falling dark

A few days ago I came to a stopping place in the chapter book we're reading in the evenings (Julie of the Wolves, in case you were wondering) and looked up in complete surprise at how dark it was. "Yikes!" I said. "It must be late! We should be in bed!" I was even more surprised when the boys, who had a better angle on the clock, told me it was just ten past seven. Never mind: it had been a very busy day, so we were happy to sleep when the sun told us to. But it was startling to realize just how fast the days are shortening lately, here in the moment of the fastest shortening of the year. It's not something I really keep track of, but it feels like not much more than a week ago we could have been reading outside well past 7:00! (it was also warmer then; the past few evenings have been pretty chilly).

Yesterday we had another lesson in what fall evenings mean when we took a walk to work off the big heavy supper that I made (chicken! biscuits! mashed potatoes and gravy!). We headed out before 6:30 for a little loop in our local woods, but before we were even half way through it was clear that we should have brought lights. Thankfully we know the path very well indeed so we weren't too bothered, but it was a little stressful for the half of the party who were without shoes and had to contend with stubbing their toes on roots. We have an outdoor gathering a our friends' house this evening; it feels like it'll be getting dark before we even leave the house! Happy October; fall is here.

moments from the week

Elijah getting up into a tree by climbing a trash can on top of a table

climbing aides

Moments from the past week.

the boys playing mini golf with friends

golf party

Elijah stirring apple muffin batter at the kitchen table

making the muffins

the boys and a friends walking in a woodsy clearing in the rain

fall rain at October Farm

the boys and a bunch of other kids playing tug of war on a pond beach

pondside park day fun

Harvey with a mask over his whole face

masked up for the library


rhubarb wins the garden

I tend to think of rhubarb as a spring food, like asparagus: one that comes in early but then gives way to other things as the summer moves along. But that's not really the case, in actual fact, rhubarb comes in early and then keeps going strong all summer long! It's just that the novelty of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apples each in their season makes us forget about it. Now, in early October, strawberries and blueberries are long gone; a few of the raspberries are producing their second crop of the season but not enough to bring inside; and the apples are actually almost done (they were early to begin with and our heaviest tree by far was the Macintosh). And last Thursday I harvested eight cups of rhubarb to make a crisp.

It was the same recipe I raved about in this post, and it remains my favorite dessert that I hardly ever make. Why do I hardly ever make it? Not because the rhubarb is hard to get—clearly not!—but because it's so delicious, and so unappreciated by the rest of my family, that I eat too much of it on each day that it exists (also it calls for orange zest and we don't often have oranges in the house in the non-winter months; I had to make a special trip to get one). At least this time I was able to bring it along to school, where the other adults and children of middle- and high school-age were able to enjoy it.

Funnily enough, just like that first time back in 2016 I had leftover butter pecan ice cream to go with the crisp. That's really a coincidence: we rarely buy ice cream, and when we do it's rarely butter pecan. And I didn't ever realize it until I looked up that old post to link it!


the garden early October

The garden is pretty much done at this point. We've got lots of red showing on the tomato plants, but there's so much blight that it's hard to find an unblemished tomato. While the kale looks good from a distance, up close you can see that it's all lacy and worm-ridden. Beans are drying on the vines, but there aren't enough new ones growing to make a meal of fresh green beans. I've started clearing beds to get them ready for winter and next year: the cucumbers have come out, and the tomatoes will follow soon. Our compost is pretty weedy so I'm glad to get it on some beds while there's still time for the weed seeds to germinate and we can cultivate once before we put the mulch down.

the garden on October 5

the firepit is in the picture because it looks ok all year round

But in the meantime it's not quite all fall barrenness! Winter squashes are ripening and drying on the vines, and there's as much arugula as anyone could want. The peppers are still hanging on for one more big harvest. There are apples and some raspberries. And, of course, the rhubarb!

our long straw nightmare is over

A long time ago—last winter? I have no idea—the lean-to that I had constructed on the back of the shed to keep straw dry came down (its construction was stylish and optimistic, so I'm not totally surprised; it did last a good few years, so that was fine). I'm not quick to make repairs, and besides the fallen roof bits were covering the straw a bit, so I kind of left it. But a month or two ago when it was time to get a new bale I felt bad about storing it in the wreckage so I stashed it up on the porch. Fine, at first—it would even have been decorative if it had been a little later in the season! But once we broke the bale open it quickly became a problem. Out of its retaining strings straw kind of gets everywhere, helped by the wind and birds, and in this case the spreading was compounded by the bale's proximity to the middle school hang-out spot that is that corner of the porch. It was a mess, we were constantly tracking hay into the house, and people who wanted to walk through on the porch to the back deck had to clamber over what was essentially a 1/8th scale haystack. Intolerable.

That's why I refused to tolerate it for longer than a couple months. Over the weekend I finally rebuilt the lean-to—much stronger than before, since my construction skills are ever improving, but still stylish cause that's how I roll. Then yesterday evening, with friends due to come by for a visit within the hour, I moved the haystack to its proper location and swept up all the rest of the debris off the porch. "Wow, the porch looks so clean and big!" said Elijah when he saw. Yes, my son. Yes it does.

how Elijah sounds

Elijah is a clever and articulate kid, but you'll never hear him say so himself... mainly because he can't say his Rs. So if he were interested in bragging, it would come out as "clevoo and owticulate". His brothers had some speech production issues too when they were little: Harvey couldn't say Ls for a while (he just left them out) and Zion had a whole range of interesting sound substitutions. But both of them either grew out of those idiosyncrasies, or else learned how to actually pronounce the phonemes of concern in a few easy lessons. Lijah, not so much. He's seven now, and still shows no interest in talking like a pirate for a few days like Zion did to learn his Rs, nor any other corrective methods. Of course, I haven't really pushed it: I'm not a pushy sort of person, and also he's still my baby and I kind of like it that he still sounds so cute! While at the same time being clever and articulate, of course.

photo problems

Usually fall is the most exciting time to take photos: the air is clear, the world is full of beautiful colors, and we're out on lots of fun adventures. This fall, though, my camera is having some troubles—taking foggy, washed out images that totally fail to do justice to the wonders of the season. It's been that way for a little while, and I was thinking it was the humidity at first, but now that it's generally been pretty dry out and the problem persists I'm starting to worry that it might be moisture in the camera itself. Should I put it in some rice? Will it dry out on its own over time? Who knows... all I can say for sure is that the "moments" this month might not be as vibrant as I would wish them to be.

moments from the week

Harvey pausing on a bike ride on a trail passing tall grass

early fall trails

Moments from the past week.

Elijah leaning out of the woods over a pondy puddle

Elijah the jungle explorer

Elijah and a friend mixing muffin batter at the kitchen table

this week's school baking

Zion and Elijah wading in a stream by the bike path

must pause for streams

Zion and Elijah having fun eating smores by the fire

an October fire is cheery

the boys and friends playing on a disconnected section of dock floating in a pond

dock transforms to boat

Elijah watching the Bedford football band practice under the lights

watching the band practice


getting out the door

We find ourselves leaving the house on a schedule three mornings a week now, and it isn't always easy! Church on Sunday, and school at friends' houses Wednesday and Friday (it's here on Mondays, thank goodness). This past Friday was a particular challenge, since in addition to all the regular stuff—school supplies, lunches, water, shoes, masks...—we also had to bring bikes for an after-school pump track get together. I don't remember what morning outings were like when the kids were little—that was before coronavirus and I can't remember anything from that long ago time—but it's hard enough now to get everyone focused and ready and out the door in a reasonable time.

Of course, I shouldn't complain too much; it's not like the whole morning is stressful. In fact, the problem Friday was that we had a delightful relaxing and companionable morning, and it wasn't until we were finishing up breakfast at 8:00 or so that I realized that we really needed to be on the road by 8:30 and the chaos started. For the record, we got where we were going only a minute or two late, but the was definitely some stress involved.

Then on Saturday Zion's friend rang the doorbell at 8:00 on the dot and Zion and Elijah were out to join him in under 30 seconds. Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation?

Indigenous Peoples' Day, observed(ish)

Yesterday was the first Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration in Bedford history, and we had school anyway. It's not like the kids would have been engaged in respectful contemplation in any case—judging by the activity in the neighborhood they weren't thinking about the fact that they were playing on land stolen from the Massachusett any more than any other year they would have been contemplating Christopher Columbus. But I would have felt better about myself if I'd remembered to do the land acknowledgment I had planned first thing in the morning instead of just before our friends left. Also school was a little challenging with public school friends coming to the door in search of playmates from time to time. They were all very polite and understanding, but it was a little distracting for the scholars indoors! Sorry guys; we only have two and a half days of school a week; we need to get them when we can!

October on the water

It's been super fun having two boats this summer—when we actually got out on the water, at least. In actual fact though, we managed that way fewer times than we might have wanted to. That's mainly because it's more than twice as hard to get the two boats on the car, but also because Harvey's is wet enough that he wasn't excited about taking it on the river for a long paddle. We were thinking about all that this past weekend, and I proposed a river trip for Tuesday to make up for it, in one boat or two: get out in the clear fall air, see the leaves (which are changing faster along the river than anywhere), get some exercise... Only, after some mid day work in the garden we felt so hot and summery that we just had to head to Walden instead.

the boys swimming in the pond with the canoe pulled up on the shore

because what could be better

It wasn't really swimming weather; there were lots of people there, but most of them were sitting on the beach, boating in sweatshirts, or walking around the pond. Plus a fair number of open-water swimmers doing their regular all-weather thing. But no other casual, play-in-the-water folks like us. The rest of the world didn't know what they were missing! Sure, the water was chilly, but the sun was hot and drying so it totally balanced out! The boys swam and practiced martial arts using their life jackets as dummies and tried to ram each other with the canoe, and I alternately lay on the rocks and dipped myself in the beautifully refreshing water. Elijah and I did a little exploring by boat, and he and Zion got out there too. I still want to do the river before the leaves all fall, but I absolutely can't complain about an afternoon at the pond.

Zion and Elijah paddling the canoe out in the pond

perfect afternoon


Grandma's house day

Elijah tells me often lately how Thursday is his favorite day of the week. That's because on Thursday he and his brothers get to spend the day at their grandparents' house. Lately it's just been Grandpa he's been hanging out with, since my mom has been in Virginia for for almost a month visiting her other grandchildren (including one brand new one!), but she came back yesterday so today was extra special for the boys. At my parents' house they get to watch a movie, eat all kinds of snacks we don't have here, and play with my cool old toys. Harvey enjoys the opportunity to earn money doing chores for Grandma; she pays well. Elijah is learning to read with Grandpa's help.

And if one set of grandparents wasn't enough, most Thursdays they get to spend time with two! Leah's mom leads them in a private yoga class most Thursday afternoons, and then they get to hang out and play with her dad. (That's what I get for marrying someone who grew up down the street from me: conveniently located grandparents.) This evening was even better than the usual Thursday because the boys even got to stay at their Bernstein grandparents' house for supper, and they had tacos! Life is good. On Thursdays, at least.

the garden in mid October

As much as I like gardening, and all the delicious food we grow, I also have a fair proportion of relief when the growing season draws to a close. All those plants are so messy from August on! It's nice to clear them out and start thinking about how to do things better next year. That's what we're doing now. We're still getting parsley and arugula and a few beans, and all but two or three of the winter squashes look ripe and ready. Plus the raspberries are having their best fall crop ever—there was even enough to bring a little bowlful inside this evening!—and there are still a few apples on the Northern Spy tree. But everything else has closed up shop. It's strange because it's still so warm, but I'm starting to prep things for winter. The compost pile did amazing this summer, so there should be plenty for adding to the beds; I've just started that. The garlic will go in soon, which I guess means that the 2022 garden season is about to kick off!

the garden on October 15

less tall now

moments from the week

Elijah petting a couple of horses over a fence

entering the world of 4H

Moments from the past week.

the boys in the canoe on Walden Pond

a little color on the shore...

the boys eating cookies by the music tent at the farmers market

a few more weeks of farmers markets..

our car loaded with sporting equipment and bikes

ready for a day of fun

Elijah riding down a newly-built trail, Zion watching

trail work

Elijah and a friend playing on a hillside

just playing


so cold!

On Friday we were digging on a trail at our friends' house and it felt like full summer: sweat was literally dripping down my face as I worked. Then over the weekend the weather took a turn, and now today it didn't crack 60°F all day. And I've got to say, I'm not ready for the cold! That's true for two reasons. There's the usual way, which is that my body hasn't adapted to the sudden change and all day I had trouble shaking a chill. But also that our house still has a couple broken windows and a broken front door, so that any cold outside can come right inside. I was expecting I'd have to do some repairs before winter, but now it looks like winter is just about here! Oops. Elijah tells me he'll help me with the door, though, so that's alright. Maybe we'll get started tomorrow.


I'm not good at jack-o-lanterns. As soon as the pumpkins show up at the farm the boys are are ready to bring one home, but I always want to wait—so much can go wrong with a pumpkin between the beginning of October and the 31st! And never mind carving them before Halloween morning... the squirrels will eat them for sure. Obviously, that's a little too pessimistic and joy-killing! So it's a good thing our boys have other people in their lives who are ready to embrace the fun of pumpkin-carving all through the fall. Often it's grandparents; yesterday it was Mama, taking over the morning of school while I was at my monthly staff meeting at work, who made it happen. She only got little pumpkins, one each for the boys and their friends in our school group, so I'm still on the hook for the "real" jack-o-lanterns next week. But they had a great time carving, and now our porch is starting to look appropriately seasonal. Plus looking at the pumpkins we already have will help me not forget to buy the next batch!

Elijah's little jack-o-lantern on the porch


everybody knows smores now

I remember a few years ago when I made my first perfect smore. It was before the wonderful fireplace we have now by the deck, before we even had built our first fireplace out in the yard: back when we were burning wood in the Coleman kettle grill. Innocent days indeed! Smores weren't so common in our life back then, so when I finally made a good one I was very excited, and took a picture. That's natural, I think. But now well-made smores are to be expected in our yard, since we make them on average of a couple times a month all year round, and we don't take pictures of all of them.

And it's not just us now! One of the few upsides of this pandemic is that lots more people have realized they need to have a place in their yard to have a fire—nice for entertaining outdoors at any time, and essential in the colder months. So naturally they're all upping their marshmallow-roasting game too. Last night we were circled around a charcoal grill with friends, and all the kids turned out satisfactory smores even in those somewhat difficult conditions (there's always flames with charcoal, apparently). I wouldn't have chosen these months of isolation and fear, but if we're dealing with a pandemic at least we get to enjoy lots of chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers to ease the pain.

some things I enjoyed today

A monarch butterfly on the drying laundry.
Drifts of beautiful molted chicken feathers.
Late October raspberries.
Dogs laying in the sun.
Mowing the lawn, but slowly.

the river, quickly

We're doing lots of learning with friends this fall, but we don't have as much time to adventure as I'd like. "School" with friends is Monday, Wednesday morning, and Friday. Wednesday afternoon we have our park day. Thursday is Grandma's house day. Saturday is full of playing with friends, and Sunday the same plus church. So it's pretty much only Tuesday that we can just take off into the wide world. And even then other pressures and commitments call us. So our trip to the river this past Tuesday morning was a short one. But no less delightful for it!

the boys in the canoe on the river in warm clothes

bundled up for the water

It felt wintery as we put the boat in the water. As I buckled my life jacket over layers of sweatshirts I was very aware that I really didn't want to fall in. And once we were on the river every tip of the boat as anyone adjusted their position just about sent us into a panic. For a little while. Then we got used to it, and even started to enjoy the downdrafts and gusts ruffling the water as they sped towards us.

We paddled far enough upstream to see the hill at October Farm Riverfront in the distance and wish we had time to go there, then turned around. On the way back downstream we stopped at what we call Mosquito Island, figuring it would be safer at this time of year. It was, and we had a pleasant time exploring with only imaginary coyotes and mountain lions to run from. The boys found some pottery scraps that we brought home to puzzle together (they were a crock jug), and Harvey spotted a mailbox that we left there.

Harvey posing with a mailbox on a post in the woods

the box wasn't actually attached to that post

When we got back to the boat launch after about an hour the old men fishing were surprised to see us again so soon and asked if we had gotten cold. Nope, I said, that was just all the time we had for the morning. How has life come to this?!


moments from the week

Zion and Elijah standing on a fallen tree on the cold riverside

island exploration

Moments from the past week.

the boys playing with the veggie racing track at the farmers market

which will win, butternut or delicata?

burgers and hot dogs on the grill

of course we did smores too

Zion making a face at the camera as Harvey looks at the pond

smile for the camera

Elijah climbing a railing by the museum train car

love that train


expensive dog food

This evening I took some ground beef out of the fridge, where it had been defrosting since last night, and left it on the counter for that last little bit of thawing in the half-hour before I started cooking. Then I did some other stuff. When I came back I was confused to not see it. Did I accidentally put it back in the freezer? No... Why are the dogs looking at me like that? Why is there torn-up plastic bag on the living room floor? Ohhhh. I see what happened.

It's been quite a while since they've taken anything off the counter or the table. The trash, sure, but that's a gray area: sure it makes a mess, but they know we don't want that stuff any more. But the days of them stealing butter or cookie dough (those things both happened—the butter more than once) I had thought were passed. I suppose grass finished local ground beef was just too much to resist. At $10 a pound that's a pretty expensive supper for the dogs. I hope they appreciated it!

baking with sourdough

Our sourdough bread had been going along fine for quite some time, but lately it hasn't been doing so well. I know that lots of people started baking sourdough in the pandemic, but when we stopped gathering over food with bread-loving friends twice a week I actually slowed down production, and maybe got a little inconsistent in my feeding schedule. Or maybe it's something else. In any case, the last few times I've tried to make bread it's hardly risen at all, and the resulting loafs are only edible when still warm. So as I work to recondition the starter I have lots that I'd be throwing away... so it's a good thing I've now figured out how to make sourdough biscuits!

three sourdough biscuits on a sheet of tinfoil

like this

Basically, they're regular buttermilk biscuits with a cup of unfed starter replacing a cup of flour and the buttermilk. My first attempt was super dry, so I've been experimenting with increasing the butter and adding a little bit of water or buttermilk to wet up the dough. Now they're good. Rolled biscuits are kind of new to me—my traditional go-to recipe inherited from my mother is drop biscuits made with baking powder and milk—but I do have this biscuit cutter so I figure I might as well use it. The different shape also lets the kids know what sort of taste to expect before they bite into a biscuit.

You might think we could also be doing sourdough pancakes and waffles and things like that, but so far my attempts in that direction have been met with failure. Not that the pancakes didn't taste good—in fact, they were delicious! It's just that the kids didn't care for them. And there really aren't many days where I'm making a breakfast just for myself. Maybe I can see if I can tweak the recipe until it's acceptable to them, but I don't know that I have the energy to try; especially since my buttermilk pancakes are basically the best thing ever. And I can't complain, because we've got the biscuits! And maybe someday bread will work again.


a lot of words

If you've ever clicked on a link for an individual post on this blog you'll see that they each have a number. That number is sequential for every entry we've ever written, counting up from the first one. As we moved through the high 3,000s I planned to do something to mark our 4,000th post, but then of course I forgot. So the celebration is a little late, but that's no reason not to say yay for post 4,000! We've sure had a lot to say since January 26, 2004

The link there is for our first post, but don't feel like you have to go read it; the past is another country and all that. What I had to say back then is not as interesting as my current scintillating observations on such topics as the weather and our garden. You know, the kind of posts that have kept you coming back for more over the past 17 or so years!

Now, to be completely accurate post number 4,000 wasn't actually the 4,000th post we published on this site. Deleted posts keep their numbers, so when we hit the button by accident from time to time there are numbers missing in the record of posts. And I seem to recall that there was another technical issue at one point that resulted in ten or twenty numbers being skipped. So we're probably still in the 3,000s in terms of number of actual extant entries. I used to have a thingy that would show me a report for how many posts there are in total and break it down per month and things, but that doesn't work any more—just like the "more posts" link at the bottom of the index page. I made this thing so long ago that when pieces of it break I don't remember how to fix them. Also I don't have that much free time these days. Writing all these words takes a lot of time!


a market pause

This past Tuesday was the last Farmers Market of the season in Lexington. We had mixed feelings about the market this year. With the construction going on in Lexington Center they moved it to a field by the high school, which means that, even though it isn't that much further from our house, it's a noticeably less pleasant bike ride. And all the places the boys used to buy baked treats from didn't show up this year. Sure, we did ride there a few times, and they did buy some very expensive cookies from High Rise Bakery two or three times. But it wasn't the same. On the other hand, the vegetables were still top quality and the meat from River Rock Farm even better (and talking to Lindsey at the River Rock booth about how hard home gardening is was always one of the highlights of my week). And the second half of the season the music tent came back, which really improved the whole experience. I think we made it to two thirds of the market days over the course of the summer, which, while lower than our usual average, is still pretty good. Now we're ready to do something else on Tuesday afternoons, and to be excited come next May when market days start back up again.

the marks of summer

It's wintery cold this morning, but last week had some days where summer was clinging on and on one of them I had a summery experience that I'd so far avoided this year: I got poison ivy.

Some people claim to have no reaction to poison ivy; others are terrified and stay away from any and all leaves to avoid the itchy curse. I definitely have a reaction, but at this point in my life I guess I feel like it's an inevitable part of summer. And while I've definitely had big terrible rashes in my life—as a kid—these days it doesn't hit me so hard. My current exposure dates to last Friday when we were doing trail building. Moving rocks we came upon some yellowing poison ivy leaves, and I donned gloves and a plastic bag over my hands to pull them up. Then I also probably touched the roots when I was scrabbling in the mud around the rocks. I washed my hands well, but didn't get far enough up my arms; maybe Wednesday I came out with the rash on the inside of my forearms.

But as I say it's not so bad. Sometimes it itches, in which case it's pleasant to scratch. Often I forget about it. Given that mild level of severity, I count it as nothing more than a sign of a summer well lived. So it's a good thing I got it in before it was too late! Now bring on the winter!

moments from the week

frost on the grass in the garden

the edge of winter

Moments from the past week.

Harvey looking through a binocular stand from a fire tower near sunset

exploring, fall late afternoon

Elijah looking at lots of splotchy paintings on the kitchen table

work well done

Elijah and Zion playing in a flooded gagaball pit

it rained a lot

kids playing on a pond beach in windy drizzle

no storms can stop park day

my bike in front of a still pond and fall foliage

my evening outing

Elijah standing by the creation he made with peg toys at the library

hard work at the library