The rains are gone and the sun is back. Not the burning sun of midsummer, but the gentle rays of spring and fall. The apples are ready for picking. The best apples are those eaten right off the tree. There is a crispness to apples still on the tree that is missing from store apples. The apple growers don’t want to date their produce. When you buy an apple in a store, it’s impossible to know when that apple was picked. Maybe someday, a daring apple grower will put the date when they picked their apples on each apple. That would upend the apple cart and send the other apple growers into a panic. “But, but, but my apples picked six months ago are as good as their apples picked today!” they’ll say. Probably the USDA would ban the practice and make it illegal for growers of any produce to let customers know when their fruit and vegetables were picked. “Produce is produce is produce. It doesn’t matter when it’s picked!” or so the claim goes.
Bee-like hoverflies make the most of fall’s waning sun. Sit next to a batch of feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium, and in a matter of hours, and the whole world of flying insects will whizz past you. Feverfew is known for curing migraines. Maybe that is why the hoverflies and bees come to sip on these flowers. With eyes as big as hoverflies, migraines must be a common problem. When you have eyes with so many lenses, a few of them must get out of focus, and then think of the pounding headache you get.
Speaking of headaches, Skunky’s mother has just hatched her second clutch. They started hatching yesterday and this morning she is off her nest with her new chicks underneath her. So what do you call these chicks in relation to Skunky? Are they Skunky’s younger sisters and brothers? Siblings one brood removed? And next year’s broods will be Skunky’s siblings two broods removed, three broods removed, and so on? Trying to keep track of so many siblings and relatives must drive the chickens crazy, which is why they’re often nibbling on feverfew.
Lunch time sends me out into the garden to fetch dill and kale. The nice thing about having your own garden is that if you need just one or two leaves of something, you can go get it.
Walking out to the garden and back, I can’t help but take photos of the mother hens and their chicks. Tangerine’s chicks can still huddle underneath her, but at the rate they are going, not for long. When one of them gets separated from her, you can hear its loud peep from 500 feet away. Niji-hime and her daughter are inseparable. And Madge is still caring for her chicks though they are well able to manage on their own.
Watch hens care for their chicks, and you can understand why love is the greatest of all. It’s the one thing chicks crave from their mothers more than anything.
For me, this is the color of warmth. On a future day when a cold wind is blowing out of the north, this wood will keep us warm. The tree came down a year ago. Now I’m splitting it to stack for next year. Each piece, as it burns, will burn in its own way, casting its own warm glow. No two pieces burn the same way.
There is evidence of humans burning wood nearly two millions years ago. More than a million years ago, our distant, distant, distant ancestors, some 80,000 generations ago, gathered wood, thinking this is the color of warmth too.
Artichokes do grow in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s proof. Artichokes is one of the things customers asked for at the farmers market this summer. Next season I’ll attempt to provide a steady supply from late July onwards. They are a thistle, but the leaves are soft and look lovely in any garden. They are worth growing just for their looks.
Salad greens picked moments before lunch, one perfect egg laid within the past hour or two to make a silky bowl of mayonnaise, that’s my definition of luxury. Ask your grocer, “I’d like salad greens picked within the last thirty minutes and an egg laid this morning with a yolk as round and bright as the sun.” You won’t be able to get them no matter how much you offer to pay. There are some luxuries even money can’t buy.
Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day. Maybe that is what the chicks are chirping as they huddle under their mother and use her as an umbrella. Mother hens make excellent umbrellas. Not only do they keep the chicks dry, they keep them warm, and look, no hands required. Mother hens are much better than plastic umbrellas.
Unlike baby chicks, cabbages don’t need umbrellas. The rain rolls off their slippery leaves the moment it lands on them.
Nothing says summer is over than a fire in the wood stove. Yesterday, to take the chill off, I lit a fire in the wood stove. Summer is over when the hubbard squash are ready to eat. Summer is over when the vine maples turn crimson. In July, summer seemed like it would go on forever. Rain was a distant memory. I began to question if it ever got cold in the Pacific Northwest. Ha! The joke was on me. With a fire crackling in the wood stove, summer is now the memory.