Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
A while back one of my father’s friends, John Boone, was
telling me that his adult children had decided to move back to Canada from Los
Angeles. When I asked him why his response struck a chord with me. He said it
was “the absence of seasons.” They couldn’t deal with having warm, sunny
weather all the time.
Living as I do where “winter” means “snow and cold,” I have come to really appreciate the uniqueness of each of our seasons. By about this time of year (March) I have to admit that living in Arizona or Florida or somewhere warm starts to sound pretty good. But then I remember how hot summers in those areas area and where air conditioning is pretty essential and I don’t think I could do it.
Christmas is the time of year when I really appreciate living in a northern climate. When I see movies with people celebrating Christmas in warm climates I find it depressing. Christmas is all about the snow and cold and sitting by the fire and skating on the pond. This is how I was raised and I don’t think I could ever get away from that.
Gardening is another thing. Even though I love to garden, I don’t think I’d want to do it year round. By the fall, I’m really sick of gardening. In fact every fall I say “That’s it, next summer I’m putting most of the garden in clover and I’m growing two tomato plants, that’s it!” In January seed catalogs start to arrive, in February I’m starting to crave the color “green”, and in March as it starts to warm up and the sun gets stronger, I can’t wait to get back in the garden. Last fall I was ready to give up gardening and now in mid-March we’ve decided to open a vegetable stand in Tamworth on Saturdays to sell our produce, and I’m just itching to get out in the soil.
It was kind of depressing the other day because even though we’ve been having warm sunny days and the snow’s been melting, it snowed again. It was wet snow and it didn’t last long, but it sure isn’t gardening weather yet.
I really feel part of nature living in the woods as we do. Getting out on warm spring days I’m just itching to burst into the growing season. I have pent up energy that I started to store last fall, and that sat dormant all winter. That’s what I love about winter and heating with wood, because it’s kept me busy and burning calories and not getting too fat and lazy. But once I can work the soil again the days start getting really long and I’ll be sleeping even better as I fall into bed exhausted every night.
Surrounded by forests and ponds and lakes as we are we have the reality of dealing with mosquitoes and black flies during part of our growing season, but I’ve a got a great bug hat I wear if they’re really bad and I’ve learned to avoid the worst times of the day. It just makes August and September more enjoyable because it means gardening without the bugs.
By the time we’re harvesting potatoes and filling up the root cellar I’m burned out on gardening and really looking forward to fall. The smell of a woodstove when you first put it on, that feeling like you’re going back to school, even when you’re not. And then later in the fall as the days are getting shorter you’ve got the solstice holiday to look forward to.
I guess humans have just come to work the seasons into their DNA, but I love having four distinct and very different seasons.
I think the best “season” story I have was when we had just bought this place and I spent 6 months getting a phone set up with a solar panel and communication equipment so we could have a point-to-point phone system. I had come up alone one weekend and had taken the truck down to Napanee to rent a generator. I wanted to learn about using a generator to charge our batteries when we didn’t have enough sun. I set out in a freezing rainstorm. The road was really, really, icy, but I wanted to get the family moved up here and needed to figure this whole generator thing out.
Driving back our road was even worse since it is always the last to get sanded or salted and I don’t think it had received either of those treatments that night. Our road has many places with ponds on both sides of the road and I was driving my first Ford Ranger, which was rear wheel drive and I hadn’t learned to put weight in the back. So I slipped and slid my way home, and had to pry my hands off of the steering wheel when I finally got here. I had to change into dry clothes since I was wearing about 8 layers, assuming I’d be walking in the maelstrom.
I got a fire going, tried to get the generator working and basically was freaked out for hours with the ice and isolation.
At about 8 pm there were lights in the driveway. My neighbor Ken Gorter was just getting back from work. He was in charge of maintenance at Millhaven Maximum Security Penitentiary. Ken pulled up near the house and I went out to greet him. Ken walked carefully towards the house in his patent leather “shoes” and was wearing a lightweight leather jacket over his lightweight, buttoned dress shirt. You know - the sort of clothing more appropriate for the weather in June or September.
As he slid his way towards the house he observed, “At least there’s no black flies!”
I must say it was one of the greatest lines I’ve ever heard. Sometimes city folk need an attitude adjustment when we move to the country. Ken has no fear of anything, and driving on an icy road with ponds on both sides of the road for him is like a walk to the end of the driveway for some suburbanites.
In the spring I look forward to the absence of bugs, in the summer I look forward to the absence of brutal heat, in the fall I look forward to the time off at the solstice celebration, and in the winter I look forward to getting back out in the garden. I don’t think I could live with an absence of seasons.
Photos by Cam & Michelle Mather.