Saturday, October 14, 2006

Early Morning Sumacs

As the temperatures plunged this week, I watched the staghorn sumacs turning along the brow of the hill - I reveled in their colour and thought about how much they remind me of a whole forest of waving hands and dancing fingers, all gesturing expressively in the brisk October wind.

Day by day, everything in this northern place is turning toward deep winter, and the once brilliantly green sumacs of summer are now arrayed in every shade from pale yellow to deep burgundy. Flocks of grosbeaks and waxwings have been visiting the sumac groves to partake of the rich red fruit clusters, and there has been a lot of happy flapping, twittering and squawking going on.

This northern resident is named for the way in which its branches are covered with velvet in springtime like the antlers of a stag or buck, and the twigs are pleasant to the touch. First nations make a splendid beverage from the fruit of the sumac which is much like lemonade, and a few of my thrifty neighbours in the Lanark Highlands also make wine. Various forms of sumac grow world wide, and the mother of a young friend makes a lovely piquant sumac sauce which is much favoured in parts of the Middle East.

This is the time of my own harvesting, and like the squirrels, I am hard at work filling my larder for winter. The air in the little blue house in the village is redolent of spices, simmering fruit and earthy vegetable fragrance. There have been heavy frosts this week, and the kitchen is chock full of fruit and vegetables in various stages of pickling, canning, jamming and "putting down" for winter - most of my time in the last week or two has been spent processing garden produce for the season of long nights and deep cold. A frugal Quaker ancestry has come to the fore and is insisting that I process it all, that I not allow any of the garden's gifts to go to waste.

My profuse apologies this morning - I owe so many of you a long visit and a message or two, and my list of inukshuks is in crying need of both amendment and expansion. It will be a great pleasure to have time for visiting and reading your comments again, and I am looking forward to spending more time here in the kingdom of blog when everything is finished up in a few days.


Rowan said...

Filling your larder for winter sounds like a very valid reason for being a little behind with other things. Your post conjured up wonderful visions of an old-fashioned kitchen full of the scent of ripe fruits, spices and other good things. I still have a lot of your archive to read to keep me going anyway!

Anonymous said...

You just take your time, filling the cans and jars and baskets of your pantry as long as it takes! Your blog will be here whenever you come back to it -- and so will I be waiting for more of your beautiful prose. Harvest time is a time to refill your own spirit in preparation for the dark winter, to harvest the light so your heart has something to yearn for all winter. So you are doing the exactly right thing for you!

I have to say I am always always impressed by your clear, rich writing style ... and that so many times the metaphors and other words you string together are exactly what I had in my mind before I came to those words in your posts. For example ... the sumac leaves -- when I saw that photo I immediately thought of a medieval line-dance, stately and regal and rich (with those gorgeous jewel-tones) ... then I read along a bit and there you are writing that they remind you of dancing fingers!

Dancing is what those brilliant leaves do as they ready themselves for the drop. It's almost as if the leaves are soaking up shimmering colors, absorbing the light before they give one last whoop of joy ... and twirl, shake then let go.
love to you -- maureen

Maya's Granny said...

When I lived in Fairbanks, I spent the summer gathering berries and making jam, jelly, and wine from them. And talking the produce manager at Safeway into selling me the fruit he was getting ready to throw away (poor man, it was getting a little soft and he thought that meant that it was rotting when, in fact, it was ripening) so that I could can that in all sorts of ways. Gardening and pickling and drying and canning the abundance there as well. If felt so good, and all year until the next harvast, it tasted so good as well.

To spread raspberry jam on my toast and remember the days my children and friends and I gathered those raspberries was a wonderful thing.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your squirreling... that's one of my favorite parts of the autumn.