Summer is time for DOING. We, the farmers, are not the only one "doing" each single piece of the enterprise is DOING! and sometimes doing too much! Sheep are eating eagerly the grass, grasses, plants, legumes, trees are sending our their leaves, harvesting the sun light using all the water available, pigs are exploring, harvesting, digging, growing!, chickens are searching, hunting, laying eggs and what we are left to do is to coordinate all this. It is like being the captain of a complicated ship where all the different parts of the staff do not communicate to each other. You got to do something with the grass if the pastures are growing faster than the sheep can eat, and you need to provide new safely fenced paddocks if the pigs are digging more than they are supposed to, and you need to make sure everyone has enough water and fuel to make sure they can grow at the right speed. Inevitable it comes a time when I feel I am behind and some aspect of the system is suffering. last year it was the soil. We did not have access to our equipment so we had to let some field become overgrown and that affected the soil and also the pasture quality and logically we lost feed for our sheep. Just when you feel you have attended the needs of one of the members ... inevitably the needs of another part of the puzzle are left behind. SO summer is not for thinking, summer is for DOING.
Autumn is for harvesting. It is true that we harvest our meat all year around and that vegetables are harvested throughout summer, but Autumn is when you harvest considering the months ahead - it is time to anchor down. Only if the plans you made in Spring were followed and well executed you will have enough to set aside for the winter and Autumn is when you get to count what you have left in your pockets. Autumn is also time for the big roasts, the special traditional foods that keep us connected to our history and our culture. The porchetta roasts start piling up in the freezers and we start planning for the big social dinners coming up (Thanksgiving, Xmas and, for us, Cenone - New Years's eve epic dinner).
WINTER - winter for me is for sleeping. I am not a person that sleeps a lot, I can happily go by with 4 to 5 hrs per night but comes winter and I become dysfunctional if I do not have at least 8 hrs. I get sleepy shortly after the sun goes down (which here in VT means it is hard for me to stay up past 7pm) and I would be completely contempt to sleep and eat the whole day. But I do have animals to attend, so I roll out of bed and go take care of the little guys across the street. Unfortunately in winter we have to work harder than before in some basic things we do not even boher with in the summer months: cleaning the barn becomes a whole day ordeal (and it is never fully clean), giving water is sometimes an epic adventure with potential for story telling for the following years (do you recall when your hair froze to the bucket of water? Or that time when you poured the whole buck on your head and it was -20 outside and almost died of pneumonia? funny stories of endurance like that...). That is the time when I always threat to raise the price of bacon :) I love pigs because when it is cold and windy, they also do not want to be bothered so at times they barely bother to get up as you put food in the early hrs of the morning (fast forward to Spring and you feel they are ready to eat you alive from how much they are screaming if you are 10 minutes late to deliver breakfast!). Winter also is time to enjoy all you have harvested during the summer and it is time for more indoor projects, and for us that means curing and preserving our meat! The natural cold temperature is perfect for making all sorts of insaccati (called in the US charcuterie). Recently I was at a pizzeria in VT with my daughter (5 yo) who noticed the place was very italian looking, or at least, very familiar to her, which I think is what prompted her to start this conversation with the waiter: "Where is your basement?" The waiter confused "The basement? You mean the bathroom?", Eva "No, the basement, you know, where you hang your prosciutto and salame for the winter?" Which makes me realize that perhaps I am succeeding at giving her an idea of what it is like to grow up Italian even in the middle of Vermont.