Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch
Living seasonally, we can feel the changes more deeply. The peaches are long gone, watermelon season fades, squash arrives in droves and apple season arrives. For months my home and children will be joyfully inundated with granny smith apples. Some apples will turn to sauce, some will be roasted with brown sugar and cinnamon, some will be buried in pie crust, and a great many more will be eaten whole, entirely whole, because no seeds will stop these children from enjoying every last bite.
Pumpkins began to fill my house in early August. They are on the mantle, end tables, dining tables, china cabinet. Little warty gourds punctuate their space with character and whimsy.
Above the window hangs a banner made simply with orange, linen-look fabric from Rainbow Fabrics, a permanent marker, printed words from the computer and graphite paper. It reads “Beatus Autumnum”. The phrase, meaning“Blessed Autumn,” lasts longer than Happy Halloween and it seems more special to us in Latin than English.
Soup season has begun. Tomato basil from the last harvest outpouring, acorn squash and butternut squash. My husband experiments with recipes, but his classic melts me over every time.
Grilled cheese sandwiches accompany the tomato basil soup. The bread is homemade. The vegetables are garden grown. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? I hear it and read it and it sounds like the high life, so artisan, but actually, we do this because it is what we can afford. With four kids and two freelancers, we have to grow our own vegetables and bake our own bread.
The things that make the season richer are actually the things that cost less in money and more in time, planning and effort. The payoff is greater.
You can get raspberries and strawberries year-round. You cannot find canned pumpkin in spring, but only so sales will boom in the fall (and who buys it in spring, anyway?). Out society is very seasonable about pumpkin, but for fruit and the delicacies of summer, people head to the store and buy it at will.
The same for apples. The same for carrots. Well, my family eats carrots year-round, too.
It is a form of slow living to allow the seasons to exist in themselves. A vegetable garden can be had on a small plot of land. I sent my grandmother home with a handful of fresh herbs and acorn squash. We grow the squash at my parents’ house outside city limits, but the herbs are right there, in the front yard.
The kids are living on green smoothies. Kale and chard grow alongside my lawn (in some cases, in my lawn) and the blueberries were picked at Vanderhelm Farms in June, then frozen.
The good life is at our fingertips inviting us to enjoy the moment, the season.
Last year our garden did not thrive. We ended up with mostly chard. The winter conversation was “just get it in the ground.” Forget planter boxes, diagrams and fancy plans, just get the seeds in the ground.
Now I have sunflowers on my dining table.
30 minutes of work a day, then the effort to cut and remember to use. It can be done. There are endless resources on how to do it. For us, the biggest step was to make a choice to go the less convenient route. There is an element of self-control to plan your recipes around what they are selling at the fruit stand of what sits on your kitchen counter after a harvest. If you live in a place with traditional winters, the planning is all the more important. We do not have that problem here.
For an outing, we drove out to Indegny Reserve, packed a picnic with acorn squash soup, fruit bars and leftover pizza.
We do not subsist solely on stuff we grow. We live in town after all, and the United States, and the 21st century. I love that if I need something, I can usually find it. In my mind, the produce makes the season, and if it gets children excited, therein lies the joy of parenting.
After the effort, I find myself excited for apple season.