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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: September 26, 2019

Jane Thibodeau Martin

Wisconsin Autumn

Summer passed very quickly, but that didn't bother me as much as how fast September has flown by. I love fall in Wisconsin, by far my favorite season. The rituals of "wrapping up" summer and preparing for winter join in a flurry of activity; but I enjoy this work.

Our first little garden in nearly 20 years was a smashing success. My freezer is full of beans and carrots. The tomatoes are still gifting us daily so BLT lunches are frequent, and pots of stewing tomatoes, seasoned with handfuls of fresh parsley, basil and rosemary from my own herb plants simmer on the stove. Some batches contain diced green peppers and onions from the garden as well " utilized as the base for the best beef stew on the planet. Pumpkins are destined for the front porch and the graves of my mother and father-in-law. My favorite "Jack-Be-Little" gourds lie around the sweet corn stalks by the dozens. Washed off and tied with a bow of black ribbon, they will be gifted to friends and family, a whimsical indoor-sized pumpkin that lasts for months.

My pantry contains gifts from other food preserving relatives " chunk sweet pickles from my aunt, apple butter from my sister-in-law, salsa from my brother and sister-in-law and my husband's favorite strawberry freezer jam from my Mom.

I read every single obituary in the Peshtigo Times. I don't know most of the people who passed away; but I am always curious what the person who has died will be remembered for. One of the most common things in the tributes for older women from the area is "she loved canning," or "she had a large garden, whose produce she shared with family and friends."

I used to think that while their families fondly remembered their mother or grandmother for these things, the labors were often of necessity, to feed their families. I assumed these women didn't actually "love" all the exhausting labor. With the wisdom of age, I now realize that while these ladies may have tired of the annual work, they did treasure bestowing gifts of food, raised and preserved with love, to those they cared most about. And that is what every gift jar in my panty represents " it's not just food, it is the love and generosity of a family member or friend.

Our newly planted apple tree surprised us with a dozen Wealthy apples. The four raspberry bushes I planted this spring are yielding a few berries already, and I look forward to planting more bushes this spring. All of our fruit and vegetables are totally organic - yes they have a few blemishes, and the outer leaves of the cabbages have been nibbled. But they taste fantastic and I know beyond doubt they are healthier for us than that which is raised with all sorts of chemicals I'd rather not ingest.

There are still a few dragonflies on Hank Lake " perhaps visitors migrating, or maybe some local ones at the end of their life cycle, depositing eggs for a spring hatch in the water. Our unmowed natural area is blanketed with tall vegetation in full purple and golden fall bloom, with swarms of bees and butterflies taking advantage of the larder. The mass bird migration has started, so I refilled the feeder to be ready for the travelers. A few maples are giving us a fall preview of the gorgeous display to come soon. The sight of one bright orange or red tree in the forest of green makes me smile.

The horses have abandoned their mostly nocturnal ways, as the pestering fly population crashes. During peak fly season they seek the protection of their stalls, but now they graze happily in the sun with just an occasional swish of their tails. They love the fall too " plenty of green to graze on but without the torment of the bugs. When I go out to feed them, these two senior citizens often throw a few bucks or a crow hop of excitement, their energy levels picking up with the cooler air.

The deer feel it too, and are on the move again. I took a picture of a lovely large-antlered buck, sadly killed by a car on the highway. My son and husband had the same predictable sad reaction to the photo " "what a waste of a nice deer." But now Mike and I remind each other constantly to "watch for the deer" on the roadways because the next few months will be full of close calls " if we are lucky.

I am hoping for dryer air and gentle breezes so that the fall extravaganza of color lasts as long as is possible. I'll be outdoors admiring it often " and this fall memory will help carry me through the dark days of the winter. We are so blessed here in Wisconsin with our spectacular falls " no southern state can compare, and I intend to make the most of every single day.

Song stuck in my head: "Clocks" by Coldplay. Beautiful disciplined piano coupled with ragged vocals.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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