Deer Season and Cider Doughnuts
by Axie Barclay 

Halloween has ended, and as the leaves redden and fall, as the frost settles white and slick on the orange curves of the pumpkins, as the air turns cool and smells like apples and rotting leaves, here in the north, firearm deer season commences. Men, glossy-eyed with erotic fantasies of stalking, killing, and gutting the big buck, flock to the woods, leaving deer-widows rolling their eyes and making shopping plans with their girlfriends. In some rural schools, kids get the day off, since most of them will be in the woods anyway, and a hush of held-breath expectation settles in before those first cracks of gunshots shatter through the misty morning on opening day.

This is what I think of when I think of autumn anyway; alongside the euchre games and aching amounts of beer and whiskey and tall tales about the buck that got away. But I also think of the historical significance of these traditions, hollow as they may be to most people. Fall has always been the traditional time of harvest and hunting. Deer season hails back to the far older tradition of the harvest and is as good a time as any to reflect on the sacredness of the season. Maybe it’s because my birthday falls this time of year, but autumn has always seemed special to me. There’s a reverent quality to the air, as the summer season fades, and winter teases along the senses. It’s a season of frenzied activities as creatures sense the lush prosperity of the growing season withering on the vine, and they begin packing in winter supplies with renewed vigor. As the season cools and the vegetable garden lays bare and picked clean before being tilled under, we remember why we canned peaches, why we pack potatoes and onions in the root cellar, and why we layer meat into the freezer. It’s the last gasp before winter, the final opportunity to fill the larders with those last sources of nutrition that might be the breaking point between survival and starvation. Perhaps not so much anymore, but as people feast on trick or treat candy, turkey, and Christmas cookies, we still show remembrance for these historical traditions of the season.

In the world of words, November marks a word harvest of its own. National Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNoWriMo by its promoters and victims alike. In short, 50,000 words in 30 days, 1,667 words per day. The goal is to have the rough draft of a novel, even a bad novel, by the end of the month. Crazy? Yes. But the argument could also be made that in the days of mega-grocery stores and QVC, crazy is sitting out in a deer stand in freezing temperatures waiting for just the right deer to wander by while slowly losing feeling in one’s feet.

However you note it, with fake pumpkin garlands and sweet treats out of a plastic bag or skinning deer amidst the rustle of corn stalks, autumn is a lovely season, whether one is lucky enough to be born under the Scorpio sign of the zodiac or not. If you’re so inclined, notice the season with more than gripes about winter. Embrace the change of seasons. If you really get back what you put out into the world, put out positives by noting how picturesque bare trees can look or by enjoying the seasonal change of food. Buy apples from a local orchard and learn to dry them on a food dehydrator or save them for apple crisp over Thanksgiving. Cider, cider doughnuts, and eating fresh apples are all great seasonal treats for the whole family. Plaster on some orange and take a walk in the woods. (And let me know if you find the cave where all the deer hide out playing euchre and drinking beer until the hunters go away. We’re convinced they only send the stupid ones out during the two week gun season to run into cars and get more beer.) If you’re less outdoorsy, don’t have the opportunity, or just like to read in addition to the outdoors, try reading seasonal books. The poem “Apple Picking” by Robert Frost comes immediately to mind. To find more books for your autumn reading list be sure to check back frequently with Portland Book Review for the latest dirt on all your soon-to-be favorite books.

And if you’re very crazy, it’s not too late to join NaNo at Whatever you do, take a deep breath and enjoy the season. It only comes once a year.

Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth in alternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish… and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.