Sights, savours and sounds of fall

Far be it from me to hasten winter, but I have no complaints about the early fall weather we have been enjoying over the past couple of weeks. Even the odd gloomy day with wind and rain can be pleasant, especially if I don’t have any reason to go outside. Or, even better, if it’s a day I can settle in with a book for a few hours, glancing out periodically at the grey clouds that seem to hug the ground.

The early weeks of fall offer temperatures that have enticed me to return to my regular walking, primarily in my neighbourhood and at my son’s farm. I will admit that, after months of my pandemic regime of regular walks, I did very little (well, really, almost no) walking during the hot and humid weeks of July and August. Even early mornings, my favourite time to walk, were too uncomfortable for me.

But now, I can head out for a pleasant stroll or brisk walk and take in the fall gardens all around me. Our own garden, after the inevitable mid-summer wilt and fade, has returned to glorious colour: mostly shades of yellows, but the occasional tomato still on the vine offers a pop of red, the hibiscus are getting in a final blast of extravagant colour before they come inside for the winter, the nasturtiums are spectacular, and the hydrangea remain in full bloom.

The local farmers’ markets offer colours galore: squash, apples, corn, cabbages, fall raspberries and more. Despite my best intentions, I always walk away with much more than I had on my list; seduced, each time, by the rich visual displays in front of me.

We were visiting friends in the country the evening before the official full moon was to make its appearance, but the huge, orange harvest moon that appeared on the horizon, casting its light across the lake, as we ate dinner was close enough to full to satisfy all of us.

Fall eating

Not surprisingly, my mind turns to cooking opportunities along with the fall weather.

Each slice of our few remaining tomatoes is extra special as we anticipate the many months ahead until we can, once again, enjoy the taste of fresh garden tomatoes still warm from the sun.  But other offerings are still plentiful. In another couple of weeks, I’ll be mincing parsley, moistening it with olive oil and freezing it in little balls to pull out and toss into a soup, stew or tomato sauce in the winter for a little burst of summer taste.

The arugula is at its spicy, nutty best right now. We’re using it for everything: in sandwiches, of course, but also in omelettes, with pasta and in soup.

Recently, I combined it with some roasted Ontario pears (I used pears that were still slightly firm, which I cut in half, removing the seeds, then brushed lightly with maple syrup and roasted at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes), toasted pecans, thinly sliced purple onion (I use my vegetable peeler to get evenly thin slices) and crumbled blue cheese, with a light olive oil and vinegar dressing for a tangy, crunchy salad.

I have a new batch of spiced rum underway in the pantry, next to the bags of dried fruit I bought last week for my annual fruitcake. Once the rum is properly spiced, the fruit will soak in it for a week before I bake the cakes, which I will wrap in rum-soaked cheesecloth to age for a couple of months. We have just enough of last year’s fruitcake to hold us over in the meantime.

Fall music

Since the early days of the pandemic, I have been talking with my friend Luther — of Luther Wright and the Wrongs – about when and how we could make some live music happen. In July, we decided early fall might work. He set about finding musicians, all of whom were more than keen to play in front of a live audience. I found the money and the location: our neighbourhood bar, The Mansion, offered up its back patio, with a maximum seating capacity of 40. Once we settled on a date that suited the musicians, I had 40 names on the guest list in no time.

As the big day — last Saturday — approached, I worried, because that’s what I do, about everything. Would people decide not to come at the last minute because of fourth wave worries? Would too many people show up? What if the weather was bad? What if, what if, what if.

Despite a terrible weather forecast all week, at 5 am on Saturday, the Environment Canada website showed a giant sun for the day, with a high of 21. The worrying was over.

Whether despite or because of my worrying, the afternoon came off without a hitch. People came (we may have been a bit over our limit of 40 at times, but no one seemed too concerned) and listened to the fantastic music, but also visited with friends they had seen little or nothing of for many months. The sun and warmth lasted till the final encore was over. The Mansion did well on food and drink orders.

After the long dry desert of the pandemic, where live music has not been an option, the show was music to our ears and balm to our souls.

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