Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Door to Winter

As the last days of October wind down, the color is starting to fade from the trees. The sorghum is all in barrels and we've pulled from the garden all the vegetables that frost would ruin. We are in that period of grace between fall and winter, when the harvest is essentially done and the wood heating season hasn't yet begun. It's time to exhale, sleep a little later in the morning, linger over coffee, read during daylight hours, and otherwise savor the change of seasons.

For me this interlude has defined boundaries: it started when we stopped stoking the boiler for the final sorghum cook Thursday afternoon, and will last until this coming Thursday morning, when Ma'ikwe and I drive to Chicago, en route to Ann Arbor and the coming North American Students of Cooperation Institute, Nov 4-6. That will start a six-week stretch where I'll be on the road excepting only Thanksgiving week and Nov 15 (when I'll be home just long enough to say hello, do laundry, and have a warm dinner at home). When I return after that six-week run, it will be no-doubt-about-it winter.

During the next five days I'll have time to take a walk or two (where I'll be able to feel the Earth turning toward dormancy—it's not the same just looking out the window); to have unhurried follow-up conversations with Sandhillians who revealed tender personal tidbits during recent check-ins at community meetings; to go back and handle non-urgent administrative tasks that were set aside during the rush of harvest; to catch up on trip accounting that has been stockpiled since August; to get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floors clean; to enjoy a season-ending celebratory sweat with my community.
I'll also have the time to make a small dent in my Honey-do List at Ma'ikwe's house. While most of this will wait patiently until the winter, one thing needs attention right now.

The Door to Green Housing
The most pressing item is constructing a door to her greenhouse, which was the highlight of this year's construction season. She has a boarder interested in living in the greenhouse this winter, but that plan hinges on having tight door where there is now only a gaping hole. The greenhouse was built as an attachment to the southwest corner of her house, and will serve both as a food growing area and as a thermal buffer. The main entry to the house will pass through the greenhouse, as a glorified entranceway.

While others have constructed the earthen walls, put on the roof, and installed the windows, I signed up to custom build the door. The trick to a tight door is getting the sizing right, making sure the framing on the hinge side is dead plumb, and locating the strike plate accurately. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that the concrete work upon which the threshold will rest has no relationship to level, and I have to be careful not to cut any of the wood to final dimensions before I know exactly where the threshold will be.

The construction sequence is additionally complicated by the greenhouse being at Dancing Rabbit—while the tools needed to shape things reside at Sandhill, three miles distant. It does not escape my consciousness that there is irony to handcrafting a door for a Green building by driving back and forth between construction site and tools. Fortunately, my embarrassment over this will be overcome by my successfully installing a sound door.

As someone who loves working with his hands, it will be my delight to make this door project the capstone of my last week on the farm before winter. It is metaphorically fitting that I intend to close the opening to Ma'ikwe's greenhouse concurrently with closing the door on fall. As a door builder—and inveterate constructor of metaphors—that symmetry appeals to me.

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