The best things I love about autumn…

IMG_1496Hearth and home become the gathering place…Still, quiet days with shafts of golden light filtering through the woods…the transformation of trees from green to amber, scarlet, russet, and orange…the smell of woodsmoke in the chilly late afternoon air…the sweet scent of just-picked apples, figs and pears from trees in the garden…colorful dahlias and fragrant spicy chrysanthemums…lighting the fireplace for the first fall fire…harvesting and preserving fruits and nuts…cooking with all the fabulous fall ingredients.

Everywhere you look there are great autumn treasures…turning, swirling, falling leaves; fragrant blooms; bright sparks of late blooming perennials, Black-eyed Susan, hardy fall asters, pineapple sage, goldenrod, Montauk daisies, sedum Autumn Joy, blue dwarf plumbago, Sweet Autumn Clematis traveling along the porch railing…

Attachment-1(1)Purple fall aster serves as a brilliant backdrop for a festive fall display of pumpkin and Indian corn…grasses are showing their seedheads and add to the texture in this charming little garden spot. I love including this type of whimsy in my landscape designs…

Appreciate the glorious colors and bountiful fruits of autumn…the stars of the fall garden…a final blaze of glory before colder days of winter.

fall apsApples! One of the true great pleasures of fall…crisp and juicy, just waiting for the first bite, the first pie or tarte tartin…pumpkins, poached pears, stuffed figs or fig preserves and so much more choices…Later you will find some special fall treats to make.

The wind stirs again and whips the leaves even more…I always take special pleasure in lighting the fireplace for the first fall fire. It’s a primeval instinct/pleasure to see…the first flickering flames and feeling a blaze of warmth spreading through the room. Lighting a fire is one of the special rituals…forget toxic paper covered logs and expensive firestarters. Instead, place shredded paper in a loose heap…in the fireplace…then build an open tepee of dry kindling around it. Using a long match, light several places and blow on the starting flickers until flames are struggling…then add a few pieces of wood or small logs as the kindling burns strong, put up the fire screen, sit back and enjoy. Of course you will need to add the occasional log to keep the fire going through the evening. So, you’re probably thinking…”she’s telling me how to start a fire, seriously…” Yes, but that’s my lead-in for the fragrant fire-starter bundles you can make. So easy…every late summer after trimming the lavender and rosemary, I spend a few evenings putting these bundles together on the dining table. Simply cut the dried herb sticks to a desired length and tie up with raffia or string. Once the fire starter bundles are done, store them in a big paper bag.  Save a few to give when visiting friends. Added bonus, the fragrance of lavender and rosemary lingers for days. I  keep a bucket of these deliciously scented herb bundles on the hearth all year long…just waiting to start something!

Arriving with the first frosty autumn morning is a favorite breakfast of the season…creamy oatmeal. I use organic grains and cook them the longer, old-fashioned way. A bit of cinnamon sprinkled on top, a drizzle of organic honey or agave, and a dribble of real cream. With so much protein in the oats, I rarely feel hunger pangs before late in the day…unless I’m spreading mulch or hay in the garden. For added protein and GOOD fats, I sprinkle chopped walnuts on top of the oatmeal.

Often, I will take my coffee and bowl of oatmeal out to the porch…taking time to observe the birds at the feeders while enjoying my bowl of hearty, crunchy sweetness. An old quilt from my collection keeps the chill away as I plan how to spend the day. After breakfast, most mornings, it’s then time to pull on the ‘Wellies’ and start off through the woods…The definitive pair of Wellington Boots, made with traditional skills for over 150 years, make a reliable and durable gardening accessory…these boots, which I’ve had and worn since 1994 are one of my best investments! Great in the rain, mud and deep piles of leaves. With a pair of wool socks, my feet stay warm all day. Holly and I really enjoy tromping through the oaks, maples, pines and drifts of leaves building up on the forest floor. Great exercise, fresh air and we almost always find sticks and berries and vines to bring home…there is always a great deal of beauty outdoors that can be used to fill a vase or decorate a table. Years ago I learned how to incorporate every type of berry, leaf pod, seed head, and twig into bouquets. Non-floral elements transform an arrangement from a mundane occupier of space to a spectacular attention getter! This texture will provide the preeminent design feature for the fall dinner table.

On the Porch…The old drying rack makes it easy to preserve the fruits of our walk as well as adding a shot of autumn color to the porch. The front porch is  dressed in simple rustic vintage style…with  the quintessential elements of wicker chairs, handmade benches, wooden bowls and baskets, a painted birdhouse,  galvanized flower     buckets, old lamps and little bits and pieces. Front porch or back porch…always the best place to view the wildlife and enjoy the colors, blooms and fragrance from the garden. Please remember that this is time to collect seeds for planting/spreading now and later in the spring!

From Earth to the Table…we plant it, grow it, gather it, preserve it, cook it and then we eat it! Great food starts with great ingredients from the garden…or, even if you can’t grow your own, there’s always Whole Foods or Fresh Market!

Pears have come into season and how lovely the smell and taste when you bite into the center of the just ripe fruit, fresh off the tree. Fortunately for me there is an heirloom pear tree on my brothers’ property…typical of what you would imagine…gnarled old branches filled with loads of pears and even more on the ground inviting an invasion of fruit bees, squirrels, chickens and other critters to enjoy a bit of the sweetness. These pears are perfect for canning and/or preserving. Pear preserves are a nice taste treat on a warm biscuit. However,  I prefer the Anjou or Comice for the Pear Tarte Tatin shown here. You can make this easily by using the same recipe for Apple Tarte I wrote about in previous posts. Note: I do make a sauce to pour over the pears by heating butter & sugar to a caramel color first. Coffee poached pears are a new treat I found to try, will let you know when I finish experimenting.

Oh, dear, the sound of a diesel dump truck rolling up the driveway…I just had 20 tons of gravel delivered for the looped driveway out front…only 13 tons were spread by the truck driver due to low tree branches in the way of his bed lifting…the other 7 tons are waiting for me to shovel in the trusty wheelbarrow and then spread in the missed areas. Hu-mmmm…just had an idea for a great new bluestone and gravel entry for the front…gotta get to work.

Till later, hopefully…

Love from Holly and Patriciabe039d95-e0a8-4f82-b157-01c0c259fccf
and my French sister,
Jeanine, on the left, and me…a number of years ago!

Here is a reminder to many friends and followers…20 years ago, Lucy and I started LADIES OF THE GARDEN and wrote our book about organic gardening. We were definitely ahead of the current crop of young people now finding the advantages of organic & earth friendly living…call us the grandparents of the garden!! More to come about our new adventures…