Friday, October 24, 2014

Notes From The Country - Autumn Lullaby

Leaves, leaves and more leaves. That's pretty much the story around here. The reds of our Fire Maple, Service berry, and Red fire bush (that's what I named it), and the yellows, rusts, and golds of the Mountain Ash's, Locusts, Aspens and Cottonwoods. We've had a particularly colorful year this year. The abundant spring and summer rain we've had followed by the warm, sunny days of this autumn so far, with dry, mild nights have provided the perfect environment. Did you know that leaves don't actually change color in the fall? The bright, sunny days of summer keep the leaves full of chlorophyll which makes for the green. The true colors of the leaves are there the entire time though. They are just masked by green. When the days become shorter and the sun not as intense, along with other factors, that chlorophyll production stops, and at the time of year when we take our cue from the colorful leaves around us and start thinking of masks and pumpkins and Halloween, the trees' leaves are actually taking off their masks and showing their true selves. It's like nature has this little secret joke. 

The Cottonwoods in the surrounding pastures are brilliantly bright. They progress from bright yellow to a rusty yellow-orange before shedding it all for their winter nap. Every time a breeze picks up it's starts raining leaves so the garden, lawn, and deck are pretty much covered right now. The prettiest have been collected and are drying between newspapers to grace the Thanksgiving table and remind me of these fleeting days - because by Thanksgiving everything is bare and brown!

The chickens are free ranging it now because the remaining tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and greens from the garden have been harvested. From the kitchen with the window open I can hear them crunching around on the leaves. 

Inside, our house has been decorated for Boo Season for awhile, candles are lit on many evenings because for me candlelight and fall evenings go hand in hand, and the annual Halloween cookies have been made (and as of now, are pretty much gone. hmm)

The growing season this year was outstanding for the farmers in the area. Our local pumpkin farm was chock full this year, and the dairy farmer down the road said this was the best corn crop ever. Makes me happy for them. They are totally at the mercy of the Colorado weather. 

I absolutely love this time of year here. We've been taking advantage of the remaining mild weather to enjoy walks down our road, engage in the hoopla of our college football games, savor our local breweries and their seasonal offerings, and steal a bit more summer feel before it truly says goodbye....

   Here is a beautiful, poetic lullaby for the season. If you ever get a chance to see these guys live I would highly recommend it. We were fortunate to see them in the stunning outdoor music venue of Red Rocks here in Colorado recently.

Almost forgot. Happy Friday! This is my idea of synchronicity. We had a mid - week meet up at our favorite underground cocktail establishment this week and they had this on tap. I'm usually not one for hard ciders, but this choice combined a flavorful, not too sweet taste with just the right amount of spiciness in the form of a perfect seasonal cider. I noticed the cider pull first - saw that the cider maker and the name of said establishment were the same, then discovered it is made in California's  Sonoma County near Sebastopol. I remember driving through Sebastopol and enjoyed it's delightful country atmosphere with it's abundant apple orchards (go figure!), and it fueled my dream of living in the country. Sometimes the fun is in the details.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September Weekends

The bowls and baskets of apples are still waiting patiently to become applesauce and apple butter. In the meantime they have been put into oatmeal, pancakes, green drinks, stuffing and in this weekend's chicken dinner I sliced and sauteed some with zucchini from the garden in olive oil , with fresh herbs, and finished it off with a drizzle of maple syrup. It was a simple delicious side dish with a hint of sweet to accompany roast chicken.

I bought a roasting chicken last week because once in awhile I just need to have an old fashioned roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and cream gravy, and ....oh shoot I just realized I forgot to make my biscuits! Next time. This was the best chicken gravy I think I've made. Before cooking I stuffed it with some onion, shallots, garlic, a half of lemon that was sitting on the counter, some quartered apples, a generous amount of parsley, tarragon, rosemary, sage, basil and oregano from the garden, and some bay leaves. Then, because I had run out of butter - for shame - I rubbed it all over with bacon fat that I had in the refrigerator and basted it throughout cooking with broth and white wine. All that flavorful goodness in the pan was cooked with flour and milk and more wine and, well, it was chicken and mashed potato heaven.

I made a German puffed apple pancake for a simple brunch tea on Sunday and used up some of the excess of apples and eggs right now. Bonus! 

The last of summer's geraniums, marigolds and other colorful annuals are having their last hurrah. They know time is running out to make way for frosty mornings and the hardier colors of autumn leaves, vegetables, and plants. The colors here in the trees are changing daily even though it is not really getting cold at night and so far as been quite warm during the days.

I've been trying to take more moments to appreciate all our animals who are such a part of our daily lives and whose energy is so noticeably missed when they leave this world and our family. One of our little ones has passed. My daughter's cat who grew up with her is gone now. Her unique energy is missed by all of us and we are taking extra comfort in the kitties who are still here.

My older daughter's cat is a new addition and frequent visitor on some weekends, others have been part of us for many years and are struggling with age and health issues. Our little lovebird has been around for 20 years! 

Simple days, cherishing moments at home with family, food, and the lingering warmth of September summer days.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Apple Season

According to the Calender it is not officially autumn, but I say it's close enough. Many of our trees and shrubs have a few red and gold leaves on them, the nights are cooler (last night was downright cold!), the mornings crisp, and the apples are ready. So are more aprons but I'm waiting for my models before getting them in my shop.

This year the apple tree is so weighed down with fruit you can hardly see the chicken house and yard! I've been picking them daily, and, well, they've been adding up. There are still plenty for the birds

and the chickens

It's funny how childhood memories affect us. Every time I was picking apples or crawling under the tree to pick the dropped ones, my mind kept sneaking to this, or the tin man, or...worse, but I wasn't going to put a picture of the wicked you know what of the west anywhere near this blog!!

I believe these are Jonamacs, but don't quote me on that. They are tart with a hint of sweet, and the longer they stay on the tree the redder they become and the sweeter they are. Crisp and delicious for eating as well as baking. 

Of course I wouldn't have planted apples just for eating, because who can eat all these? Whenever I see a big bowl of apples, or in this case, many bowls of apples I think of the movie Baby Boom. 

Diane Keaton plays the single, high powered city executive who suddenly becomes the guardian of a toddler, ends up moving to an old, perfect farmhouse in rural Vermont, with an apple orchard. She ends up making tons and tons of applesauce, because, why not, sells it locally, puts her marketing knowledge to use, and her toddler's photo on the jars, and becomes a millionaire all over again because it's so successful. Oh, and she marries the local vet and lives happily ever after. You know, like most of our lives.

So back to apples. Let the games begin. Today it was my go to Oatmeal apple muffins with apple butter on the side. For dinner it was roast chicken and sliced apple sandwiches. I've got a long way to go. 

Oatmeal Apple Muffins

1 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mixed dark and golden raisins
1 1/4 cup all - purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
Demerera sugar or raw sugar.

In a small bowl, combine oats and milk. Set aside until oats have absorbed milk and are soft. Soak raisins in hot water to plump them; drain. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix well. Beat egg, brown sugar and oil until well blended. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until well blended. Stir in oat mixture, apples and raisins. Stir together until blended. Grease muffin tins and fill 3/4 full. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake at 400 degrees f. for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9 / 11. Perspective

So, youngest daughter is off to college, It's just me and my best friend now. Which, when I think about it, could be worse. Youngest daughter was gone a week and her cat died. The cat who grew up with her and was part of our family for most of the years we've been out here. So, emotional times and all that. Then today. Again.
My husband (said best friend) is on a business trip this week in New York. This is my first time on my own for a week in .... I don't know ...forever? I talked to him tonight and he was telling me about the ground zero memorial he was able to visit yesterday. He really didn't have the words to describe what it was like and what it made him feel. He just said we all need to go. I've seen the progress on TV of the new, beautiful, proud, defiant tower. Have seen the pictures of the square fountains with the names of the heroes. I didn't know that underground - beneath where the North and South towers were, is a museum. He said it is so vast and incredible and real. Timelines of everything..., what happened when, names and internet bios of all the victims along the walls, timelines of what decisions the President made and what he said, significant and meaningful pieces of every part of that tragic, horrific, significant, unforgettable event. The last time we were there as a family, there was a vast hole still, surrounded by construction fences and workers. For me, a lesson. Holes in our lives can and should be filled. With something better. Something hopeful. Something significant, filled with goodness and passion and peace. 
As I was talking to my husband about this tonight, at one point I heard sirens in the background. He had the windows open to Manhattan and if you've been there, it's a pretty common sound. But tonight. It had significance. I said, "I hear sirens", and we were both silent, listening to the anxiety inducing, yet familiar wale of fire engines over the phone, something so common, yet on this day, something so meaningful. I started to cry. Thought back to that day and how it changed all our lives. A day I will never forget. Yet a day that makes me hopeful and proud and thankful and yes, devastated and angry as well. Still. A day to remember. He sent me these pictures.

 No, I won't ever forget. 

But somehow we move on. 

On a happier note. Tomorrow, there will be apples. And perhaps snow?