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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 10/12/2013

Leaves announce change of seasons

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
BLADE COLUMNIST
Mary Alice Powell. Mary Alice Powell.
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The glorious maple tree on the north side of the house is showing tinges of orange and yellow.

Ordinarily the pleated shade in the window adjacent to the tree is kept closed. But in early May and at this season every year, each morning when I make the bed I push the shade as high as it will extend. Then I take a minute or so to inspect and admire my favorite maple that has grown and flourished into a real beauty since I moved here.

In May, if Mother Nature’s clock is on time, I can see sprouts on the limbs that magically will become leaves when I am not watching. And, in early October, sure enough it’s time to track the same leaves that were the welcoming green in spring but now are transitioning to autumn colors and soon will be falling to the ground.

Each time I have considered building an addition to the house on the north side, the maple tree has been a deterrent. Building plans for a 15-foot wide library measured to the tree trunk. I decided to save the maple and go without the added house space.

Anyone who doubts the majesty and gifts of trees may want to read The Woodcutter and the Most Beautiful Tree, a children’s book written and illustrated by Robb N. Johnston of Rockford, Mich. It’s the story of a woodcutter determined to cut down the Most Beautiful Tree, but on each visit the tree gives him reason why it should be spared — for its flowers in spring, the shade it gives in summer, and the nuts it produces in the fall. On the last visit in winter when the tree is cold and barren it becomes magically decorated with colorful garlands and ornaments and both tree and woodcutter have a Merry Christmas.

The trees are the largest and most magnificent fall color display, but there are several other ways that we embrace the season.

Today I am looking forward to my first Apple Butter Festival in Grand Rapids, Ohio, and an invitation to take a turn stirring the big cauldron of locally grown apples and spices.

Sixty thousand people are expected and the traffic, parking, and vendor participation are expected to run smoothly thanks to a large committee that has 37 years of experience. I will obey the warning to stay put in my Grand Rapids house, the festival grounds, and the village stores. To those pleasant limitations, I will add a relaxed lunch with a glass of spiced wine on LaRoe’s Restaurant patio overlooking the river.

It’s amazing how our taste buds gear up for pumpkin pie when the calendar page turns to October. You have to wonder if it would taste as good for Easter dinner. When I was The Blade food editor, I experimented using fresh pumpkin for pies and other baked goods to pay homage to the Pilgrims and at the same time lower the food budget. When pumpkins are plentiful it is cheaper to use fresh ones than the canned product. The steps to prepare a whole pumpkin down to a workable puree are messy and time consuming.

Not all fall traditions are welcome, and that includes the bugs that want to get into the house before the first cold snap. Grandma Perkins, my farm grandmother, always hung sticky tapes near the doorways this time of year to lure the flies and any other insect that got too close. When I bought a package the clerk said they are used mostly in horse barns, but I hung one at each of the two entrances to the kitchen in hopes of trapping the wasps that get in the basement and then check out the upstairs.

Wasp stings are mean and can be painful for several days. One Benadryl a day and Epsom Salt soaks are recommended.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com



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