This story appeared in the 2021 fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in response to the theme “first frost.”
We scrambled among the rambling, leafy vines, crating squash as fast as we could and trucked it to the tractor shed for storage. We piled the 50-pound crates, totaling about a ton, full of pumpkins and acorn, butternut and buttercup squash on planks. A killing frost was predicted for that night: the first real frost of the season.
When the squash was all in, we went on to the rest of the frost-tender crops. By sunset, the kitchen was packed with tomatoes, zucchini, green beans and summer squash. Oregano, basil, thyme, dill, marjoram and sage scented the room like steam off a winter soup. In the back room, buckets of flowers perfumed the air: red zinnias, pink and yellow snap dragons, purple larkspur and white baby’s breath (imagine an infant’s breath full of tiny stars!), all rescued in a pitched attempt to snatch summer from the jaws of winter.
We were happy, grateful, doing what had to be done when it had to be done. There’s something deeply satisfying about doing things at the right time, in sync with the seasons, because something larger than us requires it.
When the sun warmed enough to melt the frost the next morning, we walked the fields to see if anything had escaped. Walking among row upon row of charred, slumping plants, it was as if a fire had swept through. We mourned this final blow to summer and were humbled by the visceral reminder of how little we are in charge of things here on this small planet. The cycles swing on, forcing us to give it all up, leave it be — in time to light the home fires.
For a long time, we sat in silence on the truck’s tailgate, watching the light of day break over the blackened fields, lifted far beyond the moment, feeling peaceful, grateful and filled with love.