Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The persimmons are falling! And 10 other things I love about fall!

Don't you just love the fall time of year? I live in Indiana, and we are fortunate enough to encounter all of the seasons in the fullness they are meant to be experienced. From the crispness of autumn, to the crystals of winter, the birth of spring, and the embraces of summer - each interval of time delivers a climate that stays just long enough to satisfy and then lingers a bit more so that we are left hungering for the next season ahead. As for fall, here is what I am looking forward to, and I hope you enjoy the pictures from my home and of my family as you read:

1. Planting my new perennials and cleaning up existing flower beds. We have all heard fall is the perfect time of year for planting flowers and trees, but I have been known on occasion to try planting at other times of the year and let me tell you it is almost not worth it. I constantly forget to water my new flowers and get so busy with other things that before I know it I have sacrificed yet another plant at the alter of Mother Nature. If you plant in the fall, after a few waterings you will almost surely hit frost and then God takes care of the rest. Fall also makes me set a goal of finally cleaning up some flower beds and tucking my seedling babies in for a long winters nap. It pressures some initiative into my spirit knowing the cold weather is around the corner and that I should protect my botanical investments so that my family can enjoy their offerings next year. This includes for me another truck load of quality mulch (as I've already mulched in the spring previously) from a local nursery to fill in any gaps that have weathered away in my beds, cutting back plants that are preparing to hibernate, and buying a bale of straw to throw loosely over tender plants that need an extra cushion against winter's bite. 

2. Stocking up. Yes, it is fun! You get the pleasures of self sustaining, without the risks our pioneer ancestors faced. Because if you do not get all that firewood you should have, or if you do not put up thirty freezer bags of sweet corn because your garden produced very little then you can just go to the store and buy what you need to make up the difference. You can sit back and admire all your hard work, and not sweat it if you come up a little short. At our house, I usually take care of all the provisions, keeping tabs that we are stocked on the items we use. And I do not know about you, but as for me I like to hole up in my house when the cold weather sets in and get out as little as possible! Its not that I hate winter, but I relish spending those cold days snuggled up here in my home with my children and our pets (and my husband when he is able to be home from work), and the fewer trips I can make into town the better! (For us "town" is about fifteen minutes away, which is not too bad, but include in that traveling down an insignificant country road on an icy day not to mention first shoveling a long driveway and town seems a lot less appealing!)  Winter makes you slow your life down a little (if you let it - there are some of us that prefer to be busy no matter what)! Some of the things we stock up on are straw for the barns, particularly for our pet goat Dandy to make his bed in, firewood for our wonderful wood stove fireplace insert, freezer bags full of processed vegetables from our garden, and a few shelves of canned pickles, pasta sauce, jelly, and salsa.  Another positive aspect of having some homemade foods on hand, if you need to give a gift or make a meal for someone in need, it is so easy to throw in a can of homemade pickles or salsa and your recipient will be grateful for the personal touch.  

3. The first wisps of wood smoke in the air. I have heard it said that your sense of smell is more closely linked to memories than any other sense and I would have to agree. One of my own earliest memories as a child is taking in breaths of cold air while I stood out in a snow covered yard, drinking in the wonderful scents of wood smoke as it traveled out of nearby chimneys of the neighbors heating their homes against the frigid temperatures. Delicious!

4. The smell of dried leaves, and the crunch they make as you play in raked piles. I especially love this paired with the sound of my children's laughter, and I am sure as I age and my children grown up I will revisit this memory every fall.

5. Perfect weather and perfect skies. What is it about fall that makes the heavens so blue, the clouds so puffy, and the air so fresh? The newly cool weather is always such a relief from the sultry summer days, and what a blessing that you can basically live a month without running either the air conditioning or the furnace!

6. Camping and Camp fires. What better time of year to beat the heat and enjoy the outdoors than in the refreshing cool of fall? We love to take the time and visit local state parks and camp if we are able. We also have a permanent fire pit in our back yard that we use when family come to visit or when we simply want to enjoy the warmth of glowing coals and gentle flames.

7. Harvest. Here at our small farm we are surrounded by fields owned by other families. I love watching the soy beans and corn stalks yellow and then dry prior to being harvested. My oldest son especially looks forward to all the tractors that travel the road in front of our house, and then finally getting to see the equipment up close when the fields next to us are cut and gathered.

8. Festivals. Every year my family and my side of extended family travel to northern Indiana to a festival called the Feast of the Hunter's Moon. It is a wonderful event that I highly recommend to anyone able to make the trip. It is located close to Lafayette, IN, and is a historical festival that features re-enactments of the area's initial settlement by French pioneers. All of the vendors wear period clothing and sell hand crafted items, and many give demonstrations of how historical tools and art was made. And I have not even mentioned the food yet! There are innumerable booths of delicious period dishes, and I would definitely suggest if you ever attend that you do so in a group. That way you will all be able to share a variety of items and not fill up too fast, but by the end of the day it is almost guaranteed you will not want to see another meal for quite some time! Other favorite festivals of mine are the yearly local ones at family owned greenhouses and farmer markets.

9. Getting the kids back into their activities. So, it is this time of year where all of our activities start revving up again and after a time of unscheduled days spent swimming, playing at the park, and keeping up with play dates with family I have to admit getting a little bit of structure back into our lives is a welcomed event. Personally, I am involved in a local MOP's group which I absolutely love! We meet once a week on Wednesdays, and its a great way to get the kids some faith based social time with others their same age and give me some time for myself. The kids have also been involved in a gymnastics class once a week for the past couple of years and it has been a great way to expose them to an activity that has organization and requires their attention while letting them exert some physical energy which every mom can appreciate!

10. Decorating. This has got to be one of my favorite activities not just for fall but through all the holidays throughout the year. Some holidays I decorate for more than others, but fall/Halloween and Christmas are my top two. This year we grew our own decorative gourds which was great! They were so easy to grow, I basically threw the seeds in the ground they sprouted up vines like you would not believe. Every year my mom, sister and I also like to visit a local greenhouse and buy a few mums for our porches - I like to plant mine before the cold sets in but usually my mom and sister let theirs die off. Also we try to get together and carve pumpkins and watch a Halloween classic like Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin or Garfield's Halloween. As autumn wears on I pick the last of the Indian corn from the garden and clip the sunflower heads from their stalks so that I can hand them up for the birds to eat through the winter. This year I am also going to try and dry my own birdhouse gourds as I grew those in the garden as well. I am not sure how that will go, but I just picked them off the vines a week ago and will need to refresh my memory about the drying process. I will post my results on here when I am done!

Happy Fall!