Fall is in the air in the Methow Valley. Aspens and cottonwoods are dropping leaves; people are cleaning their chimneys and talking ski. They’re getting serious about accumulating firewood and feeling the urge to make a big pot of chili.
My husband eyes his burn pile, waiting for the ban to end. It’s one of his rites of autumn: torching off huge piles of dead wood and brush he’s been collecting all summer. Living out here in the midst of the forest, trees are constantly falling over or needing to be trimmed back. They all get dragged to a couple of collection areas and left to dry out till fall. Then one day, when conditions are right, he hauls out the hoses, shovel and rake, and turns into a firebug.
Here’s me standing on the porch yelling, “Slow down, you’re going to burn the place up!”
And there’s Marc: totally ignoring me as he tosses another six large branches into the flames. He’s got a satisfied look on his face watching the sparks streak skyward.
It must be a guy thing.
Another ritual of fall in the Valley is trying to figure out what to do with green tomatoes. Just about the time zucchinis have gotten so big and tough you don’t feel bad tossing them out, you realize that at least two-thirds of your tomato crop isn’t going to make it. Then begins the search for new recipes for green tomatoes that don’t involve frying. As good as fried green tomatoes are, it isn’t long before the chorus groans “Oh no, not again.”
Last fall a neighbor brought a mock apple pie made of green tomatoes to a potluck. Good try, but it will never replace real apple pie. And neither will “almost raspberry jam,” which is a combination of green tomatoes and raspberry Jell-O. Or “Unfried green tomatoes smothered in tomato gravy,” which seems an unrealistic effort to cause green tomatoes to taste like ripe ones. Cooks get desperate sometimes.
Temperatures are falling at night. The cautious are covering their gardens. The adventurous are checking air fares and planning an off-season getaway. There are spring bulbs for sale at Hank’s Market, a sure sign of fall: you want to get those in the ground well before it freezes solid. It’s time to put away sandals and unpack sweaters.
Green tomato soup anyone?
Mary Rea of Mazama is the author of the novel “Ladies Night Out.” Her blog is at maryreabooks.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org