical, but it fit the format). Vivaldi got a lot of play, of course. Everyone's favorite was "Fall Fair" by a Canadian, Godfrey Ridout. It was just long enough to be a feature piece, and it was TOTALLY Canadian. That seemed to be the justification for playing it, topical, Canadian, and length. I liked it for the music. We went to many Fall Fairs in an effort to ease my depression. The music fits just as as well as Strauss waltzes fit ballrooms.

So every Fall I get a little gloomy. I don't have to cut wood anymore. Like Bilbo and Frodo I feel the call to travel, but just don't seem to be able to put my feet on the path. Someday.

BRB is Write (and loves Fall in North Carolina)

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