What do you think of when you think of autumn? Many people have a very visual response – leaves turning glorious colors, bright red berries, pumpkins, intense sun lower in the horizon, shorter days. If you’re a gardener or farmer of any kind, you’ll be thinking of lots of work to harvest, and preserve the harvest – and shorter days to do it in. If you are at all given to looking ahead, you’ll almost inevitably be contrasting the bright colors and abundant harvest with preparation for the more barren winter ahead. Of course, the closer to the equator you live, the less contrast there will be between seasons: perhaps you’re lucky enough to live in a place with a year-round growing season. But even in the tropics and subtropics, there is definitely a surge of growth activity in the summer, and a slowing of intensity and change of pace as the days shorten in autumn.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that war is universal. For the whole of recorded history, humans have fought, even back when the only record of battle is the damage to ancient bones dug up by archeologists. For every tale of peace-loving tribes, there is a rider that at some point the tribe was overrun by a more warlike neighbor or by colonizers from far off. We share with crows, chickens and other social creatures the instinctual urge to pick on any member of a group who is weaker or even just ‘different,’ sometimes to the point of destroying them.
Up here in Alaska, August is full-on harvest time for gardeners. With our cool climate and short growing season, we do especially well with cole crops, also known as crucifers – kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, all of which can maximize the growth opportunity provided by the almost constant daylight between June and August. These vegetables are all wonderfully nutritious: the beneficial compounds they contain are only just beginning to be quantified, identified and recognized, but everybody’s grandmother knew they were ‘good for you. ‘