Autumn, almost, from my Back Porch…

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THE GOOD LIFE, just passes by…silently…as leaves slowly begin to turn color and drift to the ground. Such a delight to sit for a few moments on the porch just watching all the “drama” in the back garden. Transfixed, I watch the goldfinches darting eagerly about devouring thistle from the feeder and then darting on to seeds from the Black-eyed Susan flower heads. There are only two lonely [?] hummingbirds still lingering, I’m sure gathering more strength to begin their LONG southern journey towards their winter home.  And, there are two new sets of twin fawns, still in spots, eating corn and fruit and greens I put out for them at the edge of the woods. They actually stand still, chewing and watching intently, while Holly strolls towards the porch after her afternoon patrol of the property. Too hungry to run or maybe they sense she is not a threat…

img_3182FLAVORS of FALL…the arrival of early fall weather holds such long-awaited promise. Cooler days and even softer nights…and, the air-conditioner stops running for most of the day! It’s the time of year to glide into the tradition of afternoon tea. Take a break from a chilly morning of working outside in the garden or from part of the day doing laundry or cleaning, those tasks that can be so exhausting! Revitalize with a cup of hot tea break and a taste of something not too sweet such as a buttery shortbread or a spicy apple nut bread. Make your special brew in a nice teapot, even if you’re using teabags, and just enjoy the time spent savoring the flavors of the afternoon. One of my favorite teas for an afternoon break is a spicy blend of citrus,  cinnamon and clove…of course, I also love rosehip tea, which I make from the harvesting of my own antique rose hips…and Earl Gray…oh my, such a delightfully satisfying tea when laced with fresh cream and taken with a simple scone slathered in real butter. Be right back…ok, tea mug in hand and a nice scone I just took out of the oven…

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Juicy thoughts of fall…

Celebrate the season by heading outdoors…gather the sun-ripened bounty of fruit trees and berries and figs. OR, if you must, head to a Farmer’s Market or Specialty food market that carries organically grown apples and fruits. Apples, when conventionally grown, are sprayed with a multitude of synthetic chemicals in order to produce that “perfect” apple so many folks demand. I much prefer a “non-sprayed” apple one can eat straight from the tree.  The first crunchy bite into a juicy new apple is one of those simple pleasures in life for me…

All-American as apple pie…Ever wonder where that phrase came from? Actually, pie came to America with the Pilgrims who brought apple tree cuttings with them to the New World. Once the trees were producing fruit…pie all started with a cook’s great idea. However, the “pie” made in those days was a mixture of very coarse flour mixed with water and suet for a crust…an economical and filling food for the hungry settlers…often savory as well as sweet. Pies were a good way of stretching ingredients and were easy to carry with them while traveling. Nothing like the delicious variations we have today.

We can thank the FRENCH for bring butter to American…this forever changed the crust on a pie. Pie and pie fillings vary around the country depending on the type of fruits grown in an area…a great diversity of pie!! Americans love pie! It has become the quintessential dessert of choice…a rich, buttery, flaky crust wrapped around a sweet filling…heavenly if done right! Apple pie, the symbol of a home made dessert, has traditionally been the pie of choice for many years especially at family picnics on the 4th of July as well as our Thanksgiving holiday. the pie cooling on the windowsill is part of our American vintage memories. It has become such a national symbol of our food heritage…the apple pie cooling on the window sill and fruit pie slices sitting in cases on the counters of diners across America, that the phrase was coined…”As American as Apple Pie”!! VIOLA!

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A perfect slice…

Give friends a warm chimenea welcome…After all the time I spent today trimming my lavender bushes and some scraggly rosemary branches, I’m excited to fire-up the chimenea for a while…my hands, even though gloved, are still cold. Sitting on the porch as the sun settles behind the trees in the west, and the air turns chilly in the approaching dusk I think about how a nice warm fire is so very welcome…But it’s time soon to move the chimenea around to the front stone patio. During the spring and summer, it is rarely used but for burning some trimmings or the occasional paper receipts. Now is the time to burn some of the lavender creating a nice fragrant cloud of smoke…later this week my Literary & Culinary Society will come for a meeting. Their welcome will be the fragrance of lavender, a glass of Prosecco and a few nibbles of cheese and fruit on the patio. Shown in the photo is a Mexican clay version which I prefer. There are many types of “chimenea” from clay to metal to choose from…just think about how it fits your home and landscape. A great side benefit…the fragrant smoke chases away mosquitoes and other flying pests!chimena

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DINNER: A major daily activity, which can be accomplished in worthy fashion only by intelligent people. It is not enough to eat. To dine, there must be diversified, calm conversation…not this group…! It should sparkle with the rubies of the wine between courses, be deliciously suave with the sweetness of dessert, and acquire true profundity with the coffee. Amen, sisters!  from Alexander Dumas’s Dictionary of Cuisine

GARDEN NOTES…So much to do, plant, harvest, mulch, etc. Throw out poppy seeds now in areas for “wildflower” type bloom clusters in spring, they like/need cold weather; plant cool season greens; divide and replant crowded iris; plant a few more hardy fruit trees and bushes; transplant rose from big container to a spot in the garden; find and plant an oak leaf hydrangea; pick figs and roast for dessert, dry some for winter treats; make fruit preserves; add more mulch where needed…oh, my, getting tired thinking about all I need to do…I’m hoping to get my list done this week and then start next week on more tasks…

Life, and ‘walks’ on the wild side…cool autumn weather is energizing, it urges you to tramp through the woods and the almost bare trees, to wander down a country lane, to enjoy the beauty of the season. After writing for several hours, I rouse Holly from her afternoon nap and hastily head outside for an invigorating hike through the crisp afternoon The dappled sunlight that filters through tops of trees spotlights the rich reds and golden tones of autumn leaves. Fall-Foliage-Wallpaper-0

And, there are some days we get in the Highlander…gas is much cheaper now…and just drive through the countryside, Holly’s head out the window enjoying the wind in her face! The fields show the annual story: the ploughing, sowing, harvesting. The land becomes hard and weary until the tractor ploughs through it and brings it back to life again; crops are pale green then grow dark then dry then turn brown and then cut to stubble before the cycle begins again…IMG_2109

From Holly and me…enjoy the coming autumn…’til later.

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Soon, a season of harvest and morning mist on the river…

Daylight hours shortening, the evening to morning temperatures drop a bit as leaves begin to change colors…autumn is close.

For many many years, every fall, gardeners have cleaned and put away their tools in the garden shed saying goodbye to the growing and harvesting seasons. Now, with much more interest in gardening and growing produce over the last two decades, this is no longer the case. Now, the season often extends to the first hard frost of early winter.

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Order in the shed…

The growing season in the garden can easily continue…all decked out in fall color glory. That is if you have planned ahead to include annual and perennial autumn blooms, foliage and some cool season vegetables. I know, I say the same thing every year…so take this as just another reminder.img_1972

See what you could have blooming in your garden NOW, if you planned ahead…this is Sweet Autumn Clematis and the fragrance is delightful…Such a welcome part of the fall garden. This easily grown vine, once planted, takes off quickly and grows rapidly to the top of a structure in one season. Most importantly,  part of the care and maintenance of this vine is to cut it back to about 1/3 of growth every early spring. I like to include this vine in all my landscape designs, especially growing on an arbor or wall trellis. Some other perennial plants to include in your garden for fall blooms: Autumn Joy sedum, blue mist shrub, New England asters, hardy blue plumbago, pineapple sage, pomegranates and sunflowers…Annuals at this time of year are many colors of mums, snapdragons, dianthus, violas and pansies.

Francais au coeur…the very first time I drove through the countryside and hills of Provence, I thought and felt that I was finally home, in my heart. Now, after 12 years living here in my home in the woods, the view from my back porch is something that always gives me that same feeling of peace, contentment and welcome quiet. I take great comfort in knowing that I have created all this from “scratch” and all built with hard work and a great deal of love.img_31031

Radiant late afternoon sun on the back garden focus on the masses of Black-eyed Susans and phlox…the butterfly bushes are white so their color doesn’t show very well in the bright sun….also, there are several purple and pink butterfly bushes just out of the photo. To the right is a vitex that is now blooming purple. A garden whether rustic or refined depends on the details…it’s about relaxed versus perfection, as I always say! Mine is so relaxed it takes care of itself…mostly!

Naturally Serene…When all around us becomes much too busy…it’s time to take a moment to listen and hear the leaves rustling in the wind and birds chirping in the trees and at feeders…Coming home, I enjoy the cocoon of quiet, but for the sounds of nature…I never tire of the sounds or the view from my back porch.img_3170

Preserve the Tastes of Summer…there is no better way to let the flavors of summer linger than turning a bumper harvest of fruit into jewel-bright jellies and preserves! Let summer’s bounty last into winter…enjoy the camaraderie of gathering with a few friends as you work together preserving fruits and friendships along with the fragrance of fresh fruit and spices permeating the kitchen.photo(30)

Think ahead for Christmas Gifts from the Garden…Aside from gifts of fruit jellies and jams, a special jar of preserved peaches would be welcome on a chilly winter night. Peaches are fresh, ripe and ready to preserve…or, as I like to enjoy…biting into one while the fresh juice runs down my chin. Make Spiced Peaches now to enjoy later…especially nice with ham and venison.fullsizerender75

To make Spiced Peaches…You will need 2-3 sterilized jars, I like the kind shown in the above photo with a clamp and rubber seal.

Combine 1 1/2 cups of white wine vinegar, 1 1/2 cups fine golden raw sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 tsp sea salt, 12 or so cloves, 4 bay leaves a LARGE cinnamon stick or 2 …all in a good size cooking pot.

        Bring  to a boil and let SIMMER for 5 minutes. Add 10-12 “not-too-overly-ripe”    peaches, peeled and sliced to the pot and bring to boil again. Let peaches SIMMER  for five minutes until soft.

      Remove from heat and put peaches and spices, using a ladle, into HOT jars. Press peaches down with back of spoon then pour enough liquid in jars to cover the peaches.

        Seal jars and allow to cool completely. Store until ready to serve or give as gifts. Once opened, peaches should be stored in refrigerator. Make sure fruit stays submerged in liquid.

Fall-Foliage-Wallpaper-0Enjoy the cooling days and nights… til later, Love from Holly and me!

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