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PHOTO: Tessa Zundel
Fall is, hands down, our favorite time of year around the homestead. We love the change in temperature and the colors of the leaves, but we also relish the beginning of the fall and winter festivals. Most of these festivals are linked back to what the earth is doing this time of year, and my family finds our labors on the land are enriched by participating in some of these holidays, whether they’re from our native culture or not. One such festival is the two-day celebration of Rosh Hashanah, or Feast of the Trumpets, the Jewish new year event, which began Sunday, Sept. 13.
Celebrate The Sweet
We’ve toiled through the summer, so it’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Likewise, the Jewish people look forward to a sweet new year by eating sliced apples dipped in honey. What apple grower or apiarist doesn’t appreciate their harvest as the summer ends and the fall begins? Tending bees and apple trees is not for the faint of heart—both take an enormous amount of effort and care—but the rewards are sweet, indeed. Involving the children in these harvest activities lightens the workload and makes it more fun. Here are some activities children of varying ages can help with.
- climb apple trees to harvest hard-to-reach fruits
- hunt for usable fruit from the orchard floor
- peel and prepare sweet apples for sauce, chips and pie filling
- ferment apple leftovers for homemade apple cider vinegar
- uncap the wax and drain the honey from the comb [insert HF honey post]
- substitute honey for sugar in baking (Use 3/4 cup honey for every 1 cup sugar, and reduce all other liquids in the recipe by 1/2 cup.)
- make cough drops and candy
To go with those delicious apples and honey, make some warm challah bread to eat with your family. This traditional braided bread is often made with raisins this time of year (another reminder of the hope for a sweet year), but it’s delectable plain or with seeds or nuts.
A big part of the Feast of the Trumpets is, no surprise, a trumpet. The shofar, a traditional ram’s horn trumpet, is used during the two-day celebration to bring everyone’s attention to the prayers and activities taking place. The point of Rosh Hashanah is much like other cultures’ New Year’s celebrations: It’s a wonderful time to reflect back on the past 12 months, finding things we’ve done correctly and unearthing weak points and ways we can be better. For Rosh Hashanah, these reflections would be introspective as this is a very personal process; however, the same ponderings can be applied to the homestead or farm.
If you have a shofar, cast-iron triangle or even a piano, play it to call everyone together and let them know it’s goal-setting time. Sit around with your family, after a nice apple or honey laden treat, and get out a pen and paper. Take an inventory of projects that went really well on the farm this year, and then make another record of ventures that flopped. Talk about what made each endeavor either a success or failure and whether you’ll continue on with them.
For example, one of our successes this year was the large brooder we made for the 100 or so chicks at our new place. It was simple and cobbled together, but it turned out to be just the right height for the children to access and work with the chicks. Our biggest flop was not planting a fall garden. We’d just moved and none of us had the energy, but we’re feeling the pinch as we’re now relying on what we can find locally. We’re so spoiled by our large garden every year that we sometimes take it for granted.
On the back of your piece of paper, make a list of goals and plans for the coming year. You can tweak this as the winter progresses and the gathering dies down, but right now, while you’re still up to your elbows in harvest work, is the perfect time to jot down some ideas. By December, you and I may have forgotten several brilliant ideas about cover crops and pear trees that flashed through our minds as we were working this September.
What Are You Celebrating?
What is your family’s favorite celebration during the fall season? How does your farm or homestead feature these festivities—any homegrown crafts or homemade recipes you’d like to share? Whenever and however you celebrate it, my family and I would like to wish you L’Shana Tova, Happy New Year!