For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad. — Edwin Way Teale
Soft thuds of September apples tap at the windows of ancient memories.
This is how it always goes. Long before the leaves turn golden-orange-scarlet-purple, we feel the subtle yet sudden arrival of fall. We can smell it in the air. Even our skin has memorized this electric instant.
We open the kitchen window.
Inside, chrysanthemums in mason jars and herbs in tidy bundles, hung to dry. Outside, a murmuration of swallows flashes across the whispy-clouded horizon, confirming what we already know: Autumn is here. This moment of recognition is embedded in our bones.
Among the harvest — winter squash and lettuce greens — Rome Beauties call for homemade pie. Brilliant red spirals of skin fall away with each smooth crank of the apple peeler, spelling out a sacred message on the countertop. We flash back to grade school, remember twisting the stems of our lunchtime apple to see whom we might marry.
Soon, the trees will be naked as the apples on the cutting block. We cut them into perfect slices, toss them in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Autumn’s first breeze filters through the open window — a dear, bright-eyed friend returning home with stories and souvenirs.
September apples call to mind Pomona, Roman goddess and virgin wood nymph depicted as keeper of the orchards and fruit trees. The harvest she effortlessly carries in her arms reminds us of the sweet abundance of this most prolific season.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, one of the best days for harvesting this month is with the new moon on Sept. 1. The full moon rises on Saturday, Sept. 16, which also happens to be International “Eat an Apple Day.” Lakota tribes associated this moon as the time when the “plums are scarlet.” For the Omaha, it rose “when the deer paw the Earth.”
On Friday, Sept. 22, the sun enters Libra (the Scales) on the autumnal equinox. We look to nature and our gardens to remind us of our own need for balance and harmony. Day and night will exist for approximately the same length of time. Literally and figuratively, now is time to reap what we have sown.
The Feast of the Archangels is a minor Christian festival observed on Friday, Sept. 29. Also called Michaelmas, this celebration honors the angelic warrior who protects against darkness.
As autumn days grow shorter, we acknowledge the dance between lightness and dark.
The milkweed pods are breaking,
And the bits of silken down
Float off upon the autumn breeze
Across the meadows brown.
— Cecil Cavendish, The Milkweed
Crock-Pot Apple Butter
6 pounds apples (variety)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1. Peel, core and slice apples.
2. Combine apples, sugar and spices in a Crock-Pot; cover and cook on high for one hour.
3. Remove lid, and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until apple butter reaches a spreadable consistency and is dark brown in color. Cook time will vary, depending on the types of apples you use.
4. Transfer apple butter to hot, sterilized jars.