My old friends are probably getting tired of the Pollyanna-ish “Life is Good” mantra I keep repeating in my new life. But there are moments out here, like one morning last week when I was walking across the golden field behind our new place, feeling the warm breeze on my cheeks and watching the hawks glide overhead, that I seriously think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I confided that to a new friend—someone who’s lived on the Vineyard for years—and she just nodded as if I was making perfect sense.
This past Sunday was another day like this, a day we wanted to make the most of since we had Libby visiting for just 24 hours. We started out early, poking around our new yard. (We just moved into a cool old farmhouse, which is very basic in terms of amenities, but it sits in a wonderful spot, surrounded by maples, cedars, pines, and lilacs, and the backyard opens up onto miles of conservation land and corn and squash fields.) Libby and Roy hunted for frogs and crickets and then we headed off through the fields, over a brook, and along a wooded path for a good hike.
While we were walking, we ran into the farmer who grows the corn and squash behind us. He said we’d be welcome (just this once!) to glean a few odd squash from the field they had just harvested, so we took a look on the way back. Roy and Libby wound up finding the prettiest little collection of edibles and non-edibles—two Hubbards, a couple rouge-red pumpkins (and a regular ol’ jack o lantern), an acorn squash or two, and something green and bumpy who’s name escaped me. Libby was particularly excited about the handful of “baby” butternuts (maybe 4 inches high!) she found. We took our haul home and arranged the big bumpy things on our new front stoop—with the geraniums, which are still flowering in the Island’s warm fall weather.
Next we hopped in the car and drove up-Island to go apple-picking. Some friends with a towering antique of a tree (their house is pre-Revolutionary so who knows how old the apple tree is) welcomed us to come pick, as their kids and grandkids had already been by, and the apples were falling like crazy. Libby had a great time standing on the ladder (supported by Dad), wielding the furit picker, and harvesting one beauty after another. (Beauty in the rustic sense—no perfectly smooth grocery store apples here!) I, of course, was busy taking pictures as the variegated colors of these old apples fascinate me. We tried not to pick too many, as I don’t have much time to play with them. (Last year, I baked these same apples into mini-galettes, and they were delicious. Yesterday I made a crisp with this year’s crop and was surprised that they completely broke down into an applesauce-like consistency. I may have sliced them too thinly, but I think, too, that they don’t like to be cooked for so long.)
Lastly, we went over to our own vegetable garden. A couple weeks ago we stopped harvesting for the farm stand. Traffic was slowing, our harvest was inconsistent, and I had just taken on a major recipe-development project that was going to require a shift in priorities for me for this fall. The morning and night visits to the farm to supply the stand would have to be curtailed. (The farm stand at Native Earth is still very much open, though, as Rebecca is stocking it with a variety of fall goodies, including chestnuts.)
But just because we stopped harvesting daily didn’t mean the garden stopped producing. Au contraire! Ironically, this September weather—which is sort of warm and cool at the same time if you know what I mean—offers ideal growing conditions for many veggies. Our peppers look better than they have all summer. So do our flower beds, with hundreds of zinnias and nasturtiums intertwined with each other. The squash vines are dying, leaving the butternuts to ripen perfectly (and the pattypans, too) and we still have dozens and dozens of cherry tomatoes ripening. And, oh yeah, beans. Those extra rows of beans I planted halfway through the summer? Yikes. They’re producing—and so are the original plants. So now we have so many different sizes of beans when we go to harvest them that I’ve taken to sorting them into three categories—Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. My cranberry beans have taken off, too, and there’s even a mystery bean in one of the rows—a lovely pale green Romano type with a purple flower. Must have got mixed in with the Beananza seeds.
Sunday afternoon, we suggested to Libby that she pick a bouquet of flowers for her mom and a bunch of vegetables to take home with her, too. She carefully put together her selection, and back home we washed everything and packed up the goodies for her mom, Kelly, and her grandma, Judy, too. Then we rushed off to catch the 6 o’clock ferry, nearly missing it when the Oak Bluffs terminal was closed due to high winds and the drawbridge to Vineyard Haven went up. But we made it and breathed a sigh of relief as we rushed aboard, dragging Libby’s pink suitcase and two bags of vegetables. It was as good a day as any could be.