Posts tagged: autumn

Autumny things, Leaf acquisition, and Taking it slow

By , November 13, 2012

Autumn evening: Mugs of tea, a sleeping cat, reading the neighborhood newsletter, soaking feet in hot water, PBS on the TV....

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone. (Is Prairie Home Companion even still on? Gosh I haven’t tuned in in years… I loved that program…) Anyway, that’s been our Autumn — quiet, restful, and in keeping with the shift in season to colder weather and a reduced number of daylight hours (which I welcome!). F is still on leave from his job, resting and rehabbing his broken arm. It’s so nice to have him home here. We’re both just resting, which was so needed. I’m continuing to get weekly acupuncture treatments that are really helping to flush out my body and liver from 10 months of strong, toxic antibiotics — and probably also the megaload of endotoxins created by the Brucella bacteria itself… and probably also the antivirals I was on when this illness was still in its misdiagnosed-as-something-else phase… and probably also the narcotics from two really painful surgeries before that. Yikes. It’s an unpleasant process and I get impatient, but overall I’ve been hanging low and trying to let my body do its thing.

But let’s move on. The day before Halloween I got crazy (well, in a Bob Ross “Let’s get crazy” sort of way) and decided to make decorations for our house even though we weren’t going to hand out candy. I raided the rag box and made ghosts, and then drew a bat pattern and made a couple bats out of cardboard which I painted black. Then I wired some branches together to display my seasonal flags. I’m really happy with how the little flag pole came out! It was therapeutic to lose myself completely in a creative and totally frivolous activity.

While I was decorating, the neighbors across the street were raking leaves from their two maple trees. I watched with interest, because this past summer I ran out of autumn leaves for mulching my gardens and I really missed having them. I was determined to collect as many leaves as possible this autumn. I’ve never met these neighbors before, and normally in these situations my shyness overtakes me. But determined to break from my comfort zone, I walked across the street, introduced myself, and asked if they were going to throw their bags of leaves away (yes) and if I could have them (yes). And so by simply gathering my courage and asking, I ended up with eight bags of gorgeous maple leaves, ready for next year’s garden.

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And then this past Saturday, I was whipped into action by snowflakes falling much sooner in the day than I expected, so I raked up our own maple leaves, jumping in the piles just as I did when I was a kid, inhaling their earthy sweet scent — one of the few things that hasn’t changed one bit in all these years.

Some of the leaves went into bins for composting later, and the rest went onto my garden beds for the winter.

And then the snow began to fall harder…

Time to go inside for some hot vegetable soup.

And then some hot chocolate. I’ve found a good way to do hot chocolate — something I actually rarely drink. I bought a quart of Kalona Supernatural chocolate milk, froze it into ice cube trays, and when I want a small mug of hot chocolate I pop a few cubes into a saucepan with some water (because I like it on the dilute side) and a dash of cinnamon, and warm it up until steaming. Delicious! (And don’t forget to add stale marshmallows to your hot chocolate. My bag of them, which must be at least two years old, somehow made it into the moving box instead of the trash can this summer, but now I’m glad I have them! I always did like ’em better stale…)

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Later in the day, heating milk for yogurt making (I’ve learned to babysit milk, because the moment you step away from the stove it will begin to boil, rising up very quickly in the pan and spilling out everywhere)…

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And now dusk. I love the blue light of winter’s dusk and the warm, homey glow from the windows.

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What autumn activities are you up to?

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Preparing for the Snow

By , October 26, 2012

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After what has been one of the hottest, most wearisome summers in my memory, it seems that the autumn season has finally, completely (mercifully!?) clunked into place. We had our first snowfall, which began on Wednesday night by way of a steady rain. I was delighted to see this, so armed with an umbrella and steaming tea in a to-go cup, I ventured out for an enchanting night walk. And an hour after I got back, the rain switched over to snow, falling fast and blowing sideways, blizzard style. By that time the two of us and the cat were all squashed together on the couch, side by side by side, vegging out in front of PBS. A cozy, snowy night.

The next morning, we awoke to the wonderland you see above. Cold and still and silent.

I love the snow because it’s so peaceful.

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If we back up a little bit, though, Tuesday was a gorgeous day with temperatures in the mid-70s, and I was out in shorts and a tank top getting the last of the garden chores in order. It was a busy garden day and I was exhausted at the end, but the progress felt good.

Here are some pictures from my end-of-summer preparations:

The garden in early October just after our first frost nipped a few things.

Potting up the thyme to take inside for the winter

Red Siberian heirloom tomatoes -- I'll definitely grow these again

One of the leeks from the harvest

Cabbage and potatoes just harvested

The rest of the tomatoes, picked and ready to store.

Storing the green tomatoes in the coolest spot in the house (the coat closet).

End-of-season applesauce making

Bringing some of the garden stuff indoors

Tilled in our homemade compost and made a "nursery bed" for the garlic. I'll transplant them in spring to their usual spots around the perimeter of each raised bed. This nursery bed thing is a new thought I had -- never done it this way, but I'm counting on it working like a charm.

Putting the garden to bed

Dusk, my favorite

The first snowfall

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Los Angeles Sunset

By , October 20, 2012

A couple days ago my sister Julie was in the right place at the right time, and took this incredible photo of the sunset, the fingernail moon, and a huge owl that swooped in and landed on a nearby eucalyptus branch!!

I love it.

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Harvesting Our Apples

By , October 12, 2012

Well it’s been an awesome year for fruit here, since our usual blossom-killing frost mercifully did not occur this spring. And so “Make more applesauce” has been somewhat of a standing order on my to-do lists of late. What a blessing, to have so much free organic fruit! My mom’s recent comment in an email made me giggle, asking me what I’ll do with all my time once the apples are through!

The apple tree in the backyard is Red Delicious variety, but the apples are really not good for fresh eating, however they make great applesauce! So F and I harvested them all recently and I’ve been picking away at them, cutting out the wormy parts, peeling them, chopping, and then cooking and canning them.

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What kind of fruit are you harvesting this autumn?

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Retreat

By , September 28, 2012

Well, after the completion of 10 months of my two heavy-duty antibiotics, I sensed that the time was finally right to receive some acupuncture. So I went for my first treatment on Monday, and woahhh!! The stuff is powerful. My body was still metabolizing the drugs anyway (it’s slow at that), but the treatment seemed to really kick things into high gear and now I can see why all this time I was getting the feeling to ‘just wait’ — because any sooner and I’d still have been on the drugs and it would have been altogether too much for my sensitive body. So I laid extremely low all week long, pretty much just ‘surviving it’ and resting and reading and sleeping and drinking mugs of tea and plain hot water, and finally today I’m feeling quite a bit better.

And I have to tell you about a strike of brilliance! It was cool, cloudy, and sorta rainy most of the week, and on Wednesday I had this idea to bring my electric blanket and down comforter outside onto the chaise lounge on the back porch. A heated outdoor lounge. OH YES! And so I was able to be outside all day long, and all evening too, with chilly air against my face but all cozy and toasty at the same time. The electric blanket went under me with the comforter over me. It was as decadent as it sounds. It also really helped to be outside; I have trouble being laid up inside because it just screams “SICK!” and that’s depressing. I love being outside!!

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View from the lounge:

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I was craving fresh juice, so I gathered apples that we just picked off our tree, as well as some celery and parsley out of the garden, and juiced them all. It was incredible!

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F ordered two storm lanterns and they arrived yesterday. They are awesome! We love the ambiance they lend. And I loved being cozy on my lounge past dark with the lantern light on the porch.

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I hope you’ve all had a good week. Happy Friday!!

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A Peaceful, Snowy Saturday

By , December 3, 2011

What a nice day we had today; it snowed through the night and this morning we awoke to an enchanting winter wonderland!

It was cold and humid and still lightly snowing when F and I walked to the local health food store at midday, and now, tonight, it’s 12° outside and we’re tucked into our warm apartment, smelling pork roast and vegetables baking in the oven.

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This is heaven!

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Here are some pictures from our walk:

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Happy Thanksgiving!

By , November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I hope you’re having a wonderful day with family and good food!

It’s a gorgeous day here — I’m in shorts! — and we’re going over to my parents’ house later, for dinner around dusk.

I just made this pumpkin pie to take; it turned out really well!

Hopefully it’ll survive the bikeride over 😉

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Lindsey’s Pumpkin Spice Cookies

By , November 17, 2011

I made up this cookie recipe this summer and I’m really loving it; it seems like it’s becoming my new go-to recipe. These are perfect for Autumn, and now that cranberries are in season, I’m loving the bright flavor of those — I chop them up and mix into the batter, and then place a cranberry on top of each cookie. I love the candied ginger in these but I think I love the cranberries even more!

Lindsey’s Pumpkin Spice Cookies

1 cup of cooked & pureed pumpkin or winter squash (canned pumpkin is fine too!)

1/4 cup coconut oil or butter, melted (my tummy’s sensitive to fat right now, so I adjust this to  2 Tbsp of oil or butter + 2 Tbsp more of pumpkin — they’re still delicious!)

Rounded 1/2 cup sucanat (sugar)

2 Tbsp molasses

1 egg

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt (and I use a bit more if I’m making these with unsalted butter or oil)

1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger OR chopped fresh cranberries, or a mixture of both… or something else like nuts, or whatever you like

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Mix the oil, sugar, molasses, and egg. Stir in the pumpkin. Combine all the dry ingredients and stir into the wet ingredients. Mix in the crystallized ginger/cranberries, too, if you’re using those. Drop rounded tablespoonfulls onto a cookie sheet that’s been greased or covered with parchment paper. Place a whole cranberry or a piece of ginger on top of each cookie if you want. Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden on the bottom, and hold together when lifted with a metal spatula.

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How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

By , November 4, 2011

I got a question the other day about what to do with green tomatoes… well, let me tell you!

Green tomatoes are always part of the Autumn routine for us. Once picked, most of them ripen over the coming weeks, and some years we’re still eating homegrown tomatoes past Christmas!

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Here’s how I handle all the tomatoes that we pick before the first frost hits:

1. Usually I leave the tomatoes hanging out in an uncovered cardboard box for several days or a week. This is usually because I don’t get around to addressing them, but it also allows the close-to-being-ripe ones to ripen more fully.

2. When I’m ready to deal with them, I gather a few cardboard boxes and some newspaper. I go through the tomatoes, separating ones that are showing signs of ripeness (light blushes of color or softening flesh) from the rest that are still very hard and green.

3. Put the ripening ones in their own box or paper bag, and check them every day or two. Or, leave them out on the counter.

4. I put the rest into boxes — only one layer thick — and then lay some sheets of newspaper on top. Over the years I’ve evolved through several methods of green tomato storage, and this is the one I’ve settled on. It’s my favorite because it’s the easiest, with the fewest tomatoes lost to mold.

Methods I’ve used in the past include:

– I used to cut squares of newspaper and wrap each tomato individually — unwrapping, checking, and re-wrapping them each week, and marking with highlighter the ones nearing ripeness. This is not only an insane amount of work, but it’s also totally unnecessary. There are easier ways to get the same result.

– After I evolved away from that, I would use only one box and put multiple layers of tomatoes in the box, separated by sheets of newspaper. This was a little better, but still involved removing layers of tomatoes and newspaper, checking, and re-layering.

Store the tomatoes, only one layer thick, in boxes.

Cover them with newspaper.

5. Ok, so anyway, you’ll have multiple boxes with tomatoes only one layer thick. For this reason I like to use wide, shallow boxes. The boxes can be stacked as long as they’re supported by the sides of the box below and not resting on top of the actual tomatoes.

6. Keep your boxes in the coolest place in your house. Perhaps that’s a coat closet in your foyer, or in your basement. For us, it’s in the stairwell that leads from our apartment to our outdoor side entrance.

Store the boxes in the coolest part of your house. Check your tomatoes at least weekly.

7. Check your tomatoes at least weekly. It’s as easy as peeking under the newspaper. I like to move the nearly-ripe tomatoes to the top of the newspaper so that I can watch them and grab them when they’re ready.

8. Not all the tomatoes will ripen. Some are just too small and green to hold much promise of ripening, so this year I’m going to pickle them exactly the way I pickle cucumbers, using my trusty pickle recipe.

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Do you have a good way of ripening your green tomatoes, or perhaps a good recipe that calls for green tomatoes?

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