For the past several weeks, it seems that we have at all times been in preparation for one event or another–meetings, political gatherings, dinners, and the biggie–the Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl. It’s amazing how many times the house can be cleaned and somehow need cleaning again. Even between days of the arts Meander last weekend the breakfast or supper dishes needed clearing and the table repeatedly re-purposed as our checkout stand; the first floor bathroom transformed from resident showering facility to public restroom.

The artist at rest in our dining

The artist at rest in our dining room…art gallery

Yesterday, it was back to work for me while John took part of the morning to rest and recuperate. We’d already re-claimed a living room out of the art gallery it had become, and soon the rest of the display pieces made their way from dining room to back deck en route to the barn. We ate lunch almost normally with the table placed in its usual spot, though still piled in all the places our soup bowls were not were boxes of cards, calendars, and miscellaneous Meander gear.

While lunch was heating, I went out to pick the lower branches of Honey Gold apples. The Haralsons were picked a couple of weeks ago to limit the depredations of the squirrels, who were making steady work of stripping the dwarf tree, then racing across the lawn, apple in teeth, to the safety of a higher-limbed ash. We’d find the half-eaten cores at the base along with the cobs and husks of Roy’s Calais Flint corn they made off with earlier in the season. With the Haralsons gone, they were starting on the much larger Honey Golds: I’d already surprised a few into dropping their unwieldy prizes as they fled, and I tossed the tooth-marked apples to the chickens.

The lower branches picked, I decided against an attempt at the upper branches with a ladder–the wind came up so hard that rolling clouds of dust engulfed the front yard every time a grain truck passed, and a storm window on the sun porch came unmoored and flapped against its frame.

Grain trucks kicked up rolling clouds of dust in the northwest wind

Grain trucks kicked up rolling clouds of dust in the northwest wind

The work day done, I helped John maneuver the canoe trailer into position by the barn and transport a couple of unwieldy display pieces inside for storage. He turned to me and said, “I thought I was just cleaning things up, but I think what we’re really doing is getting ready for winter!”

Funny how a seemingly innocent observation can suddenly change the whole character of the tasks at hand. I went back down to the garden and pulled frost-crisped okra stalks and a few sullen basil plants. The wind died a little, and I set up the ladder to finish picking the Honey Golds–for winter storage this time, and not as much against the squirrels. I set a small pile of damaged fruits by the edge of the grove (I am not entirely opposed to sharing) and brought the rest of the bruised and banged lot to the chicken pen.

The upper gardens in autumn

The upper gardens in autumn

I stood at the gate watching the girls happily pecking away, thinking about winter readiness, when another sign of the impending season-change came with a warning squawk from the roosters, causing the hens to run for cover under the currant bushes. Looking up, the silhouette of our winter resident drifted overhead, glinting white on head and tail. A Bald Eagle, who spends summers fishing by the lake, has returned to the highlands after the weekend’s soybean harvest bared the land of cover for his prey.

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