Today and Backward a Week or So

I told the girls we’ll go to Sally and Wally today after they are done with school. We haven’t done any shopping together for weeks, and they love to check out the deals at thrift stores. As we were pulling into the Salvation Army parking lot, Rita said, “Oh, goody! We can get candy out of the quarter machines.” Before I could protest about how germy those little metal chutes are, where people dig their fingers in to make sure no fruit runts are left behind, she said, “And I brought sanitizing wipes for the machines before we get our candy.” How can a mother object past such preparedness?

I get a lot of private amusement from their purchases. Today one of them bought a 1/4 cup ladle for her playhouse, a crocheted shawl for dress-ups, and a baggie full of mini figures. Another bought a purse, and the last one found a scarf and a tiny notebook/planner with a pen that doesn’t work but looks cute. As for me, I bought two books, some steak knives, and a hoodie for one of my teens.

We kept our Wally stop very short… Just a few health and beauty aids, some chicken breasts, lead for mechanical pencils, and stuff like that. It’s astonishing how quickly Wally can gobble up all the carefully saved money, and Addy walked past at least two displays of Kinderjoy eggs without caving. I was so proud of her.

This morning I looked out the window, and this is how the garden still looks, to my delight and astonishment.

In August I noticed a few volunteer tomato plants that were unaffected by blight. They are now ripening on the vines, still untouched by frost this late in the season. The dahlias are weak-stemmed and bowed down with the weight of the riotous blooms they keep putting out. They have fallen over all the other plantings in the bed, nearly smothering them. I cleared out most of the annuals and vegetables, and I planted my garlic yesterday under the stick trellis. If all goes to plan, the dill will volunteer there next year as well. The pine straw was hauled to our house one little lawn trailer load at a time from the neighbor’s generous pine trees. He has been mowing them into piles, so we picked them up, with promises to rake them up again as they fall. Everybody wins in this deal. Except the weeds. They lose.

I had some enormous Jerusalem artichokes that needed to be relocated, and when I dug them up, there were plenty of bulbs for us to sample them. We washed them well, then tossed them in olive oil and garlic seasoning before roasting them. They were deliciously nutty, yet soft like potatoes inside. I decided that they merited a nice long row along the privacy fence, so that in future we can forage from them again. Also, they grew tall as sunflowers, so they need a bit of a backdrop. Our neighbor on the other side of the fence is a lonely old man who peers through the cracks and visits when I am out in the garden. I tell him to come on over, and sometimes he does, but often he just stands there and talks through the fence while his yippy little dog bounces and barks around him. I made sure there are spots where he can still peek through to see the action once the flowers grow along the fence.

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A row of 8’s makes a fancy sort of divider. This is a day later, and I can’t remember how I was going to conclude that post, but I’ll give it a shot by looking back over pictures from the past week.

Gabriel just passed the ten year mark of working for UPMC. It (he? she?) has been a good employer, and we are grateful. In a gift bag with an assortment of thank-you’s for his service, there was this mug. I pulled it out and got the giggles. I think it’s supposed to be a joke for such a time as this, for a person in healthcare.

Last weekend was the annual training for ski patrollers on our familiar Blue Knob Mountain. We have camped there many times in the past while Gabe trained, but this year we asked some old friends to join us. These are people who were in our youth group, some were co-teachers, and all had babies around the same times as we did. There is a richness to these friendships that never change.

Usually the campground is nearly empty in October because it is always wet and cold on the mountain this time of year. To our surprise, it was teeming with campers. But we had a great time anyway. I thought I knew these trails about as well as I know our backyard, seeing as our family had hiked them many, many times in the past. But when the dog got away during a hike, I told my friend Michelle that I would join her and a passel of little hikers by using a short cut as soon as I had the dog leashed again. I ran back to camp, shut Lady into the vehicle, then ran my shortcut trail, only I had forgotten to tell her to look for a fork and stay right, so the crew ended up hiking a lot further than expected before I rejoined them. They stayed very cheerful, and it was warm, even though it was damp.

Just a few days before this adventure, we had our 20th anniversary, and we dashed off to Niagara Falls for two days and a night. We had a lovely time, just meandered about the countryside, rented scooters to tourist at the falls, hiked 400 steps down into the Devil’s Hole Gorge just as it was getting dark, so that we couldn’t dawdle on the way back out or we wouldn’t have been able to see where we were going. It was off season, lots of places closed, but we found a hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant with wonderful food that exploded ginger and cilantro and lemongrass in our mouths when we ate. We hardly recognize our 20-years-ago selves: that’s how time, circumstances, and the love that accompanies that unique sanctification of dwelling together for two decades changes us. But we like each other and ourselves better now than we did then, so I think we’re growing the right way.

It’s funny. On our honeymoon, we would not have seen our future of browsing antique stores and junk shops as especially riveting. And we visited orchards: both a cider brewery and our fruit tree supplier, Schlabach’s Nurseries, up close to Lake Ontario. The latter was a thrill to visit. It was as if we stepped into a Wendell Berry book, only it was an Amish farm, with kindly proprietors who were generous with their knowledge of backyard orchards. They urged us to walk around and sample any fruit we wanted. We tried dead-ripe persimmons and immediately decided we need to plant some. Then we had a quince, a bit sour for our taste, probably because it wasn’t quite ripe. The Asian pears he brought out of the ice house were amazing. (Yes, a real ice house, with ice harvested off their pond last winter.) Next was a pawpaw, which I had read about, but had no idea what to expect. “It’s an experience in itself,” Emmanuel Schlabach said, and he was right. It was like a melon and a banana got mixed into a mango. His father, David, was busy compiling next years catalog, which we pore over every year. Not surprisingly, they can’t possibly keep up with the demand, and they simply send checks back if they can’t fill their mail orders. There is no website and they don’t like using a phone. We have a deep respect for how these people stick to their principles, all while possessing this vast store of knowledge that makes the world a better place. We couldn’t taste all the apples he wanted us to try without looking like toddlers who take bites out of fruit, so in the end he gave us about a half peck of apples that we brought home to sample. It’s hard to decide which ones we want to order for spring planting, but we do know who we will order from.

That’s about as far back as I can conveniently remember at this time of night. It is a lovely, lovely fall. We have hardly any colorful leaves, but the air has been so balmy, it feels a little like you are swimming in it. Actually, today it rained. And it was kind of cold.

I do want to say one more thing of great import. My kitchen is all done! I have unpacked the boxes in storage and moved into the cabinets and it is a beautiful thing! When I am cooking, there is an aura of gratefulness around me. It feels like I can nourish any and all with ease. Come see me! (I am hoping to do a before and after post soon. Stay tuned. ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, yet one more thing. This is the time to plant your tulips for spring. You don’t have to do a thing except drop them into a hole in the ground. You won’t regret it! ๐Ÿ˜˜

3 thoughts on “Today and Backward a Week or So

  1. It was interesting to read your description of Schlabachs Nursery ๐Ÿ™‚ Iโ€™m always fascinated as well with all the delicious fruit they bring to family gatherings. Davidโ€™s wife is my husbandโ€™s sister.

  2. Happy Anniversary! This year was our 20th as well, and I agree with your description of “But we like each other and ourselves better than we did then…”

    The biggest question is: how did we become these middle-aged, married-twenty- years people??

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