I enjoyed playing with Legos as a child, but I never bought Legos for the children because: 1.) I felt that the Lego “kits” that are sold severely limited creativity. They only come with the pieces to build a certain spaceship or motorcycle and did not include blocks to do anything else – and most children feel compelled to build the kit and not try to do something else; 2.) They are expensive and you really do need a bunch of “kits” to have enough blocks to allow for ease of creativity; 3.) I hated the Legos marketed for girls (and my oldest two children are girls) – the hair salon, pet groomer, etc. for some of the same reasons – only (many, many) specialized pieces to build the kit, expense, and mostly pink and purple pieces – totally lame (forgive me if you and/or your child love them!). And, honestly, there are no Legos marketed to both genders. The Legos marketed toward boys tend to be violence based (Bat Man, villains, ninjas, fighter planes/spaceships, etc.); 4.) as difficult as it is to keep my house clean, or even liveable, the thought of having thousands of Lego pieces that would need to be picked up on a near non-stop basis, on top of the normal mess, made me shudder.
A friend of ours, who is a builder and who’s children are in school carpool with us, came over last week to check out a project we have for him (fixing one of our bathrooms). He needed to go through Hythe’s room to look at the problem area and he noticed that we did not have any Legos. He was a flabbergasted because Legos are the toy that his son, who is nearly the same age as Hythe, plays with all the time.
The next day, we were met at the carpool pick up and his son who had filled a gallon ziplock bag with his Legos to give to Hythe. His son was so excited to pass on from his large collection to a friend the pleasures of building.
And, as it happens all of the children LOVE the Legos. Since there are no kits, they are free to be creative in their building. It has been fun to watch them become absorbed in building with these little blocks.
I have not been doing a lot in the garden for the last few weeks, besides harvest some things. It really does slow down for us here with all the summer crops gone and the fall ones planted and growing. Weeding is minimal, there are very few bugs, we’ve had plenty of rain. There is just not a lot to do. Which is nice. I like to just enjoy the fall colors and green garden.
I’ve been pulling out turnips and carrots, mostly. There are lots of carrots and turnips – with a lot still in the ground. Hythe loves to come help me pull up the carrots. He has his own bag of them in the refrigerator. But, the turnips are a bit of a problem. I like turnips pretty well, but William and I are the only ones in the house who don’t completely hate them. I’ve cooked them every way possible – soups, roasted, boiled and buttered, braised. The children do not like them. And, to be honest, after a few days, I am pretty tired of them too. Unfortunately, I planted a LOT of turnips in the garden. I am contemplating using some of them as winter cover crop for the rows they are on and just not pick them. I picked a few the other day and put them in the root cellar to see how they store. I even carved a couple of them, with Hythe’s help, into tiny Jack-o-Lanterns (which the dog promptly ate when walked away – at least HE loves them). So, have any suggestions for turnips?
*By the way, it looks like two of our garden pumpkins have survived long enough to be carved for Halloween!*
This week the seed garlic arrived. I ordered it the week before when I realized I had not done so yet and it really was time (or past time) to plant. This year, I just got hard neck garlic. In the last two years I’ve grown soft neck which you can braid and they keep fairly well. But, I want to have garlic scapes in the summer and have slightly less cumbersome bulbs to store (i.e. no long leaves to clean and braid). We’ll see how it goes. They are now in the ground, with Steven’s help. The day after we planted garlic, a large order of narcissus and other spring flowering bulbs arrived from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. William will may be horrified, but I think I ordered nearly 100 bulbs! Now, I need to get digging – but first figure out where to plant all these bulbs.
Every fall for the last few years, William, the children, and I take parts of a few days to make a few runs of cider. We live beside an unsprayed apple orchard which often provides plenty of fodder for the cider press. This year, we made one cider run a few weeks ago and I thought that might be all we would do. The apple crop was not great, but we had enough to make the cider and for me to make 20+ quarts of applesauce. We have also been quite busy this fall with kids soccer, work, camping, and out of town trips.
But, on Sunday morning William mentioned there were a lot of pears on the ground. Let’s make cider – I said. And, he agreed.
We have a large, stately, and beautiful pear tree near our house that in the spring is white with blossoms (when we call her the Snow Queen) and in the fall drops large, hard, tasty pears – deigning to allow us her fruits. And, she yields wonderfully every year there is not a late freeze.
I picked up four bushels of pears with Hythe helping me (Evva would not help claiming the yellow jackets were too dangerous – so she played fairies in the grass). You have to watch where you put your hands when picking up the pears, but most looked good having been knocked down just a few days before by an all day rain storm. I always feel these pears must look like the golden apples that Atalanta stopped to pick up during her fateful race.
We finally got around to cider making fairly late in the afternoon, when the weather quickly goes from warm to quite cool, so I packed up coats and sweaters, knowing that cold children (and mamas) can be really unhappy. This was supposed to be a family activity, but right after we picked up the pears and arrived at the cider press (at Hickory Nut Gap Farm), all the children disappeared. Anne, her friend, and Evva rode off on bikes and Hythe almost immediately rode off on a horse (with his great aunt and cousin). We were left with a grumpy Steven, who kept pointing at the road and demanding “home”. So, we decided that I would set up and start grinding the pears and William would go get beer, and we would enjoy this moment, by gosh!
And, we did. The three girls showed up in time to help finish grinding pears, to press, and to clean up. We use an old grinder and press that William’s grandparents had made and used for years. It is the only press I’ve ever used. I made cider on it the first time 17 years ago.
The pressing went very easily and quickly, and clean up was fast. And, we ended up with 12 gallons of pear cider. It is probably because we make this ourselves, but I think this cider is the best! We freeze it and enjoy ice cold cider all year. I do love this tradition that we are making.
The whole of autumn (and spring, too) feels that way to me. I want the colors to pause, I want the weather to stay cool, but not cold, with warm days and blue skies. I want to savor the colors, temperatures, and beauty of fall. But, fall also feels sad to me, as spring does not. There is a feeling of loss, death, and good-bye that is just-this-side of gloomy and depressing. The colors and perfect weather are fleeting. Soon the mountains will be grey, outside will be cold, and the sun won’t peek over the top of the mountain until late morning.
But, today I am going to savor the fall, and share a few pictures of “this moment”.
This past weekend I attended the memorial service of an uncle. Uncle Peter was my dad’s brother. But, it is a little more complex than that. My “dad” was actually my step-dad, married to my mother when I was 8 years old and when my real father had been dead for a few years. So, Dave eventually became my “dad” – a wonderful man whom I admired and respected. He passed away 4 years ago on October 8th. My mother wrote a wonderful short description of these two brothers, and I am going use her words for a bit:
“It is interesting to me that that Peter and Dave’s service will be just one day apart… and four years. Those feelings from 4 years ago are flooding forward as I reflect on Peter’s life this week.
Peter and Dave were so much alike in many ways. They were very principled men. They led by example and quietly loved all of us. They knew the importance of community and giving back to those around them. They both had a need to give of themselves to the wider good of humanity.
They were quiet men, and never proud or boastful, but when either one spoke everyone stopped to listen. Whenever either would both talk with someone they gave that person their full attention. They made the person they were talking with feel that they were the most important person in the room.
They would never correct anyone in public, nor offer advice that was not solicited. Dave knew how to handle most challenging situations but he would tell others what to do. He might make suggestions, and if one asked his advice or followed his suggestions things would come out right.
Dave and Peter both always encouraged doing the best you could do each day . . . again, by example. Then, you have no regrets.”
This is the example I try to live up to each day. Quiet leadership, wisdom, and service and love for my family, community, and fellow man.
I have always liked cats, how they are aloof and don’t need much attention but can be soft and sweet and fun to pet and hold. We only had cats for pets growing up and I always bonded with them. So, when my in-laws brought a tiny kitten (found at Tuckaseegee) to us a little over a month ago, I hesitantly said we could keep him. We’d been thinking about getting a kitten, but I was hesitant (and stayed that way) to take a kitten on for a couple of reasons. 1. We don’t have a great track record with cats – in the last 5 years we’ve had 4 kittens/cats which all disappeared or died within a few days or months. We have a lot of coyotes, bobcats, and other predators which do away with a lot of cats. 2. I am reluctant to be responsible for keeping another living creature alive. The children and dog are enough. But, William talked me through my doubts and the children doted on the kitten, putting out food and water, petting and carrying the little thing around. And, he was cute.
He has grown a lot in the last month, been christened Cloudy, and loves to attack poor Tucker who good natured-ly puts up with the biting, clawing kitten scrambling all over him. Hythe has really bonded with the kitten and will carry him around like a baby doll. This rambunctious little cat will submit to be carried around by Hythe and will sit still when Hythe wants to put him in his lap and pet him. We even took Cloudy to Tuckaseegee with us last week. He was an easy traveler, had fun playing at his birth place, and the kids enjoyed having their kitten to cuddle with on the cold mornings.
We’re going to keep him, and I certainly hope he survives the next few months. I’ve gotten attached too.
William’s great grandfather, with a large group of friends and acquaintances, purchased 3,000 acres of remote land in Jackson County the 1920s – for hunting, fishing, and investment. Somehow he, and then his descendents, were able to hold onto about 300 of those acres, which we call Tuckaseegee, through the Great Depression and all the change that happens in the economy and families over time. So the extended family can still enjoy the property today. And, they really enjoy it. This place is special to them. They have had their favorite memories and most fun times here, as well as their saddest times (2 uncles died here). William absolutely loves this place of river playing, trout fishing, waterfalls, remote hiking, and relaxing meadows. And, we decided to spend our fall break (or at least most of it) here.
At their new school, the girls have one week off for fall break, and we packed up and headed to Tuckaseegee last Tuesday. And by packing up, I mean that you need to bring nearly everything but the kitchen sink to this remote mountain cabin (old lumber camp): all your food, linens, towels, clothes for all weather, games, toys, firewood, blankets, soaps, toiletries, etc. This place is at least 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store (and has no phone or cell service and no internet), so you don’t want to forget anything. I am a perpetual under-packer and William, an over-packer, so when we go to Tuckaseegee it usually works out well for us. At this beginning of the week, temperatures got to 80 and by the end of the week it was in the low 30s in the morning. I was unprepared for the cold, but William had packed all the kids’ winter coats so we got by. Evva, for the second time this year, forgot to bring her shoes. Luckily, we invited friends to join us for the weekend and they brought extra shoes.
We hiked on the muddy flats of a drained lake, fished, canoed, did a little dunking before the cold weather came, had campfires, and played games. Then, our friends came for the weekend. Playing with friends is one of my favorite things to do at Tuckaseegee (my very favorite is sitting quietly in the meadow reading a book). Having friends to talk and laugh with, friends for the children (and us) to play games, explore, and splash in the river with – it is great fun. There were some great musicians among the friends and family who joined us, and I loved hearing the old time and Irish music while I cooked for the crowd, washed up, or put kids to bed. The kids also had a couple of fun games of real musical chairs.
This weekend also marked my absolute resignation to the coming of fall. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall – the colors, the coolness, crisp days, blue skies, apples and pumpkins, and all that. But, I also love summer and I will miss it – green trees, flowers, warmth, playing in water, vacation, less clothing, fresh melons, tomatoes, corn, etc. But, I gave up on summer when the weather turned cold and we got our first frost and trees were undeniably not-all-green. I am accepting the beauty of the red and gold on the mountains, the crystal clear blue skies and cooler temps, and mentally preparing for the colder season ahead.
This trip was a great way to welcome fall, and say good-bye to summer.