I pause at the gate on the way down the hill to say hello to three shaggy cows. They blink at me, perhaps wondering whether I come bearing food, and then all of a sudden turn skittish and scatter like sheep.
Most of the fields now are growing a cover crop of winter rye, to be ploughed under in the spring. Walking down to the two rows of brussels sprouts at the far end of the far field, I'm hyper-conscious of the wind and the quiet, the autumnal smells of leaves and woodsmoke.
The first third of the row has been picked clean: not a sprout to be seen, save those at the bottom of each plant, now blackened by frost. The topmost leaves have ice on them, in places. But I keep moving, gleaning a hard marble of sprout here, three there. As I traverse the field the pickings grow less slim and my bag begins to fill.
As I go, I murmur a shehecheyanu, because this is the first time I have picked brussels sprouts this year (and will no doubt be the last.) I say thank you for the plants, for the earth that grows them, for the hands that nurtured them, for the years of good stewardship of this patch of northern Berkshire soil. There is always so much to be thankful for.
The first time I saw brussels sprouts growing they looked strangely hybrid to me, clusters of tiny cabbages beneath collard leaves on a thick broccoli stalk. But we've picked them at Caretaker Farm several years running now, and I've come to admire their combination of stoutness and whimsy.
I come away with half a grocery bag full of small hard sprouts. They are purplish and rolled tight, but I don't think they're frostbitten -- the frozen ones were easy to identify, exposed to the cold at the bottom of their stalks. They will be delicious on our Thanksgiving table. Above and around me, the far hills are pale beneath the leafless trees.