Early fall

Fall has come early this year. The not so warm days of mid August, and the sharp drop in temperature at night, coupled with ample summertime rain has brought the mushrooms up in my lawn about two weeks earlier than they usually appear.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, although it would be nice if we had a little more sun. I’ve been busy lately splitting up any and all perennials that I can get my hands on. Contrary to many’s belief and actions, fall is the best time to plant, or replant, your perennial beds.

Most automatically think of spring flowering fall bulbs, but few think of the spring flowering perennials, but I have just split up and potted about 40 iris, just short of 100 violets, both blue and white, and slightly over 100 assorted hosta. Included also are about a dozen or more astilbe, and a like number of hardy geraniums. All those have been begged, borrowed, or bartered for in exchange, with neighbours and friends. And quite a number of which will end up at my son’s family farm up at Markdale where we are doing some extensive landscaping. It’s a fun project for me.

Last week when I was re-typing several 1994 written articles for the third  book of The Best of Bits and Pieces I came across the one within which was my Little Lady’s receipt for making rhubarb pickle. That spurred me into going out and taking a second look at our cosy little two clump Russian immigrant. Wow. The rainy weather sure must have agreed with it. I had stripped it completely earlier in the spring, as no spring is complete around our house until we’ve pigged out, at least once, on a good big feed of freshly cooked rhubarb.

A half hour later a composter was filled with rhubarb leaves and two great big pots simmered on the stove waiting for me to add a handful or two of well chopped onions, some vinegar and a little satchel of all spice.

Later that same week our kitchen once again smelt quite nice. Only this time it smelt like cinnamon. This all came about when a large bag of neighbour-grown apples arrived at my door. I just wash ‘em, core ‘em, dice ‘em, add a liberal sprinkle of cinnamon, let them simmer for close to the hour, then I give ‘em a good stir with one of those hand operated egg beating thing-a-ma-jigs, add a little maple syrup to sweeten, bag ’em, and freeze ’em. A better tasting apple sauce, or pie filling, cannot be found anywhere.

But there are times when my kitchen does not always smell nice, at least not to all people. And I’m talking about this last Monday and Tuesday morning. It wasn’t burnt toast, if that’s what you’re thinking. No not at all; it smells more pungent than that; but the source of this odour is a gourmet’s delight. And I pigged out on it two mornings in a row. I’m talking about puffballs, sliced thick and fried till toast-brown in butter. It’s taste is suburb but the cooking odour not so nice, and it will hang around most of the morning.

Puffballs are very easy for me to find. Over the last ten years I have not had to leave my own yard. I find them, each year, mostly growing in recycled grocery bags. I’ve found them in our carport. I’ve found them hanging on our front door handle. I’ve found them sitting on our deck. I’ve found them between our back doors.

And this last week, early for the season I found a real nice one, snowy white, about 10 inches in diameter, hanging from the hand of a down-the-street neighbour. The story goes that they were out walking their dog in a nearby woods, and knowing that I liked puffballs they brought it to my door. So I once again pigged out two mornings in a row. The rest I pealed, carefully sliced, and tucked into the freezer.

When I asked how she knew that I had a fondness for puffballs, she simply replied: “I read it in one of your books.” So there you are folks; you too can pick up my books. This coming weekend I’ll be at the Arthur Fall Fair, next week I’ll be at the Fergus Fall fair. See you all, at one, or the other, or both.

Take care, ’cause we care.



Barrie Hopkins