Monday, November 1, 2010

Autumn Moments

Jackson's Mill Bridge, Bart Twp., PA

“November is usually such a disagreeable month … as if the year had suddenly found out she was growing old and could do nothing but weep and fret over it. Anne of Avonlea

Although not a big fan of cold weather, I do love and value living seasonally. The change of pace that each new time of the year brings, the changes in routine that give our lives greater variety, and the traditions we celebrate at those certain times. What a blessing to be able to live in harmony with the seasons, just as generations before us did. Although people with agricultural roots never stopped living this way, so many more people who have lost that connection have been striving in recent years to regain that natural rhythm. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy this time of year include taking walks to enjoy the pretty colors (and I like to make the most of my time outside because soon I'll be banished to nights by the stove to keep warm!) and driving through the countryside to observe the changing landscape. All the corn stalks are gone, cut down to brown sticks, and a few fields of squash and pumpkins dot the roadsides. The fields behind our property are dotted with tiny blades of green winter wheat, giving off a false appearance of spring. All of my favorite roadside stands are down to potatoes, cauliflower, pumpkins and gourds. Fresh spinach and lettuce grows in the garden, and the smell of leaves permeates the air.

You can see the changes in the horse and buggy community in Lancaster, where we frequently visit and shop. The stores on a weekday afternoon are busy with both wives and husbands shopping together, as field work for many of the men comes to an end. The Amish taxis are lined up outside each store. Are last minute gifts still being sought for the current wedding season, now in full swing?

This weekend we put our garden to bed. As you may recall, we used a thick layer of straw mulch this year to help with the weed situation after I got sick last June. This not only helped to keep weeds manageable, but it helped with keeping in moisture. It was a tremendous help. But there were two downsides to the straw mulch:

1. It attracted pests. And while we are certainly no strangers to pests, being as we are surrounded by farm land and used to mice looking for shelter in the winter, we experienced a very early and intensive rodent attack. While taking out the garden, we could see it was full of holes where pests had burrowed under the straw.
2. Before the garden could be tilled so we could plant our cover crop, all of the straw had to be raked up, adding to the intensive labor of taking out the garden. Raking up a layer of wet, decomposing straw after tearing out the last fifty or so tomato plants was not easy.

So will we use straw mulch again? Yes, but differently. Next year I would like to add some just around the base of the plants to help seal in moisture, but I won't use it as an all-over weed control tactic.
You've heard of "first fruits". Can you spot the last fruits in the picture?

Of course, seasonal cooking ingredients are always a treat. Soups, casseroles, and pumpkin rolls...isn't it funny how our cravings for food change with the seasons?

Pumpkin roll is a lot like making a jelly roll, but filled with pumpkin spices and cream cheese filling, it deserves a mention of its own.

Pumpkin Roll
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice or 2 tsp. cinnamon + 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup confectioner's sugar
4 tsp. butter
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat eggs well (3-5 minutes) and gradually add sugar. Add pumpkin and lemon juice. Stir together dry ingredients and fold into pumpkin mixture. Spread on to jelly roll pan lined with wax paper. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Promptly remove from oven and turn pan over on to a clean dish towel sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Peel of wax paper, and roll up in towel from the long end. Allow to cool completely. Mix filling ingredients until smooth. When cake is cool, unroll and spread icing, and then roll without the towel. Let it chill in the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.


  1. Awww! What a wonderful posting! I love fall, too, for all those reason you mentioned. Delicious-looking pumpkin roll! Lloyd's grandma used to make that for us in the fall. Thanks! (You had me at the quote from Anne!)

  2. Every time you post a recipe I want to try it but that looks difficult - as did the jelly roll. Why don't you just make dip or something - I can do sour cream stuff? A lady at church makes those pumpkin rolls and gives them as gifts (I'm not on her list though) and I've tasted them and they are SOOO good. I loved your description of fall and yes, it is nice to have the changing seasons ~ that was a great post. ♥

  3. Beth- This is not hard and I know you can do this. You have done things more challenging than this and a cake or jelly roll is pretty basic once you get the hang of it. Don't make me drive down there and show you.

  4. Hello Monica,
    Your pumpkin roll will definitely get a run in my kitchen when it pumpkin season here. We are heading towards summer in Australia but the spring so far has been very wet and temperatures quite mild in my area. I enjoyed reading what you wrote about autumn, it is such a lovely season.

  5. What a festive post! I'd never heard of pumpkin rolls until last Thanksgiving, when my sister Sarah talked about making them. Thank you for the recipe... I will try it. Knowing it's from you, I'm sure it will be delicious!

    Monica, have you ever had baked oatmeal? I first had it in Elizabethtown, PA. Apparently this is something available in the Lancaster area. If you make it, do you have a favorite recipe of it?

    Thank you for this wonderful post...


  6. Oh, and I meant to mention how much I like the quote...


  7. Saloma~ Yes, I've heard of baked oatmeal. In fact, I do have a recipe and will e-mail it to you shortly!

    Tracy~I love reading Australian blogs this time of year and seeing how everything is on the verge of green growth. It's so nice to know that someone, somewhere is enjoying a start into warmer weather, even if it is a little damp.

  8. I have to agree with you about enjoying the changes that come with the seasons :) Hope to be getting a snail mail off to you very shortly. Love & Hugs, Sharm

  9. Your pumpkin roll looks great! I make these every Thanksgiving, but every time the roll cracks when I unroll it to put the cream cheese filling. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Sheila! Ok, here is something I've done in the past when I've had this same issue with jelly rolls: Instead of using a towel to roll it up, try parchment paper. It helps retain a little bit more moisture which should help it not to crack. These things usually crack when they are too thick or too dry. Be careful not to over-bake, too.


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