It is the last week of November and the signs of the fall season are in full effect. The leaves are turning the colors of red, yellow and gold. Even though we have experienced above average weather temperature here in North Carolina this month, leaves are tumbling down as they gradually reach their peak expression of fall colors.
We look forward to collecting leaves for our winter compost bins and mulch for our garden beds where they are to be retuned to the soil from whence they came. This transition of the season represents a phase Nature uses to sustain its self. The movement of atoms create magnetic energy that pull minute particles together forming cells that in turn form compounds of living matter such as mold, soil, plants, animals and yes, us…the human being. All of this follows a pattern that none of us can take credit for. I, and many others call it a “divine design”.
In a unique way, the season’s transition is in alignment with life’s paradox of “give and take”, life and death, yin and yang or night and day. Each phase serves the opposite other. This change is constant, ever evolving and evident in our lives as well. This is truly a sign and reminder for us to take the time and reflect upon our season in life’s cycle. Where are we? What are we doing? Are we in alignment with give and take? For me, I am reminded to be grateful and thankful and freely giving of self back to the energy that produces me. It is how all life is sustained. Amazingly, Fall in November happens to be the month this country celebrates Thanksgiving. I hope you are also thankful and will be giving of your energy to help others….be it soil, molds, bugs, plants, animals or…you guessed it, human beings. When you give of your energy freely, without expecting gain from it…the return to you is usually greater than you expended.
Our free will gives us a choice to submit to the flow or resist its energy. Many leaves hang on their branch until the bitter end. This respite given by nature is only temporary. Eventually, willingly or not, each leaf must return to its maker, its divine designer, the sustainable system of all life. Now, once again, it is time for fall in America. “Wise men and women understand and take heed”.
This time of year many of our plants yield their mature produce. Carrots were bountiful. There were so many, we had to blanch and freeze some of them. Japanese red and Tuskegee orange sweet potatoes were plentiful and their tender vines gave us greens all summer. We have dug them up, put them in boxes of straw and will soon cure them. Turmeric root, lemon grass, hot and sweet peppers all are now harvested and processed for the winter. We have bottled dozens of hot sauce containers and will label them shortly. The shelves are full of jars containing dried herbs harvested during the summer and spring. Drying, freezing, curing, fermenting and canning are all methods of preserving different food and medicinal plant items for use during the cold days ahead. We utilize them all while constantly learning how to grow and live in alignment with nature and its gifts. It seems there is no end to the wonders of nature. It is humbling to realize how much we don’t know and how much more we must learn to improve our ability to sustain ourselves. Living with nature has truly become a “way of life”.
Here at our Nature Culture research center, we are also experiencing the routines of approaching winter. Although it has been relatively warm during the day, there have been a few nights this month that dropped to below 32 degrees. In preparation, we build low tunnels of plastic covers over the garden beds that contain delicate crops such as lettuce, cilantro, parsley and several varieties of tender greens. In the morning when the temperature rises, we uncover them to allow direct sun and rain.
Our garden beds have been re-nourished with fresh composted soil. This year we tried using rabbit manure and old grass clippings along with the house scraps of banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, lettuce, carrot butts and avocado skins. Many varieties of new seedlings have been planted for winter. We have collards, kales, red mustard, turnips, cabbage, brussel sprouts, chard, garlic and broccoli. Many of our herbs are perennial and are thriving. Oregano, chives, mints, sage, thyme, rosemary and more continue to give us culinary delight and medicinal healing.
For those of you who live in the south, there has been a noticeable shortage of rain this fall season. In fact, it has not rained here in Charlotte North Carolina for nearly two months. The state is under a water rationing advisory. Weather experts are saying we may not have enough water stored in our lakes to serve the public all winter. Water is a precious and sacred gift. When its supply is threatened, there is much anguish experienced in communities that are affected. The situation out in Standing Rock, North Dakota demonstrates just how serious the water is. “Water is life”. We installed rain barrels several years ago, but even those are bone dry now. Daily rinse water from the kitchen sink is saved in buckets and distributed to needy plants in accordance to who needs it most. The straw mulch we applied to the beds during the summer is helping to retain moisture and the bigger plants push their roots deep into the ground where the soil remains damp. Without water, life would not be able to sustain itself.
The entire process of seasonal change for plants can be a metaphor for how we as human beings can develop and improve sustainability for ourselves, our communities and the planet. We grow just like plants grow. The earth is our natural source of life. If we can learn to continually seek alignment with nature while embracing its rhythms and changes, we can not only survive any difficulty but thrive magnanimously in the great and wonderful blessing we call “Life”.