Just as with us, in real life, there comes a time to show our colors. It is as if we are crossing over away from summer’s activities but not merely into a new season, but into a time of preparation for things to come. During my ‘growing up’ years I felt as if someone had thrown a switch closing off the warmth of summer and drawing in a crisp air of color that signified a sad benediction of summer’s games. This is replaced by a wool blanket to ward off chills that proclaim the dropping temperatures just ahead. Fall has that little uncomfortable way about it, but it ushers in a different kind of life that includes some of the best life has to offer. It’s not winter’s cold just yet, but Jack Frost cannot be far away. Time to find the long sleeves, corduroys, wool shirts, sweaters, and jackets to ward off the cold on chilly evenings.
Another fall season has come with harvests of orange, red, yellow and brown. The fields are growing ripe with pumpkins and apples that will feed us while yet the mums flash bright colors of buttery shades that are candy to our eyes. Tis a season of football games, parades, festivals, and harvests that were the promise of summer. The fruit is ready for the picking while hot biscuits and sorghum are washed down with fresh milk or hot coffee. Apple cider is squeezed and spiced with cinnamon, and life is good.
I remember the fairs and festivals that featured wonderful pies filled with sweet cooked apples. Better still, the Brunswick stew was cooked in the big cast iron cauldron with corn, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, and finished out with rabbit, squirrel, venison, chicken, or pork. People used whatever they had and took turns stirring the pot or adding the split firewood to keep it hot.
I remember watching the grownup ladies rolling out pie crusts on the pull-out counter of the Hoosier. They tossed flour on the surface and over the rolling pins to keep it from sticking. I was allowed to help weave some cut crust like a basket over the top of the filling. I was instructed not to leave gaps but to insure the whole was covered well before placing them to bake in the oven. I can smell those concoctions even today when I shut my eyes and allow memories to take me back to those noisy, hardworking kitchens of old.
This year we have a pandemic that has done much to curtail some of those fun times. While we may not have large community events I for one think we should still make the festival foods for the family and our neighbors. Yes, keep social distancing but let’s not throw out the food!
We can still put out our scarecrows, fill our cider jugs, display our gourds, fall paintings, and the quilts grandma made. We can at least share pictures on our phones showing the work going on in the fields. We can see the stacks of cordwood or piles of coal, made ready for the upcoming winter. Snapshots of mom cooking and the kids helping will be a keepsake and worth the effort for those lucky enough to see.
With October comes a good time on the porch picking music that reminds us of the blessing of our heritage and our faith. It is time to rake leaves again. The kids help, for sure, and then run and jump into the piles. Later, we used to burn the leaves and stand ready to keep the fire under control. I remember the smoke that followed me when I tried to move away for some fresh air. They joked that smoke follows beauty, but it followed me, too. Ha!
As I grew older I remember camping in the fall. The boy scouts, or a bunch of us from church, would head out and find a stream in some hollow. Setting up camp miles from the nearest farmhouse made me feel like a pioneer. We didn’t post any guards and slept quite well under our tents and several blankets. I loved the ghost stories around the campfire. The hot dogs and marshmallows were good, too.
I never attended, but was told about corn-husking parties’ where families came together to shuck the corn at harvest. I do remember ‘slumber parties’ where teens would go to a party and cook out. When it got to be ten or eleven the boys had to leave while the girls when inside and put on their pajamas. I heard they mostly talked all night, but a few got some sleep. Usually it was planned so the next day the girls could go home a sleep. Today’s social virus restrictions prohibit all these kinds of get-togethers, but there are virtual ways that may offer new kinds of experiences, but remember to bake some pumpkin pies with plenty of whipping cream.
Another great thing about fall is it reminds us of the holidays just ahead. We can use this reminder to finish any Christmas gifts we’ve started, and to plan invitation lists and menus for the dinners ahead. We can start on decorations and gather the ingredients for the cooking and baking to follow. This year is a little different, but we still can find ways to make the time special. Perhaps a virtual party, or a shared meal for a family suffering a recent loss or having difficulties.
Meanwhile, think about how it was back in the day. It may be possible to keep some of these traditions alive.