Best Place on the Planet

Count your blessings, friends

By Mike Jopek

I can’t recall the last time it fell so hard. It must have been several inches. Yet there were no lasting puddles. The ground thirstily drank up the rainfall.

A deluge of water fell from the sky. After the rainstorm, I felt grateful. Maybe we could make it through a Flathead summer without big wildfires. Hopefully nature and the prescribed forest burns treat us kindly.

Yes, there’s been smoke. Sure, we got a couple of unwanted hailstorms, an unexpected cold start to the season, and some blaring heat. Hopefully we escaped fire season.

I felt relief. The Flathead is the best place to live. Fall is here. The air is cool and crisp like a summertime pear.

I’ve never much worried about weather. We’re accustomed to working in the rain, the cold, heat, slush, or snow. Wind is hard.

But fire and smoke is another creature. It feels like a doomsday scenario. Experts say fire is normal. It doesn’t feel that way on the ground.

Indoors we sliced the cabbage thin on a mandolin. Salt was added and the slaw went into the crock. Cool and crisp sauerkraut was but weeks away.

It’s the season of putting up food for the winter. Crops like tomatillos, peppers, garlic, cilantro, and onions make the perfect ingredients for green salsas.

Some seasons back we bought a drum roaster to cook vegetables over an open flame. We’ll fire it up soon to fill the freezer.

That fullness in the freezer is not a problem. Last year’s berries, trout, lamb, pork, and beef still enjoy much of the cold storage. Several large meals are needed to make room for this year.

The abundant rainfalls fattened up the fruit hanging from orchard trees. Plums, fall pears, and late apples look quite plump, even as some remain bruised from the springtime hailstorms. It smells like crockpots will be busy making butter for pantry shelves.

There are still plenty of local crops in the ground. The kales, chards, arugulas have again put on their fresh green coats to welcome the cool temperatures. Cold crops again look vibrant, welcoming the arrival of fall.

Even some fruit awaits the chill before sweetening up. Root vegetables like carrots and beets or greens like kale just taste better after the air turns cold.

Fall chores have begun. Much of the firewood is in the shed. Leaves will soon arrive. Before we know it an entire municipality-worth of leaves will be at the farm, mulching ground, trees and grasses.

The worms and microorganisms really like covered ground. Bare soil doesn’t attract many worms. But provide the ground some mulch and the wiggly wonders hungrily appear and turn topsoil.

It’s been a good year on the farm. It proved harder than most. Yet over the past three decades of farm life, we appreciate the good working weather when it’s here.

Farmers, like all Montanans, are hard workers. We value the land and our communities. We love our towns and state. We wish the politicians in D.C. would get their act together. Montanans know we need each other.

Montanans still share common values on core issues like community, food, health care, justice, the right to vote, public education, a clean environment, and civil discourse.

It’s our common responsibility to assure the upcoming generation values the bonds that hold our society together. Talk to your kids.

There is more to this living stuff than grievance politics or perpetual cultural warfare. The old-fashion united we stand, divided we fall motto is central to societal success.

Count your blessings, friends. Put up your winter food, fill the woodshed and ready the winter gear. It’s a fine fall. The holiday season is around the bend.

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