Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Under the Harvest Moon Soup.

The fall of our hearts

And the light faints.

But the colors

Still stain our eyes.

DSCN0909I wrote that poetic bit to mark the end of summer and to welcome in autumn. As far back as my memory will allow this time of year has always made me sad. With a tendency towards melancholy at the best of times, Labor Day weekend is like a freighter that transports me from the light and easy to the dark and serious. For those first few lingering days afterwards, until my eyes adjust to the changing light, when the large blue skies abbreviate and foretell. The feeling of loss that another glorious summer has come and gone, the lazy hazy days are over. It’s back to school. Or business. Life, without beach sand between my toes. I miss it. Pine for it. Beckon it back. Beg it to stay just another month or two. But that’s not the way of summer, North of the 49.

Goodbye to the pastel evening skies. Oh, but hello to early morning light that shimmers and casts rusty hues on the arcing limbs of the Garry Oak trees.

Back into the kitchen, overlooking my reluctant rocky garden, I prepare earthy vegetables for Under The Harvest Moon Soup featuring our volunteer summer squash.

DSCN0892The ingredients.

It’s a simple recipe that involves cleaning out the crisper and roasting what you’ve got along with at least two squash, any kind. Our little miracles are a-corns. My crisper crop usually includes cauliflower, red and orange peppers, carrots, tomatoes, onions, celery, and garlic. Whatever you’ve got that goes with squash will work beautifully.

The method.

Lay these all out in a large baking dish. I use the spectacular Portmeirion baking dish that E gave me for Christmas a few years ago. It’s big and beautiful and roasts veggies to perfection.

Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and spices. For me, curry and turmeric are the perfect spices for squash soup so that’s what I sprinkle lavishly over the veggies. A little s ‘n p.

DSCN0895Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Pop in the oven at 350 degrees for at least an hour, or until the veggies are tender and getting that roasted look.

In no time at all, your kitchen will be infused with a sweet fragrant aroma, like none other. Take a moment to breathe it in. This will make you happy. You will smile.

While enjoying this culinary bliss, remove your magnificent morsels from the oven and set aside to cool. When cooled, blend with a vegetable broth or stock. I just use the Tetra Pak type you buy at the grocery store. But if you’re into making your own, that’s cool. Truth is, water works too since this is already a nutritious and delicious brew. You just need enough liquid to blend the veggies until they are pureed, smooth and creamy. Dump this into a large pot and add more seasoning if you like. I add more curry because I can never get enough. Because the veggies are already cooked, this baby is almost good to go.

DSCN0930Cover and simmer on low heat to slowly warm up the silky smooth veggies. Let them mingle with the sexy spices for a while. Once the soup is nice and hot, I add a tablespoon of butter. You don’t have to do this, of course. I just think butter makes everything better. Except for your butt. But that’s a whole other blog post.

The accompaniment.

Our family likes something starchy with our soup. Like homemade biscuits. Or any kind of crusty Italian bread. E likes Saltines. Enough said.

DSCN0935

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Garden of Little Big Things.

DSCN0818I’m big on the little things. The small, unexpected delights that make you smile. Or grin like a fool in love. Stand on your head and spit nickels. The unplanned moments and spontaneous incidences, with their elegant perfect brevity, that takes you by surprise. Then there are all those transitory things that are so easily overlooked or often passed by completely. Those are quite simply, the best. When you raise your head and say, ‘thank God I saw that.’

I also believe in everyday miracles. The tiny wonders that make you grateful.

This summer I was fortunate enough to bear witness to the innate generosity and enduring tenacity of the earth, quite literally beneath my feet. It began with a compost box in our backyard. Actually it began before that. With delicious winter meals of roasted squash and crispy green salads populated with grape and cherry tomatoes.

DSCN0834Little back story. Our house is built on a rock. A massive boulder that ascends heavenward less than ten feet from the back door. Steps have been cut and built into the rock so that you can climb it with ease. At the top it levels off into this lumpy grassy knoll in spring that is parched and stripped of color in summer and then mushy from the relentless rains of fall and winter. Always a farm boy at heart, E refers to this as his Back 40, but unlike his Annapolis Valley roots, where food crops grew in abundance, this little piece of paradise is canopied by Garry Oak Trees and shadowed by the Douglas Firs that tower like looming sentinels in the park that butts up against our property. We soon discovered, our first summer living here, that growing things to eat would be a challenge at best. And far too often, downright heartbreaking.

Like the early settlers and pioneers of the New World, E and I persevered. We were inspired by a deep yearning to sow good seeds, tend to them with loving kindness, watch them flourish and burgeon so that by summer’s end we could enjoy the harvest season, nature’s bounty, the abundance of Autumn. Surely this is what Mother Earth intended, even for gardens grown in difficult settings.

DSCN0971E persevered. I gave up.

Through tenacious experimentation with planting various and sundry seedlings, grew understanding, wisdom and respect for what we had in our Back 40. First and foremost, we accepted that it was different from any other garden we had ever grown. It did its own thing, for the most part. It was a maverick. In many ways, it was a mirror to our own natures.

Eventually E figured out what grew. And what didn’t. Blueberries for example, love the rocky ridged beds that E built and filled with enough earth for them to take hold and produce an abundance of juicy berries. We have over a dozen bushes now of different varieties, including pink blueberries. Who knew? On the very top of the rock, where the trees don’t block the sun, big bouquets of petunias grow beautifully in cobalt blue and burgundy glazed earthenware pots. And a variety of tall elegant grasses do well on the sunny slopes that flank the steps. In the long narrow bed that clings to the side of the rock, just outside our kitchen window, a grouping of succulents with tiny pink flowers that bloom in autumn have taken occupancy. I am a blessed woman.

One of the things we have grown to appreciate the most about this wild horse of a garden are all the things that grow naturally, without any help from us. For the rock knows what it needs and what it wants. Like all the wild flowers that grow in the tiny pockets in the rock. Purple things, little mysterious gems that pop up everywhere all year round. I don’t know their fancy Latin names. I just call them beautiful. Then there are the daisies with their sunny smiles that hang out on the side of the fishpond with the orange spiky lilies, red hots, the scraggly fuchsia bushes and overgrown grape vine. And of course, there are the clingers and hangers-on. The pale green lichens, the mossy carpet bits and the small-scale succulents.

DSCN0735The birds love it here too. Plus, they also do their share of planting. Without them, we wouldn’t have the pink and yellow funny-faced snapdragons.

But of all these miraculous things, the most wondrous of all, are what E calls “the volunteers”, a phenomenon of sowing and reaping that occurred for the first time this summer. One that took us by surprise, and delighted us, beyond measure. And to think, it all started last winter with roasted squash and tomato salads. And that black compost box.

In the spring E filled all the rocky beds with the rich mulch that he had been collecting all winter. And from that, six mystery squash plants and three tomato plants took hold. Sprouted and grew effortlessly. Miracle plants. Gracious gifts from God and Mother Earth.

We’ve spent the summer watching them do their own thing. Just doing what comes naturally, I suppose. Add a little sunshine and water to E’s well-mulched earth. And voila! Hallelujah! A miracle.

And we slow dance under the harvest moon.