Jason Maloney for Agri-View
The last weeks of weather in October have been a steady rollercoaster of thrills and spills in northern Wisconsin. Thrills included snow in the Lake Superior snowbelt. About a foot of white stuff fell overnight Oct. 17 in the Hurley area, with traces reaching Wisconsin’s banana belt in the southern part of the state. The spills included much-needed rain that was enough to quell the danger of wildfires for some time. But they weren’t enough to make up for the moisture deficit along Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shoreline during the third consecutive dry summer. And between the snow and the rain, there were downright balmy days, with ideal conditions for autumn work in the field.
Fall tillage progressed well during this period. Standing corn remained in the fields. Fields of beans awaited the harvest. The market gardens had been harvested. The greenhouses still housed productive plants. Fruit was still picked and cider was still pressed in the orchards. Roots, tubers, squash and pumpkins headed for the root cellars. The pasture was green from the recent rains, but very short. The cattle fed on hay.
Brilliant fall colors had flowed from the maples and aspens to blanket the forest floor. But the deep reds and browns of oak and the golds of tamarack still painted the hillsides and low forests near Lake Superior. Bare branches became the rule and the undergrowth withered away as the days all led down the short path of winter.
The last outdoor farmers’ markets were held in the second half of October. Later, outdoor winter sales will be held here and there leading up to the year-end winter holidays. At the end of the month, most orchards in the Bayfield Fruit Loop were closed for the season. But in the few that remained open, produce was plentiful, as well as regional farm shops, stalls and community-supported agriculture.
Local apples still available include Honeycrisp, Macintosh, Cortland, Haralson, Liberty, Honey Gold, Fuji and Spartan. Bosh pears can be eaten just like late fall raspberries. Cider and frozen blueberries, strawberries and red currants are always on offer, as are hardy kiwis, squash, pumpkins, mums, beets, carrots, onions, garlic, cannabidiol – CBD – products, preserves and canned foods, fermented foods, milk, ice cream, sheep’s cheese, flour, honey, mustard, syrup, wine, beer, mead, hard cider, spirits and more. You can find frozen blueberries, strawberries and currants. Pasture-raised lamb, beef, pork, chicken, and alpaca meat is available, as well as fresh eggs. Locally produced fibres, accessories and soaps remain available in farm shops. Check online or call ahead for farm shop hours and product availability. Visit bayfield.org/what-to-do/orchards-berry-farms/orchard-reports/ as well as farm and farmer’s market websites for more information.
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Pickers still find autumn mushrooms, wild apples, tea leaves and herbs. The sweet wild grape was found after frosts. Rose hips are collected. The signs were installed along roads in northern Wisconsin, encouraging industrious people to bring balsam fir branches from the forest in exchange for money. The starting rate for branches this season at certain gathering points is 45 cents. Permits are required and training is required to legally and sustainably harvest branches in many counties and Native American nations. Energetic people had collected and sold wild tree seeds earlier this fall. Visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/treeplanting/sellseed for more information.
Hunters could be seen huddled in disguised boats waiting to ambush waterfowl. Others stalked the forests for grouse and other small game. Bow hunters took deer. Many were scouting and setting up stands for deer gun season; now only a few weeks.
If Halloween wasn’t scary enough, this year is election season. We strive for simple answers to complex questions. Perhaps simple answers make us feel powerful and in control of our destiny.
Consider fuel prices. The United States now has so much oil and gas that it is an exporter of both. But because crude oil and natural gas prices are determined by global supplies, prices are inflated for both this season. Gasoline and diesel fuel are expensive, not because crude oil is scarce, but because demand exceeds our national capacity to refine crude oil. The world’s huge oil companies are raking in record profits. Refining operations are doing well. Most consumers suffer.
But the truth is that global issues, like inflation caused by inflated fuel prices, increased levels of demand, and tangled supply chains are beyond the control of any state or national leader. Even despots with complete power in one country cannot solve world problems. In good times, the occupants of elected offices take credit for it. In bad times, they attract blame. The truthful leaders and those who come forward to replace them admit that, like all of us, they are part of it – attached to the big bouncing ball of life, the bounce of which we cannot control. What we control is the grace with which we handle it all and how we treat each other in the process.
Hopefully, our election harvest this fall will yield a harvest of honest office holders who will strengthen democracy by working to improve the lives of people across our country.
This is an original article written for Agri-View, an agricultural publication of Lee Enterprises based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.
Jason Maloney of Washburn in northern Wisconsin lives between Lake Superior and the orchards and farms of Bayfield County. The retired soldier and educator grew up on a family farm in Marinette County.