Getting Ready for Winter on the Farm

The morning after the first freeze it's time to start getting ready for winter.

| November/December 1976

Here in north-central Indiana, there's nothing so final as the first fall freeze. It means the end of red tomatoes and green peppers and yellow corn. It means the end of simmering pots of catsup and open crocks of pickles dining on the kitchen counter. It means the end of summer.

And the start of some of the most frenzied activity of the year. Activity more hectic than the canning season, more bustling than spring housecleaning. We call it "Getting Ready for Winter".

It all begins the morning after the first freeze. While the pepper plants are still upright. Before the tomatoes wilt and die. Before the sweet potato vines blacken.

We get up . . . yawn and stretch . . . look at the thermometer outside the kitchen window . . . and are instantly awake! There's no time for coffee or leisurely barn chores. We pull on our heavy coats and fleece-lined boots and head straight for the garden.

There are sweet potatoes to be dug and spread on the warm furnace room floor. Hampers to be filled with the largest green tomatoes before the vines die. (We carry the fruit into the cellar, wrap each of the tomatoes in a square of newspaper, and set them in a dark corner to ripen.)

We till the garden (while being careful to leave the bushy clump of brussels sprouts and the delicate "ferns" that mark the row of carrots); Cover the turnips with bales of hay and rake leaves up around the last of the celery. Pull the bean plants, pluck their dried pods, and take the plump hulls inside to shell out later during long evenings around the fireplace. Pick an armful of red and orange and yellow zinnias and arrange them into one last bouquet. We chop the cornstalks. We put the garden to bed.

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