Typical Autumn Day – almost

It’s a typical fall day at the O.K. Chorale. Mostly typical, that is. Temperatures were warm – reached 70 this afternoon! – so we raked and mowed and swept leaves. I did look up at the neighbor’s maple and think “We’re not done yet,” but it still felt good to get a lot of this chore out of the way. We dumped some of our leaves on the pile in the street for the public works department to pick up, and we dumped a few tarps full in the garden to insulate the soil for the winter.

The not-so-typical piece? It’s November. We haven’t had a true killing frost or major overnight freeze yet. I’ve been turning the heat off by day because it’s plenty warm without it. And we wonder – is this our new normal?

Halloween was a wonderfully warm evening for trick-or-treat. Amigo sat on the front porch and handed out candy for most of the four hours. He’s very friendly, and he enjoys interacting with everyone who comes along and says “Trick or Treat!”

The local college sent out students, mainly student athletes, to collect for a food drive. Soccer players stopped at our house. We introduced ourselves as alumni, gathered a few boxes and cans, and handed them a few extra bags in the hopes that they’d be able to fill them.

After a successful Halloween night, one in which we did not run out of candy, I took a look at the leftovers. To me, the bowl of tiny peanut butter cups shouted, “Cookies!” Oatmeal cookies, to be exact, but with chopped peanut butter cups instead of chocolate chips or raisins.

Perfect. An unseasonably warm day, followed by cookies made from leftover candy. Readers, how is your weather? Are you concerned about climate change, too? And what did you do with your leftover candy?

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And then, bananas.

Remember the baked oatmeal with apples? I needed a banana for that recipe – one, count ’em, one banana. While the boys (Chuck and Amigo) were out running other errands, I stopped at the convenience store for a few bananas. As often happens, I found myself at the back of the store mixing up a strawberry lemonade, too, because – why not? Stay hydrated, support local business, and so on. And I had my banana.

When Chuck and Amigo came home from the grocery store, Chuck handed me a bunch of rather-ripe bananas and said, “There’s a story here.” It seems the bananas at the store were “so green they should have still been on the tree.” He’d grabbed a bunch that was mostly yellow, knowing I needed one for my recipe. Well, oops. I already had the necessary banana.

We spent the next few days enjoying bananas. Half a banana with lunch, sliced banana on cereal for breakfast, and eventually banana bread made an appearance. But this weekend, we didn’t buy bananas. Not at the convenience store, not at the grocery. I think we’ll wait a little bit before we dive into bananas again.

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Apples, Apples, everywhere

Subtitle could be Urban Foraging or Scavenger Skills or even Free Food. When my online school moved into a new office, we discovered an apple tree in the front yard. No one seemed to be actively picking the apples, so Chuck and I decided to dive in, er, climb on. We brought big buckets and a stepladder and gathered seven or eight buckets of ripe apples.

The first season, I made applesauce and apple butter and apple pie filling and even apple jelly. Then Chuck got to thinking and bought the me (well, the family) a cider press. We pressed a batch or two of cider and filled the freezer. We took the cider production angle seriously after buying a quart from a farmers’ market and realizing that hey, ours was better.

This year was typical. We picked a little early, so not all the apples were fully ripe, but they were tasty enough for cider. I took to keeping a small box in my car and picking up the windfalls as I left work for the day. These windfall apples added up, and we had apple bread pudding, apple crisp, a Russion apple cake, and even baked oatmeal with apples. We scavenged another bucket of apples in early November, but then I got sick (not Covid!), so the apple pie filling and the strained jelly I’d hoped to make were not likely. After I regained my health and energy, I took the easy way out and made more applesauce.

If I ever retire, will I still have access to that tree and its apples? Technically, it’s on a public school’s property, so anyone could pick. Just to be sure, though, I should stay on good terms with my boss. That’s not a problem. In fact, I could even bribe her with fresh cider. Mmm, cider. From free apples. Works for me!

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