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31 October 2009

Delicious Autumn

Last weekend my mother-n-law came to visit. I'm sure it was to see us of course but the real purpose of her visit was to absorb herself in the mosaic of fall colors. She loves this season most of all, which is why we can always expect a visit around now. Her arrival was perfect timing for a harvest road trip. We met her at the airport, grabbed breakfast and before we knew it we were on our way to Hood River, home of the famous Fruit Loop. I could tell you this celebrated loop was just a bunch of farms selling off the last of their summer's bounty but that wouldn't even come close to the experience.

As we arrived in Hood River, we followed signs that put us on a tiny two lane road. Not sure where to begin or find the first farm, we drove for a bit and marveled at the glorious colors around us. Every way you looked were tall dark forests of green pines and flaming yellow and orange trees shimmering in the morning sun, almost lighting our way. And yes, it was sunny, the only day predicted in the last two weeks and in the following two weeks to be dry and warm.

Our first stop was a winery in an old plantation house. We tasted a couple of wines, bought some of our favorite red pears and hopped in the car. Farm after farm, we found earthly delights and delectable seasonal fare to tempt our taste buds. One farm had a kitten for sale. I carried that little black ball of fur around with my trying in vain to get my husband to hold him. He knew, one touch and we'd be bringing another kitty home. We tasted our first pear pie. It was so good that we inquired about the recipe. Turns out it was a secret family recipe that my mother-n-law was determined to acquire. She sent us out to the fields to play and when she returned, we had us the recipe to the pear pie!

At another farm, we petted the world's wierdest looking alpacas, and devoured apple cider donuts. Eventually we met up with aunts, uncles and cousins at the German apple festival. While the adults gobbled up sausages, sauer kraut and fresh pressed cider, I perused the aisles and aisles of apples, taste testing and filling my bag these wonders of nature. Yodelers filled the air with far away songs and kids ran through the endless rows of apple trees.
Finally, as we were closing in toward the end of the Fruit Loop, we arrived at the farm I had been dying to get to. Apple Valley Farms. For they were serving up fried biscuits and apple butter, huckleberry milkshakes and pear brandy. Oh if that weren't heavenly enough, the inside store was filled with open jars of every kind of berry jam you could think of. When we left there, we were so full we weren't sure we'd make it home.

However, we had one more stop and that was the lavendar farm. Even though the lavendar beauty had already been harvested, the relaxing smell was enough to make you want to lie down in their fields and take a long afternoon nap. We met Bubba, a 90-year old, feisty woman who every year, presses the lavendar to make the oils, lotions and potions. We promised we'd see her again next year as we reluctantly returned to our car to head home.

As we drove home, it was difficult to leave this delicious autumn beauty behind. It's been just a week since then and already the trees are almost bare, their leaves now laying a carpet of colorful hues on the earth's floor. My distress over how swiftly this season passes us by, was taking comfort in knowing that what we lose in flowers and colors, we more than gain in a bounty of late harvests and other pleasures. All of which will make our winter dinner gatherings all the more warm and enchanting and seasoned with sweet memories of a season departed.

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