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This is best time of year

Most of the English-speaking world calls it autumn. Around here, we call it fall. By whatever name it goes, it is the perfect time of year.

National Depression Screening Day is coming up in October. In this part of the country, there need be only a few questions on the survey:

Isn't this time of year great? Don't you feel alive out to your fingertips? Have you ever seen such perfect weather?

Whoever answers no, or hesitates before answering yes, should seek counseling or run to the doctor for some happy pills. Quick. Before it snows.

If only we could bottle up these beautiful days, can them in Kerr jars, freeze them in Ziploc bags -- do whatever it takes so we could enjoy just a few hours of fall weather in January.

But we can't. By January, this golden time of year will be a distant memory.

Why is fall so great? The list could go on, but here are a few of my reasons:

Other times of year, apples cost $1.69 per pound. You eat them to the nub and feel guilty eating more than one per day.

In September, you can pick an apple off the tree, take a bite, wind up like a pitcher and whip the rest of it at the trunk of the old cottonwood. Splat! Strike one.

Guilt at wasting food? None at all. There are 439 more apples on that tree, and 560 on the tree next to it. Some will get eaten by humans, the rest by deer.

On to the tomatoes. The salsa-makers have given up due to exhaustion. Tomatoes by the bushel are sitting unused.

Home-grown tasting hydroponic tomatoes in March? Over two dollars per pound.

In September? I pick an oversized tomato and take a bite. Juice runs down my shirt. I see one that looks better on the dying vine, so I heave the tomato in my hand at the trunk of the old cottonwood. Splat! Strike two.

If one melon is too ripe, roll it towards the cottonwood like a bowling ball. If one squash isn't quite right, smash it against the ground. The deer will make good use of it.

Every year for the past 30, somebody on our farm has planted a ground cherry plant. You only need one, for they bear thousands of beautiful yellow marble-sized fruits per plant.

Almost like marbles, groundcherries can be shot out of their husk at your little sister with a snip of your forefinger. Splat! Strike three.

Fall is a time of plenty. It is a festival of fruit and honey and harvest and sunshine.

But it isn't just the food.

Is there any time that hard work feels so rewarding as it does in the fall?

Winter work is difficult. One step forward, two steps back. Keep the jumper cables and a bag of sand in the trunk, you'll need them soon.

Spring work is overwhelming. There's not enough time. Everything has to be planted at once.

Summer work amounts to trying to keep ahead and failing. Pull a weed one week, it will be back the next. Spray a crop this week, spray it again the next. Mow the lawn Tuesday, mow it again Saturday.

But when you do fall work, it lasts. Building a nice woodpile is like putting money in the bank. You are building up for the future.

Wash your windows at the right time in the fall and you'll have six months of clear views. Wash windows in the spring and two days later a rainstorm mixed with dust will ruin your work.

Canning, freezing, plowing, harvesting, hunting -- fall chores make one feel productive and useful, like you are getting ahead.

Compare those tasks to shoveling the drive after a blizzard. What a demoralizing waste of energy. The next blizzard will just blow it in again. And when the snow melts in the spring, you have nothing to show for all your effort.

No, fall is the best. At no other time of year do the cynics at the gas station shake their heads and say, "Boy, I sure could stand another month of this!"

This weather might last a month, but not much more.

It couldn't. If we had such beautiful weather year-round, these fall days would cease to make us happy.

At that point, we would become Californians.

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