working down the road for the neighbors for a few weeks right now making christmas wreaths.
yes, christmas in october.
a skiff of snow this morning helped some in setting the mood.
the patchwork truck above (that i adore!) is part of what i see out the window while working away.
we sold the VW bus to a friend recently to pay for a new wood stove that will hold a fire for hours, even overnight.
and the minivan has been broken down for almost two months now
so, this afternoon, after turning down several rides,
i got to walk the mile home, by then in the drizzling rain,
ending with a shortcut through the woods that left me soaked through and through.
just what i needed.
and a warm, cozy fire, still burning, to come home to.
This tool, this beautiful tool, is a berry picker/berry comb, the only thing I inherited from my great uncle Henry and his wife, my great aunt Mildred. They were my godparents. (No, wait, I have a Polaroid camera of his, too.)
When I think of them, i think of: The annual summer party at their place on the lake. Swimming off the dock there. Snapping fresh green beans into a bowl before dinner. African violets under grow-lights in the basement that, as they bloomed, were rotated to the living room upstairs alongside a heavily-pruned little lemon tree by the fireplace. Mildred playing her piano for us. Deer mounts and skins on the walls alongside large scale prints of his photos of northwest mountain peaks. The guest bedroom with walls literally covered in tidy, colorful rows of horse-riding ribbons.
Perhaps best of all came after dinner, though, when he'd roll the huge, HUGE screen down out of the ceiling, magic in and of itself. We (all the cousins and myself) would crowd in down on the cool, tiled basement floor with the aunts and uncles on couches and chairs around us, while Uncle Henry, from the back of the room, running two projectors at once using a little laser pointer of sorts to point things out, would do a slide show of his latest pictures from the past year of anything from local hikes to fishing in Alaska to garden tours in England to trips to Hong Kong or Norway or...you name it.... I think we (the cousins) often pretended to be bored at times but i suspect we all really loved the annual slide shows best of all. I think we all remember most the picture he took and had of Harry Truman (this one) hand feeding a racoon.
Anyways, back to the berry picker:
There are some pretty strong opinions and prejudice toward them out there.
Others say that they do less damage than bears themselves do to the bushes, combing the berries off with their claws or eating the bushes leaves, twigs, berries and all.
Some just don't like using them because the berries have to be "cleaned" of more debris, of leaves and unripe or misshapen berries, at the end of a day of picking.
Others swear by them.
Some say they just plain don't work. (I, too, was pretty convinced of that after borrowing a friend's homemade one quite a few years back, made from a tin can with metal "fingers" and handle welded onto it. It didn't really work all that well, I'd thought at the time, and that I could pick with my hands faster than it would take messing around with a cumbersome picker in my hands, manouevering it amongst the twigs and leaves of the huckleberry bushes.)
Still, when I came across Henry's berry picker at my parents' house a few years back, I asked to bring it home with me. It has sat on a shelf where, since then, it has served only as storage for canceled postage stamps removed from envelopes received.
Until last month, that is, after a couple of days picking by hand, when I suddenly remembered the picker and thought, "You know, that just might work...." and besides "The leaves are going to be falling from the bushes in the next few days to a week anyways, so how much damage could it do?...." What was there to lose in trying?
And, OH MY GOODNESS, I'm sold. The picker did virtually no damage to the bushes but I was able to pick, I'd say, 4-5 times as many berries as without it. Sure, there were a few more leaves to clean out later, but as I see it one only has a limited amount of time out there in the woods picking and certainly more time once one returns home to clean them out.
I don't think it would work quite as well earlier in the season with a broader mix of ripe and unripe berries on the bush, nor would it be worth using where the berries are more sparse. But it worked perfectly in this situation, at the end of the season, when the bushes were absolutely loaded with berries perfectly ripe all-at-once.
For the first time in years I picked enough berries to cook up a batch of jam.
And, I spent a good part of those days, while picking, thinking about my great aunt and uncle,
wishing that they could tell me about the berries they'd picked over the years, could tell me where & when they bought the picker/rake, could share their secret chanterelle picking spots, and more,
wishing that I could have known them better.
As an adult now, I also know this about them: there would have been great big divides and differences of opinions between us. This isn't really the place nor time for that, but every family has its disagreements and dark secrets, does it not? I do think, though, that a mutual love of similar, simple things such as berries and mushrooms and mountains and photos could have more than made up for those sorts of things.
(So, I've been looking around online, on ebay, etc. for another berry pickers like this one I now have but haven't come up with an exact match yet. It works so well that it's worth searching for another one. I'm thinking it might be Swedish? That they could have bought this picker on a trip through Scandinavia? At any rate, similar antique and new ones are available out there and, while Uncle Henry's wooden berry picker is beautiful in both form and function, these red plastic Swedish ones are awfully cute, so I'm hoping they work just as well.)
2 glorious afternoons in the mountains, the middle of last month, (one of which was my 4oth birthday), picking lots & lots of berries, even so late in the season. All my usual spots in this area had no berries this year. This spot, still so very nearby the others, was absolutely loaded, as apparently the blossoms on these bushes weren't hit by the late spring/early summer frosts. Didn't see another soul either day up there, aside from the dog, always sleeping nearby (snoring like a bear rather than doing her job of being on the alert for them, ahem).
Time. and room. and quiet.
To soak it all in.
To not think.To give attention to one's powers of observation.
Life doesn't get a whole lot better than this, in my opinion.
Now, nearly a month later, all of this is well under a coating of snow, resting until next summer.
Posting this now, even weeks afterwards, is an attempt I suppose, on my part, to "bottle" this day, to save it to look back on during the darker, greyer days ahead, a way to preserve this day in much the same way one does the berries themselves, for nourishment, for a taste of warmth, in the depths of winter, to remember that this time will come again, next year.
but it seems there's a common thread to some of my recent favorites over on Flickr.
it's gotten SO cold SO quickly lately.
the garden is finished.
working 5 days a week for a while, plus every other weekend.
the kids in school all day.
my parents in town.
strep and sort throats in half the family.
haven't really had much time out & about at all lately.
maybe this weekend...
Such a pretty light it was,
on the way to a friend's place,
to drop off beet greens.
before a long day of errand running (ugh) after putting it off for weeks so that the list was just too big to ignore any longer.
So, I might be off base here, but I'm guessing there aren't too many people out there who would actually be pleased and happy to, upon returning home at the end of a long day at work, to find their refrigerator stuffed full with a mess of beet greens.(aside from the lovely morning, the highlight of the day (pun totally not intended) might have been picking up a box of light blond hair dye for a neighbor and realizing there was no way the person at the check out counter at the drug store would ever believe that it wasn't actually for me as what natural blond would ever buy blond hair dye?)
no, Autumn Colour week over on Flickr didn't include a purple day but, considering what I've been seeing in the garden lately, personally I thought it merited it's own day.
This coming from someone who's not really a big fan of the color purple.
More of what's behind these pics around about here, over on Flickr.
the weather's taken a sudden turn for the colder (brrr!), but inside it's toasty,
20 or so friends, neighbors, and family members who organized, gave up their own Sundays, and showed up at our house for a work party. They cut and stacked our entire stash of firewood for us.
The wood, we buy from our neighbor who thins their land each year, selling the thinnings to us for a very reasonable price. They bring it in 8 foot lengths that then need cutting into short enough pieces to fit into a wood stove.
C isn't up for that kind of work yet this year, and I've never before used a chainsaw. Even if I learned how now, the big chainsaw is too heavy for me so it would be pretty slow going what with the smaller chainsaw and my lack of experience.
Not only that, but they framed in and sided two "rooms" under the roof of what has been, up until now, a wide open shed with a roof overhead. Now the wood for the house fits in one (about 5 cords) and all of our camping, fishing, gardening gear fits in the other (which probably also makes the neighbors happy that they don't have to look at all of our junk any longer). The other half of the shed is intended to someday be an porch and outdoor kitchen.
and they stacked much more nicely than I ever would have done.
Unfortunately I had to work the entire day while this was going on. Such an amazing transformation to return home to at the end of the day, all of which took place over the course of the 9-10 hours that I was away.
The pot of chili I left on the stove just doesn't seem like fair trade for all of this.
Not to mention it sounds like it was a downright fun day to have missed out on.
Thanks to all their help, we will be warm through the winter,
and, this evening, instead of being out there with a chainsaw, I'm able to spend the evening out with the girls.
Anyways. People are amazing, no? It's rather stunning. Especially at times like these. It pretty well floors me daily. We're feeling awfully lucky to have such support and help.
(Whoops. This was meant to post on Thursday. I did manage to play along with the Autumn Colourweek each day over on Flickr but didn't get around to finishing posting over here until now. Ah well, what can I say? Life just got in the way.)