Suddenly it’s fall.
Vendors’ stands overflow with corn and pumpkins and squash and apples at the farmers’ market. Mornings are chilly enough to put on a warm sweater. Starbucks has switched over to Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Salted Caramel Mochas. Saver’s now advertises Halloween costumes. Corporate America is ready to remind you that yes, it’s really September, just in case you can’t tell.
This afternoon I stopped by a craft store to get some dried flowers and other materials to make a fall wreath, which involved walking by garlands of garish orange leaves and flowers with colors you’d never find in nature. It’s funny that big box stores tell us to mark fall, traditionally a time of harvesting natural foods, with fake decorative plants. While I tried to find the least obnoxious materials for my wreath, I think it’s still going to feature at least a few plastic grains.
Recently I’ve found myself thinking a lot about harvest time and how to stay close to the land and the seasons. My parents visited briefly this weekend, and we walked around the new neighborhood and commented on the abundant gardens people grow here. My parents love to garden, though they seldom can devote as much time as they’d like to their plants. When I was little, they had a big plot in the backyard where they grew corn, squash, tomatoes, and giant pumpkins. There’s a picture of me, aged 6 months, sitting on top of a pumpkin that’s bigger than I am. Looking at old photos like that, I get the sense that our lives revolved around the garden and the seasons in a way that we’ve tried to recapture ever since. My dad still tends to a few tomato and cantaloupe plants, and you all know the saga of my own kitchen garden. But there’s something about the demanding nature of a big garden that ties you down to the land until you’ve harvested every last crop.
(I tend to get rather poetical and starry-eyed about the idea of farming. I suspect that if I ever did start my own farm, those romantic notions would never survive.)
So, mind full of dreams and desires to root myself to the earth, I’ve been looking at some photos from the old garden. The year my sister was born, my parents planted wheat and harvested it at the end of the summer. In a few exhausting days, my grandmother helped my parents reap, thresh, and grind the wheat into flour, that my dad then used to make bread.
It’s a great story, one that speaks to my family’s strange desire to mimic old-fashioned farming methods.
I love looking at these photos from long ago. There’s my sister, just a babe in arms.
There I am, a little two-year-old helping out with the threshing and the bread-making. There are my parents, younger versions of themselves when they had more time to work in the garden. And my grandmother, with whom I wish I could share my growing love of all things crafty and historical.
And this last photo, where my dad is teaching me how to knead bread, which explains everything about this blog.
Happy fall, friends.