Friday, October 2, 2015

Winter Is Coming...Look Busy

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We've had a lovely, lingering September here in the Northeast, but it's over now, and autumn has definitely arrived. Nighttime temperature in southern Maine are dipping into the low forties and upper thirties, and you definitely want to wear a jacket morning and evening. At our house, Ross has done what he hopes is the last mowing, and instead we're raking leaves and hauling away the prodigious numbers of apples dropping from our trees. (Seriously, if you live near Gorham, ME and you want all-organic apples for jellies or sauce, let me know. It's like an apple avalanche here.)

We all know about Spring cleaning - and some of us may actually get around to it - but for me, Fall is really the time to get busy. Not with mopping and dusting and such, but with the serious work of preparing for winter. What's on my to-do list? I have to schedule the chimney sweep to clean our two wood stoves and two fireplaces. The furnace guy needs to come in and do the same for the furnace. We've got three cords of wood arriving on October 9th; all of it has to be hauled into the wood room and stacked, hopefully before the rains hit in November.

Somewhere out in the barn are the glass panels for our screen doors - hopefully they haven't been casually covered up with empty boxes or to-be-donated bags of clothing. We've thrown a lot of stuff in there since May...

Inside, I get through the big job of trading out summer wardrobes for winter clothes by doing one person at a time over a week or ten days. The oldest two mostly handle it themselves now, although The Boy will undoubtedly come to me looking for this sweater or that turtleneck. Ross, on the other hand, would have to live in polo shirts and light-weight khakis if I didn't haul his heavy things out from under the bed and down from the attic. He's always so amazed and grateful at the inexplicable reappearance of his seasonal clothing, though, I don't mind acting as his valet. Before putting the summer things in storage, I sort and toss - the Unutterably Awful go in the bin, the things no one has worn into the donation pile.

Also coming down from the attic: coats, scarves, mittens, gloves and boots. Some of them we hopefully won't need for a while, but it's easier to make the change-over all at once. All but a few lightweight jackets go into the front hall closet; out of the way but not inaccessible.

More raking, more picking up apples, more stacking wood. Ross is in charge of mulching and dividing bulbs and all the fall garden stuff (we long ago established that my role was that of ignorant laborer.) I'll buy some pumpkins and arrange them on the urns out front, and find the fall-leaves wreath (another trip to the barn) and hang it on the front door. Better call the oil man and get the first 200 gallons of the season delivered. Groan.

How about you, Reds? What's on your to-do list for fall?

RHYS BOWEN: Fall? What's that, she asked when the temperature is still 90. We actually don't have fall here. It's warm, sunny, delightful until some time in November and then like migrating birds we head south to Arizona. Such wimps, I know. And we don't do much to close up the house here as my son pops in all the time, my daughter sleeps over on their way to the city and there is generally traffic and house being used, which is great.

And as far as fall in the garden... alas this year there is no garden apart from our lovely lemon trees that keep on producing in spite of te drought. I planted nothing knowing we couldn't water. They are predicting a monster el nino this year so maybe I can put plants in again next year.... or maybe the existing ones will be washed away. We never know out here.

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh boy do I envy those apples, and especially the lemons! I have to do something with the last minute bumper crop of eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. It seems a shame not to use them when John battled the woodchucks all season and finally won!

We'll be heading to Key West in November--always look forward to that! But it's not easy to try to remember to bring things we *might* need: passports, tax files, dog medicines, cat scratching post (because there's only in the world he'll use), etc. We always argue about this--

John: You're not bringing that!

Me: We've got all the room in the world.

and somehow it all fits:).

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Fall?  I cannot stand it. There is some horrible glitch in the time-space continuum that is making the time go by too quickly. It's still July, I know it is. I am sorry. I cannot face it. (The dahlias hardly bloomed, which is perplexing.  Jonathan is muttering something about taking out the air conditioners, and looking for storm doors, and I wore a sweater the other day..)  But I am ridiculously behind, and I am shocked by the Halloween candy in the store, and and and I will be all better when my book is finished.

And: I saw a leaf fall. I let out a huge wail. "Oh NO!"

"What?" Jonathan asked, all concerned.

"A falling leaf!" I yelped.

 (I'm not sure how he puts up with me.)

JULIA: You didn't get into the pool again this year, did you, Hank.

HALLIE EPHRON: Our heat came up last night... and my husband and I are sneezing. And I'm sitting here at my keyboard in a turtleneck and sweatshirt. Sure signs of fall. I'm wondering what kind of fall foliage we'll have because it's been so dry.

My husband rakes. And puts in the storm windows.  I nag. And I'm in charge of soup and bedding (our massive quilt needs washing). And we're all terrified that we're going to have another winter like the last.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: We live in a condo here in NYC, so there's not too much to do besides put the quilts on the beds and change out the light cotton spring/summer couch pillows for heavier needlepoint and velvet ones. I made a roast for the first time last week and am looking forward to using the crockpot for more soups and stews.

The big thing around our place is Halloween, what what Kiddo's costume will be this year — his ideas change daily. The latest I've heard was the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. But other contenders are: Jacob Frye from Assassins Creed (which he's NOT allowed to play), The Sorting Hat from Harry Potter, and Darth Maul from the Star Wars saga.Whatever he chooses, on the day of Halloween, he will undoubtedly change his mind, and then Hubby and I will scramble to put the new costume together..... (Oh yes, these are homemade costumes...)

JULIA: Okay, I'm beginning to get a hint of why it takes longer for me to write a book than the other Reds... although Susan, I have to admit I'm happy to be at the stage where my offspring put together their own costumes. Oh, the Octobers spent sewing up witch dresses, cheetah costumes and knights' tabards.

How about you, dear readers? Are switching velvet for cotton? Putting up storm windows? Planning to flee to warmer climes? (Lucky you!) Tell us what's on your autumn to-do list!


  1. Thank you all for sharing the wonders of fall. It was 95 here in south central Florida yesterday. Pant, pant. Even raking leaves sounds wonderful! Can't wait to get back to Maine! Lucy, can those tomatoes - they only require a waterbath. Easy peasy! Don't know about the eggplant, never tried to can mine. I'm eagerly waiting the outpouring of new books that the Reds will produce this winter. Get cracking, ladies.

  2. Oh, no . . . autumn already? How did that happen --- wasn't summer arriving just yesterday?

    Around here the discussion is all about the number of acorns covering the ground [a gazillion of them] and whether or not that means we are in for another gruesome winter. The deer are wandering into all the back yards and after collecting the last of the vegetables from the garden John has finally left the garden gate open so they can munch on whatever remnants are there. [All the outside stuff is John's realm; I'm in charge of blankets and winter clothing and soup and such.] John will gather the fireplace wood; I did my part by stocking up on the fireplace starter candles. I guess we're as ready as we're going to be . . . .

  3. I'm in the "wondering if this winter will be like last year's" camp. The only thing I switch out is finding the box of hats and mittens, and airing the down comforter (which got washed before it got stashed last May). Different pillows? Really? And the sweaters are in the same place winter or summer, same with the shorts.

    No wood stove any more, so no wood to stack. The other person in the house is in charge of finding the glass to swap out for the door screens. And I'll harass him to mow one more time. For me one of the best parts of fall is planting the garlic on some sunny October day. Oh, and wearing knee-high boots and tights again. And soups! And homemade bread. But like Hank, I'm always wistful at summer's end. It's a kind of grieving for all that light, and all that delicious fresh produce.

  4. In honor of fresh produce and fall, this week I made a thick stewy minestrone with parmesan cheese toasts. And I baked potatoes. It's stormy out now and we're catching up on the rain we've missed and I'm headed to Denver (any Heart of Denver Romance Writers out there?) where it's in the 70s and I'll be short of breath. I'm hoping I'll come back to find the storm windows installed. Could happen.

  5. Still trying to finish staining the deck! Cutting down the perennials and laying in enought paper white narcissus bulbs to keep me going all winter.

  6. Must say that I need to go back and read the words of the blog again. LOVE,LOVE,LOVE all the illustrations. Thanks, Julia and all.

  7. We'll clean up the yard. Put away the outdoor cushions. I still have quite a haul of tomatoes on the vine - almost all green - that I very much doubt will turn red now. Any ideas for green tomatoes?

    Neighbor has the wood; gotta haul and stack it. Put away the air conditioners (thank goodness) and bring out the portable heaters. I want to get a down comforter this year; our old comforter is showing it's age at the seams.

    Oh, and The Girl is down with the first Really Nasty Cold of the year. That means we'll all be sick by Halloween (oh goody - hope I wait until I'm back from Bouchercon).

    Thankfully, my teens do their own Halloween costumes. I won't treat you to my "I hate Halloween" rant.

  8. Green tomato apple chutney, Mary! Yummy and comes out great.

  9. Julia, I'm exhausted just thinking of all you have to do....

  10. Mary, one year I made green tomato marmalade, with paperthin slices of lemon. It was divine. Green tomato salsa is also good, as is green tomato spaghetti sauce. Can you tell I once had your dilemma? :-) Not this year, alas. Right this minute I have more ripe tomatoes, and ripening ones, than we've had all year. And that's even considering that tomato hornworms have gotten a couple of the plants, stripped them clean overnight.

    Fall energizes me to clean and organize way more than spring does. I think it's because by the time warm weather comes back I'm more excited about being outside and digging in the dirt. It's fun to hear about everyone's routines, by the way.

  11. We pulled out the last tomato plants last weekend and the basil this week. Pesto is made and in the freezer. This weekend I will make sauce with the last of the tomatoes. But the garden cleanup still needs doing, and things that live outside all summer need to come into the garage. We may start that process this weekend, but it will likely wait until after Bouchercon.

    This week's heavy rain revealed a small leak in the garage roof, so I need to find someone who can take a look at that and at least give it a patch before winter. We are having some weatherization work done in the next month or so, which I hope is the karmic equivalent of bringing an umbrella to work to ensure against rain. It sure would be sweet to have a mild winter after the last two. Our friend El Nino implies that will be the case, but I don't trust him entirely.

  12. As Brenda reveals, part of the reason for my massive fall projects list is simply living in Maine. Maine has the oldest housing stock in the nation, the highest percentage of residents who heat with wood, and very, very few of us are in areas urban enough to mean we don't have any yard and garden chores. Winter here is long and hard on roofs and decks and house paint.

    I was keeping an eye on the path of Hurricane Joachim, planning to shift round some of the items on my list in case we were getting hit with a fall nor-easter, but it looks like it's heading out to sea. Whew!

  13. Fall? Oh, you mean Santa Anna wind and fire season. Got it.

    *Ducking and running back to So Cal now.*

  14. The hummingbirds are gone--sigh--so I'll be bringing in the feeders, soaking in a little mild bleach solution, and putting them away until March. Fall pillows and quilts are already out on the front porch, but the summer pillows and throws on the deck will have to come in and go in storage. Firewood needs to be ordered, and the perennials will need to be cut back, but we probably have until after Thanksgiving for that.

    Even though we can get very cold spells, we don't do much house winterizing here in north Texas (I wish we did!) Bring out the down quilts, check that the furnace is working.

    Oh, a new chore this year! Sometime around Thanksgiving we'll be draining the Laz-y-Spa and putting it up for the winter. Unless I decide I can't live without it and we insulate it. We'll see.

    The biggest thing here is LEAVES. LEAVES AND MORE LEAVES. But after years of having to help Rick with the DIY leaf clean up, suffering from allergies, asthma, and exhaustion (Did I mention that we have a LOT of leaves???) I now pay the lawn service guys to do it. And our new guy says he will clean out the gutters, too, so now I don't have to worry about Rick falling off the roof!!!!!!!

  15. Julia, you are so right. NO pool for me.

    And I just stabbed myself with a pencil, by accident, and am bleeding. I do not have time for that.

    Winter is coming, huh? You mean--Jon Snow???

  16. This past summer I thanked God every single day that we didn't have snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, etc, to contend with. Now that my beloved summer has ended I'm about ready to start counting the days until spring. I can't stand autumn or winter. To me, it feels abnormal to need to put on a sweater or jacket in order to go outside, never mind those heavy coats, scarves, gloves. Last winter it got so my eyes filled with tears when I heard that snow was in the forecast. I love the freedom to just get up and GO in spring and summer. It's already become necessary to warm up the car many mornings.

    Yeah, Hank, I'd like to believe it's still July.

  17. I love fall!!!! And, I love Halloween!!!! So, I'm in my element now, with the trees starting to turn and a chill in the air. I do wish we had a few more days that are warmish but not hot, but it seems that we pretty much go from hot to chilly to cold. I would already have my Halloween decorations out, but there are two more days, today and Monday before my house renovations/fix-ups are finished, so I've been unable to decorate. It's been a long, long eight months. My fall and early winter plans for the house have to do with putting it back together from all the interior work. I usually am more motivated in the fall, too, in the cleaning department. I want everything nice for the holidays.

    Since my husband lives in Kansas for his work (he does get home fairly often), I am yard people who mow in the spring and summer, and they do the leaves and yard clean-up in the fall. So, I can enjoy the falling leaves without worrying about the work they involve.

  18. I live in San Francisco, and we only have one season all year 'round, though this year we had the hottest weather I've ever experienced, and I kept running out of hot weather clothes! Our summers are usually sweater weather, and I think I only wore a sweater once!

    There is some Fall/Winter gardening to do, especially in preparation for the supposed El Nino rain that is predicted starting in December. Most people are clearing drains and gutters, and checking their roof, in preparation for that.

    Today it's hard to think of Winter, though, because it's about 75 in SF! I'm craving a cool drink and a summer salad instead of a hearty glass of red and a warm stew!

  19. Put the extra layer under the quilt on the bed. Check
    Rummage through the warmer clothes. Check
    Book flight for Florence. Check.

    btw, I LOVE the cover of the Timber Man. I've already posted it to my Lady and the Lumberjack pinterest board. (surprising how many pics there are that qualify) And really, don't you always wear a tight-fitting yellow dress when you go out into the woods? ANd stand directly behind Mr. Lumberjack while he's swinging his axe?