On Nov. 4, as deer hunters were into their second day, I started this article. The Vikings were dominating the Lions, and only a few minutes before halftime, I was picking Brussels sprouts and digging carrots from my garden in a light rain/snow conglomeration. The ground was a wet mixture of mud, garden leftovers and maple leaves that had recently drifted in. My jacket became wetter and wetter as my increasingly cold hands worked as quickly as they still could. And I wondered why.
Why, when it’s November, do I still have vegetables in the garden? Why, after I should have learned my lesson on Oct. 31, 1991, are my carrots still in neat little rows just inside the chicken wire fence? (I still hold the record for greatest depth of snow during a carrot dig – 28.5 inches, Nov. 1, 1991). And then I thought about that question a little more. Why am I out here?
I think the answer has to do with climate change! You see, it used to be that I was done mowing lawn in mid-September and the garden would be completely cleaned out shortly afterwards. During recent years – I’d say about 10 or 15 now – lawn mowing has trickled into mid-October, and it follows that if grass is still growing outside the garden, then so are vegetables inside the garden.
Years ago, I could hear the JV football team playing at the nearby field on Monday evenings in the fall while I was finishing up the pre-winter chores. Now, the JV season is over before I’m done mowing for the year and well before the leaves begin their annual descent. I’m not saying that human activity has anything to do with it. Much like the possums that lie lifeless along the roadways, it just is. Oh, but I digress.
Part of this is okay with me. That part is the fact that kale, Brussels sprouts and carrots are among the heartiest of vegetables, and they taste better if picked well after the first frost. Today, Nov. 4, is certainly well after the first frost. As I crunched on one of the carrots, its sweetness startled my drooling taste buds. It was surely nothing like I’d bought in the store! As I picked a few Brussels sprouts and felt my mouth water, I thought maybe this is why.
The reality is that it’s easy to forget about carrots and kale and Brussels sprouts when fall fishing is so enticing (think Oct. 30 and my 4-pound largemouth). It’s easier still when you add visits to mom, evening karaoke, high school football and volleyball games, Sunday night basketball, occasional meetings and lunches with friends, jigsaw puzzles and long-neglected books to the itinerary. Vegetables?
It’s now Nov. 10 as I get this ready to send to the paper. I look outside and see the same thing I see every year about this time: barren trees casting spooky shadows; tiny snowflakes parachuting down onto lightly snow-covered grass, and my johnboat leaning sadly against the arbor. And every year, I think about one of my favorite songs ever, “Song of the Evergreens” by Chicago.
I close with the lyrics of the first verse:
“Listen to the briskly whistling winter
Whispering through the frozen morning light
And tell me what’s to come
Saying my time is near
I close each year
Loren Brabec is a contributing sports writer for the Isanti-Chisago County Star and author of several Braham sports books.