Monthly Archives: November 2013

gathering

Pecans on the ground
Gathering

We are visiting my family in northeastern NC for the long Thanksgiving weekend. I have gone over to see my grandmother, visiting with her, then going out to pick up pecans in her back yard/field.   I picked up pecans and put them in the ubiquitous empty Cool Whip container you will find at my grandparents house.  I have been picking up pecans there since I could walk.  Every year in November and December, my grandfather would order my brother and I to come outside and pick up nuts.  We gathered them and put them in paper grocery bags.  Each year was a little different.  Most years, like this one, there are a few nuts–enough to be make the searching worthwhile, but not enough to fill the freezer.  Some years there were virtually no nuts, and some years were mast years where the ground seemed covered.  You couldn’t walk without stepping on pecans.  When we had mast years, my grandfather would even recruit my grandmother to come out and pick up nuts (she was usually in the house cooking), and they would gather bags and bags of pecans.  In later years, they would send those nuts to a mechanical nut cracker in a neighboring county who charged a fraction of a dollar per pound to crack the nuts.  They would then go back in the bags they came in and my grand parents would be left with the large (perhaps monumental) task of picking all the meat out of the shells, and getting out the bitter.  But, most years they did all the work themselves.  I don’t think I ever ate store bought pecans when I was a girl.  I have memories of my grandparents and my great grandmother sitting at the kitchen table, newspaper spread out, cracking and picking pecans assembly line style.  I usually helped, and I still enjoy doing that meticulous work that brings out sweet meats.  It is really rewarding.  Food that you gathered, cleaned and can eat– for free.  Fresh pecans taste so much better.

You may wonder what we did with all those pecans.  My family was not big on pecan pie, but we did eat a lot of roasted pecans and we used them in cookies and fruitcake.  Most were stored in the freezer for the months and years to come when pecans were scarce, because, as my grandmother would say “they sure are expensive in the store”.  We did not buy food if we did not have to!

It is a common thing to see people out in fields and yards with a bag and a stick (to brush away leaves–some sticks have baskets on the end that will pick up the nuts for you) this time of year.  I think country folks are particularly good at gathering in food.  

This is also the time of year where we gather as family, and country folks are pretty good at that too.  I am grateful this year to gather these delicious nuts, and even more grateful to gather with my family, my mother, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, grandmother, cousin, aunt, uncle, great aunt, and friends from “back home”.  Blessings.  

 

 

 

 

Pretty fuzzy picture from the table taken with ipad.
Pretty fuzzy picture from the table taken with ipad.

getting ready for cozy winter days

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It feels like winter is getting ready to set in here.  We are having cold nights (some below freezing), but most days have been sunny and not too cold.  We have had some days that were cold and overcast–even a few flakes of snow. But, it has been a nice, mostly dry fall, with a few good freezes.  The frosts have made the carrots in my garden sweet, the collards tender.  I feel like I am invoking my Reid grandparents by talking about the weather and its nuances.  Weather was always a good topic of conversation in their home because they were farmers and weather was extremely important to their livelihood.  Our little family recognizes and changes with the seasons still, though we are not farmers.  Winter brings us more inside, to indoor activities, fires in the woodstove, and baking.  There is always lots of searching for shoes (and hats, mittens, coats, and sweaters) if anyone wants to go outside, too.  Very different from the last 6 months when shoes were often optional, and no over-clothes were needed.

Our children enjoy the tradition of building a fire in the winter.  Our house stays very warm on sunny days because of the passive solar heating, but William and the children really enjoy a fire in the wood stove.  It is a fun place to gather on cold mornings to eat breakfast, or on chilly nights when getting ready for bed.  I like to sit and knit or read in front of the stove.  Our living room furniture will make a move soon as we shift our focus more around the stove.  I am always aware of the danger of the hot glass on the stove–and with a baby in the house, I try to be very careful. 

finished skirts

new skirts

I finished Evva’s skirt last week and she wore it immediately.  She is wearing it today.  I thought of how both girls had chosen different types of fabric, somewhat reflecting their personalities–but after I finished Evva’s skirt and saw them together, I realized how similar the skirts are.  I am glad to make them such a fun fashion object–one in which they were involved in creating.  Such sweet girls, such sweet sisters.

sweet sisters

baby messes

There are all kinds of messes that babies can make.  Steven is now of the age of “into-everything-messes”, where you look away for a few minutes and all the books from the shelves have been pulled off onto the floor.  Or, at the library, when I go to help one child find the book they are looking for and leave Steven sitting on the floor looking at his book, but he gets to the puzzles and pulls all 20 off the shelves and dumps the pieces out–in the span of 30 seconds.  Tonight, he pulled all of the canning jar rings out of the drawer I keep them in.  He threw them across the floor.  The other day he poured out all the pasta on the kitchen floor from a box he found in the pantry.  I sat down with him and showed him how to put each piece back in the box.  We worked together picking up each piece of pasta and putting it back in the box.  When we put the last piece back in, I felt smugly that I had gotten the mess cleaned up and played a little game with Steven, and giving a little lesson to teach him how to clean up.  He immediately turned the box upside down and dumped them all out again.  And smiled.

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I walked into my office on Saturday morning to find what you see below.  Steven had pulled out all my notes cards and envelopes.  So much fun!  He loved the multicolored paper strewn everywhere!  There was no point in cleaning it up till later.Image

I don’t really mind these messes.  I know he is exploring and figuring out how things work, what things feel like, how they move and go together (and come apart).  And, he loves making these messes.  When I find him with one, he seems so pleased with himself.  They also keep him, harmlessly, entertained.  Plus, he is awfully cute!

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Autumn in the Mountains

I grew up on the northeast coast of North Carolina. The land is flat there, and I mean really flat–the biggest elevation gain in our small town was the downtown bridge going over the river. I think of it as big sky country, even though that title is generally reserved for eastern Montana. Where I am from, the sky and the water dominate. You feel as if you can get lost in the vastness–a feeling I like, though it can be a little scary.
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Where I live now, in western North Carolina, the opposite is true. The mountains hem in close. My sister-in-law described them once as friends, there to look over at you, surround you, almost hug you when you need it. They are undeniably beautiful–in all their seasons, but especially in autumn when they don warm hues as they close out the summer. This fall has been particularly beautiful. We had warm days, cool nights, and just enough rain. The fall color peaked this past week, and now, quickly, the leaves are falling (another beautiful, slightly sad part of autumn).
last blooms of the yearGraveyard Fields
This fall we hiked a little at Graveyard Fields when the color was probably at peak there (a little higher in elevation than our home). It was a sunny day and the children had a wonderful time running on the trails, hopping boulders across the creeks, and splashing through the trail puddles. I am figuring out my camera, but can never do justice to the beauty of autumn in the mountains.
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On-going Sewing

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I have a few projects in the works, but the one I want to finish first is a skirt I am making for Evva.  It is Notting Hill by Pink Fig Patterns.  It is super cute.  I made a skirt for Anne a month ago from this pattern, though I have had the pattern around for almost a year.  I had wanted to make a dress for Anne, but she did not like to go to school in dresses or skirts because they were too short (knee-length) and someone might see her underwear.  When I saw Notting Hill I knew it fit her personality and the requirement of low-probability-of-underwear-citing.  So, I finally got Anne to pick out some fabric from a great on-line (and brick and mortar) store (Alewives Fabrics), and made her this skirt.  Because the pattern was so easy and Evva is now getting to that stage, I am making one for her too.  Anne picked more bold, primary colors and patterns that were more contemporary.  Evva picked romantic colors and patterns of flowers, pink, orange, blue.  I love that this pattern can adapt to so many colors, styles, and personalities.  I love making clothes for my sweet girls.

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