Photograph © Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts
From Alyss in Portland, Oregon:
Summer is here!! The Solstice was only a few weeks ago so it is still light late and the warm, dry weather has come into full swing. I’ve been enjoying long evenings with friends on decks and patios all over town since it’s hardly dark at 9pm. The gardens are overflowing with greens still and fruiting trees and vegetables are starting to share their bounty as well. I’ve had three people give me cherries this week because trees are so overloaded! The tomatoes are starting to show green fruit and so are the apple trees.
I started a traditional summer infused alcohol last week called Vin de Noix. It is eau de vie and wine infused with green walnuts, cloves, vanilla and sugar. It is said that it is best made between Saint Jean’s feast day on June 24 and Bastille Day on July 14. I started mine on July 4th, an American high summer tradition. It smells fantastic (anything with cloves, vanilla and sugar will) but needs at least 40 days to fully infuse. By Lammas I will taste it and see how it is doing. I hear it might be a bit bitter from the walnuts, but that will eventually fade into a smooth, thick after dinner sipping alcohol.
Summer is a frantic time too. My friends complain that their weekends are booking up and that there just isn’t enough time to do everything we want to do during this glorious but brief warm, light, dry season. I get to feeling it too. So much to pick, to preserve, to cook, to eat, to see, to do. Last fall I remember feeling such kinship with the trees losing their leaves. That is time for letting go and focusing inward. This time of year though I like to give into the frantic energy. Yes, let’s go out! Yes, let’s go harvesting! Yes, let’s can, let’s play, let’s live while the sun shines and the days are long. There will be time for rest when the year is dark again.
Alyss lives in Portland Oregon and blogs at The Wheel and the Disk.
From Lu in Florida:
(Photo by Lu Merritt)
Hope in Our Hot Season/Moving Toward Fall in Florida
Harvest time comes early here in subtropical paradise, North Central Florida almost to the Georgia state line. Our seasonal shifts are more subtle here than in other parts of the country, but if you know what to look for, there are definite markers.
By mid-July, our local crops—corn, cantaloupe, watermelon—have peaked and been picked. The only things still ripening in the garden are late tomatoes, so thankfully it’s still possible to have one of summer’s perfect joys, a fresh tomato sandwich: Slather mayonnaise on two pieces of your favorite bread, cut slices of a freshly-picked tomato to your preferred thickness, lay the slices on the bread, and season with salt and pepper. Heaven.
Perhaps the most obvious marker of the season’s shift is a change in the quality of light. At the summer solstice, the light has a fierce, bright, almost blinding quality, like a giant searchlight that casts no shadows. Around the first of August, there is a change—the light begins to get noticeably softer, and while the days are still long, the afternoon shadows take on a smokier glow.
Right about now, too, the farmers begin to mow their hay fields, and we begin to see haystacks—or really, big rolls of hay—scattered throughout some of the neighboring fields. “Hay!” we call, and point out the fields to each other as we pass them, happy and excited to be the first to spot this particular universal sign of fall.
The night-blooming jasmine, which grows dormant and gets cut back in the winter, has been growing since springtime and now begins to put out flowers whose fragance will soon become noticeable. The beautyberry bushes, which flowered back in May, start to form little green berries that will turn a beautiful shade of purple a bit later in the season.
Grass and trees, all so verdant green this summer because we have had a lot of rain, begin to take on a yellowish tinge that is a definite harbinger of fall. We begin, eventually, to notice that a few leaves are starting to fall from some of our trees.
Newspapers are filled with flyers advertising back-to-school sales. The local newspaper’s sports section steps up its coverage of the area’s football teams; diehard football fans start counting the days ’til the first big game. And we all begin to keep wary eyes on weather reports about tropical systems and possible hurricanes; it doesn’t do to go into August and September without extra stocks of peanut butter, other canned goods, and water—just in case.
Fall isn’t here yet, by any means, but we definitely have some pointers to let us know it’s on the way—giving us hope for cooler weather in the middle of our hottest season.
Lu Merritt lives in northern Florida and blogs at A Word Witch.