Celebrating summer’s bounty during the Harvest Moon

This year September’s full moon will be a Harvest Moon. Although this sounds like a Hallmark holiday, the Harvest Moon is a very real event in the fall season.

On Sept. 20, the full moon, or the Harvest Moon, will brighten the sky soon after the sun sets. In the days before floodlights, twinkle lights, and other beams of light were used in the gardens and fields, this added bright moonlight allowed the farmers extra time to harvest crops before the first frost of the season.

The Harvest Moon is the full moon that appears closest to the Autumn Equinox, which is the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere. This year the full moon is just three days before the Sept. 22 Autumn Equinox.

This does not always happen in September. Depending on the lunar cycles, the Harvest Moon and Autumn Equinox can happen in September or October. I am fascinated by the meanings behind the moons and learned that lunar cycles led to farming decisions for generations of pioneers and early settlers.

The traditional moon of September is the Full Corn Moon, named because it signaled farmers to pick and store the corn crops for the upcoming winter. October’s full moon is the Hunters Moon, marking the time to begin preparing meats and fish for the upcoming cold, snowy months. The moon’s name changes to Harvest Moon based on the equinox timing.

With the arrival of the Harvest Moon, the daylight hours become shorter, and the sun’s intensity lessens. For me, it means I begin to pull out sweaters and my favorite jean jacket. The list of garden chores is long in September and October, but this transition of the seasons is my favorite part of the year. I make time to soak in the warm days and linger outside as the sun sets and the temperatures slightly cool. I love fall.

Also, with the Harvest Moon, I begin to clean up tomato and cucumber plants. There may be one last batch of salsa or pot of sauce, but it is time to move into the next season gently. The plants have produced all season, and now it is time to clear vines.

I gather flower bulbs, garlic, and shallot bulbs. Soon it will be time to place them in the ground. I am much like the pioneers these last weeks of September, slowly prepping my cupboards and gardens for fall and winter.

With the Harvest Moon, I also find myself tinkering with soup recipes and enjoying the last of the fresh peaches. I get excited about apples and plums. I find myself reaching for my favorite throw when settling in for a movie. Despite warm days, the evenings feel cozy.

Whether fall brings you garden gates or tailgates, I hope after a busy week, you can soak in the days of fall. Take a moment on Sept. 20 to look at the Harvest Moon and welcome the Autumn Equinox on Sept. 23. Fall is (almost) here.