A time from gathering to a time of preparing. That is what autumn is for us on our rural homestead. It is now a time of preparation for the winter. The ground is carpeted in yellow aspen leaves, the air is crisp, the season has changed from summer to autumn and soon it will change again from autumn to winter. At 9,750 feet it can come suddenly. The air is crisp, the smell of autumn is everywhere; and a delightful aroma it is too, and the elk are bugling almost non stop. The bear are feeding much heavier, the deer are spending most of their time browsing on the remaining forage before being forced down the mountain by deep snow. It is a time of preparation for us as well. Lots of preparation!
We need to make sure the snow thrower is serviced and ready to go, the wood chipper serviced and put away, the necessary maintenance done to the tractor, the snow shovels located for quick access, the vehicles all serviced for winter, and the driveway markers all in place.
There is a myriad of tasks that need to be done now because if we wait too long the snow will suddenly be upon us and it will be impossible or difficult to do many of these tasks. We need to get a sealer on the picnic table, seal any wooden steps, make sure rocks have been removed from the driveway so that when covered with snow could be potential missiles or damage the snow thrower. Then there are dentist and doctor appointments to be worked in, and the last long trip to Pueblo a two hour drive one way to make sure the pantry is fully stocked with bulk foods.
So while autumn is one of my favorite times of the year it can be a busy time as well. All those little tasks need to be done in preparation of our longest season of the year - winter - which can last up to eight months. We need to inventory the firewood which we have been working on all summer to be sure we have a sufficient amount to see us through. If not, this is the last window of opportunity we will have to get more dead or downed aspen cut up.
We can get snow here in the mountains as early as the first or second week of September. It will usually melt off but after the end of October it usually will hang around for the next 7 months. Then there are the small tasks which left undone can irritate you thoughout the winter: Like making sure any nail pops in the deck or walkway are fixed before your snow shovel hits them and stops abruptly. Or getting the flag pole in so it is not in the way for moving snow. Making sure those tools you may need are all placed in handy spots. One year I forgot to do that and the snow melt that came off the roof turned into 6” of ice and when I needed a tool I had to chop ice to get the door open.
So autumn is a beautiful time of year, but one which warns us winter is closer than we would hope. We love the day but gear up for those tomorrows too. It is a time of preparation which will make coping with winter much easier. Without proper preparation now winter can be more frustrating and difficult. For those who live in more urban settings it is not much more than raking leaves, covering outdoor faucets and draining sprinkling systems. Here we do not have any of those services that most folks are accustomed to therefore we must plan ahead and prepare by doing it ourselves. Rather than look at all the preparation grudgingly we look at it with happy excitement because we know one day it will be too much for us to handle but right now it means one more year of living in our dream. That is really something to be happy about.