These Ozark Hills: "..it’s pert near fall."

Sep 2, 2016

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozark Hills. If you’ve spent any time at all outdoors in the past couple of weeks, even as summer’s heat has been the most reliable measure of where we are in the seasons, I bet you’ve noticed as I have that little scraps and snippets of autumn have been slipping in, testing the waters, as it were, making us stop for a second and whisper under our breaths, Ah. That’ more like it. The mornings are cooler, the air sweeter, and that peculiar shift of the light is beginning to take hold, turning things just a little more golden.

Slowly, a minute or two at a time, the days begin to shorten, morning comes later and dusk a little earlier. Though most days we don’t notice the turning of the seasons, now is when it all becomes visible, that magical, never ending, live performance of how life goes on planet earth. Long before we knew the word chlorophyll, we could count on it that right after the heat and the harvest comes the fading of the green into reds, yellows, maroons, crimson, and every shade of brown and gold - a celebration of summer’s end, always accompanied by a shift in the harvest from fruits, vegetables and flowers to walnuts, fox grapes and persimmons in the wild and winter squash, late tomatoes and sweet peppers from the garden. 

The older and less vigorous I get in tending my garden, the more I delight in its surprises and oddly, the more my accent and the words I use turn toward the speech of my childhood -which was English and yet not. Certainly not 21st century English. Yesterday I found a mess of bright red peppers of my favorite kind - the little conical Bulgarian with the formidable name Chervina Chuchka, which just means big red pepper. Half a dozen were hiding deep in the weeds that always get ahead of me. Doggies, I said when I found them. There was also a late flush of lemon cucumbers, and another of parsley. So today is obviously for making tabouli. That’s a salad made with bulgur wheat.  The salad a friend of mine used to request when inviting me to a potluck, only she said “Could you please bring some of that Vulgar Salad.” I’m gonna make me some directly. And so it goes.

I got busy and forgot our Ozarks peaches, but a nearby market has brought in some dandies from Colorado, so I’ll have another chance for a little mess of peach jam. I always have sufficient garden sass for some good beans and taters and the like, but I don’t can anymore, and winter would get boring without some occasional sweetnin, don’t you think. 

And all that brings me back to these subtle, short lived hints of autumn popping up these past few days. They seem to turn our jaded, digital age thoughts back to the natural world, which even in its stormiest, hottest, most uncertain moments have so much better judgment, stability, reliability, and a far firmer foundation than do we. It’s another reminder, arriving right on time, that whatever storms are in our own lives, we can always turn to that larger timepiece that is life on planet earth, where we can plant a tomato with certitude that it will never come up a bean. Where peppers, honeydews and pumpkins are likely hiding in the grass and sweet potatoes are growing little dabs of sunshine deep in the earth, where every year, just about this time, the world begins to abandon its ubiquitous green and replace it with every color on earth. I always see it as a kind of slow fireworks assuring us that everything, including our own growth, is happening right on time, telling us all will be well. By this we can know, without a doubt, that the cycle continues, and life goes on into a tomorrow of endless possibilities. As the old timers would say, it’s pert near fall, and I just can’t hardly wait. This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozark Hills. Thanks for listening.