pear picking

The Winter Pear
by William Allingham

Is always Age severe?
Is never Youth austere?
Spring-fruits are sour to eat;
Autumn’s the mellow time.
Nay, very late in the year.
Short day and frosty rime.
Thought, like a winter pear,
Stone-cold in summer’s prime,
May turn from harsh to sweet.

Posted 11 years, 3 months ago at 11:24 am. Add a comment

borrowed bounty

It’s been over a year since I officially threw in the plow on vocational farming. One of the things I miss the most is the weekly harvest days before market. We carted, pulled, and dragged vegetables into the barn. They sat in piles. Stacks. Sometimes even pyramids. All waiting to be washed hydro-cooled. In a matter of hours, each zucchini, each carrot, each collard would be inspected, bundled, and placed in cold storage. At the end of the day, sometimes I would have to catch my breath at the sheer number of vegetables my hands had touched that day.

Sometimes it was easy to become desensitized to the volume of produce. During the height of summer, five pounds of basil would roll around our counters like change in your pocket. Even making a triple batch of pesto would hardly make a dent in the supply. And then another tidal wave of the peppery green leaves would break the next day.

While my partial-sun window boxes have kept in a a mostly steady supply of mixed herbs, my eyes have itched for the cartloads of butternut squash and coolers full of greens. I’ve had to borrow my bounty this year from friends and family.

I’ve clipped and hung herbs to dry, sorted jars of heirloom bean varieties, forked elderberries off their stems, snipped oatstraw into pieces, pulled hops flowers off their vines till my hands were stained and smelled of ginger and garlic, rubbed nettle leaves off their stems till my hands ached and itched, and shuffled through the yard bent double gathering black walnuts. Though I’ve yet to use a cart this season, the harvest has been brought in using baskets, five gallon buckets, baking trays, coat pockets, window screens, bowls, and impromptu shirt “baskets.”

The harvest is abundant indeed.

Posted 11 years, 6 months ago at 5:13 pm. Add a comment

Spicy Butternut Squash with Parmesan

Growing up, orange vegetables meant sugar. Sweet potatoes got marshmallows. Winter squash got a dusting of brown sugar. Pumpkins were made into pies. Carrots got… okay, well, carrots discredit my sweeping generalization.

Even though I’d now be more likely to use honey or maple syrup, it’s taken me some time to crack through the caramelized bias of my youth. And oh! it’s been worth it. Like many openings of mind, there are so many more possibilities now. Winter squash, I’ve come to understand, are quiet about their sweetness. It’s easily upstaged by the more boisterous sugar. Next to the spice of cayenne though, the squash’s sweetness can be appreciated.

Spicy Butternut Squash with Parmesan
~inspired by this recipe from Gourmet Magazine, as seen on Epicurious

2 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the squash cubes in a small baking dish or skillet. In a glass measuring cup, measure out the cream then stir in the cayenne, salt, and pepper. Pour the cream mixture over the squash. Cover with foil or a lid and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Stir in half the cheese, and sprinkle the rest on top of the squash. Bake (uncovered) for another  7-10 minutes. Then turn the broiler on until the cheese is bubbly, brown, and beautiful. Remove the the oven and let stand for at least 5 minutes to thicken.

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 2:00 pm. 1 comment

:: a beautiful day in the neighborhood ::

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Walks this time of year are a study in contrasts. The streets are littered with still bright leaves while the skies are often murky. While most trees have long since let go of their leaves, a few clutch at them like a child who refuses to take off her tiara at bedtime. They are beautiful in their stubbornness.

The allure of decoration is widely heeded though.  Everyone from the neighbors down the street to the cacti are getting their jolly on.

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 7:47 pm. Add a comment

Still Life with Autumn

Living in the south, I  hibernate in the summer. The windows are shut tight. My limbs gets sluggish from being splayed in front of a fan for five months. Even the walls sweat here. My spirit wallows too, unable to rouse from its sticky sleep. Then summer snaps– sometimes all at once like a rubber band, and other times like a child clumsily learning to snap by rubbing his fingers together. Autumn gusts in. When the stagnant air becomes wind, I peel back the windows, inhale deeply, and begin life again. The fact that southern autumns persist well past Thanksgiving when much of the rest of the country is firmly in winter, I consider a restitution for the summer.

Fall seems to weak a word to contain this transformation. Although “fall” lends itself to some clever bulletin boards in classrooms and libraries, it only includes one aspect of this most delightful of seasons. And really, autumn is so much more than the falling leaves.

It is the smell of wood smoke unfurling across the evening air like a banner proclaiming allegiance to a new ruler. As the mosquitoes have slowly died off, we’ve been spending more evenings by the chimenea, watching the flames as if they were a drama.

Autumn is watching lettuces grow from nuggets the size of quarters to carpeting whole fields in the space of a fortnight.  I think autumn is secretly the farmer’s favorite. Even though there is still plenty to do, the pace is less dire. We find ourselves being able to stand back and admire the beauty of the farm, if only for a moment. Set against a background of velvety black earth is the iridescent wave of carrot tops, the sea of wine dark Rouge d’hiver lettuce, the dusty green crest of collards, and the dusky purple billow of Red Russian kale.

Autumn is pulling a carrot from the ground that you are positive is the archetype for all carrots. The mother carrot. The ideal of which all other carrots are just shadows. And then you take a step farther, pull out another carrot, and there it is again! The epitome of all carrots. And very soon you have a whole handful of orange perfection.

Autumn is letting your feet luxuriate in last warm days before slippers, socks, and blankets come rolling in like a northern front. I refuse to bundle up for the first few weeks of cold weather, relishing the new sensation of cold. Gradually though, all the blankets that’ve loitered around all summer find their usefulness again. The scarves are unpacked and hung by the door. Knowing the location of one’s slippers becomes a condition of getting out of bed.

Autumn is having finally said goodbye to the bright summer vegetables. It is making room on my plate for the deep green of fall. My psyche seems to be tapping into some deep ancestral craving for fresh green before winter sets in. Kale bulks up everything from soups to garlicky white beans to scrambled eggs.  Bok choy is a mild mannered partner for sassy curries. Collards sing back up to all manner of main dishes. My sink is continually full of chopped greens of some shade or other.

Autumn is relishing the warmth of the oven as you pass rather than going out of your way to avoid it. I’ve started making my own bread again, something I gladly pay someone else to to do in the summer. We’ve even fired up the oven for such unnecessary things as chocolate chip cookies. (Yes, organic carrots next to chocolate chip cookies is how we roll.)

Autumn is waking up to a find tendrils of frost on the leaves under you feet. No matter how strongly the news predicts a frost, it always surprises me to walk out with my morning basket of laundry and find that I can see my breath.

Autumn is that nap where you fall asleep wishing you had a blanket and wind up dreaming about snow tombs and giant cats. You guys get those too, right? This might be the first autumn that I’ve been both free to take afternoon naps and able to decide where I take them. Baby-tidian and I have taken our share of al fresco naps, whether in our yard in on the I Spy quilt or at the farm in hammocks.


If summer is wicker and peaches and winter is cable knit and hot chocolate, then autumn is copper and pears. Kettles start to whistle and the musk of apples and pears permeates our house. Each year we buy more apples than the last. This year we are up to three bushels, but that still doesn’t seem to be enough for preserved applesauce, juice and cider experiments, a stash of dried apples, and wanton eating out of hand. So perhaps next year it will be up to four.

Autumn is never long enough.  Like a school kid dreaming of summer vacation I spend the whole rest of the year pinning for it. But, on this second day of December,  perhaps it is time to let it go. There are good things ahead.

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 4:16 pm. 4 comments

Every Leaf’s a Flower

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf’s a flower.” — Albert Camus

I think I once faked being sick in order to stay home and watch out my bedroom window as the leaves drifted to the ground.  Or maybe I just planned to and then chickened out at the last minute. I don’t remember.

This year I don’t have to play hookie to watch the leaves fall. Not only have Baby-tidian and I enjoyed many walks through our crunchy leaf strewn neighborhood, we’ve spent countless minutes watching out our windows as leaves have transformed the cement dead zone of our driveway into a sea as vibrant as any coral reef.

I always forget how falling leaves makes one appreciate negative space. We tend to scamper about with our eyes fixed where we are headed, whether that’s the front door, the coffee shop window, or our car at the other end of the parking lot. What stands between us and our goal is just empty space to be gotten through. Leaves falling through it changes the way I see that empty space. It’s like lining a blank hallway with pictures. With a big gust of wind, I’m suddenly aware of the depth of the space I inhabit. There is value and beauty in the getting there.

Autumn also gives a blessed relief from the monotony of summer and winter. I love lush landscapes as much as the next person. And I’m a sucker for the pristine harmony of a fresh snow. But it’s fortifying to see trees bursting out of their verdant uniformity like a woman kicking off her slick high heels and stretching her bare feet. Where there was once a fire, now there are flames.

I find myself collecting these newly emancipated leaves. I’ll pluck one off a tree in the grocery store parking lot or stoop to pick another off the ground as I fumble for my keys at the door. I’ll find these leaves days/weeks/months later in my pockets or forgotten corners of tables in various states of crumbly decay.  Here’s a peek at my stash from this year:


Some are the color of Venetian glass while others sport the texture of a leather handbag. They evoke both the setting sun and night’s inkiness. They tell stories of swans, and rivers, and turkey tails. Of age, and beauty, and playfulness.


Posted 12 years, 4 months ago at 11:50 pm. Add a comment

Breakfast the Color of Autumn

  • Steel cut oatmeal made with buttermilk
  • Almost too ripe persimmon
  • Homemade elderberry rosehip syrup

Posted 12 years, 5 months ago at 12:07 pm. Add a comment