Autumn begins for me on the first morning I wake to find golden leaves scattered about the sidewalks and into the streets. I’m filled with a vibrancy that carries me throughout those fleeting days and into the changing season. October’s clock counts down moments until the first frost and I enjoy these final crisp days outdoors composting the remnants of our garden fare, detaching the hose and cleaning out pots, mulching our raised beds, and preparing the chicken coop for winter.
It feels like we’re living on borrowed time in these days and I hurriedly tuck seeds in the ground for plants we’ll grow in a cold frame until spring. We squeeze in final bike rides through the neighborhood and weekend trips for ice cream. The teakettle is never far from the burner.
During this time of the year, I turn indoors and welcome the return of chilly weather traditions I’ve valued since I was a little girl. Large rugs are rolled out across hardwood floors while my grandmother’s quilts sprawl across each couch and chair for easy access to warmth. My oven becomes a constant companion as I dry my final batch of lavender and basil, oregano and mint, and dog-ear every pumpkin recipe I come across. Just when the last of this year’s tomatoes line our shelves as sauce and juice, I take stock of my dwindling canning supplies, breathe a deep breath of gratitude, and open our kitchen to bushels of apples.
Stepping into an orchard, strolling through the rows of fruit trees, and sampling bites from Granny Smiths to Red Delicious ends in laughter; I always pack the baskets heavier than I can carry. Gathering apples has come to be my most anticipated fall activity especially when followed by a roaring bonfire, good friends sitting together on freshly split logs, and plenty of hard cider to share. Back home, I simmer our bounty with cinnamon and brown sugar for a sweet dessert and cook the rest down for applesauce.
We visit a friend’s farm in central Illinois to gather our apples each year, but the Chicago area boasts plenty of U-Pick farms open to the public and you can find one close to you at www.pickyourown.org. Once you’ve gathered your basket of apples, you could even try your hand at cider pressing or making your own vinegar. After all the applesauce has been preserved and the pies have been baked, grab one of your last few apples for a quick craft. Perfect for your Thanksgiving table or a simple gift, creating a hand-stamped table runner will keep your home feeling like autumn long after the snow begins to fall.
Apple stamping doesn’t need to be limited to fabric — engage kids in additional quick crafts such as stamping cards and cloth tote bags.