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Copper and Gold

DSCN6153Nature’s wheel just keeps spinning a colorful web this fall. The trees have been outstanding, with their leaves turning  in earnest this week.  I want to drink it all in while the show lasts.

DSCN6149Some of you asked to see “my” Copper Beech in her Autumn splendor.  Her leaves are exhibiting their coppery rust, which makes it  a striking companion to what I believe is an aspen. Copper and gold; such amazing tones in nature. Even in the rain – especially in the rain – the performance is spectacular this year. Yet again, I was exploring  the Morton Arboretum on Wednesday.  The path above was leading to the glass-blowing pumpkin extravaganza going on through the weekend.  If you are in the area, you really should drop in to see the Glass Pumpkin Patch at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, and then absorb all the fall colors.

Leaf Peepers! That’s what we become in the fall. Leaf Peepers!

The path below wanders amid an arbor rainbow.  I felt a bit like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road.

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It doesn’t matter where paths wander in our midwestern fall ; just that we take the time to walk them, as this pair did in the Autumn mist.

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Would you like to see some of the glass pumpkins? They are even better in person.  Click on photos for a better look-see.

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The Care and Management of Lies

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I have enjoyed Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs books, even procuring a copy from a Little Free Library box a few months ago.  They are gentle mysteries set in the post WWI era and provide insight into life in England after the war. I was excited to learn that Winspear had written another book, independent of the Maisie Dobbs series, set in the English countryside.

It was not just Winspear’s reputation that drew me to “The Care and Management of Lies”, however, and it wasn’t the book cover. (The one posted here is the UK edition, which I find to be much more appealing than the rather drab colored one here in the US, which I show below.) It was the name of the main character. Kezia. This is the name, as you might recall, of our granddaughter, though hers has an “h” on the end.

Kezia Marchant is the daughter of an Anglican pastor. Her best friend is Thea Brissenden. As the story begins, we learn that Kezia is engaged to marry Thea’s brother, Tom. Tom runs the family farm, since his father’s death. Thea is a suffragist, who seems to be struggling with Kezia’s new role as farm wife and who comes dangerously close to being jailed for sedition.  Tom feels it is his duty to go off to war, leaving Kezia, new to living a life off of the land, to tend to the farm.  They have precious little time together after their wedding, but, during the time, Kezzie, as Tom calls her, struggles determinedly to learn how to cook, surprising Tom with exotic new herbs, spices, and flavors and making their meals an anticipated ritual for Tom at day’s end.

When Tom goes off to the trenches in France, Kezzie works hard to keep the farm going, as well as the spirits of the few workers left to tend to the fields, the farm animals, and life on the home front. In France, Tom becomes the target of the unit’s sergeant, who taunts Tom and refers to him as Private Gravy. It is Kezia’s letters that keep Tom steady and sure, and eventually those of the other men in his unit.

The lies that are being cared for and managed are not those of  hidden love affairs, mounting debt, murder or thievery.  They are the lies of omission and embroidered truths; lies intended to help loved ones feel safe or taking their minds off of the horror at hand.  Lies, told in letters, are intermingled with the evocative prose that Jacqueline Winspear is known for. She is adept at bringing the mood, the aura, the simple gestures of living that keep her characters real as the reader becomes immersed in the era she writes about.

Kezia’s letters describe tantalizing meals made from unlikely ingredients, evocatively penned. She teasingly invites Tom to imagine eating them as he reads her letters and, even 9780062220509_custom-0e3798b9ed22df31b37811651b9bb807fe3083c3-s2-c85asks him to make suggestions as to how to improve her delectable entrees.  As time goes on, the men in Tom’s unit learn of the “meals” Kezzie sends, and beg him to read the letters aloud, huddled in the stench and mud, cold and fear of trench warfare.  Even his commanding officers know of Kezzie’s culinary talents, which bring about several kinds of jealousy from Tom’s superiors, dangerously so from Sergeant Knowles.

Tom Brissenden, in turn, writes to his Kezzie of those things that soldiers of war write home about;  longing to see the woman he loves, missing home, asking about his sister, Thea, who has become an ambulance driver, and his father-in-law, who has inlisted as a chaplain, and wondering about hearth and home . . .

. . .  then, all converge in a clash of wartime, leaving the reader with as many questions as answers, and this reader with tears in her eyes.

My hope is that Ms. Winspear continues to write about Kezia in the same manner in which we follow Maisie Dobbs. My other hope  is that you read “The Care and Management of Lies”.  It is slow going at the start, but, much worth the determination, like Kezzie’s cooking skills, to see it through to the end.

 

DSCN5973Shall I tell you a story of linen and ink, gardens and waterfalls, sunshine and splendor?

It occurs at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois.

Our garden club’s adventure started with a private tour of the Lenhardt Library; a treasure trove of horticultural books, journals, periodicals, reproduction prints and more. There was an amazing display of noteworthy bookplates, including those of Charles Dickens and Eugene Field.  Several of us were particularly interested in Field’s bookplate as we first met long before joining the garden club, when our children attended Field School, named for the poet. (you know him – Wynken, Blynken and Nod).

After our introduction to the wonders Lenhardt has to offer, we were taken into the June Price Reeder Rare Book Room. It was as if a hush fell on my soul, so enthralled was I in the presence of four centuries of bound and conserved horticultural wisdom, some of which became the template of remedies for modern medicine.  To touch the linen pages that predate the anniversary of Columbus’s discoveries, the day before Columbus Day is commemorated here, is rather awesome, indeed. The library is in the painstaking process of digitizing  these books and journals, some truly tomes, for all to access. You can see some of them by clicking the link to the rare book room above.

No garden club event seems complete without food, so, we stopped for lunch at the Cafe. We commiserated over sandwiches, soups, salads and sunshine, then separated, some taking a tram tour of the grounds, others walking the paths.  I suspect most of us also ended up in the bountiful gift shop before heading home.

The groundskeepers were busy, hauling this and that, flowers and soil, pumpkins and gourds, readying the Botanic for this weekend’s fall festivities. It was a pristine day; the best kind for visiting such an expansive garden. The Chicago Botanic Gardens is a destination for grade school field trips as well as an international destination to world travelers.  It pleased me to no end to hear the many languages that were being uttered and the universal joy of horticulture.

Here are a few photos taken in the Rare Book Room.  Our guide was Leora Siegel, the library’s director. It is an understatement to say that she was exemplary as she guided us through the centuries of books. I felt a tinge of regret when the tour concluded as I longed to hear and see more.

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Finally, a few photos of the grounds, which include the Japanese garden, the vast vistas, waterfall, and stunning chrysanthemums dripping from the main arbor leading out to the Botanic’s grounds.

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In the Center of Fall


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Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold . . . 

from The Pumpkin by John Greenleaf Whittier

Pumpkin lattes.

Pumpkin pancakes with maple syrup.

Always – pumpkin pie.

Jack-o-Lanterns. and Jack-o-Lantern Tea Loaf (aka pumpkin bread).

Pumpkin scarecrows atop pumpkin towers in pumpkin patches.

Fields and fields, acres and acres of wilting vines with ripe orange gourds of goodness.

Robert Newton Peck’s hilarious children’s story, Havoc on Halloween,  from the book “Soup and Me.” 

It’s pumpkin season in the middle of fall, here in Illinois:  the biggest pumpkin producer in the country.

Addendum to today’s post – I just saw a notification from WordPress that today is my 5th anniversary in blogging. :)  Wow! Thanks to each and every one of you for traveling along the Cutoff with me; reading, commenting, encouraging, laughing, crying . . . You make it fun and meaningful for me.    Penny

Bedtime

It is that time of year for the gathering of seeds, the raking of leaves, the cutting back of perennials and the discarding of annuals.

It is that time of year for “putting the garden to bed”.

DSCN5944. . . and so, we did at our Garden Club meeting on Monday.

We didn’t actually put any gardens to bed; we had an informative presentation about chores to do in the Autumn garden in preparation for winter.  No matter how long one gardens, there is always something new to learn. New tools. New techniques. Reminders of tried and true ways. Our presenter, a well known and respected owner of a local feed store, Pioneer Feed in Villa Park, showed us examples of diseased plants, explained soil additives, talked about plant treatments, and even explained how a Sawzall can be employed to rejuvenate Miscanthus grass.

This presentation followed refreshments and our business meeting.  Finger sandwiches and gelatins molded with fruits or vegetables was just what we needed on a cool Autumn afternoon, with cookies and brownies for desert.  A fulfilling meal, followed by the informative lecture, all centered around putting our gardens to bed.

These centerpieces were crafted and arranged by club member Nan. A smaller bed (above) was on each table.A larger one (below) brought out the Goldilocks in me. All were given out as door prizes, much to the pleasure of those who won them, and I think we all stepped a little lighter as we left, our gardening chores awaiting us in the weeks ahead – and the comfort of knowing we all had a place to rest our heads at day’s end.

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A Jarring Experience

DSCN5900I should have shown you what was IN the jar first, but, I was too busy playing Goldilocks and ate the whole thing up. 

Only fooling you. Here is what it looked like before I attacked my yogurt and granola with unfettered glee,

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while scoping out the Chicago Botanical Gardens for an outing the gardening group is taking later this week. 

Have you had any jarring experiences lately?

Come said the wind . . .

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Come said the wind to
the leaves one day,
Come o’re the meadows
and we will play.
Put on your dresses
scarlet and gold,
For summer is gone
and the days grow cold.  

 A children’s song of the 1880’s

The days are closing in now, here on the Cutoff. The air is crisp, the colors sharp. Leaves carpet the ground, stuff the eaves, and decorate the tops of cars as the trees bare their souls in anticipation for the winter to come.

We have days of heat and humidity still, but, more  and more days of refreshing, cooler temperatures. The night air carries brisk breezes as the crickets correspond in the moonlight and the frogs keep up their low, liquid stream of primal conversations.

The other day, late afternoon, as dinner warmed in the oven,  I spent an hour attending to potted plants that were spent of their summer splendor, sweeping leaves off the deck.The leaves, dear friend, filled a large trash can and end up in the compost pile. The deck looked neat and welcoming as we sat down to dinner inside. As we ate, we could hear the wind kick up. A pot was blown over, the trees scraped the air and anything else in their way. A few, caught in filaments of spider webs,  flitted like butterflies as the temperature fell a good 20 degrees in about as many minutes.

As to the deck, well, it looks like it did – before I cleaned it.

Lamps and overhead lights come on earlier as darkness creeps in sooner each day. It is a time for candles and hot cider, soups and corn bread. It is, after all, sweet Autumn.

I love the changes in colors and the mellowing of the landscape that evolves in this season. There is a heady fragrance that permeates the air.  Just yesterday, I kept telling my Tom that I was smelling maple syrup. I am wondering now if it isn’t the coverlet of sycamore leaves that are bunched up after their night of tossing and turning just outside of the back door. The leaves have a faint maple scent. Oh, dear; I now have a craving for waffles, made in my mother’s waffle maker; an even more aged antique than me.

Such it is with Autumn and me; we seem to have a relationship that conjures up memories and heightens senses as it kisses me with all her splendor.

Do you enjoy Autumn? Do you have a favorite season? For those of you where spring is coming, how are your days and nights?

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"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth

My Chicago Botanic Garden

A blog for visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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