Celebrating the Month of Hallows
I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much I love fall at least a time or two, but it’s true. I love the way the air smells on an early foggy morning, the way it fills your lungs when you take a deep breath; the way it smells earthy and robust in the evening, like rich compost. I love the way the sun glints and sparkles over the dew on spider webs and grass as I head out to the barn to feed the critters in the morning; the way it bounces gold and orange across a late afternoon sky, just before it sets. I love the color of the leaves as they turn red and brown; yellow and gold, I love gathering firewood, picking pears, making soup and tasting fresh pressed cider. Yep, fall is my season, no doubt about it.
It’s not the fall of department stores though. You won’t find skeletons or graveyards or scary, gross, bloodied or battered images on my farm, nary a one. My fall is the fall of old, of old European traditions when autumn meant celebrating the end of summer, a harvest put up and a long winter ahead. This is my fall, color and fruit and hearty meals and warm satisfying drinks. It’s a time when part of the garden is put to bed and part is planted with winter hearty seeds. It is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. It’s a time for quiet and peace.
My first weekend of October started off with an early departure from work. The drive home was slow and relaxing, my mind wandered from freeway to highway to slow country road. When I finally arrived at the farm I set about watering and feeding, a much easier task since the barn is empty of lambs and meat birds; only the chickens remain. The berries are just about done for the year and our unusually cool early summer means we may not have pumpkins for Halloween; maybe for Thanksgiving.
Once finished in the barn and back in the house I set out pumpkin spice candles on the mantel, in the kitchen and on various tables around the house. I love the scent they give off and the glow they lay over the house is beyond serene. I pulled out the primitive paintings of New England fall days, treasures from a trip to Vermont years ago.
It seemed like I had barely fallen asleep when sis and I were awake and off to an antiquarian book faire. I love books and never pass up an opportunity to add to my gardening and farming collection, but this was not the place. Most of the books, although old, were not of my genre, so I headed home empty handed.
The long day left little to the imagination in the way of dinner. After a quick trip to the barn to collect the day’s bounty of eggs I was in the kitchen grilling lamb chops, making mashed potatoes and sautéing green beans, a simple dinner for a simple season.
Sunday was all about the farm and fall. We left the house early to gather a cord of firewood, adding to the stack that will be warmth and ambiance all winter, and found a tree full of fall pears, we picked a few. By mid-morning we were home and nailing up tin siding on the greenhouse. My goal is to have it fully enclosed and all my gardening tools, supplies and implements inside before the weather really turns. During a short break we lunched on leftovers and filled the crock pot with the makings of a hearty split pea soup; the start of a freezer full of easy meals.
It was afternoon when our arms began to feel the strain of swinging a hammer and pounding nails through metal. We pushed on though until the job was finished, then we sat back and admired our handy work. There’s nothing better than working hard in the cool of a fall day. It invigorates you, makes you feel like Paul Bunyan. But, smarter heads prevailed and rather than risking injury by pushing on we quit for the day.
When I had showered and rested a bit I pulled out a favorite fall treat— Apple Pecan Gingerbread. The aroma floated through the house while it baked, that, coupled with the scent and glow of the candles made the perfect ending to my first weekend of October. I can only hope they all turn out this wonderful.
Apple Pecan Gingerbread
5 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for greasing
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Firm cooking apple like Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and chopped fine
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan with butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, molasses, sugar, butter, vanilla and egg.
In a second large bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda and pecans. Add apples and toss well.
Stir flour mixture into molasses mixture and then spoon batter into pan. Bake until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 – 50 minutes.
Let cool in pan for 30 minutes and then invert onto a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.
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