Thursday, September 25, 2014

Five Fall Moments

Those green fields are yellowing, the sunflowers have hung their heads in a sorrowful pose. That chill in the air has come too soon and whispers a warning of long, cold months ahead. I know how to make it all go away. Want to know a secret? I will just pull out the cool weather clothes for the seasonal clothing swap, and that will guarantee an eighty degree day. You just wait

The cooler days suited me just fine since I spent a few afternoons with the oven running non-stop in preparation for the bake sale at our church's community outreach day. I was packaging up a few dozen cookies when I saw that I was going to be late picking up Little Mister from a therapy appointment. I quickly grabbed my purse and jumped into the car. About halfway there, I made an awful realization. All of my packaged baked goods, including the previous day's work, were in a laundry basket left out in the open, in close proximity to a mischievous dog.

A dog who devours everything.  

A dog with super scent-tracking capabilities.

All of my hard work. Right there in that basket. The basket I had meant to put away somewhere before leaving, and then was forgotten. There was no time to turn around and run back home to save them, if it wasn't too late already.

I'm sure a tear or two sprang to my eyes. I started praying.

"....and dear Lord please protect the banana bread too..."

Almost a half hour later I pulled in the driveway, my heart heavy in my stomach. Would you believe I found a perfectly untouched basket, with all my goodies neatly wrapped and undisturbed? Buddy laid nearby, completely uninterested.

Exhale. Thankfulness. Laughter. 

Then, on the first official day of Fall, my true love gave to me....

A giant bucket of paw paws. I've never heard of these, and certainly had never tasted one. Years ago, The Mister planted a paw paw tree at his parent's farm and they are just now bearing fruit. In case you have never eaten one, I'll describe it. They are very fragrant with a sweet aroma. They are easy to peel and have a soft yellow texture inside that reminds me of a cross between an avocado and a mango. They are mildly sweet and kind of tropical tasting. Some say they taste a little like a banana. 

The last blooms before winter are the Montauk daisies. They bloom in a big shrub all through September.


It wouldn't be early Fall without applesauce.
Remember our big strawberry harvest? I pulled some berries out of the freezer and did one batch of strawberry applesauce, just for something different this year. It was five pounds of apples to three cups of frozen berries, simmer and sieve. It smelled wonderful cooking on the stove!


Finally, window washing. DO NOT be impressed by our housekeeping. We just happened to have the scaffolding up for a home repair, and I suggested we leave it up so we could clean off the picture window properly. Window washing occurs around here on an as-needed, as-is-convenient basis. It works out to once every other year in which there are fourteen full moons and two months with additional Wednesdays. Or something like that.

Not a bad start to the season. I hope you're enjoying it, too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Small House Living

It happens all the time. I get excited about an article entitled something like "How We do X with a Small House" or "Maximize Your Space in a Small Kitchen". Living small is one of my pet topics. I click on the link. Maybe it has some useful tips.

Then, I see that the house in question has a basement for storage, the small kitchen is three times the size of mine, and the house has two, yes, TWO bathrooms. I get indignant. No, no, you do not have a small house. Get out of here, you can't even play this game, you are unqualified. 

We live in a tiny old tenant farm house which suffered a few random additions over the years, ultimately concluding with less than 1,000 square feet of total space. Far from a micro-home, it probably was closer to average just fifty years ago. We do not have a basement. We do not have a garage. My laundry room is a stacked washer and dryer in a corner of the kitchen. I know people with homes like ours who do it with six times as many children, and I pray they are richly blessed with creative storage solutions.

Do you want to know if your house is small? Here is a quiz I created to find out:

If someone gives you something you would really like to own, do you immediately have to consider where it will be stored in your home and what you may need to get rid of in order to keep it?

When you get chilly, is it viable to heat up a couple rooms by baking something in the oven or putting a load of laundry in the dryer?

Is your food preservation strategy to place an empty jar everywhere you can fit one, in all kinds of crazy places, and then fill as many as you can?

When it comes to family planning, are you concerned about the possible legal implications of a one child per square foot ratio?

If you answered yes to all four, then you are in the big little-house leagues. If you got two or three out of four, you are in the game. If you answered no to all three, then you are a spectator. Enjoy your indoor swimming pool.

No great honor comes with living in tight quarters. I am not more spiritual or virtuous because I live in a smaller than average one-story doll house. There are a few hidden blessings, which I've mentioned here in the past. In general, less cleaning, less clutter, smaller bills.

I also have no magical formula for living small with great ease. 

Well, okay. I've picked up a few reliable tips:

For instance, try to make the most out of storage space underneath large furniture. For instance, here are some things we store under the couch:

Likewise, you should try to utilize overhead space above doors and windows. For example, I hung an organic insect control device on the kitchen ceiling. No one but me has noticed it, and I hope it will help with the late summer fruit fly problem.

Alright. It's a spider, and it moved there on its own. Who can blame it? It must enjoy a cozy habitat where every room smells of a freshly baked pie, a warm fire heats even the farthest nook on the coldest day, and the family living space is always full of life.

Even though we'll likely build a modest addition in the future, I'm choosing contentment for now. You can never have too much of it, and it's a good fit for any home. Sometimes I lose it, grow discontent, and have to find it again. When that happens next time I'll just look under the couch. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Late Summer Love

Have you ever had one of those days where it felt like you got nothing done? It was the most unproductive day, ever. Maybe you had a headache and every time you thought to start a project, calamity broke out, followed by organized chaos and a complete memory loss of what it was you were trying to start ten minutes ago. 

Then, at the end of the day you realized that although you did nothing, someone managed to do two loads of laundry, served three meals, answered the phone, changed the dead batteries in two toys, volunteered for the church bake sale, cleaned up the kitchen, and gave the dog a bath? I guess someone might have done something after all. Sometimes summer feels like that. It flies by and you think it went so fast and didn't get a chance to do it all, but you find that somehow, you did even more.

 I've been blessed with some lovely summer moments these past few weeks. The freezer corn is all in, the last pickle has been picked, and we were able to enjoy a few days in PA visiting and enjoying some family time together. One day I even got to fly solo and do a little shopping. It felt a little decadent to take my time browsing in a bookstore while, all around me, women were pulling wagons of empty jars and peach bushels.

 I adore windmills and don't see them very often anymore. There are other ways of pumping water now, but I hope they don't disappear altogether. 

One of these things is not like the other...

We enjoyed a day with some extended family at one of our favorite antique tractor events in mid-August. Last year, Little Mister fell asleep in his stroller and I dashed out for a quick trip to the fruit farm. No such luck this year! His plan was to start his own parade of power while the others fell asleep at the wheel.

The field corn is starting to brown a little bit on the edges now, but did you know it is still fun to run through and hide while mom chases you and visions of helicopters and search teams dance in her head? True story. Someone save me.


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