It is a clean feeling to gather together in the waning light, around the shed where the guys are hanging the meat. The sparks from the fire that is burning in the steam-bath barrel rise high into the indigo sky. The kids take advantage of the inferno and roast pieces of fresh meat over the open flame. The trees stand tall against the evening light, their golden leaves seem to glow from within. It doesn’t get much better than this.
There is something about this time of year. The movement of the animals, the rapid transformation of the season, the smell of the wood as it is cut and stacked for the cold time to come. There is something deeply satisfying about participating in the change, participating in the harvest. Time and time again, I think: It doesn’t get much better than this.
Neighbors come by to see the meat and take a piece. Grandma comes over to take care of the moose stomach. Last time I took care of it, I was accused of washing it too much. I washed the flavor away. She and her niece take care of it now. They cook it, and then those who appreciate it fully gather together to eat. It is local soul food. It makes everyone happy in a way that is easy to see. It creates a sense of community. It doesn’t get much better than this.
I enjoy standing in the autumn air for hours at a time, taking care of the meat. I have a system that I developed over the years. I learned from watching my mom, and from watching my husband’s grandma who, after I first “shacked up” with her grandson, told me, “I KNOW how to cut meat!” After so many years I have a way that I know too, a way that I repeat every season. It feels right. I stand at the outdoor table and cut the meat, preparing each part to be preserved. The gray jays come to visit. A shy magpie swoops down without a sound. The geese fly overhead, honking their goodbye. I think: It doesn’t get much better than this.
At the end of the day, when the dark visits a few minutes earlier than the day before, when I am tired and worn, I sit with a cup of rosehip tea from the pan in which it has been steeping. I look into the pink-hued drink and feel the warmth of the wood stove. In the comfort of my home with my family, I know: It doesn’t get any better than this.