I think winter may be here.

It comes perhaps a little early for us this year.  We usually have a freeze Halloween weekend and I think of that as the end of my big gardening year — it’s the end of the canning and freezing of most of our crops like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and beans for sure.  The rhubarb has given up the ghost though my chrysanthemums are still convinced that now is the time for peak blooms.

This year, though, has been different.  The tomato plants under the sunscreen cloth are still alive; we harvested another 5 pounds and sauced them only last week.  These plants, until last night, were not only alive but still blossoming – a really strange thing to happen in our area of the high desert.  Mr. TF harvested figs on Friday afternoon; there are still unripe figs on the the tree, sadly, that I don’t think are going to make it to ripeness before they are destroyed by the frost.

We get four seasons, and we get snow, though our snow at our particular location usually comes in April, not December, and lasts no more than a week.  If we go 30 miles into the nearest town of any size, the snow starts in December though there too it melts off and returns in fits and starts until April.  My little Meyer lemon tree was brought into the house last night; it was 36 at 10 pm with a surety of getting cold enough to freeze the poor thing to death.

We had a windfall this year, literally.  Last winter a storm came through that killed a couple smaller trees on the property next door, and broke large branches off the mature trees that weren’t killed outright.  This spring, the new owner was planning to cut all of it down and take it to the dump.  Instead, I spent several days cutting the smaller stuff by myself for kindling, and both Mr. TF and I spent a couple more cutting the larger stuff with the chainsaw.  We gained perhaps a a little more half cord of wood for the cost of our labor and a little fuel. For those of you in much colder climes, this is a laughable amount.  For us though, we are careful about not overheating the house and it represents more than a quarter of our winter use.

We have lit the wood stove twice in a row and lit it a week earlier than we usually do.  My personal goal is to hold out on lighting it until the temperature in the house is 59 or less.  DH is a cave bear and that is fine with him – he would sleep with open windows in the bedroom year round if I weren’t the mean wife who puts her foot down about waking with frost on the bed covers (and having to strip to shower when it’s that chilly).  It was 58 in the bedroom, on the shady side of the house, at 1030 this morning, and 63 on the sunny side.  It was a brisk 48 outside.  I think the evening lighting of the stove may be with us for the duration of the season.  It’s both a sad thing and a happy thing.  Sad because the bulk of the garden is officially put to sleep, and happy because I look forward to the comforting wisps of smoke rising from the chimney when I’m the last one home on a cold night.    100 thousand years of humans on this world and we still take comfort in the flames and heat rising from a well seasoned log of wood.   Mr. TF is convinced that the quality of  wood heat feels different; he may be right, in that it satisfies not only our need for heat, but a certain primal need to see those flames perform their ever changing dance.  Installing this wood stove was nearly over the tipping point for DH’s tolerance for me and my ideas, but it has turned out to be a blessing both in the material sense and the spiritual as well.  Winter may be here, but we are well prepared.  It’s a good feeling.