With October’s arrival, it is the power of air that shapes the pattern of movement on the land. For days, the air seems to stop moving altogether. To hang dry and heavy around all that it touches. To steal energy and drive good intentions back indoors in search of cool, conditioned air.
At night, spiders spin webs from tree to bush and catch me unaware when I walk out to greet the morning. Grasshoppers move into the zinnia bed if left too long unguarded, eager to devour the Crayola colored flowers. The hotter the air, the louder they fiddle. Back inside the coolness of the house, I make a bouquet of purple, orange, red and yellow zinnias and surround them with leafy purple basil. An orchestra of tiny, green tree frogs warms up for a fall concert each evening. The sounds and activity of what looks and still feels like Indian summer are everywhere.
In mid-September, the pear tree—topped and thoroughly pruned in the spring—produced boxes of pears stacked five layers high that are now stored in a downstairs refrigerator. Apparently, they should be kept just above freezing or they’ll all ripen at once. In the meantime, I’m looking for ways to cook up, put up, and share our abundant harvest. In the coming days, the kitchen will be filled with the pungent smell of chutneys made with pears, apples, golden raisins, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, shallots and cloves.
I’m also searching for a recipe for brandied pears. In The Book of Preserves, I found what I was looking for. “Fruit in alcohol,” according to the book, “improves when kept, mellowing in the months before serving.” Perfect, I think, for that winter night down the road that seems distant now and endless when one is there.
Now’s the time to put up jars of peeled and quartered pears poached in their own sweet juices and brandy. Tucked into the pantry, they will be forgotten until one cold winter night when brandied pears seem the perfect topping over a generous scoop of Giofre Vanilla or Talenti Caribbean Coconut ice cream the color of snow.
The final week of September arrived just as tired trees, shrubs and flowers—thirsty for a deep drink—were treated to a night of rain. Our nephew Nathan arrived as well for a week of outdoor house projects. Porches and decks all needed a fresh coat of stain. Across the glade, our two-story studio’s siding that backs up to the woods needed power washing before its oyster color turned tree-frog green. For the job, we’d purchased a lime green Sun Joe power washer built like the Star Wars robot R2-D2. Nathan, unphased by climbing 26-foot ladders while wielding the Sun Joe’s jet spray wand, completed the job at heights where squirrels and owls had a front row seats in the nearby trees.
While he power washed the studio siding, Kit and I removed all of the furniture from the screened porch and covered deck areas of the house so they could be power washed, allowed to dry, and finally stained. While the porch furniture was in the yard, it was oiled and left to dry in the sun. Finally, the furniture, cushions, pillows, lamps and benches were returned to their places and we toasted our hard work just as the sun slipped down in the west.
The Sunday before Nathan flew home, I drove to Jo and Holly Hackman’s farm in Hartsburg and filled my car with gorgeous mums and a colorful assortment of pumpkins. They are now arranged around the steps and edges of the newly stained porch and a large paper pumpkin lantern glows overhead on the deck.
These fall nights, Kit and I walk out onto the meadow to stare up at stars that twinkle back at us. The world settles down to sleep and all is quiet up and down our country road. September slipped seamlessly away one star-filled night, and October now greets us each morning.