Challenging Months

I love fall, but in truth, it’s the most challenging season of the year for me. I’m ready to hunker down for the winter, exhausted from the activities of the last six months, but I still have another month or so with lots of work to do. We’re wrapping up harvest season, we’ll be butchering soon, hunting season is coming, and we have lots to do before winter. The school year has also started, and we’re trying to adjust to our schedule and get the house back in order. Between winter prep and school, September, October, and November are challenging months!

The gardens are so close to being done. Our first frost is usually between October 10th and 20th, and a part of me wishes it would just freeze already so I can just wipe my hands of the harvest season. The messes, the chaos, the flies… I’m just done. But then again, I’m not. I want to just call it quits, but I know I need to work a little harder a little longer. The extended weather forecast isn’t showing frost until November, and I guess I should just make the most of it while I can!

We finally scheduled our butchering dates. October 23rd for the chickens and turkeys, and November 6th for the pigs. It’s a load off my mind to have the dates scheduled, because then I don’t have to keep thinking about it. We do still have all of our prep to do, and I do need to get a couple of tools before we butcher, but overall, it’s just a matter of making it happen.

Scott was recently listing off about 20 things that he wants to get done before the first snowfall. He’s been able to cross a few items off his list since then, but he’s feeling the pressure to get it all done. Right now, the big project on his mind he’s hoping to accomplish is a new outbuilding for some of the equipment. We’re trying to get something built without spending any/much money on it before the snow comes. So far, he’s marked off the footprint and got 4 out of 9 posts into the ground. This is meant to be a temporary structure that we essentially do with the resources we have on hand. We’ve talked about doing this for years, and it’s finally starting to happen. What we should really do is schedule a weekend where we’ll work on it, and invite family and friends over to help.

There’s a big slab of cement over by the barn that Scott has been scraping clean so we can put some of our equipment on there until the building is done. He’s been working on repairs and yard cleanup, figuring out how to attach some of our old implements to the new tractor, getting rid of garbage, trying to clean out the garage before winter, all while making sure he’s spending time with the family, dealing with the chaos of the outside world, and working a fulltime job away from home. It’s been a little stressful.

I’m hoping that after this week, I’ll have the house in better shape so that I can turn my attention back to the outside tasks to be finished before winter. It’s been a challenge to get the kids to do their chores properly without doing their chores for them. I find myself sitting around, waiting for them to get their work done so I can check it over. If I get involved in any kind of project or cleaning of my own, they try to sneak off and go do their own thing, so I need to be present to stay on top of them. It’s been largely the same with school work.

Overall, school has been going fine, but the kids have been a bit bucky about getting back into a routine. This week is the first they have been cooperative about sitting through our normal morning prayers, hymns, and readings without acting out. Praise the Good Lord for that! I still have to stay on top of them about getting their work done or doing chores.

So we’re still trying to get back into a good routine, all while adjusting to the current needs of each child. Some days have been great, on other days I feel ready to hide out in the bathroom or wolf down a bar of chocolate by noon. The hardest thing is trying to get them to understand why they need to do all of these things, like help with laundry or do their school work. I can explain it 100 different ways, but I can’t force them to “get it.” It has to click in their minds and their hearts.

That being said, we do have a lot of good days and a lot of good moments. There are times when they blow me away with how responsible and mature they’ve become. I’m so grateful when they decide of their own free will to come help mom shell the beans for an hour. No asking or nagging, no complaining, just some playfulness and giggles while they lend a helping hand. I’m so incredibly grateful for those times.

Truthfully, a lot of our struggles are just getting everybody to get back into the right mindset of how the house needs to be run this time of year, myself included. I was feeling overwhelmed about the house last week, and then I remembered how much it has helped me in the past to dedicating one afternoon a week to deep cleaning one part of the house. Eventually, things stay fairly clean and the deep cleaning doesn’t take all afternoon.

I am also aware that we’re coming blissfully close to the end of the canning season. I love canning, but I can’t wait to be done and have my kitchen back in order. We’re almost done with all the outdoor work, and that will be one less space to worry about. Less animals mean less outdoor chores, no garden means that the yard can get cleaned up and the kitchen, too.

My mom has been a wonderful help this year through canning season. She’s come over many times to help me with a lot of food processing, and what would have easily taken me two or three times as long, was drastically condensed. She recently came over and helped me with the last of the cider pressing. It was a huge relief to get that done. We could still do more as we have access to more apples and pears, still, but I’m just not sure that I want to keep at it!

Again, she lent a hand the other day, this time by having all the kids over to her house for a day. That was very much appreciated. I was badly in need of a day to just casually work on chores around the house without everything always getting immediately undone. I spent awhile cleaning up the pantry, and organizing all of the food I canned this year. It was good to get it all neat and orderly. I’ve just been putting things wherever I could find space as food from last year was disappearing, and food from this year getting added.

I’m thrilled with how much we were able to grow this year. Seeing it all organized really puts it into perspective. Most of the food is in the pantry, but we’ve got things in other places, like garlic and sauerkraut on the kitchen counter, a bowl of potatoes here, a bag of carrots there, corn for grinding waiting for me to decide where I want to store it, and of course, the animals that will be butchered soon.

Some of the potatoes, carrots, and rutabaga tucked into the root cellar. I need to add more shelves, and get some light covering over the 5 gal. pails.

Quite honestly, I have no idea how close we are to our goal of growing as much of our own food for the year as possible. There are things like dairy that we’re just not ready to provide and may never be ready to, or grains that we may or may not have the time or energy to grow. But there was much learned from this garden season. We had an incredibly busy year with non-garden stuff, so if we don’t have quite so many other projects, I might be able to invest more time into the gardens. The reality is that I hate spending time outdoors when the bugs are at their peak, and even if I didn’t feel completely exhausted by mid-July, I’d still avoid spending time outside unless it’s necessary, like for harvesting.

The weather has been unusual this fall, thus far. We’re due for a first frost any time now, but the forecast isn’t showing any until November, which means that the gardens will slow further, but potentially keep producing. I’ve got straggler turnips and rutabaga, rows of carrots to dig, beans still producing, and the peppers decided to finally get a good flush of growth. And I’m tired after a long and busy spring and summer. I felt so grateful to have a cool wind blowing today with few bugs in site. We’ve had a horrible time with the flies this fall, much worse than any previous year, the wasps weren’t the worst, but still pretty bad, and the ladybugs are just starting to show up which I’m not all to excited about. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a ladybug release their scent for protection IN YOUR MOUTH, but it’s so awful.

The house is starting to get back into shape. It helps that I’m more mentally present in the house, now. I need a bit of time to clear my head and a little energy and ambition to do a thorough cleaning and purging, top to bottom. The swinging back and forth from indoor to outdoor work makes that next to impossible for me to have that kind of ambition, let alone time. So it might have to wait until November, after we butcher. Or if I can work myself into it mentally, just one room at a time, one day at a time.

Today, I worked with the kids in the upstairs to do some serious cleaning in the bedrooms. They aren’t pretty, but the fact that we try to work on deep cleaning on a regular basis is helping to make long-term progress. I was actually able to mop the floor in the little boys’ room and fix a couple of things, and the older three were pulling things off their shelves, sorting and reorganizing. We just need to stay consistent and get back into my old routine of taking one day a week to deep clean one floor of the house every month. We start at the top and work our way down. It’s not a perfect process, but it helps, and I’m glad the kids are improving on their skills.

Now I’d better stop typing and head downstairs to clean up the kitchen before I spend some time cooking with a friend this evening. We’re making meals for another friend that just had a baby.

How are things going by you? Are you dealing with the stress of the start of the school year and harvest, too, or maybe just the harvest?

Love and Blessings~ Danielle

One Comment

  • Trudy

    What a beautiful day today! We were just saying it’s so nice that it’s dry, sunny and cool, but not cold. Today feels like fall!
    I’m glad I’ve been able to help. I notice huge strides in the kids as far as helping. Just keep at everything. Eventually it becomes habit/routine and there’s not so much nagging anymore and they find as they grow older they WANT their rooms cleaner without you having to say a word. As long as you keep setting that example in the rest of the house, they will follow suit. It’s hard when it takes longer with some than with others!

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