“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.
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.
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.