The Last Windrow: Reflections on the last week in August


What do you do with the last week of August? Summer is pretty well spent and this is a time for deep thought.

I hear the cicadas calling from the deep woods. I see squirrels burying acorns beneath the earth. The rose-breasted grosbeaks have left our bird feeders. There is something afoot.

It's called fall.

The last week of August sends the kids back toward the schoolhouse doors. Football coaches are losing their voices trying to get an ounce more of speed out of their wide receivers. Girls volleyball has begun and the custodians are busily at work making the hallways spotless for at least one day of the school year.

I look at our garden the last week of August knowing full well the destruction that has taken place over the summer months. The potato beetles have munched the vines to the ground; the sweet corn survived the heat spells and will actually produce freeze-able corn. Deer devastated the broccoli crop before we could get the electric fence up, and the crows pulled all the pumpkin seeds out from their mounded homes. No pumpkins this year.

The garden looks like it is ready to be done.

The last week of August on the farm meant getting ready for corn picking. We drug the old one-row Woods corn picker out of the grove and checked all the chains and sprockets and found it ready to charge into the 25-acre fields and harvest one row of corn at a time.

Starting on a field of that size with a one-row picker looked like the job would never end. I look today at the multi-headed corn pickers and marvel at the amount of ground they can cover in a day. They could hardly turn around in one of our old cornfields.

The last week of August always brings memories and thoughts of hunting. Through the year I kept track of where I saw the most pheasants in the countryside. Come early November I would visit those plots with the '97 Winchester 12-gauge on my shoulder looking for the first pheasant dinner of the fall. I'd pull the old shotgun down from the nail rack and oil it up about this time of year.

Late August now gets me thinking about the coming deer season. Our venison larder is needing replenishment. I notice that the deer are becoming a bit more wary lately. I think they know it is the last week of August. Something is on the horizon.

Somehow fishing started to take a back seat the last week of August. I'd already secured a satisfying summer catch of channel catfish and carp. Although I knew that fall fishing in Minnesota was some of the best of the year, I was seven hours away from those wonderful northern lakes.

They did draw me there a few early fall days when I was greeted with a layer of frost on the boat seat early in the morning. I found walleyes and bass in full feeding mode those late August days. The bite would only get better with the approach of cooler weather.

The last days of August meant getting the woodpile ready when my wife and I used oak, pine and birch in our furnace. It took six to eight cords to heat the house over the winter months and just like the squirrel storing acorns, we were busy hauling and splitting our winter's supply before the first snow hit the ground.

I blame some of that woods work for limping around with an artificial hip and a crink in my lower back.

What will I do the last week of August? Well, I might just take that final fishing trip before storing the boat and then just sit on the back deck and watch the leaves turn color. That does sound better than hauling wood.

See you next time. Okay?