Winter changes everything.
Most of what we do happens between April and November. Fishing, gardening, foraging. Turkeys, mushrooms, lobsters. None of them go through the winter, and this is the time of year that we decommission the garden, put away the fishing gear, winterize and store the boats.
We have a few winter activities. We’ll still have the chickens, of course, and they’ll still lay eggs. We make our own sea salt, and we’ll ramp that up just as we shut everything else down. A few things may survive in the hoophouse, and they’ll need our attention. This year, we’ve also got a few projects we’re plotting for the long cold months. Mostly, though, we’ll be dormant.
No turkeys to feed, no fish to catch, no pheasants to hunt. No plants to water, no produce to harvest, no mushrooms to scout. The bees go into survival mode, and all we have to do is give them sugar candy.
It’ll be just me and Kevin, with nothing to do.
We’ve been through two winters here, and they have both seemed long, snowy, and cold. Cape Cod in February might as well be on a different planet from Cape Cod in August. The restaurants close, the streets empty, the people flee for Florida. This year, though, after a spring, summer, and fall of non-stop activity, I can’t think of anything I’d like better than a couple of months with nothing much to do.
I’ll read an actual book! I’ll tackle the wallpaper in the bathroom! I’ll cook new things in new ways! There might even be time for – ahem – more intimate activities.
So, as we dismantle and deactivate, shut down and shut off, I feel no sadness. The garden’s already decommissioned, the cover crop sown. The fishing is over, the rods stowed in the garage. The turkeys will meet their maker in less than three weeks.
And today, we started taking in our lobster pots.
There are ten – or there were ten, at any rate. Now it seems there are only nine. Today, we went out to check them for the first time in six weeks, and to start bringing them in. As temperatures drop and wind comes increasingly out of the north, there are fewer and fewer days that we can take our boat out into Cape Cod Bay.
Today was one of the days. It was almost dead calm, and the water in Barnstable Harbor was glassy and still. There were friendly little wavelets out in the bay, and it was a smooth ride out. It was cold – about 45 degrees – but wind is what matters most. On a windless day, not only is the cold not as biting, there’s also much less danger of falling into the water, which is the real danger.
Our plan was to bring in half, but when we pulled the first one and found two huge lobsters in it, we reconsidered.
In a pinch, we can fit all ten pots (and certainly all nine, if one has indeed disappeared permanently) on the boat in one trip. It’s mighty crowded, though, and a little heavy. It’s easier and safer if we take a couple of shifts to bring them in.
When we saw the lobsters in the trap, our first impulse was to leave all the pots out there. But when we saw that they were both egg-bearing females, not legal to take, it tempered our enthusiasm.
We checked all nine, and found a good half-dozen females to be reckoned with, but only one keeper. We compromised and brought in three of the pots, leaving six out there. That way, we can easily get the rest in one fell swoop if that’s what the weather seems to require. Regardless, we’ll have everything out of the water and stowed away within the next few weeks.
I don’t think I’ll miss either lobster or lobstering. One of the pleasures of procuring your own food is getting your fill in season, and getting a hankering again just in time for next year’s season. It’ll be exciting all over again in May, when we’ll put the pots in for the 2011 season.
Same goes for the garden, and the mushroom hunting. I’ll miss the salt water fishing, though. I love fishing. Luckily, we’ve got trout in our backyard, and that’s almost as good.
We’ll ice fish, we’ll shellfish, we’ll make salt. We’ll feed the chickens, collect the eggs, and tend any plant hardy enough to stay alive in our hoophouse. But that won’t take anything close to all our time, and I’m really looking forward to that.