ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger



Fall harvest

Catching up on last week’s fun…

My uncle is a plant pathologist in Virginia, working with the apple industry. Through his generosity, the rest of the family gets apples. We spent last Wednesday making apple sauce with my parents.

The jars and apples stand ready:

Blessed coffee?However, there shall be no saucing until we’re all awake! The official coffee of this year’s apple sauce party is brought to you by the monks at Saint Vincent Abbey. (“The Saint Lazarus Blend: bold enough to wake the dead!”)

Once the caffeine was coursing through our veins (ok – my veins; no one else was feeding an addiction), we set to work on the apples. We had a mix of Stayman, Idared, Suncrisp, and Golden Delicious, which resulted in sauce that was just slightly tart, slightly pink, and very delicious.

Suncrisp, Idared, Stayman (L to R)

Apples were washed, cut, and cooked until soft:

Then comes everyone’s favorite part: cranking the apples through the food mill!

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We filled quart jars and put them through the canning bath:

FillingCanningBy midday, things were moving right along…

In the end, we actually cranked out 62 quarts, which should keep us enjoying apples for the next year!

Apple sauce!Many thanks to my uncle for the apples, and to my parents for a wonderful party!

Work and prayer

I needed to weed Laurelville’s labyrinth this week. It had suffered neglect.

Weedy labyrinth

It’s beautiful on the hill right now…

Fall colors
Fall colors
Grackles in flight
Grackles in flight

Is weeding work if you’re praying? Is it prayer if you’re working?


This week in the forest… Fall Equinox 2013

My wife and father recently showed me an interesting plant growing around the Laurelville grounds…

Beech dropsBeech dropsActually, it’s a parasitic plant called ‘beech drops‘. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a thing before. It grows on the roots of beech trees (the scientific name Epifagus means ‘upon beech’), and since it lacks chlorophyll, it steals nutrition from the tree. However, beech drops are annual plants – dying each year – so they don’t threaten the health of the tree. On some of the plants, there are very tiny, easy-to-miss pink flowers.

Speaking of beech trees, they are leading the way into fall. The large, iconic tree in the center of camp has begun to change colors. The timing is roughly in line with last year’s change.


This week in the forest… 28 October 2012

A week ago, I was pleased to show my father how to identify witch hazel. But I had to respond with raised eyebrows when he said he was looking for blossoms. With a mixture of skepticism and curiosity, I wondered to myself why anything would bloom this late in the year. We didn’t find any flowers, however, and the conversation passed from my mind…

…until today, when I saw wisps of yellow in the woods around our house.

Bits of yellow in a gray wood
The witch hazel blossoms are the delicate pale yellow flowers in the foreground.

Upon closer inspection, here is what I found…

A branch of witch hazelAn individual blossomWhat a surprise! For the most part, these trees have lost their leaves, but the blossoms are in full swing.

After I finished snapping my pictures, the question returned: Why would anything be blooming now? Evidently, witch hazel has no competition from other plants for pollinating insects at this time of year. On the flip side, there are relatively few pollinators. It’s a bit of a high risk/high reward strategy.

So that’s what is happening now in the forest, but I anticipate we’ll have some more news soon…

Fallen leaf
Fallen leaf

This week in and out of the forest… 2 October 2012

Nearly a month ago, I described how the tulip poplars had started dropping their leaves. Then something interesting happened…

It started raining.

And the tulip poplars decided to keep their leaves for a while longer.

In the meantime, the beeches took the lead in color changing…

American beechThis beech is prominent on the Laurelville grounds.

These are its leaves. They’re hard to rake. (I have firsthand experience.)

In addition to the beeches, some other trees are taking on their fall foliage…

(sugar maple, white oak, shagbark hickory, sassafras, red oak, sycamore)

On the whole, however, it is clearly “beech season”…

Laurelville foliage, 2 Oct 2012(The yellows are all beeches. The little bit of orange at the right is from that sugar maple.)

This concludes the report from “in the forest”.

And now, from “out of the forest”…


Yes, it’s true. It seems our house has been overrun by stinkbugs. And they do this weird flight thing under our ceiling fan: when it’s turning, they will fly laps around it. Last night, Middle Daughter counted as a bug went around seventeen times nonstop (in the same direction as the fan).

And they’re not just in our house. They seem to be in every building. On Sunday in church, Ordinary Spouse said, “What’s that smell?” Well, according to Wikipedia, a stinkbug has a…

…tendency to eject a foul-smelling glandular substance secreted from pores in the thorax when disturbed; in some species the liquid contains cyanide compounds with a rancid almond scent.

Now you know.

And here is one more important tidbit from the Wikipedia article:

In some areas of Western Pennsylvania, particularly Oakland (Pittsburgh), stink bugs are referred to as “Freds”.

And so, as we continue to make ourselves at home here in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, we will hereafter be on a first name basis with stinkbugs.

On a cool, gray September evening…

Outside, the rain is falling and Jacob’s Creek is making itself known. Seemed like a good evening to try out the fireplace in High Alps for the first time.

High Alps fireplace

The season’s first pumpkin pie

Oldest Daughter made a pumpkin pie for us today – the season’s first. It’s half gone…

Pumpkin pie(I’m noticing a blog pie theme.)

Countdown to Cambodia… 4 days

It may be hot and sunny in Phnom Penh, but winter is approaching in Illinois. The leaves are falling off the trees, and if I want the city to pick them up for me, I need to have them out on the curb Monday morning. There won’t be any yard waste pickup when we get home from Cambodia in December.

So I spent the day raking and mowing and bagging…

And our friendly junco came to watch…


Tonight I need to go take care of some shopping, and then it will be time to get packing. It won’t be long now!

A seasonal poll

It’s been a while since the last poll, so it’s time for a new one. This one is easy, but if the answers don’t apply to your current locale, feel free to add your own.

P.S. If you’re so inclined, leave some comments explaining your choice!

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