Out on our back patio, it’s been raining walnuts for weeks. We’ve grown accustomed to the sound of hard knocks on our roof and windows, and the occasional drop on our shoulders. The grass is littered with the round bruised green obstacles. On a misty autumn afternoon, I gather and rake up as many as I can, carry them out to the curb and reclaim our ground. This morning, all is suddenly quiet. A cardinal song pierces the silence and a few desperate squirrels continue to gnaw on what walnuts are left in the trees, just the usual sounds of a peaceful backyard. At the peak of the walnut fall, I searched the Internet for their uses. So I now have a jar of walnut liqueur macerating in the basement. And I still hope to make a pot of dye with some of the hulls. The squirrels seem happy with the nuts; I will leave them for their use.
Day by day, I see or feel the changes that autumn brings. Out in the fields, the cabbages, squash, gourds and pumpkins are ready for harvest and I am taking full advantage of them. The red and green cabbages I purchased at the farmers’ market are turning into sauerkraut. After chopping and salting them, I put them in a large crock brought back from Belgium and a couple of canning jars. Within a day, they are bubbling and fermenting. They will be ready to eat in a couple of weeks. Meantime, I am going through my pumpkin recipes. Though I love them for their colours and shapes and I can’t resist getting some for decorating. I like cutting into them and revealing their bright flesh and all those seeds. Once they are cooked, the list of uses is endless. In soups, salads, main dishes and desserts, they add flavour and colour and nourishment. The pumpkin sourdough bread I make looks like the autumnal setting sun, and the pumpkin cookies never last very long.
Yes, here we are in the fall of the year. I can hear summer letting out a deep sigh as it lets go of nature. And I feel autumn taking over my bones. I’ m ready to slow down a bit, start up some knitting projects, and get the house ready for indoor gatherings. But before the doors close and the woodstove heats up, before the flannel sheets come out and the sweaters pile up, before the frost covers the land and deals the final blow, it’s time for one last fling. We take a day trip to Pokagon State Park, and hike through the woods, along the lake and up and down the glacial dips, taking in the last of the summer flowers and the flood of hickory and beech nuts underfoot. We eat a simple picnic with some of nature’s bounty, leaving only when the yellow jackets arrive. We soak in the warm sun and glorious skies of October. Those will be the memories we carry when the cold wind bites and nature goes into hibernation. In the meantime, I’ll keep collecting and cooking pumpkins.