Monday, October 10, 2016

Fabulous Fall

published in the Chronicle Herald - October 10, 2016
Theres something about the smell of the air in the fall that sets it apart from the other seasons. There is an underlying coolness, a crispness in the evenings that is a welcome respite after the summer heat. 

This summer was especially difficult for our gardens and for people living with wells. I know quite a few people who are still struggling with a lack of water, and it makes me thankful yet again for our decision to move from our country property into town.

But one thing our town property doesnt have is apple trees. Our former property was blessed with lots of trees. According to our neighbours, some of the trees were well over 100 years old. Over the years we lived there, we discovered that some of the apples were better than others. The deer and the porcupines weren't choosy, though, and cleaned up all of the drop apples for us.
four of the apple varieties from the trees on our former property
The trees werent like the orchard trees that are planted now. They reached quite a height, and I would have needed a very tall ladder to reach the apples at the top of the trees. I was content with picking what I could reach, and leaving the rest for the deer and other wildlife.
the apple peeler from Lee Valley Tools made peeling a bucket of apples a lot easier
We purchased a hand crank apple peeler with adjustable blades from Lee Valley Tools, a handy gadget that made peeling hundreds of apples a much easier task. I froze many bags of apples to use for apple crisps over the winter months. Mmmm...the scent of apples and cinnamon and nutmeg baking are some of the scents I associate with the colder months. I never did learn to make pie crusts. My moms home made pies are one of the things I really miss from my childhood. She died when I was quite young, taking her baking secrets with her.

One year, I decided to try making batches of apple sauce. A novice, I added too much water and the sauce ended up being somewhere between a thick cider or a very thin sauce. Not my best homesteading experiment. I shared a jar with our neighbours, which Im sure gave them a few chuckles about the city folk next door.
my first batch of apple sauce from our own apples - a little bit runny!
My dreams about bountiful vegetable gardens and a full root cellar never came to fruition. I was thankful for farmers markets and food stands at the fall craft markets to obtain wonderful jams, pickles and relishes. Home made goodness captured in jars.

We always had a supply of squash. Never planted, but grown from seeds in our compost pile. Im happy to say that tradition has followed us to our home in town. Spreading our compost on our gardens this spring resulted in several acorn squash vines growing, and as I write this we have at least seven squash waiting to be picked. A meager result by some standards, but enough to keep this gardeners heart happy. Split in half and roasted with a dab of butter and maple syrup, squash is one of my favourite vegetables.

Another thing Ill miss this fall about our home in the country is the wood burning stove. I do enjoy our new propane fireplace, but turning on a switch to light the fire isnt quite the same. The smell of the burning wood, and the crackling of the fire gives me such a feeling of comfort. It brings me back to my childhood home, reading in front of the fireplace on the weekends. My husband always grumbled about hauling the wood and cleaning the ashes but I felt it was a small price to pay, especially since he was the one doing it. I learned to be an expert at building and lighting the fires, which was a far cry from the first fires we built. Our first fire ended up in opened windows and the smell of smoke that we couldn't get rid of for days. Our next attempts had the fire burning so hot it was an understatement to call them roaring. But we learned over time and enjoyed many years of a softly glowing fire, a welcoming sight and smell.

Fall brings comfort foods back on our menus. Home made stews, soups and chili, hearty pastas, fresh baked bread and biscuits. As winter wears on I'll be longing for our days of summer barbecues, but for now I am looking forward to the change in menu as well as the change in season. A new season always brings something good to focus on.

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