Hello friends, how have you been? I’ve been going to bed early lately, but tonight I decided to stay up after my family fell asleep because this space was calling me. It’s been getting dark here early, and our bedtime routine has gotten earlier along with it. I find it more challenging in the summertime when it’s light out so late, but this time of year it’s much easier to head to bed early when the darkness makes you feel ready to be cozy. Early bedtimes have felt welcome. Have those of you in the northern hemisphere been feeling that way too?
The house is quiet right now except for the occasional crackle from the woodstove, and it’s dark outside. Coming here to write, and soaking up some quiet time, is a gift to my spirit this evening. It feels like a long exhale. Life has been busy. It’s always busy, isn’t it? Whenever it gets especially so, I need little “breathers” to process it all. Somehow writing helps me process things, and it’s something I’ve really appreciated about having this blog ever since I started it years ago.
Our days have been so full and busy, it hasn’t felt like we’ve had much spare time for things beyond the daily work and school rhythm, but when I think over the past few months we’ve actually squeezed in more projects than I first thought. In pockets of time between work and school and busy life, we’ve been getting the “getting ready for winter” things crossed off the list, making the most of the stretches of clear skies we’ve had.
In the end of October Jeff and I patched the garage roof (the garage that we converted into our shop many years ago.) Jeff rented a leaf blower for the day to get the bulk of the leaves cleaned up around our place, and then raked them after that when more fell. We built a new compost bin for leaves and a place to pile up all the garden clean up we were doing. There’s still more clean up to do in the garden, but we’ve made some good progress.
We’ve hauled a lot of firewood this fall, and we had some delivered. After hauling load after load in our truck (I was so sore, hadn’t hauled firewood in awhile), it sure felt like a luxury to get firewood delivered and dumped in a big pile in the driveway! The boy had fun climbing on the firewood “mountain” and convinced his pup to join him. Our silly dog decided he liked the view from up there and kept climbing up, which was really hilarious to watch. (I had to grab my camera so I could get a picture of it.) After all the firewood stacking, we finally cleared the area where part of our peach tree had fallen across our family’s favorite walking path, which felt good to accomplish. Jeff’s been excited to see what the wood looks like when it’s cured.
Jeff harvested so much kale in the garden, and made us a delicious batch of kale chips. He blanched and froze a bunch of garden greens too, and I’ve been taking out the frozen greens to put in our soups every time I make soup. I cleaned out and organized the freezers, it’s been so helpful to know where everything is, and nothing goes to waste that way. Some fresh watercress is still making it’s way into some of our meals, but the garden is mostly pretty quiet now. Filling up the woodshed with firewood and the pantry (and freezer) with food is a good feeling going into winter. Yep, we’re a bit like squirrels gathering up nuts in the fall flurry.
My uncle was in the hospital recently, and gave us all quite a scare. We were so grateful he was okay. I want him to enjoy many, many more years with his kids and loved ones. Life sure is a precious gift, isn’t it? My stepmom has been helping care for her mother, stepfather, and father the last few years. Her stepfather was in poor health, but he held on longer than anyone thought he would. We knew he was holding on to care for his wife and even up until the very end he was devoted to caring for her. He passed away a few weeks ago now, and we sure will miss him. He was such a great guy. He had a big heart and a great sense of humor. I loved his spirit. He had a way of making people feel cared for, and was one of the least judgmental people I’ve ever known. He was one of a kind. My stepsisters lovingly called him “Papa”, and though it suited him well, I always felt it was a special name just between them and usually called him by his first name, Roger. I’m grateful that I had Roger in my life, my life is richer for it.
Our family has been listening to audiobooks during meals sometimes. It’s probably good for my digestion since I find myself wanting to eat more slowly to listen longer, but really it’s just fun and we all enjoy it. We finished listening to ‘The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation) : The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics’ by Daniel James Brown. I’m not sure what the difference is between the adult version of the story and the young reader’s adaptation, but I chose the version for young readers because we were listening as a family. We all loved the story, and it’s one that will always stay with me. The audiobook was read by Mark Bramhall, and his voice truly made the story come to life. To me, the voice of the person narrating the audiobook makes such a difference, and I found his voice so comforting that I started searching for more audiobooks read by him.
For those of you in the US, did you travel for Thanksgiving? We love celebrating with family, but decided to stay home this year because we were burnt out on traveling and knew we needed to be home. We had a nice, peaceful day at home together. We ended up taking a hike in the woods around our place because the boy really wanted to check for chantrelles, and were absolutely delighted when we came back down from our hike with a whole colander full of them! Jeff made a delicious feast (that included chantrelles), and the boy and I baked a pumpkin pie.
Jeff has never been a fan of pumpkin pie, but this year for the first time he totally loved it. I was pleased with how it turned out and also pleased that it won Jeff over. I followed this recipe by Danielle Walker. We didn’t have all the ingredients, so I made some changes. (No pecans, used almonds instead, and coconut milk in place of almond milk.) We were all out of maple syrup, but I still wanted that maple flavor. Luckily, we had some maple sugar (dehydrated maple syrup) and that made it taste delicious. We were missing some seasonings it called for as well, but simply the ginger, cinnamon, and lemon zest were an amazing combination. We definitely want to make that recipe again next year.
For the first time this year, we made a Giving Thanks tree for Thanksgiving. One of the moms in our homeschool co-op organized that craft for the kids and I was so glad that she did. I had seen the idea shared online before and had wanted to make one ever since. I don’t have a picture to share with you, but I’ll describe it (and maybe you’ve already seen one before.) We took a tin can (with no sharp edges) and covered the outside in pretty paper. We took branches and placed them in the center (with something with weight to keep them upright, we put pebbles in ours.) Then we cut out leaves in different fall colors. On Thanksgiving Day, our family wrote things on the leaves that we were grateful for, and then hung them on the branches. I love the simplicity and sweetness of it, and would like to make that a new tradition.
It was easy to think of things to write on those leaves because we feel so grateful right now. Through such a rough year, there is so much to be grateful for. It’s been a rough year for some of our family and friends as well, and I think that contrast- those challenges- can really deepen the gratitude. The really hard parts of life can make the simple, little everyday joys that much more precious and appreciated. I have to laugh because while I was having that peaceful reflection, I just heard a non-peaceful (to me) noise in the pantry- no doubt the mouse that Jeff discovered in there last night. Oh, the joys of country living! I’m not feeling particularly grateful for a mouse visitor, but I am grateful to be sitting here right now- alive, warm and cozy, having the opportunity to write for a bit…. and I’m grateful for you, for coming here and reading, I so appreciate that you visit this space. And with that, it’s time for me to head to bed. Goodnight friends!