We are in the throes of peak autumn, and it’s resplendent but subtle this year. I recall a year when I was driving off the road it was so strikingly beautiful. This year, though not quite so striking, is under-the-radar beauty, which is sometimes even better. My guess is that due to the extremely dry late summer, leaves were brittle and turned yellow and brown, some falling early. In particular, I’ve seen a lot of spotty maple leaves. We’ve been getting some rain lately though, even the streams seem to be running, so perhaps the late-turning leaves will benefit from this. The oaks are always the last to turn, and the large red oaks in my yard are slowly changing over to a deep russet.
One of the nice things about a subtle fall is that you look a little closer. Your eye fishes out the more interesting colors that you might miss in a more exciting year. The other day I found my first wild hazelnut bush for just this reason. I really thought they didn’t exist in my area, but it ends up they were right under my nose. I just wasn’t looking closely enough. A lot of the understory shrubs, like spicebush and witch hazel–both prolific in my area–turn a lemon yellow. Native American hazelnut shrubs (which are not related to witch hazel) turn varying colors of amazing reddish-orange-peach. Not yellow at all, so they stand out nicely against their peers. After reuniting with my hybrid hazelnuts this year, I have been able to learn more of their shape and style, so when I noticed this bush and saw the catkins indicative of a hazelnut I was pretty sure. Then I found some hazelnuts, and that sealed it.
Other exciting sightings in the past two weeks have been of local fauna. I’ve seen two porcupines, which we rarely see out and about. Could it be because it’s fall? Is the population growing? Both porcupines completely ignored me, not caring a fig for a human talking to it. Also, just yesterday I saw a raccoon on the side of the trail. It also ignored me, after making eye contact and telling me it was aware of my presence. Fall is an important time for preparing for winter, so I can’t help but to wonder if these are signs of a cold winter coming our way. A quick look to NOAA predicts a wetter and warmer winter than normal. It’s all speculation.
The Ashokan Rail Trail opened! It’s an incredible addition to the growing trails in our area.
I always have a tough time adjusting to cooking in the new season. Though I enjoy the first chicken stew or other hearty cold weather food, I seem to not know exactly what to eat. While I patiently wait to fall into my new groove, I’ve been baking a lot. One thing I made recently was this entirely sourdough leavened apple cake. (Google translate needed, unless you speak Italian!) Needless to say, there’s a lot of apples going on here. I still haven’t gotten my fill of eating them out of hand, but for preserving ideas there’s a great list of ideas for apples on Food In Jars.
If you are near Kingston, NY there are some pretty stellar classes going on at bluecashew, kitchen homestead store. There’s always something really interesting and delicious going on in their gorgeous kitchen.
Lastly, want to do some walking and writing with me? See my new venture, Walkwright.