PAT NEAL: The happiness of fall chores

Autumn must be my favorite time of year. When the Olympic Mountains stand so stark and tall in the smoke-free air, they almost seem like they are about to fall over, but they don’t.

Although there’s no time to stand around and admire the view when you have chores to do.

Autumn is the time of harvest. You can’t eat the view, so you’d better get to work.

The fact is, there are not enough hours in the day to get all of the chores done because the days are getting shorter.

Experts tell us not to get stressed out or bogged down by the details of life on the farm.

We should prioritize, delegate and move on to the next chore with the rhythm of the season.

Whatever that means.

I think it means now that the vines have died down, it’s time to dig the potatoes.

There are few things I enjoy more than digging potatoes.

To thrust the shovel into the mellow loam, exposing colorful tubers of varied hues of red, white, blue and yellow. Digging potatoes is a treasure hunt.

I was really looking forward to it.

Until I remembered loaning the shovel to a worthless clam digger.

It was a rare antique that was in really good shape. All of my tools are.

That’s another secret to life on the farm. Don’t use your tool and it won’t wear out.

I could never find a shovel that would fit my hand anyway.

It was time to prioritize, delegate and move on.

It’s time to pick a winter’s supply of apples.

An old apple farmer told me that once the coyotes started eating the apples, they were ready to pick. Lately there’s been a coyote party in the orchard every night.

People often wonder how the coyotes pick apples. They don’t.

The coyotes get the apples laying on the ground that the bear knocked out of the tree.

It turns out the bears figured out the apples were ripe before I did.

They must have camped out in the trees for a few nights and ate themselves sick, if the mess around the trees was any indication.

People said I should shoot the bear and tan the hide. Like I need another chore.

I tried to tan a hide once, using the old Indian cure that involved a greasy mixture of brains to do the trick.

It turns out that tanning a hide and writing a newspaper column have a lot in common. I ran out of brains before it was half done.

Besides, the bears have obviously read the hunting laws.

That’s why they never emerge from the blackberry tangles until at least a minute and a half after legal shooting light.

It was just another case of “if you snooze, you lose.”

All that was left of the apples was a few half-eaten ones that neither the bears nor the coyotes wanted.

It was a tragic end to another struggle to survive in the wilderness.

What could I do but prioritize, delegate and move on?

Autumn is also a good time to stock up on firewood.

Stacking firewood is another one of my favorite chores. But you have to cut and split the firewood before you can stack it.

That’s why it was too bad that I could not get the chainsaw started.

I was burning daylight. It was time to prioritize, delegate and move on.

That’s life in the wilderness.

We work through the rhythm of the seasons until salmon season starts — when, if any chore isn’t done by then, it won’t get done.

_________

Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwildlife@gmail.com.

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