Samhain seems to make sense to me in the farming cycle. Most things have been harvested now—the pumpkins and squash are all in from the field, Adam is harvesting the last batch of chickens as I write this, we’ll be harvesting our heritage corn that we grind into cornmeal during a community gathering next week, and this week is our last CSA delivery. Without the CSA, the pace of the week slows. We miss seeing friends’ faces each week, but we also get to take a breath, look around and enjoy the beauty of the autumn leaves. So begins a time of reflection, of rest & restoration.
Decomposing, ending the life cycle, death—we’ve become fixated on ghosts and zombies for Halloween, death as either scary or trivialized, but not actually looking at death, or accepting it. The Day of the Dead festival actually honors the ancestors who have come before us. On the farm, death is essential for new life. It’s actually part of creation. Spiders weave their webs each day, creating anew. The time of rest & reflection is the time when the seeds of new ideas are born.
Few things are planted this time of year, but there are a few. Cover crops are one example: oats, peas & daikon radish, then rye & hairy vetch. They add organic matter and nitrogen while the radishes go deep to break up lower layers. Cover crops keep the veggie fields covered during the winter so bare dirt isn’t exposed. They prevent erosion, and actually replenish the soil with nutrients.
Garlic is another example. We plant garlic cloves now so they have a little time to sprout and get a start before the winter when they become dormant. They get covered with mulch, like a soft blanket that keeps them warm while they sleep. They store their energy through the winter so that when spring comes they have a head start, and begin growing again.
For Halloween this year, we’ll be thinking of our ancestors, celebrating the harvest and noticing the beginning of winter. We’ll also do a little bit of American-style Halloween. Cedar is too young for candy, but he’s dressing up as the itsy bitsy spider. It’s his favorite song. Like I said, spiders are everywhere.