Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Autumn!

Autumn is, beyond a doubt, my favorite time of year. Spring is nice, lots of gorgeous flowers popping up in localized gardens all over the country.
Summer, my least favorite season, is just too darn hot, and winter, while nearly perfect in temperature, is peevish like a spoiled child, throwing a tantrum regularly.

But autumn; wow. The colors are not shy like Spring's gardens, they shout from every tree and branch, declaring the end of summer with a Hallelujah to rival the angels in Heaven; the temperatures warm, but not too hot, cool but not cold; the sun, lower on the horizon, casting it's golden light enhancing the trees, aflame with their celebrations.

The bounties of the garden continue, with a second wind found somewhere along the first of September; late summer plantings beginning to bring forth their fruits, now that the dog days of summer are past.
Autumn is time for Leaf Day.

Sadly, we only got to do this one year, but it's a memory that will live with us always.

We lived on five acres in what was then sleepy Delta, Colorado. We lived in an old house that had been built around the turn of the last century. We had trees. Old trees. 14 large, wonderful trees; Cottonwood, Poplar, Apple, Pear. Some of them over 100 years old; big and bossy, protesting as the wind tried to get the better of them more than once.
If you've never been to the Western Slope of Colorado, it's a dry place, water is precious, snow is rare; all this means that autumn is dry and the leaves crackle when you walk on them, crunching merrily as you kick and fling them about. The smell of dry leaves is something to behold, and here in Oregon, greatly missed.

For this, the first and only Leaf Day(we had planned and plotted for other years, but having moved away from our glorious trees, with their equally glorious Autumn leaves, there were to be no more Leaf Days), we invited our friends to share our scheme. Everyone raked and raked, the leaf blower was employed, and soon we had a leaf pile to rival all leaf piles.

We pushed, we pulled, we threw ourselves and each other into that leaf pile, giggling and cackling, howling madly, until we had dried leaves everywhere; even in places that are unmentionable in polite company.
Then we ate; gingerbread, applesauce cake and warm apple cider. We ate and we laughed, and we jumped some more.

On the Western Slope of Colorado, autumn is short, lasting a few brief weeks at the most, swallowed up in the first frosts of winter all too soon.
Here in Oregon, we've had beautiful Autumnal color clear until Thanksgiving, blessing us with colorful leaves and berries for our Holiday table.

Autumn is my favorite season for so many reasons, but the best are the warm memories shared with friends beside the evening fire, picking pumpkins from the field, a bonfire out back, or, Leaf Day; lone but glorious.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Have a Problem

I have a problem, wine.

Now, before you go call my Bishop, let me explain.

Wine comes in glass bottles. I have a thing for glass bottles. Tall bottles, thin bottles (do I see a metaphor for what I am not here?), pretty bottles, old bottles.

I love glass bottles, and they don't even need to have been used for libationary purposes.

When I go to the grocery store alone, I sometimes find myself walking down the wine aisle, just to look at the pretty bottles. I don't drink wine, I've made a covenant with my Heavenly Father not to, so I don't buy any; I just sort of drool over the bottles. I do wonder if a fellow customer, passing nearby might wonder if I've just jumped on the wagon and am having second thoughts.

I've collected some pretty, old and turning purple bottles; some new pressed glass bottles and some newer wine bottles from a funeral.

Square, round, oval; bottles of various sizes and shapes. I even found one, in perfect condition, in a load of fill dirt we brought to our property that had come from an old garbage dump.

What do I do with them you ask? That's a very good question. So far, I've made one batch of blueberry vinegar that I ended up throwing out because I never used it! But I have the bottle!

I have visions of beautiful wine type bottles lining the counter, full of beautiful edibles from my garden, preserved as vinegars or oils; made to savor the season in say: February.

I also have a vision of wonderful old bottles getting more and more purple as the years go on, becoming beautiful jewels on my upper windowsills. Purple isn't even my favorite color.

I also have a collection of old canning jars. You know, the kind with the wire bale, and glass lids? I use them in my pantry for things like baking soda, baking powder, kosher salt, cornstarch, whatever. I love them! But that's another post :)

If your jar or bottle or oil lamp is turning purple, you have some really old glass on your hands--do you need my address?? :)

Monday, September 7, 2009


Yesterday was September sixth; early yet in the month.

I went out to make sure the chickens were buttoned in for the night, and it SMELLED like Autumn; woodsmoke.
Someone, somewhere nearby had a fire going to take away the chill of this rainy, Oregon evening.
It was a glorious smell, not yet mingled with the smell of dry leaves; pure and unadulterated.

When I smell the smell of perfect woodsmoke-and there IS a good and a bad kind of woodsmoke, it just depends on the wood, I am transported back to my childhood, the good part of my childhood.

First, my parents had some friends, the Bredemeyers. We called them "Grandma and Grandpa Bredemeyer"; I had no idea, until I was older that they were not really my grandparents. They had the most amazing antique store inside a barn, and lived in what I recall as a cabin, next door; not big enough for them and our family when we came to visit. They heated each building with a woodstove, and the smell was heavenly.

Second, later, My real grandparents had 40 acres on a hillside not far from a little tiny place called Mountaindale, Oregon. We lovingly referred to these 40 acres as "The Farm".

On the farm, there was an old hunting cabin that my grandfather worked hard to make habitable. It was a mess to begin with; I was a child, yet even I knew it was a mess.
But oh what he did to that cabin. The best part was, that he installed a small wood cookstove. My grandma would do all her canning in that cabin; I got to use it as a sleepover spot for my girlfriends and I--I think this started after the night I had a friend sleepover, and we left the radio running all night; did I mention we lived in a 1970's era double wide with very thin walls?

Nevertheless, this sleepover haven was at it's best when we were out there in the winter, with a fire in the cookstove to keep us warm and toasty.

If you've never heated with wood, you don't know what you are missing. The heat is dry and cozy, solid in it's properties, like another being in the room with you. So unlike it's blustery cousin the forced air furnace, whose presence is just that, forced upon you; with all it's comings and goings, there is never real peace in the house.

No, a wood stove-my preferred method of wood heat, is like a reliable friend, steady and sure; making comfortable inroads into your psyche.

Autumn is my favorite time of year; leaves, scarlet and gold, green and orange make a feast for my eyes. The woodsmoke? A feast for my heart.