A foggy mist covers the shoulders of our hills in early morning, which soon burns off when the sun rises in the sky. It gets hotter during the day, and sweltering heat envelops our land until nightfall. It won’t last, however, as we are due frost and some crisp fall weather soon. I love the early autumn days that begin with cool, foggy mornings and burn away to golden sunshine and blue skies later in the day.
Gardens are dying; many of them already mowed down and ready for winter. The dry corn stalks rustle in the breeze, although green pumpkin vines wind in and out with fat, orange pumpkins gleaming gold through their leaves. The Golden Delicious apples are falling; it’s time for baked apple dumplings and apple pies. Fragrant, spicy apple pie, warm from the oven and topped with a dollop of ice cream—that is the very essence of autumn.
We have harvested the odds and ends that are left in the garden, mostly a few scrappy tomatoes and some sweet peppers from Patty’s and Bob’s garden. I have always enjoyed gleaning the last little bit of vegetables left after summer’s bounty. I miss the ripe ground cherries that are usually in the dry corn patch; the crisp, sweet crunch of the little yellow berry. When Daddy hoed the corn patch for the last time, he always left the ground cherry vines for me to pick.
The wild morning glories are twining all through the dry corn stalks; velvety shades of blue, purple and pink. They vine all through the garden, jewels of incredible beauty that shine until they shrivel up in the hot sunshine. The shadowed nooks and creek banks breathe out a coolness that is the very breath of fall.
The whippoorwills are gone; it is time for the man of the house to begin building the fires at morning. It won’t be long until a warm fire will feel good as the mornings get chillier. Frost hovers on the sidelines, just waiting to lay waste all the beauty of the morning glories, and the flowerbeds that have bloomed so faithfully all summer long.
The trees are taking on a yellow hue, and here and there can be seen a few crimson leaves. The stalk of the pokeberry turns a beautiful shade of red, and its green berries are turning a dark, purple-black. When we were kids, we squeezed out the juice to make a beautiful purple ink, which we used to write our secret messages. Eventually the ink would fade, and our secrets were lost forever. They made a lovely filling for our mud pies; so delicious-looking that my brother Larry once took a huge bite out of one!
Mom found another use for it, however. My late brother Ronnie, who called himself the black sheep of the family, once tried his hand at making homemade wine. He snuck out some of Mom’s canned blackberries, made his concoction and hid the finished product under the hay in the old barn. He knew Mom would tan his hide if she found out. For some reason, Mom was poking around in the barn one day and noticed a jug hidden in the hay. Suspicious, she sniffed the contents and immediately knew what it was, and who the culprit was.
She very carefully emptied the contraband liquid, filled the jug back up with water from the pond and squeezed enough pokeberries in it to color it richly. Then she hid it back under the hay, and innocently went to the house. My brother never mentioned the wine, but I’ve often wondered at his reaction when he had his first wine-tasting party!
Grandpa O’Dell found a churn of home brew that his boys were making from blackberries (years ago, of course.) It was right in the middle of the fermenting stage. He poured it in the hog trough, and the hogs guzzled it and got roaring drunk. I can remember Grandpa telling us about it, slapping his leg and laughing. “Them hogs went plumb wild” he wheezed. “They ran around the pen squealin’ and staggerin’; then they would fall down and waller in the mud.”
Come to think of it, there’s not too much difference in hogs and men at times.
We are reaping a harvest of newborn babies, and it’s not over yet. We had our first great-great grandchild last week, a bouncing baby boy born to Morgan Bragg Williams and Tyler Williams. They named him Levi Wade Williams. Morgan is the daughter of Joshua Bragg and ReginaBragg Blankenship, and he is the son of Kevin and Sarah Anne Bragg. Kevin is the son of Criss and Alyce Faye Bragg. Five generations! God has surely blessed us.
Kelsey Stover Blankenhorn and John Blankenhorn welcomed a baby into the world, another little boy named John David Blankenhorn. Kelsey is the daughter of Kara and Brett Stover, and Kara is the daughter of Jim and Jeanne Perdue. My sister Jeanne is now officially a great-grandmother! Beautiful, healthy babies, and more to come!
Fall approaches, and the beginning of another season. The goldenrod spreads over the countryside, and Joe-Pye weed, with its once proud mauve head, droops and turns a silvery brown. But the varied wild asters are beginning to bloom in profusion, and in the woods the hickory nuts and walnuts are beginning fall. Autumn in the hills, the richest season of them all, is beginning to make her debut.
We have been enjoying a rich harvest of wild mushrooms—firm puffballs and some meadow mushrooms. We like to dip slices of puffballs in beaten egg and milk, and then roll them in bread crumbs or flour. They are then fried in oil or butter until nicely browned. They can also be sautéed in butter with added garlic. Most wild mushrooms can be prepared in this manner, and they are delicious. I have a recipe for mushroom soup, which is rich and very filling.
GOLDEN MUSHROOM SOUP
1 cup washed, sliced mushrooms (morels, chanterelles, puffballs, chicken of the woods, etc.)
¼ cup butter
2 cups rich chicken broth
1 cup light cream
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ ground pepper
¼ teaspoon curry powder (optional)
Saute mushrooms in butter until golden brown
Add chicken broth and cream with the other seasonings and simmer 20-30 minutes. The egg is optional, but if using, beat in small bowl with a wire whisk, then drizzle over hot soup to make “instant noodles.”
Enjoy the goodness of a golden September day.