Free range

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Lucy the Rhode Island red, free ranging where lawn meets woods.

My hens are still laying, though not quite as many eggs, and still surviving their daytime roaming.

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Marianne the barred rock, “thinking.”

We have had a frost four or five times now. The cold is here.

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Marilyn the majestic, a buff Orpington.

She is both the natural leader and the most lap-friendly chicken.

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Lucy in the woods.

(Ella the Easter egger and Grace the buff Orp were not in the mood for posing for portraits that morning.)

Is there a month in New Hampshire with more dramatic change in temperature and landscape than October? I can see through the upper canopy of our back woods all the way to the late sunrise now. I wore my winter coat for chicken chores Tuesday morning for the first time. I had to break the ice on the waterer. I added straw to the chicken run. The chickens are hungrier and so are we.

Roast chicken Monday, roast pork Wednesday (with beer for him and Côtes du Rhône for me). And On Tuesday for dinner, John made the most (fattening) decadent comfort food ever: Skillet Macaroni and Cheese with Kielbasa and Mustard, from Cooks Illustrated. By the fourth or fifth bite you feel both “I am so full!” and “I want more!”

It’s Halloween. Daughter Anna who lives at home now and works in Portsmouth has been sewing her own costume to go walk in the annual Portsmouth Halloween Parade. Red Sox won the World Series in Boston last night – I will have to ask daughter Laura for a full report on the street scene after the first home win since 1918.

Trick or treat last night with no trick-or-treaters as usual on our lonesome dark road. So we three residents ate a lot of mini-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Hershey’s Miniatures.

Grape leaves are falling

grapevines

Grapevines in a slow dance toward winter.

Morning after the first hard frost I found the leaves crisped and yellow and with a papery rustle falling fast. I left the soon-to-be-weekend-busy tasting room for a five minutes and wandered the vineyard with trusty camera and beauty-seeking eye.

vineyard

Jewell Towne Vineyards is planted on five acres in South Hampton, N.H., with the Powow River flowing just beyond the trees.

All grapes are harvested now except these few clusters of a varietal called marechal foch that never matured properly. The birds and raccoons, deer and skunks, and last of the yellow jackets will have these grapes instead.

three old grapes

Vine was trained to the trellis in spring. Now the harvest is past and winter is coming.

In spring, we will prune what winter has not already pruned, and choose the one-year-old stems to train along the wire of the trellis. All of next summer’s fruit will grow from them.

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Clinging vines.

I am holding on to the sunny days too, getting out in the sun when I can. It has been a dry and mild fall, so far. But we are starting to wonder and speculate on what winter will bring.

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Dark forms of the trunks emerge in a haze of falling gold. The grass is still emerald green.

The colors and forms remind me just a little of this painting…

arles vineyards Van Gogh

The Red Vineyard Near Arles, Van Gogh, 1888.

Last night before bed I watched videos and read about French and Spanish grapes and wines. Check out the Three-Minute Wine School.

I want to try some wines from the Rhone region (like in this painting). Nice website to explore and learn and be inspired: rhone-wines.com. Also, Wine Folly: There’s no place like Rhone.

frontenac jewell towne

A few clusters of frontenac grapes left on the vine.

A vineyard is one of the most beautiful forms of agriculture, I once heard my boss say. I do not disagree!

And wine (in moderation)…

 It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it abandoneth melancholie, it relisheth the heart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickenth the spirits, it keepeth and preserveth the head from whirling, the eyes from dazzling, the tongue from lisping, the mouth from snaffling, the teeth from chattering and the throat from rattling; it keepeth the stomach from wambling, the heart from swelling, the hands from shivering, the sinews from shrinking, the veins from crumbling, the bones from aching, and the marrow from soaking. – from a 16th century manuscript

This morning I was thinking what dinner dishes might pair with a fresh, young (inexpensive) food friendly wine from Côtes du Rhône, blended from syrah, grenache and maybe mourvedre grapes.

“Have you ever wanted to make a cassoulet?” I asked my husband, who was just waking up after getting home from flying the New York-Paris trip. He usually loves to cook and to try new recipes – but apparently the coffee had not yet overcome the jet lag. I have to admit, I laughed when he answered…

“Cassoulet? It’s just f*cking beans.”

Ha! And wine, after all, is just grapes.

the permutations of burning.

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You’ll be driving along depressed when suddenly
a cloud will move and the sun will muscle through

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and ignite the hills. It may not last. Probably
won’t last. But for a moment the whole world

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comes to. Wakes up. Proves it lives. It lives—
red, yellow, orange, brown, russet, ocher, vermilion,

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gold. Flame and rust. Flame and rust, the permutations
of burning. You’re on fire. Your eyes are on fire.

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It won’t last, you don’t want it to last. You
can’t stand any more. But you don’t want it to stop.

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It’s what you’ve come for. It’s what you’ll
come back for. It won’t stay with you, but you’ll

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remember that it felt like nothing else you’ve felt or something you’ve felt
that also didn’t last.

– from Leaves, by Lloyd Schwartz

October morning mild

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O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.

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The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.

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Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;

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Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.
– Robert Frost, October

Flickr photo set: October 14, 2013

Falling stars

asters

Fading asters, from a walk around the pond at 7:40 a.m.

October is a fire that will burn (too soon!) to the ashes of November.

cattails

Cattails (bulrushes, punks), where the field ends and the red maple swamp begins.

The sun’s angle is lower and our shadows grow longer. But pictures are prettier.

rudbeckia

The sun loves me, he loves me not. Today will be sunny; yesterday was gray and misty with light rain. Both days I am mostly indoors pouring wine, red or white or rosé, in the tasting room at the vineyard.

Rudbeckia, or black-eyed susans, coneflowers named by Carolus Linnaeus in honor of one of his professors at Uppsala University, Olof Rudbeck. Also a member of the family Asteraceae.

The name “Asteraceae” comes from Aster, the most prominent genus in the family, that derives from the Greek ἀστήρ meaning star, and is connected with its inflorescence star form.

Obituary for Death

Death has died.

He was with us for years: we forget how many. He was black as pitch with a dazzle of iridescent blue. He lived on the mantel shelf above the fireplace. Wherever you stood to look at him, he would meet your gaze, advancing to the edge of the glass to hover, swirling his black fins like wings.

A goldfish named Ping lived in the glass bowl first. After he died, I went to Wal-Mart to buy another but they were all too bubble-eyed, fat and lumpy. Instead I bought a Betta, a proud, elegant Siamese fighting fish. I admired his subtle sheen but my daughters thought he was too gloomy to be decorative on the shelf.

“Mom, instead of a pretty goldfish you got that? He’s kind of creepy.”

“Your inner Goth is showing. You should name him Death.”

For about a year, I have been wondering when this fish would die. His lifespan was beginning to seem unusual for a bowl-kept fish. But now, Death rests dead-still on the blue glass beads at the bottom of his bowl. As soon as I finish writing this, I will go deal with him.

I fed him daily and cleaned his bowl when it got dirty or the cat had sipped his water down too far, but I never had much feeling for him. I expect he returned the sentiment. I liked him more because he reminded me of a poem.

In my mind, his full name was always Death-Be-Not-Proud. My youngest daughter (who is now 20) memorized the John Donne poem for a high school poetry contest, shortly before I bought the Betta.

I remember, I sat in the dark in the audience. My daughter, stage-spotlit, was youthfully radiant and she began her recitation of the poem with an even calm that surprised me with its wise authority just as the poem surprises me still with the power of its message. It is a moment I will remember for as long as I can, which that night, as I listened, and now as I reread the sonnet, I feel is forever.

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)
by John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.