A cricket ‘s song at summer’s end

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(Host) Commentator Edith Hunter reflects on the song of the cricket as summer comes to a close.

“Not you alone, importunate brother
Singing and so seeming bold
Did you but guess there’s many another
Sings against the coming cold.”

As I sit by the garden house, I can hear the crickets “singing against the coming cold,” as David Morton wrote. Yes, the cold is coming. The garden is winding down. Although it has been dry, we have been lucky in having had a soaking rain when we desperately needed it. The two freezers are all but full of frozen vegetables.

My peach crop was spectacular with jars of canned peaches and jars of peach jam on the pantry shelves. The apple crop will be slim but I’m finding enough apples to supply Sammy with frozen apple sauce this winter.

I don’t know why anyone plants anything but ever bearing strawberries. I put in 50 new plants this past spring, and after removing the first round of blossoms, have been harvesting magnificent strawberries since mid-August. I freeze them, a half-pint or a pint at a time, and after the garden has been put to bed, will make strawberry jam.

The onions were large this year. I hired Sammy to harvest the whole crop on one of our 90-degree days. He figured it was a job worth doing, and he did it well. Now the braided onions hang drying on the sunny porch.

I’m digging my potatoes, fifteen minutes a day, not a huge crop, but enough. The pumpkins are numerous, but small. For some reason the butternut squash are large, and there are plenty of other winter squash. The gourds, halfway up the poles of the nearby pole beans, are especially plentiful.

I don’t harvest my sweet potatoes until early October. Last year I discovered the voles had been there before me and hollowed out the largest ones. I’ve seen no sign of voles this year, so here’s hoping.

It has been a disastrous monarch butterfly year. This is probably related to the death of millions of over-wintering monarchs last winter in Mexico when heavy rains were followed by freezing temperatures. The ground was thick with dead butterflies, their wet wings frozen. I have seen maybe five adult monarchs this year, but I have found no eggs and no caterpillars. My daughter, the monarch expert in North Carolina, has raised probably a fifth of the number she usually raises. Will they come back? My guess is they will.

Our pond is the lowest I have ever seen it. We need a lot of fall rain to replenish it. I wonder how the frogs have made out? The raft is high and dry.

In the house, the two chimneys have been cleaned, the soapstone stoves stand ready, and Charlie has filled the woodshed.

“Aye, many another, did you but know it,
Sensing shadowed silence creep,
Wars on the dark, and turning poet,
Sings his frightened heart to sleep.”

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center, Vermont.

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