Not everything about October is yucky. Apples, for instance. I love apples. I love apple season. I love the smell of the kitchen when an apple pie is in the oven, or the dehydrator is full of apple slices, or I am canning applesauce. I love pressing apple cider, even though it makes my back and hamstrings hurt for days. I love biting into a crisp green apple, juicy and tart, and following it up with a bite of sharp, homemade cheese. I love the amazing abundance of apples - so many forgotten trees, with so much surplus fruit that it falls all over the yard and the roadsides, free for the taking. I like giving windfall apples to my animals - every species loves apples. The horses, of course, but also the goats, the pigs, the chickens, and even the rabbits. Everybody loves apples. Even the apple-mast left over from pressing is useful; it makes wonderful compost. I love the look of apple trees in November, after most of the leaves have fallen but the apples are still clinging to the bare branches, bright red against a frosty blue afternoon sky.
I also like pumpkins. I like carving jack o' lanterns with my kids, and I like roasting the seeds and putting them in the kids' lunches for weeks after Halloween. I like eating pumpkins, too - in almost any form: simply roasted with butter and salt and pepper, as pie of course, and in soup. Oh I love delicious pumpkin-cheese soup with roasted poblano peppers. I like the empty fields, dark brown, bare and bedraggled looking, dotted with bright orange orbs. I love going outside on Halloween eve and looking at the glowing jack o' lanterns lined up on the porch. It makes me feel cozy and safe, remembering that their original function was to serve as guardian spirits, protecting the house and inhabitants from evil forces abroad in the nighttime as the year tips into darkness and death.
I like el Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. We celebrate it here in the old fashioned way, by dressing the household altar with an ofrenda, or offering. We drape the altar with a bright colored cloth and lay it with fruits and flowers. We set up the photos of our dead ancestors, or if we don't have photos, then we write their names on slips of paper. We light candles and drink hot cocoa and (for the adults) mezcal. The children and I bake sweet egg-bread in fanciful shapes and eat it dipped in the hot cocoa. We talk, tell stories about our dead loved ones, and honor their memories. Always on the altar is a memento mori in the form of a beautiful little Caterina statue (Lady Death). In this way, we teach our children - and remind ourselves - that the end of all life is death, but that spirits live on as the beloved, beautiful memories that we leave behind. This simple ceremony provides surprisingly strong comfort.
There's mud. God, how I hate mud. Chilly, slippery, stinky, horrible mud. I wake up at seven thirty and by eight fifteen I am liberally spotted with grotesque ordure. All winter long I will smell like.. well, not mud exactly, but mud that is one third mixed-species animal by-product. You know what I mean. There's no way to avoid it - farmers smell like farms, and never more than in the Yucky season.