Anticipation of Fall

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In the midst of summer, under July heat and between berry-picking and trips to the lake, my mind always begins to move to fall. On chilly mornings, or when a breeze picks up and thrashes the plants out front, I feel it coming, though its arrival is still months off yet.

It’s always been at this time of year that I start knitting. Crafting for cold weather lets me channel the euphoria and creativity that the first chill and yellowing trees light in me. As I work I imagine the smell of rain and fallen leaves and pumpkin and roast chicken, and my soul leaps with excitement.

Now that we’re back in the Pacific Northwest I am overjoyed for the promise of cooler weather and rain.  The season will be rung in by my daughter’s second birthday. We’ll return to cooking inside and lighting the wood stove.

I’m not knitting my way through this summer– partly for lack of time; partly because my daughter would object– but instead I’ll be thinking ahead as I dig and plant our fall garden. I’ll be stacking firewood, storing potatoes, picking hazelnuts, and nailing siding up on the hay barn.

As always, there is more to do than there are hours in the day or energy in my body. But we’re moving forward, chipping away, and I’m feeling blissfully inspired.

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Summertime

Summer is not my favorite season by any stretch, yet in spite of unprecedented weeks of heat here in the Pacific Northwest, this summer has been filled with charm and simple luxuries.

The creek is at what neighbors say is a record low for this time of year, and I believe it. But it still offers burbling pools for swimming, and a multitude of wonders such as impromptu crawdad boils and a reprieve from the scorching afternoons.

The wild berries are bountiful, and my daughter and I spend much of each day picking– and she eating. The variety is astounding here. The common blackberries are just beginning to reach ripeness in greater quantity than could ever be picked, and the cooking and canning finally shall begin.

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We’ve dug the first row of potatoes– 17 pounds– and the garlic and shallots, which were small due to late planting and infrequent watering. Fortunately they yielded a good handful of delicious scapes, or as I always knew them, whistles.

Our great friend made an impulse purchase of two Muscovy ducks and brought two for us in exchange for keeping them here. My husband was quick to day “I told you so” when I conceded that they’re great– adorable, easy-for-now to care for, and will eventually be a good meal that led a happy life in the grass and water. Long-term, we intend to dig a pond in the pasture area, partially for run-off management, and then raise more ducks.

Our rabbits were successfully bred, and delivered ten of the most adorable babies: tortoiseshell, black-and-white, and all-white rex-New Zealand crosses. I’m pleased and relieved that all have survived and thrived, whereas in the past these mothers have struggled.

We took in our male rabbit, who I believe is a black-and-brown rex, several months ago after losing our buck. I hoped to have colorful pelts for a variety of uses. However, my plan backfired: these bunnies are way too cute for food, my husband insists. Some will therefore be sold, some will be eaten, and we will be purchasing an additional New Zealand buck.

The garden is filling out, which feels slow but good. I’ll be prepping fall beds this coming week and planting brassicas, as well as more beans on the pea trellis after we harvest the stunted shoots for salad tonight. This incredibly hot summer has had no sympathy for our late plantings.

This is the first year in many that I’ve been filled with visceral euphoria in anticipation of fall. I suppose it’s because I’m back home. And here, I think we will enjoy the most sumptuous fall of any, and I can enjoy these sweltering summer days for their promise of eventual cool and falling leaves and rain.

Gratitude for Then, Now and Moving On

Today is our last Thanksgiving in the Valley.

The past few years, living here, have been complicated. Our feelings toward this time, the experiences, the ups and downs, are tangled and recoiling. The end has always been somewhat in sight– we knew we wouldn’t be here forever.

What has changed is the beginning that now stretches out before us. A beautiful new home. A goal, a plan. Rain. Grass. Possibility.

The beginning on the horizon has enabled us, encouraged us, to examine the time here and those elusive sentiments. From this I’ve extracted two products worthy of deep gratitude.

First: perspective. I’m certain that I will always recognize the value in my surroundings, though at my lamest I may fail to aptly appreciate it.

From where I sit in Central California, every day in our new life, on the new homestead, under every raindrop, should be cherished and praised. But I know it won’t be that way. There will be broken pipes and long winters and failed crops. There will be times of exhaustion and frustration. There will be times of missing the long tomato seasons and fresh lemons. But there is treasure to be found in the bitterness we’ve felt here, in the dust and heat and unhappy people, because I will be able to hold it up against the good and bad times of the future and be grateful for those times.

Second: tradition. We’ve moved largely into the life we dreamed of, even here. We’ve made extravagant shared Sunday dinners. We’ve established a way of eating daily, of the food we buy and way we grow and harvest our own meat. The way we feed our child.

And we’ve become the Thanksgiving hosts. I roast a goose, make stock and giblet stuffing, and render the goose fat for months of use. My husband makes the potatoes and bourbon-glazed Brussels sprouts. I pick wild greens for salad. He makes dessert. These are the traditions that we will bring to Little Fall Creek, that we’ll nurture and grow over years to come, that our daughter will grow up celebrating. We can thankful for their beginning in our time in California.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Things I’ll Miss: Tomatoes in November

I will miss tomato season stretching out across half the year. As much as yearn for cloudy skies and frosty mornings, I can’t complain about Caprese salad fresh from the garden while planning Thanksgiving dinner.

(A series.) It’s easier, as we prepare to move, to value the positives of this place, where we’ve subsisted as rather bitter foreigners for the past few years. Our differences with the people here, with the land, with the weather, are great. But we’ve found common ground in places, and I will spend the months leading up to our final departure examining it, and attempt to make peace.

A Winter Hat

The cooler weather has begun to move in, and in spite of my little one’s resistance to wearing anything resembling a hat, I knew it would eventually become imperative that her nearly bald little head have some insulation.

I haven’t picked up knitting needles or a crochet hook since before her birth– the longest interlude I’ve taken from crafting, ever. I miss such projects desperately, but so often my hands are full with things more pressing (like a squirming toddler). But with a rising urgency to get her Christmas stocking underway– I feel terribly guilty that it wasn’t done last year– I needed to get back on the creative horse.

So I grabbed a few balls of yarn for our last three-hour drive over to my mom’s house and crocheted a little beanie. It’s not my finest workmanship, but she makes it look good. If I’d taken more time I would have done a patterned edge.

Best of all, she seems to like it and leaves it on. Just in case, it can be tied in place.

The Trees

Many of the trees on the property are overrun with ivy; some are gravely plagued with the aggressive vines, beautiful as they can be. We’ll have quite the task removing them, which we’ll need to do post haste.

There’s an old plum tree near the Little House toppling under its own broken branches, and a large unpruned apple tree bending under a snarl of vines. The trees will be one of the first projects, and I’m sure we’ll need to hire an arborist for some of the largest and most ailing.

In the spring, we’ll be planting new trees, a small orchard of various fruit. I’ll plant a collection of heirloom apple trees– early and late, cooking and eating– a cherry, plum, and pear.

I have plenty of research yet to do on which varieties thrive best in USDA Hardiness Zone 8b. I’m well acquainted with local floral and native plants, but I want to choose the best adapted fruit trees for the area.

This property is also just far enough from the town we used to live in to be slightly colder in the winter, which may mean more than that the rarest in-town snow and more days with below-freezing temps. From where I sit in a November day expected to reach 80 degrees, this will be a welcome but intense change.