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Date:10/23/2014 6:51:15 AM
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First Frost
We had our first frost last night. Sept. 19 is pretty much usual for N.E. Wisconsin. I've always said that the first frost occurs on the first full moon after the middle of September. I'm always wrong. It's the new moon now and today will hit nearly 70 degrees for a high. So much for my predictions!

We have hit a lull in our work here at La Ferme Sabloneuse. Everything worth harvesting has been done. All that's left in the home garden are some cherry and grape tomatoes. No doubt they will reseed themselves again come next spring. The peppers that Punky had planted last May are pretty much picked over. There are only a few withered banana peppers left. I have one green muskmelon clinging to life on the vine but I don't hold out much hope for it after last night. The grass growth has slowed down enough so that I'll have to wait another few days to mow again. This is different than other years past. I remember when I was in high school, on an October evening when Pa had me and Tommy bring in everything we could from the garden and put it in the old house before dark. As the sun set and the blue sky darkened, we put pumpkins, tomatoes and potatoes in the tractor trailer and hauled it all up the hill. Instead of resenting having to work so much after a school day, I felt the urgency and elation of harvesting what we could before the killing frost.

Many years later, on a blustery late September eve; I remember helping my sister-in-law Susie, and her sons David and Matt, cover the tomatoes and melons with tarp in the valley garden. The clouds were scudding along from a cold north wind and we were hurrying, racing against the darkness, to get it done it got too dark to see. Both Susie and I had put in a full day's work, and the boy's a full day at school, still, we were all in that garden working feverishly to preserve what could be preserved before the frost. We got it done, of course, as we had before, many times over, in the past.

Just as with the unfathomable yearning to fly with the geese each fall, we also feel a deep urge to prepare and preserve in the face of the approaching winter. It seems to be hard-wired into our make-up as mammals. One year, Pa had set up a corn shock in front of the house and we set out some pumpkins in front of it. One October evening, as he and I were walking up to the house after doing some squirrel hunting, we saw that Susie's sons, then around five and seven years old, had moved all the pumpkins to the inside of the shock, like they were in a teepee. Pa remarked that even at their young age, those boys felt the need to shelter the produce from the weather. He said that it was an ingrained thing. Those kids didn't want the pumpkins to be cold.

I have happy memories of picking corn, apples, and tomatoes and digging potatoes, many times while racing against the dark of a cold Autumn evening in the face of a blustery wind. Sometimes it was under low, black rain clouds, at other
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