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So the airplane lands and you drive almost two hours home.  You’re tired.  You sing to yourself to stay awake. You put the radio on…loud.  You roll down the window.  You put toothpicks in your eyelids to keep your eyes open.  (Well, maybe not that extreme…)

You pull in the driveway about 11:15 p.m.  You hug your husband, exchange a few stories and drop dead-asleep into a nice warm cozy bed.

At 6:30 in the blessed a.m. he says, “Time to get up!” and you open one eye.  In California it’s 3:30 a.m.  But then you suppose this means that on California time you went to bed at 8:30 p.m. so you get up without too much fuss.  You drink coffee.  You prepare to go to work, thanking all the stars in the Universe that you don’t have to leave immediately.

You look outside.  It’s beautiful.  The world has been painted frost-white overnight.  You put on your warm winter coat wondering how this happened…yesterday morning in San Diego it was in the 50’s.  Now it’s way below freezing.  You feel your Upper Peninsula stamina returning.

Frost on car, frost on driveway, frost in garden

You breathe the fresh morning frosty air.  You admire that the garden has been rototilled in your absence.  Now it is ready for spring planting, after the next six months of snow and ice and freezing cold.

Up close frost on grass

You wander around in the dawn, half-asleep.  You wonder at how quickly worlds can change.  Yesterday you were someplace else.  Another landscape informed your life.  Today you are awake in another place on the great earth.  Are we the same people we were yesterday?  Will we be the same person tomorrow?  Take another sip of coffee and ponder that.

Great shadows drape themselves on the frosty earth

Frost on leaf

You’re starting to wake up because it’s so cold.  You’re starting to think about all the work you need to do, both at home and work.  Traveling is a delight, but then there is that catching-up time.  You have so much to do.  But you won’t think about any of it, not yet.  You’ll just let the camera look around at the frost for five more minutes.

Frost, shadows, sunlight

Finally you drive to work.  You are not thinking about hunting season.  Not thinking about the many hunters seeking deer in the woods.  Not thinking at all.  You are driving along, when suddenly, there is A Sign.  You can’t believe it!  Look at that sign!

Berri (Berry?) Pickers go home??

First thought:  How terrible.  How awful.  All the berry pickers (meaning people from not around here) are going to have hurt feelings.

Second thought:  Hey, am I still a berry picker?  (only been here 30 years, you never know.)

Third thought: Wonder what kind of pain a person would be in to make that kind of sign?

Fourth, fifth, sixth thoughts, etc:  Maybe it’s a joke.  Maybe “BerriPicker” is the name of a person and it’s a big joke  Maybe a drunk kid did this.  Maybe some “Berry Picker” was acting stupid in a local bar and looking down at folks.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The mind can really tell a lot of stories.  You could tell 1,000,000 stories about why the person wrote the sign.  You could make it a good story, a bad story, a tragic story, a funny story, anything.  You could make it have a good ending or bad ending.  It could be just about anything.  I think the sign maker and the outsider ended up having a beer at the local tavern.  Six months later the sign maker moved away to live someplace else and learned what it was to be an outsider.  The berry picker moved here.  Everyone lived happily ever after.

How’s that for my story tonight?  Can any of us ever know the truth?  Anyone have any stories of your own?

Day 305 out of 365.  Wow!  Time is really flying now.  Less than two months and…the outdoor commitment will be completed.  Finished.  Done.  Hurray!  (And then comes the challenging part of figuring out what to do next.  Keep blogging?  Here?  Elsewhere?  Stop blogging?  Start a different topic altogether?  Escape to the tropics?  Sit INSIDE for 365 days?  Oh so many options…)

First, before we discuss anything else, the promised shot of Barry’s garage addition:

The back of our garage (newly poured cement floor and blocks)

The back of our garage (newly poured cement floor and blocks)

There you have it.  What’s going on outside our front door this autumn.  Oh so slowly.  It’s because the weather Refuses to Cooperate.  It rains and snows without regard to cement-pouring activities.  It snubs its nose at all of Barry’s attempts to build the addition before winter.  But he’s persevering.  He now has the cement floor poured and the cement blocks lining the edge. They are covered with hay and plastic to prevent freezing.  In the next few weeks you will begin to see walls and roof beginning to form.  We hope.

Even though it’s raining today, I am going to show you sunny  pictures from a couple days ago.  Just so you can ascertain the state of the autumn leaves in our area.  While the vibrant reds have dulled, the yellows are going gangbusters.

Yellow leaves and bright blue sky

Yellow leaves and bright blue sky

So you look at trees like that and breathe, “Wow!  How beautiful!” and then you look at another patch of trees and think, “Yep, the leaves are almost gone.”  Here’s what the trees look like in other places:

Looking more like autumn here in the woods

Looking more like autumn here in the woods

But in case you’re getting depressed thinking about Winter, let’s return to a quick glimpse of Barry’s Studebaker and some more yellow leaves.

More autumn beauty with Studebaker

More autumn beauty with Studebaker

Yesterday or the day before I emptied out every last carrot, beet, kale and green onion from the garden.  The garden is now empty for the first time since May.  It’s lying fallow (in farming terms) awaiting the rototiller to dig it up before winter.  Barry will wrestle our giant rototiller with its whirring chopping tines into the garden soil (if it ever stops raining.  Although you can’t tell that from these photos that it’s raining, can you?) and he’ll chop up all the weeds and mix the soil well.  It will then be ready for next year’s planting.  Although, if other winters prove similar to this one, he’ll add in several fish guts and some compost to the mix.  To enrich the soil.

One bucketful of the best carrots of this century

One bucketful of the best carrots of this century

The best carrots of our century, anyway.  Most years we have teeny tiny carrots the size of maybe your ring finger.  Or big toe. Usually we throw these finger- and toe-sized carrots in maybe four bags in our frig and munch on them until January.  But this year!  This year if carrots were money we would be rich.  There are at least eight bags of giant carrots.  Maybe not store-sized carrots, but big carrots for gardens in the woods. We’ve given away one bag so far and I’m looking for takers.  Anyone want a bag of carrots?  You have to come and get them.  No shipping across the country or overseas!  But any local takers…?

A single beet for your Greek Salad

A single beet for your Greek Salad

So the gardening season is over.  The garden is kaput.  Here are our chores which now must be completed before winter:

1)  clean septic tank (not us…hire someone)

2) put away deck furniture

3)  mow and rake leaves

4)  finish garage edition

5)  rototill garden

6)  oil change both vehicles, put on snow tires, take down electric fence, finish last load of fire wood and I think I’ll stop writing now before I think of too many more things!

The empty garden.  Or should we say:  A garden full of dirt!

The empty garden. Or should we say: A garden full of dirt!

Pine frost

Pine frost

When you tiptoe outside in the early October dawn, with sunrise temperatures below freezing, frost meets your sleepy eyes.

Frost thick on car windshields.  Frost atop the remaining garden carrots and kale and beets.  Frost ice-searing the edges of autumn leaves.

Leaf frost

Leaf frost

You shiver in your winter coat, burrowing deeper into mittens and beneath knitted hat.  Your breath spirals in smoke-vapor trails.  The frost crunches thick beneath your sneakers or boots.  As you walk among the plants, it melts oh-so-quickly and your jeans get soaked in two minutes.  You don’t mind, wandering in a world of crisp-white beauty.

Fields of frost

Fields of frost

It’s not light enough to truly take pictures until after 9 a.m.  Yes, the sun rises earlier.  But, no, the light refuses to illuminate until the magic hour.  You must capture frost at its dawn zenith.  Not too soon, not too late.  Timing is everything.  Just like in our human lives.

Fern frost

Fern frost

Frost is the harbinger of snow around here.  Frost speaks a language that the squirrels and deer and birds and mice understand.  They scramble to finish preparations.  They know their fattening-up days are limited.  The wolves bay at the moon, talking to frost gods.  The owls hoot, exchanging wisdom.  The humans stoke their fires and linger inside.  They remember ice in the marrow of their bones.  But it does no good to push it yonder.  Winter comes.

Lacy green feather-frost

Lacy green feather-frost

It’s almost time to trek home to that warm kitchen.  Breakfast simmers on the stove:  hearty grains, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, almonds, coconut, blueberries.  What a delight to wander home after the frost-walk!  Cheeks rosy and yet body warm after the hike, you open the door and return inside.  A chickadee chirps its sweet winter call from near the garden, requesting sunflower seeds. 

“Not yet,” you say.  “We’ll put up the feeder soon, when the garden is empty.”

The chickadee flutters to the spruce tree.  Another good day. And it’s not even 10 a.m.

Frost on yellow leaves

Frost on yellow leaves

Exhibit A.  What's left of the garden.

Exhibit A. What's left of the garden.

I warned you, didn’t I?  Said that if you didn’t pick those brussels sprouts when the temperature baked in the 60’s and 70’s…you would be sorry.  So very sorry.

And did you listen?  Did you harvest?  Or did you think “Oh, the weather is sure to be nice and warm for at least a few days in October” and happily wander around in the woods without a second thought for the garden?  Did you think that maybe, oh just maybe, those teeny tiny brussels would grow into full-sized globules like you buy in the grocery store? 

Well today you have to fact the facts.  It’s 37 degrees and freezing every night.  Time to get out there and pull up the root-bound heavy plants and see what marbles you can rescue from the stalks.  After all, the marbles taste good.  Especially when you think of some sauce or vinaigrette to marinate them in. 

Get on out in the garden.  Don’t think about the temperature.  Remember to layer.  And remember to put on some kind of gloves this year.  Or your fingers will freeze solid during this task.

The brussels awaiting harvest

Exhibit B. The brussels awaiting harvest.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to find a pair of work gloves.  You look EVERYWHERE.  In this closet and that closet.  They’re AWOL.  So you finally settle upon a black yarn pair of gloves (half-way decent) thinking you’ll wash them in mild detergent later. 

And out you go to pull the plants and toss the leaves into the woods for deer lunches.

Admiring the brussels marbles, up close

Admiring the brussels marbles, up close

No complaining about those icy cold fingers!  Not a WORD.  You have gloves on, after all.  Be a strong woman.  Take a deep breath.  Keep plucking.  We’re not going to say, “I told you so!”

Some of us have a problem with the words:  Brussels sprout.  In common English we call ’em:  Brussel sprouts.  We’ve called them brussel sprouts all our life.  But then you discover that’s incorrect.  They are Brussels.  So you try very hard to call them by their proper name, by the name they want to be called.  You know how you call somebody “Tommy” all his life and suddenly you have to remember “Tom”.  And how hard you struggle to not say, “Tommy, how you doing?”  It’s the same with brussels sprout.

Deer food.  All those brussels leaves for the hungry deer.

Deer food. All those brussels leaves for the hungry deer.

So you strip all the leaves off the tough stalk and throw them diligently into the woods under the oak tree.  You rub your icy fingers together to create heat-friction. You know the hungry deer will stop by eventually and munch the scraps, hopefully putting on a bit of fat for the long winter.  We try to keep the deer in their Proper Areas.  We feed them under the oak tree but if they dare attempt to scale our electric fence and eat our garden produce:  watch out!  We won’t be so kind if they eat all our vegetables.  No.  They’ll be zapped up into the heavens.  They know where to place their hooves.  And it’s not in the garden.

Brussels "art"

Brussels "art"

Because you know how very very icy your fingers will become cutting off the marbles from the stalk, you come up with an idea this year.  In fact, come to think about it, maybe one of your blog readers suggested this.  You bring the stalks into the warm cozy basement.  You will cut off the brussels from the comfort of your rug, dozing by the wood stove.  Yes!  It’s a plan!  If you ever get motivated, you will do this.

There they are downstairs in the basement.  Waiting.  And they're still waiting.

There they are downstairs in the basement. Waiting. And they're still waiting.

After you bring the brussels inside you happen to glance down at yourself.  Oh my, what a mess!  Mud everywhere.  On the shoes, on the jeans, on the socks.  What a muddy venture.  You decide to return to the garden to pull some carrots, just to be Truly Productive.  And you determine to take a picture of the mud-spattered formerly nice-looking knit gloves.  Except the camera suddenly refuses to open and close.  You hope it’s a battery problem.  You truly hope it is.  In the meantime…time to change clothes!  And you really should get downstairs and finish those brussels sprouts.

Messy muddy harvester

Messy muddy harvester

Catch a falling leaf and put it in your pocket...

Catch a falling leaf and put it in your pocket...

The Anishinabe (or Ojibway) call this October moon “The Moon of the Falling Leaves”.  This one isn’t hard to figure out.  The leaves are falling everywhere.  They’re not falling like they will fall in a week or so, but now they trickle down from the trees, splashing their red and orange and yellow colors everywhere.

It’s still raining.  Here’s what happens:  rain pours non-stop from the sky in a flurry of wet showers.  Then it ceases.  The sun even sometimes peeks briefly from behind the cloud-studded sky as if to say “Is it safe for me to come out yet?”  But then quickly ducks back in just as another rain shower pours from the heavens.  Yep, that’s how it’s been for days now.  The temperature stays in the upper 40’s or lower 50’s.

Three Leaves

Three Leaves

Today, in between rain showers, we pulled up the brown tomato plants and threw them in the woods.  Most of the tomatoes were rescued from freezing the other night, so the ripe ones already sit inside on the kitchen countertop and the green ones lie in the basement sandwiched between newspapers.  Just before we finished, the rain unexpectedly drenched us as another shower passed through.  I don’t know why I said “unexpectedly”.  These rain showers are getting quite expected every twenty minutes.

Colors lined up in a row

Colors lined up in a row

Good news!  The phone just rang and it was my mom.  She and dad are (hopefully) planning a trip up to visit next weekend. Hurray!  (This, however, means that I will need to spend a great deal of time INSIDE in the next several days cleaning up the house.)  But don’t worry, the outdoor commitment will still happen.

Here are some interesting photos from our trip to Houghton last night.  We drove down near the lift bridge when Barry said, “Look at that girl!  You have to take a picture.”  He prepared to stop the car.  I was full from dinner and muttering something like, “I don’t WANT to take a picture…” but the car was stopped and he gestured over toward the bridge supports.  I reluctantly opened the door.

But what a surprise!  How cool!  Some graffiti artist had drawn cool-looking figures on the supports.  Now, I know some people think this is defacing public property, and maybe it is.  But I loved all three figures!  Great art on the construction site.  (Much nicer than looking at all the construction vehicles.)  What do you think?

Girl playing violin in construction zone

Girl playing violin in construction zone

Somebody wants Change

Somebody wants Change

The Inspector looks around, wondering who the artist might be.

The Inspector looks around, wondering who the artist might be.

Frosted brussels sprout leaf

Frosted brussels sprout leaf

My blog tonight is about Two Things.

#1:  Preparations for my next trip. To visit the firstborn son out in San Diego.

#2:  Frost.

Which one shall we discuss first?

REALLY Frosted Brussels.

REALLY Frosted Brussels.

When talking with my son a few hours ago he said, “I can’t believe how much my friends from the  Midwest are complaining about the weather!”

The poor lad has been settled in the southern reaches of California for the past two or three years, so he’s already forgotten our Midwestern suffering when Summer departs and autumn settles in with her icy grip.  He’s living in a place that basically lingers at 70 degrees, year round.  Can we imagine that?  No, we can not.

Frosted lawn

Frosted lawn

However, I am happy to announce, I will finally get to visit his un-frosted home next month!  For the cost of an airplane ticket of $354, the blog will now travel to sunny San Diego in mid November to visit the first born son.  (Yes, yes, I know some of you are shaking your heads muttering “Didn’t she just get back from a trip?  Didn’t she just go to Georgia?  How can she afford that? Is she rich or something?”)  The answer is, sadly, No.  But happily, her dream is to travel at least five to six times a year to visit beloved family members spread across the U.S. of A.  And, happily, this dream has been realized this year.  Thanks to two part-time jobs which allow flexibility.  And she hasn’t been out to visit dear Christopher yet.  It’s more than Time.

Very limpid squash just before their ultimate demise

Very limpid squash just before their ultimate demise

Christopher began to share his plans for our Outdoor Adventures in San Diego.  We would start with Balboa Park and go here and there, and here and there, and here and there.  My legs suddenly started aching and I hadn’t even left the living room.  “Umm,” I ventured softly, “You know I’m not in as good of shape as you are…”

Meaning, Mama can’t run a mile.  And if we walk five miles, she might immediately require a Nap.

“Well!” he replied cheerfully, “You have a month to get in shape!”

Squash harvest

Squash harvest

So today’s Outdoor Activity involved some snappy walking up the road in the rain.  Quick, quick, quick!  Run a little, will ya?  Let’s get those muscles moving!  San Diego here we come!  Move a bit more quickly, can you?  Don’t mind the drizzling rain and cold! 

See, here’s the thing about going outdoors every day for 365 days.  (Lean closer now; I’m confessing something.)  You don’t necessarily get in shape. Burn calories or anything.  Especially if you have a camera and like to dally slowly looking for close-up intimate photos.  You can’t necessarily walk for ten miles without huffing and puffing.

It's possible to survive frost.  Ask the black-eyed Susans.

It's possible to survive frost. Ask the black-eyed Susans.

The muscles may get a little workout from hauling squash vines out of the garden.  Or pulling up frosted tomato vines.  But not much.

I have tried to imagine living on a land that doesn’t frost, a place where snow refuses to fall.  A climate which remains tepid year-round.  A landscape of desert and Pacific surf.  It’s so different from our place in the woods where seasons shift like clock-work turning from frigid to warm to frost to snow.  There’s always something new here, something different.  I love the changes; the dance of it all!

But don’t get me wrong.  Just because you love a place doesn’t mean you don’t want to visit OTHER places.  Especially places where family live, less than $400 away.

Hawthorne and sky

Hawthorn and sky

Let’s not discuss the demise of the garden yet.

Let’s instead backtrack to yesterday afternoon before the frost decided to ice the land with its cold white fingers.  The frost was still plotting back then.  It was chortling, “If we can just get that temperature to agree, to go a bit lower…  If we could just coax it below 32 degrees then…goodbye gardens!  Hello bright autumn leaves!  It’s Time.”

I may have some frost photos for tomorrow’s blog, but we’re backed up in photos right now.  We’re backed all the way up to our little jaunt to the Arvon Slate Quarry yesterday afternoon.

1 p.m. yesterday:  jump in 1949 Studebaker pickup truck and drive up the Arvon Road.  We’re aiming for the Bush.  That’s what they call the backcountry around here.  We’re aiming to put the truck in 4 wheel drive and slog through muddle puddles that may or may not have a solid bottom.  We’re aiming for the Quarry.

1:15:  drive past a Ghost Town.  The Ghost Town of Arvon.  (That’s where those hawthorn berries are growing up to the heavens.)  I wish I could show you abandoned buildings, old footings, anything.  But no.  Arvon has disappeared into the earth; swallowed whole.  There are simply old apple trees and hawthorn bushes.  And the singing of the wind.  Ghosts may be dancing there at midnight, but we didn’t see any yesterday.

Should we or shouldn't we?  Let's tighten the hubs & put her in 4 wheel drive, shall we?

Should we or shouldn't we? Let's tighten the hubs & put her in 4 wheel drive, shall we?

1:45 p.m.: It  took us a little time to forge through the rivers of water which covered the two-track road.  Want to know a little history about the Arvon Slate Quarry?  More than 300 people lived in this area during the quarry’s heyday.  Waste slate piles and a water pit remain from the Slate Mining operations that began in 1870, ending in 1892.  Henry Ford pumped the water from the pit and mined slate for his operations in the 1920s.  One can see the foundations of some early slate buildings, drainage ditch and piles of waste slate.  The pit makes for a peaceful small lake.  (Or so say the local history pages, anyway.)

A mountain of "waste" slate

A mountain of "waste" slate

I can’t tell you how many locals have taken advantage of the Slate Quarry over the past century, gleaning the beautiful slabs of “waste” slate and lugging them home in pickup trucks.  Of course we wouldn’t do such a thing.  (Or would we?)  Sometimes, in the old days, one might see a half dozen other trucks backed up to the quarry with the tailgate open.  Nowadays, it’s much rarer to see folks pilfering slate.  However, come to think of it, how would I know?  We haven’t been up there in twenty years, perhaps.

Yesterday it was hard to even figure out how to forge the rivers which blocked the two-track.

Slate quarry lake

Slate quarry lake

Years ago Barry remembered seeing the foundations of old buildings.  We searched for a good half hour, but only found one pile of slate which looked like it might…I repeat might…be an old building.  What do you think?

Maybe?  Old building?  Guess you would have to see it yourself.

Maybe? Old building? Guess you would have to see it yourself.

What a lovely afternoon we spent rambling in the slate.  Slipping and sliding in some places.  Snapping photos.  Sharing a memory or two.  Excited about what was happening on the blog back at home (with the little unexpected publicity from the WordPress folks.)  Completely in the dark about the cunning plans of the frost.  Completely!  Well, not entirely completely, because we both heard the words “frost warning” but  brushed it off lightly thinking, “Oh not us.  We’re too near the lake.  We won’t get frost.”

Yet another view of Slate

Yet another view of Slate

Famous last words.  Barry was heading in to the house from the garage near 1 a.m. when he saw the frosty world.  ACTION!  Time to scurry!  He dove into the garden, rescuing every last tomato, cucumber, pepper.  Faster than a speeding bullet he worked to save our meager harvest before the claws of frost pierced the vegetables.

And he did it!  Good man!  Good husband!  What a trooper!  (Except for the basil, but we’ll forgive him.  As I was sound asleep and would have inadvertently allowed the garden to freeze solid.)

The circle of life -- on slate

The circle of life -- on slate

We hear much of Michigan had frost last night.  So it’s officially autumn.  It’s also officially October.  And, as my mom pointed out today: I have been incorrectly calling our September warm weather days “Indian Summer”.  No.  That was a mistake.  Indian Summer happens after the first frost.  Now that I have that straightened out…Let’s have a little Indian Summer, shall we?

Please.  Use your outdoor voice!

Please. Use your outdoor voice!

You would think by looking at that photo that the sky is blue and the temperature is maybe 70 degrees and we’re enjoying a lazy Indian Summer day.  Well, you would be wrong.  That photo was taken yesterday (was it only yesterday?) before the weather changed and drenched us all into autumn. 

We had to start a fire in the woodstove this morning, for goodness sake.  Sigh.  Fall must be here, for sure.  We’ve been so spoiled this September.  We’ve rarely experienced a September so balmy, so tepid, so delicious.  Let’s stiffen our backs and upper lips and tighten our resolve and remember to…open the door and walk outside!

But not before donning lots of rain gear.

One wet and soggy and puddle-filled driveway

One wet and soggy and puddle-filled driveway

So on go the rain pants and rain jacket and…the heavy winter boots.  I don’t have a pair of rain boots, and the thought of soaking a pair of sneakers in two minutes did not sound appealing.  Put the rain hood over you head and out you go.  Come on now, don’t be hesitant!  You snooze, you lose.  Get on out that door.

What a shock!  Rain pouring from the heavens, the sky a deep shade of lead.  What in the world should one do?  This suddenly reminded me of the freezing cold days last winter when I would (confession time) bring a clock outside to ensure that I stay out there for long enough.  Because the thoughts would cajole and beg, “Haven’t we been outside long enough?  Can’t we go in?”  So one must be firm with them. “No, we can not go in.  Keep walking.  Keep looking.  It’s only been ten minutes  Don’t let a little rain or cold stifle your experience.  C’mon now, quit whining.  Is it really that cold (or that rainy?  or that miserable?)”

Puddle action

Puddle action

You might think the camera would capture images of the downpour.  But no.  Every digitally-uploaded photo of rain against the garage or trees looks like it’s not raining at all.  Go figure.

Soggy leaves on soggy log

Soggy leaves on soggy log

Smiling suddenly, because I just wrote the above cutline about the leaves on the soggy log and mis-read it to say “Soggy blog”.  Which, I suppose, it is.  🙂

One of the useful things I accomplished outside was picking a) tomatoes, b) cucumbers, c) peppers and d) basil for tonight’s dinner.  Can you guess what dinner was?  Never mind, I shall tell you.  It was a garden pizza with salad and leftover corn.  The reason for mentioning the picking-venture was this (and didn’t I warn you about it?):  the fingers so quickly become frozen ice-cold appendages at the end of soggy hands.  How quickly that happens.  Even when it’s 46 degrees and not…oh what a daunting thought…32 degrees.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  The temperature is still in the 40’s.

One slender bleeding heart root

One slender bleeding heart root

Besides gardening, and walking to the mailbox, and wandering in the ravine behind the house, I tossed some scraps into the woods.  One of these scraps was a bleeding heart root.  We pulled up one of our overgrown bleeding heart plants yesterday and said, “Fare thee well!” The roots looked so interesting and almost mystical.  It seems like they might be medicine for some malady; who knows?  Perhaps we should Google it.  Here we have it from a possibly reliable or unreliable site (and for heavens sake, never try to use a bleeding heart root medicinally without extensive research!)  It is apparently known as the “nerve root”.

 Nerve root is  used orally for insomnia; emotional tension; hysteria; anxiety states; agitation; nervousness; and specifically, anxiety states associated with insomnia.

Nope, I’m not that agitated about the rain or cold weather.  In fact it’s kind of cozy sitting inside the house tonight listening to the rain pitter-patter on the roof and trees in our woods.  But that’s because I opened the door and walked inside.  Thank goodness that was an option today!

P.S.  for anyone else experiencing rainy weather, here’s an entertainment suggestion. Listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition.  Click here.  There are at least six stories (or more) about our beloved Upper Peninsula.  Go listen if you’d like!

Today was THE day.  The day the beans may have been dreading.  Or maybe the beans didn’t care.  Or maybe we were dreading the hour of work involved.  It was the day to: pull up the bean plants.

Before it all begins...

Before it all begins...

You may wonder why today was the auspicious day.  How can you tell when the beans are ready to be pulled?  Here is one of the secrets:  you pull the bean plants from the ground when you surmise that the weather is going to get cold.  You do not want to be pulling beans when it’s 45 degrees.  You do not.  Your fingers will become chilled and your attitude, as well.  (It’s even worse to wait until too late for carrots and brussels sprouts.  Brussels are the worst.  You DO NOT want to be cutting off the little green nubs in the frost.  One must “do the dirty” as late as possible in the growing season, but just before the temperatures plummet.  We are thinking the temps might plummet soon.  Time to pull.)

Single wisp of bean-flower still remains on vine

Single wisp of bean-flower still remains on vine

You can’t gauge pulling-time by the abundance or lack of flowers on the vine.  On a lush September day like ours, the vines still sprout purple flowers.  One must harden her heart before pulling out the vines.  The secret life of beans and humans involves timing.  Knowing when to plant, when to harvest, when to pull.  (And sometimes we’re still learning those secrets!)

Here are some bean facts for you.  Do you know what a green bean is?  Simply the unripe fruit of any kind of bean.  Thus, we could have green beans which later become garbanzos, kidneys, pintos, navy beans.  Certain modern-day varieties have been specially bred for their fleshiness, flavor or  sweetness of pod.

Our beans this year are rattlesnake beans.  They are relatives of the pinto beans, distinguished by a tender texture and strong, almost tangy flavor.  Or so some folks say.  The same folks say that rattlesnake beans have been so named because of the curious curling growth habit of the bean pods which resemble coiled snakes when fully mature.

Hmmm….well, I hadn’t seen too many snake-like creatures in the bean fences until TODAY!  When pulling out a handful of leaves around a certain post, look what remained–

aLook at the eye on that rattlesnake been, will ya?
Look at the eye on that rattlesnake bean, will ya?

So you pull and you pull and you pull.  You either pull re-hashing mental stories and thoughts about all sorts of internal drama, or maybe you simply pull feeling the weight and heft of the bean plants as they whoosh out of the dirt and are tossed in a big pile.  (I tried both kinds of pulling, mindless pulling and mindful pulling.  The mindful pulling felt better.)

Huge pile of bean leaves and roots and stems

Huge pile of bean leaves and roots and stems

You pull the plants and look for the secret beans which have hidden hither and yon.  Some have grown fat and undignified and tough and you toss those into the woods for the deer and raccoons and chipmunks and skunks.  Others are slender and pirouetting on the vine like ballerinas.  You pop those in your mouth right away because they’re so tender and delicious.  You work.  And work.  And work. Always amazed that pulling beans takes so much time.

Yum!

Yum!

It thunders nearby.  Rain is coming!  Hurry now.  Gather an armload of bean leaves and toss them beneath the oak tree for the animals to munch.  Cluck under your breath because there are so many stems and leaves still caught in the chicken-wire fence.  It would take another couple hours to remove every renegade stem.  The fence doesn’t look very dignified at the end, but it works for next year. 

The bean fence lies coiled and packed away 'til next June

The bean fence lies coiled and packed away 'til next June

The rain downpours just before you finish the bean-pulling.  A couple hours later, in between showers, you resume and pull up every last bean.  Then you and your husband wrestle the stakes of the bean fence out of the ground for storage in the shed.  One of the wooden stakes breaks off in the ground.  Guess we’ll need to replace that, come 2010’s planting season.

And now, for a last dinner of rattlesnake beans!  So good.  Nothing like a fresh bean.  Nothing like good organic garden produce.  And that’s the secret life of beans and those who love ’em.

Tomato AND shadow

Tomato AND shadow

This blog could have gone in two other directions.  I have been sitting at the computer befuddled for five whole minutes, not sure how to begin.  Here were two ideas:  Time to Make Zee Hot Salsa:  Cha, cha, cha!  or  Celebrating the Equinox Two Days Late.

The first option seemed way too silly.  I am tired of silly, right now.  The second blog option seemed way too serious.  That wouldn’t do, either.  My fingers refused to type.  The brain refused to engage.  Until, finally, tentatively the words were typed out:  Salsa and shadows…  That shall have to suffice.

So here we are, two days after the autumnal equinox.  The weather outside is so glorious you want to run or bathe or dance in the warmth of the beautiful September “Indian Summer”.  The leaves are turning oh-so-slowly.  And the garden tomatoes are ready to be plopped in a dutch oven (after dunking in boiler water to remove the skins and cut up) along with garden onions and peppers of numerous varieties and cilantro. 

It’s Time.  Time for Salsa.  Cha-cha-cha!  (Sorry, we’ve got a wise guy as an internal voice!)  So the tomatoes were picked by a vigilant husband during my absence, and I readied to prepare his salsa.  I say “his” because it’s way too hot for me.  Therefore, it is his responsibility to cut up the biting little green curling peppers.  He did.  And decided to sample a bite, to see how hot it might be.  He’s still drinking water hours later, Cha-cha-cha!

The seven finished pints of salsa

The seven finished pints of salsa

It’s really been a calm canning year.  Usually I’m putting up at least five or six times as much.  This feels much more relaxing. 

Shadows have been etched on this early autumn day, shadows perhaps foretelling the coming days of winter?  This strange thought just crossed through:  is winter the shadow of summer?  It looks all dark and empty at times, but oh what beauty arises in the shadows!

Shadows near steps

Shadows near steps

Of course once you start looking for shadows, they appear everywhere.  At least when the sun shines.  The following two photos feel nostalgic and bittersweet; the last vestiges of flower-shadows.

Flower shadow on deck

Flower shadow on deck

Still reaching toward the sun

Still reaching toward the sun

Oh, it’s so easy to go outside these days.  Indoors, outdoors, it doesn’t matter.  You walk in and out of the door dozens of times every day.  What a lovely autumn we’re having…

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