We got our last CSA box of the season yesterday. There were lots of roots in it, some huge kohlrabi and a couple of butternut squash. We've still got a dozen carrots in the fridge; I'm adding grated carrot to everything I make these days. We got some popcorn-on-the-cob this week, too. The kernels are a beautiful deep red color, drying on the windowsill. The farmer, Karen, says it should be ready to eat by Thanksgiving.

Here's what we got in a particularly colorful box a few weeks ago. The viney things with pods are edamame:

The farm share isn't cheap, but I think we'll get one again next year. I love having fresh things in the fridge. The cashiers at the grocery store must think I'm very anti-veggie, because all I buy at the store these days is pasta, rice, milk and cheese. Everything else comes out of the box.

We managed to get a winter share, so that will extend the season a bit: it consists of two big pick-ups, one before Thanksgiving and another in mid-December. We'll have to try to find a cool and dark place for a makeshift root cellar. Then it's all foreign veggies for six months or so.

One thing I really liked about the share was learning what grows well in Massachusetts, and when. We got some surprising things, like fall raspberries and a bajillion hot peppers in September. I also got to try a lot of things that I would never have bought myself. I found out that I like spinach, cabbage, and bok choy, and that I don't like radishes, turnips, or rutabagas. Kohlrabi is best when grated, salted, and fried. Winter squash is more fun than summer squash. There is such a thing as too much lettuce. Dill in large quantities is trouble. The smell of basil makes everyone smile. And small garlic cloves are almost more work than they're worth. Almost.



On our way back from the Cape, we spent Columbus Day at Plimoth Plantation. If not for the lack of plumbing and electricity, I think I could happily live in this town. I love the little houses. Stephen and I walked through every single one, comparing favorites like prospective buyers. Some of the houses were divided into two rooms, but most had only one, with an attic overhead for storage. Each had a bed, a table with chairs, and a big hearth. The windows had greased paper screens to keep the wind out. They must have been freezing in the winter.

If we lived here, we'd have a few goats in the yard, and maybe a sheep. We would grow potatoes and chard, but no fennel. (I don't like the licorice taste.) We'd make pumpkin bread and walk along the Eel River on warm afternoons.

I visited Plimoth Plantation with my school in seventh grade, when we took a three-day trip to Boston. I feel kind of bad for the people who were there that day; I'm sure it wasn't fun to share the experience with 200 thirteen-year-olds. I don't remember much about that visit except the view from the top of the hill as we entered the town. I was surprised to find it so unchanged on this trip.

One thing I like about Plimoth is how everything is so carefully made, so necessary but beautiful in its simplicity, from the wool blankets to the handmade pottery. It reminds me of the Shaker aesthetic, which I also love. I saw an article about the Plantation in the November issue of Living a few weeks ago, which is what prompted me to plan this visit in the first place. It was a great time of year to be there. Everything looked like New England, like autumn, like Thanksgiving. I'm a little sad about the weather turning cold, but this made me excited to go home and bake carrot bread. And grateful for modern conveniences like radiators and indoor plumbing.



We went yurt camping last weekend!

The first time I stayed in a yurt, or even saw a yurt or heard the word, was almost seven years ago, in my first year of college. I was in the Outdoor Association--I think that's what it was called at the time; it had several names over the years--and we went winter camping in a yurt in the Adirondacks. Our leader explained that it wasn't really winter camping, because we had a permanent shelter and a woodstove and got to lock our stuff up in the yurt during the day. I did "real" winter camping later and found out that he was right.

There weren't any bunks in the yurt on that trip, so we all slept on the floor--eight or nine of us. It got bitterly cold at night, and we took turns waking up to stoke the fire. I woke everyone up at 2am with my loud newspaper rustling as I tried to bring the embers back to life one night. Even with the fire, my face would get cold as I slept, so I would curl into a ball at the foot of my mummy bag, trying to seal up the head hole. You're not supposed to breathe into your sleeping bag, but I can't abide a cold nose.

The yurt we stayed in last weekend is in Shawme-Cromwell State Forest on Cape Cod, and you can rent it for just $40 a night. It seemed a little silly because there were 6 bunks in there, and just two of us, but I really liked it. No bugs and lots of fresh air. They even had track lighting and a little space heater inside! The things we packed were a weird mix of road trip and camping paraphernalia and housewares: a map, pillows, toothbrushes, headlamps, Smartwool socks, a table lamp, some French bread and a block of dill havarti.

The Cape was pretty quiet compared to the summer months; this was the last vacation weekend for the season. We got ice cream from The Smuggler on the day before it closed for the winter. We had dinner in Chatham one night, and in Sandwich another. There were crowds here and there, but what struck me was that almost everyone we saw was over 65. Everywhere we went, there were gangs and gangs of seniors. I don't know if that's what the Cape looks like when the tourists leave, or if they were tourists, but there were a lot of them.

We spent most of the time at the beach. It was far too cold to swim, but we sat near the water and read and talked. The beach in Dennis was incredibly shallow, and the strip of exposed sand widened spectacularly over the course of an hour as the tide went out. The sky was cloudless, and the sun was so bright that it was almost oppressive. There were other people on the beach, but as they followed the tide out, they became mere specks on the horizon. It felt quiet and bright and still, like a surrealist painting.

We visited a beach in Sandwich on Saturday night just as the sun was setting. This one was full of people starting bonfires and listening to music. The waves were quiet, and the moon was brilliant, almost as bright as the setting sun. We could see bats flying around, eating up the last of the mosquitoes, I guess. We went back to the yurt and roasted marshmallows over a campfire. It was chilly out, and I put on thick warm socks to keep warm.

Fall was in the air.


The Chemex in Action

I'm sick, so we called off our planned camping trip this weekend and Stephen made breakfast: Rice Krispies with milk, and coffee in the new Chemex. This is our first coffeemaker, so I'm dreaming up all the things we can make now: coffee ice cream, coffee popsicles, cafe au lait...

Of course, it's too cold for popsicle-making these days. I cooked up some applesauce this afternoon. The Jonamacs we had were pretty tart, so I added maple syrup along with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Mark Bittman recommended adding salt, too, so I did that and it enhanced the flavors nicely. My mom used to make applesauce in the fall when the house was chilly, so it (like so many things) makes me thing of her.

I finished my September book last night, just three days late. I ended up sticking with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and it was different than I expected. I really didn't know what to expect; I'd never heard of it before I found it on a bookshelf at my parents' house, an ancient hardcover without a dust jacket. The spine crumbled every time I opened it. Most of the books I read these days are contemporary non-fiction, so this was a nice change. I came to really like Francie and spent a while thinking about what her life would be like after the book ended. I always find it so jarring to finish a book, and since the establishment of the Book Club of One, they seem as short-lived as mayflies*. I used to read just a few each year.

* "The lifespan of an adult mayfly can vary from just 30 minutes to one day depending on the species." - The Bastion of All Credible Knowledge (c) Adam M.