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OCTOBER'S GOLDEN DAYS TOO PRECIOUS TO WASTE

The house was cold this morning when I got out of bed. I smeared the mist around on an upstairs window to look out at the new day. Outside, the familiar green world was surprisingly white with the first really hard frost.

As I went out to do chores, I left tracks up to the barn in crisp grass, the frost fluffing off like powdered sugar on a doughnut. The water on the top of the swimming pool cover was steaming in the pale sunshine. I unhooked Gretchen, and she shot off as she does every morning, racing around the chicken pen and back down the hill. The chickens are so used to this that it hardly startles them.

Gretchen comes back and bounds up so that all four of her feet are off the ground. This dog always seems to think she is missing something being stuck near ground level, she jumps up or stands on her back legs to get a better eyeful of what's going on. Everything is fascinating, especially on a bright morning in the middle of October.

The cows see me and start making a racket as I dump bales of hay around the pasture. They have been spoiled by our rotational grazing program, which has conditioned them to expect a fresh plot of grass every few days. Next year, we will be able to pasture them across the road, and that will extend the season. This year, they are getting hay to supplement the dwindling pasturage.

Up on the hill, it is pleasant to just stand and look about.

Looking into the distance always prompts me to think about time. The season presents its agenda as I look around. It's time to wean the calves and sell them. They look good, but the market is still weak.

There are a couple of heifers who need to have their horns removed. Otherwise they are sure to get caught in the openings of the hay feeding rack.

The hard frost has killed the field corn, but that's not the problem it would have been just a few weeks ago. The crop was planted late and further delayed by weeks of summer drought. But the long, sunny fall let the corn mature and start to dry, and it will be ready to be picked soon. When that is done, we can let the cows into the field to forage on stalks and corn that the picker missed.

But right now we are in the woods as much as possible, logging and hauling firewood. The weather has been perfect for that, dry and cool. Last evening, Kathleen and I came in chugging along like a train. I was on the big tractor pulling 30 feet of a maple saw log; she was on the John Deere with a wagon load of firewood serving as a caboose.

In front of the shop are the baler and some other pieces of equipment that need cleaning or repair before being put away for the winter. The driveway up the hill to the barn should get a topping of stone before the bad weather hits, or trucks will have trouble with the grade.

There is such energy in the air on mornings such as this, and all these jobs seem like they could be completed by noon. It's as if the air itself comes to fruition in fall and infuses everything that breathes it with extra energy and power. My buddy Joe put it well last week: "Some people want to follow summer. That's crazy. Fall is the season to try to hold on to. Can you imagine a place that is cool and clear like this all the time?"

Such a place would be too good to be true. A poet once wrote, "Nothing gold can stay." You can't bank October's golden days, so it's best to splurge and spend them well, hour by hour.

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