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Fall Feasting

by | Oct 14, 2014

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Deep blue salvia, stunning red dahlias, and the arresting green of hairy balls create a visual feast in my fireplace, all the more beautiful in their transience. Soon my flowers will give way to fires. It’s fall, though, right now—a time for all kinds of feasting.

A small pot of oatmeal dotted with raisins sits on the back of the stove, waiting. Robby drove into the garage on the stroke of midnight, stayed up talking an hour or two, and now is sleeping in. It seems unlikely that he will rouse himself for a bowl of congealed oatmeal and skim milk.

It is clearly time to get out the rolling pin—and the five-pound bag of fresh beautiful pecans that just arrived from Koinonia Farms in Georgia.

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We have been skirting around the issue of pecan pie now for days. There was a sort of promise that when the old Kenmore oven was cleaned, soldered, and repaired so that the bottom coil glowed red again, there would be feasting on his favorite—pecan pie.

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I have been stymied though by the thought of tasteless chunks of darkened store-bought nut-meats. Fresh-fallen pecans are another ingredient altogether. All my life I had gathered pecans freely from under bountiful trees, right in my parents’ back yard. And when they died, I gathered them from the horse farm driveway. Now the horse farm is gone, too. I am learning how to buy pecans now, and this fresh shipment from Georgia restores my faith in the process.

This is how pecan pie used to start out. Here is my mother at her chosen work: picking the pecan kernels out of the shells I cracked for her. Nothing made her happier, especially when entertained by toddler Everett, our partner in crime those days, in 2008.

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While my pecan-gathering days are over, the little squirrel we call Socks is still hard at it. No, we have no pecan trees. But just across the street, and in the yard next door, pecan trees tower. I think they are descended from some my father planted as a six-year-old nearly a hundred years ago. Socks likes to feast here on this stump. You could call it pecan take-out.

photo(19)There is other feasting in the yard:

Fat dogwood berries woo cardinals and mockingbirds

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Bees gorge on what they like in goldenrod

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Two young persimmon trees hold promise of more feasting.

At night by the light of a street lamp, deer stand on their back hooves to reach the plump acorns on white oaks.

A heap of wild grapes has apparently been stored here in an oak log bowl conveniently hollowed out by carpenter ants. I wonder how many trips the animal made to bring the fruit from the other side of the lawn.

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But back to the pecan pie….It was a hit. And just like the season of bright colors and crisp sunny days, it will not linger. But while it does, we will feast.

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Susan Yoder Ackerman is a writer and gardener in Newport News, Virginia. Both her writing and her gardening are enhanced by tending a century-old family farmhouse and eight grandchildren that come and go. You can email Susan at [email protected]