Flurries, with Blowing and Drifting . . .

Blowing and drifting snow?!

No, it was 90 Fahrenheit yesterday (about 32 C) in upstate New York–a record for the date. We don’t have snow but we have flurries and squalls and storms and drifts . . . of cottonwood seeds.

For 11 months and two weeks of the year we love our cottonwood trees (populus deltoides). The are very tall and offer lots of shade; they are tolerant of cold and flooding.

But for two weeks in June, they are more than a little annoying. In early June, they spread their seeds in small fluffs of “cotton” and the sky is full of this snow.

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The fluff covers the ground, and drifts and swirls in the breeze. Rain tamps it down but also turns it into a nasty mat that clogs downspouts and gutters. Cats track it in and the wind blows it into every open door.

The fluff sticks to sweaty skin and wafts into cocktails. It collects in spider webs and on the flowers of every blossom. This thin layer of fuzzy white acts as a scrim, blunting the bright colors of June.

The good news is that it lasts for only two weeks. By the end of June, the airborne fluff will be gone and only the residual mats of seed will remain. Oh, and the sprouts that I’ll be pulling for the rest of the summer.

In other early-summer-outdoor-news, every sunset seeks to outdo the previous night.

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IMG_7680And the goslings grow.

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Is early summer fulfilling your expectations and delighting you?

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Autumn, Come She Will

Soupy. Steamy. Sweaty. Summer.

It’s all those things right now in upstate New York. Summer blazes on, with little rain and high humidity.

And yet, when I least expect it, when I’m wearing my sun visor and wiping the “dew” off my face, autumn sneaks up on me.

She is quiet, faint, just a hint of a ghost of a wraith but I know she’s there.

She gets close and whispers her cool breath in my ear. I whip my head around, to get a better look, and blush when I find only summer there. I was hoping it was autumn . . .

I’m not the only one autumn makes blush.

Autumn seduces me, energizes me, makes me feel alive. My blood sings and fizzes like champagne when autumn comes to me.

Again, I’m not the only one who is susceptible to her charms; she is profligate with her attentions. She beguiles the geese to start their noisy journey. She provides the nudge that makes the squirrels so intent on hunting and gathering that they forget to look both ways when they cross the road. All living things respond to autumn.

Her invigorating imperative affects people like me, and maybe you, people who live in cooler climates and who love to make things. We feel the impulse to prepare for winter making and to hunker down in our homes.

Because my main locus for taking photos of vintage linens for Etsy is my glassed-in porch and because my glassed-in porch is not winterized and gets REALLY cold in the winter, I will spend autumn busily taking photos, getting things ready while I can.

I also baste quilts at the big table on the glassed-in porch so I will soon be doing this job I loathe so I can do the part I love, hand quilting, all winter.

I want my home to be as clean and fresh as autumn feels. I want the garden to sleep well and come to spring renewed and refreshed. I want to bring the color of the maple trees and late fall sun to handwovens.

Autumn is a demanding mistress, but she’s worth it.

I know she’s coming, autumn is.

I love you, autumn. I’ll be ready for you. Don’t make me wait too long . . .


*This photo makes me think of a wonderful book, C D B!, by William Steig. According to Steig, the full caption for the photo should be “C D B? D B S A BZ B.” Can you crack the code?

Ahhhhhh-tumn

As a charter member of the North American autumn appreciation team, I felt it my bounden duty to attempt to capture the evanescent essence of the season. The Adirondacks have put on a splendid show this year—my photos do not begin to do justice to the glory! (You can click on any of the thumbnails to get a closer look, though.)

Coming or Going?

geeseI watch the geese at this time of year, the time of year when they know what they should be doing and the direction they should be heading. And, in spite of responding to an internal imperative to fly south, they seem, on many days, to be heading north.

I can identify. I, too, know what I should be doing and the directions I should be heading and, yet, I can’t seem to figure out if I’m coming or going.

I should be making candy. It’s the beginning of candy season and I have ideas for sweet new concoctions. I should be making those goodies, taking photos of them, and preparing them for sale.

I should be ironing linens. I’ve lucked into many new caches of vintage wonderfulness lately—some beautiful pieces in lovely condition. This is the time of year people look to buy pretty things for their holiday tables and for gifts. I should be ironing.

I should be cutting back perennials. And raking leaves. And putting the geraniums to bed.

I should be writing substantive, deep, and thought-provoking blog posts instead of just posting photos as I have mostly been doing lately.

I should be doing some deep house cleaning (have you seen my shower?)

I should be winding warp because no weaving can occur without a warp to weave into. I should baste a quilt because no quilting can occur without basting first.

So much I should be doing . . .

But all I want to do is travel the byways of upstate New York, immersing myself in the wonders of the season, enjoying autumn.

We drove across New York this past weekend and went through the Adirondacks. Already, two weeks before the date we associate with peak color, we saw trees a-blazing. We saw fall everywhere we looked.

We were driving with a focus, we had places to go, so I just tried to gather as many impressions as I could. My impressions began with the awareness that everything is happening early this year—the people who take the leaf-peeper tours on Columbus Day weekend are going to miss the show, I’m afraid!

I also had the impression that the reds that make this region so spectacular, especially from the maples, are particularly bright and splashy this year. This isn’t a one-dimensional red but ranges from burgundy to flame red to cerise. Some leaves are streaked with stripes of red and green. Add the bright sun and the breeze rustling the leaves and you’ll get one million shades of red. This is what’s meant by the phrase “eye dazzling”!

I had the impression that this, this autumn, is the perfect autumn. The days are “black and blue”—moments of bright and sunny skies, broken in arresting ways by big dark clouds that add drama.

Enough with impressions.

I need to go out and move slowly, and savor this perfect autumn.

I want the smell of wood smoke and the smell of the sun on fallen pine needles.

I want the taste of cake donuts, made with apple cider and covered with cinnamon sugar.

I want the sound of the crunch of leaves as I shuffle through them and the sound of those silly geese, honking their heads off.

I want to feel the warm sun on my shoulders, leavened by a crisp breeze on my face.

Most of all, I need the sights of autumn. The sky the color we call “Adirondack blue.” The leaves putting on a show I can only seem to find trite descriptors for, a show that really does defy description. And the reflection of those colors, softer, moodier, muted, in every pond and stream.

This season, this moment, can’t be postponed. Autumn, the season, may last until December but the essence of fall in the North Country is ever so fleeting.

So, I say to hell with those things I should be doing. This time, the “shoulds” will be trumped by the “wants” and “needs”! Coming or going? My own internal imperative insists that I be going.

Going out to meet autumn, joyfully.

Doing My Chores

snowy cabinHere in the northern hemisphere, we’re preparing for winter. Yes, it’s only September and we still have weeks of splendid autumn to enjoy but we all know what’s coming after that. We see the inevitable signs.

The geese are flying south, the squirrels are gathering acorns, the cats are finding patches of sun to in which to park and nap.

We, the people, need to prepare, too; we can’t let winter catch us unawares. We’re putting the gardens to bed, doing outdoor chores, pulling out recipes for soups and slow-cooker meals.

Winter is the time for hunkering down, for working indoors, for getting in touch with the heart of the home again, for making our own warmth to sustain us.

Here, at out house in upstate New York, the warmth comes from the kitchen, the loom, the quilt frame.

I need to be ready. I’m lining up projects and feathering my nest. I’m doing the chores that will ensure a happy, productive winter.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week assessing my readiness for candy season. As you may recall, I make and sell chocolates between October and May, so I have been gathering ingredients, deciding how much chocolate I need to buy, and finding the pans and bowls and spatulas I put away months ago. I finally located the candy thermometer and today will look for the candy boxes and labels I stored, to see if I need to order more.

I don’t particularly enjoy all this organizing and planning—I like making the candy! But I need to do these chores so I’m ready for the fun part.

I’ve also been making decisions about a weaving project. I don’t want to stop weaving but, right now, I don’t have the time or inclination to start anything challenging or fancy or artsy. I’ll leave that kind of weaving to my husband; I’m going to make some dishtowels. Some nice dishtowels, in a cotton and linen blend, off-white, with a red stripe down the sides, just like the vintage towels I love so much! Once I get the loom set up, I can weave a few inches whenever I please and watch the fabric grow like magic.

I don’t particularly enjoy all this measuring and planning—I like weaving! But I need to do these chores so I’m ready for the fun part.

My other preparation for winter involves quilting. I haven’t done any quilt-related work since I finished the 1812 quilt, and I miss it. Winter is the perfect time to do hand quilting because it means settling yourself beneath the quilt, while you stitch, warm in your cocoon.

As you know, I love college football and will watch any team play, any time. I want to get a quilt top basted and ready to quilt so I can work on it while I watch football. As it happens, I have quilt tops made by my grandmother’s aunt and by my husband’s grandmother, beautiful hand-pieced vintage tops, just waiting for me to finish them. I’ve picked one and will buy backing fabric this week.

I don’t particularly enjoy all this basting and planning—I like quilting! But I need to do these chores so I’m ready for the fun part.

The chores need to be done so, during winter, we can be secure and productive and content as the cold winds whip the snow into drifts around us.

How do you prepare for a comfy, cozy winter? Have you begun your chores?

 

Fall Fixations: I Have a Few

foliage-2Like many of you, I find autumn exhilarating. I look forward to it all year for very particular reasons. I have four main autumn obsessions (well, five, but I’m not going to rhapsodize about college football here):

1)   Foliage—This is the most obvious and probably universally-shared of my obsessions. I’m lucky enough to live in leaf-peepers heaven—in what’s being called the “Adirondack Coast” of upstate New York. With the Adirondack Mountains on one side and the Green Mountains of Vermont on the other, and lovely, lovely Lake Champlain right in the middle, this may be one of the best places in the whole world to be obsessed with fall colors.

We take leaf-peeping seriously at my house. We check the foliage report to plan outings. When we drive around in other seasons, we take note of special vistas, to come back to in the fall. We have our go-to routes that we drive every year. We plan outings on weekdays, so as not to be disturbed by amateurs! And we would never, ever plan a trip away from home at this time of year! Miss foliage season? I don’t think so.

If you stay tuned you’ll be seeing my fall photos!

2)   Apples—My part of paradise is also home to many, many apple orchards so autumn becomes a chance to try new varieties and re-visit old favorites. When you’re surrounded by dozens of unusual apples you’ve never heard of, it’s easy to become a bit of an apple snob—don’t be talking to me about boring old Red Delicious.

Northern Spy, Autumn Crisp, Pristine, Spartan, Winesap—aren’t the names wonderful? And the taste! So far beyond what you’re going to find in the grocery store! One of our favorite orchards keeps an industrial-strength apple quarterer and corer on hand so we can taste any (or all!) of the apples before we buy! And they’ve been known to walk outside and pluck the apples directly off the trees for us so we get them extra fresh. Add to this the fresh-pressed cider, the hard cider, the apple cider donuts, the caramel sauce for dipping apples  . . . yes, I love fall.

If you stay tuned you’ll be hearing about apples!

apples3)   Snow geese—I know nothing about the migratory habits of snow geese except that they love the bay in front of our house. For a month, usually starting in mid-October, gazillions of gaggles of geese gather here and make a mighty sound! They are joined by Canada geese, who are very cool in their own right, but the white mass of the snow geese is particularly showy and astounding. To see a huge gathering of them take off all at once is like watching snow fall up!

The first time I saw them, after we moved here, I was taking a walk and could see a band of white on the far shore of the bay. It was a beautiful late autumn day—I could not figure out why there would be snow on the edge of the lake! I looked harder and listened and it finally dawned on me that those were geese! I ran home, we jumped in the car, and followed the lake shore until we found them.

Now I stalk them. And like any good paparazza, my camera is always clicking.

If you stay tuned you’ll be seeing snow geese in your dreams!snow geese-4

4)   Chocolate—This isn’t, perhaps, the normal person’s autumn obsession (although I know lots of people who would call it a four-season fixation!) But I make and sell chocolate candy. I can’t make it or sell it between May and mid-September because it is impossible to temper real chocolate if the temperature is warm (and never mind the difficulties of shipping it!)

So, for me, fall brings the added excitement of the beginning of candy season! All the high holidays of candy seem to fall between October and May, so those months find me tempering pounds of silky chocolate and stirring pots of burbling caramel. And beyond the making of chocolate, I obsess about new concoctions and combinations, packaging, pricing, photos—all chocolate, all the time. Not a bad way to live, huh?

If you stay tuned you’ll be hearing about chocolate! (I’m truly not trying to sell you anything—it’s just that chocolate is such a huge part of my world, I can’t imagine not writing about it here!)

new dark fleur-1Just writing about these things whips me into a frenzy of anticipation! The early-harvest apples are already available, the chocolate listings on my shop have begun to reappear, the leaves are just beginning to perk up with hits of red and orange, the snow geese will make me wait awhile. But it’s coming, fall is coming, and I can’t wait!

I look forward to sharing these autumn delights with you, as well as other “loving hands” meanderings. Is autumn a special season where you live? What do you like best about it? I hope you’ll be using your blog to tell us all about it, too!