Dear Sunday Letter friends,
This week was an anomaly for me. While my calendar was filled with two book clubs, an influencer meet-up, the Lights of the Ozarks Christmas parade, and the Mission Temple Fireworks Revival last night at Walton Arts Center, I also felt calmed by the knowledge that Thanksgiving is just ahead and winter is beginning to fold around me.
On Friday, John and I went for a hike on Mt. Sequoyah. Then, we worked in our yard which, for us, is like pushing the reset button.
Bottom line, this week provided me with a gentle yet impactful reminder—even during the busiest times, we can carve out peace and quiet.
A Month of Change
It’s mind-blowing how quickly things have changed in my own backyard and throughout northwest Arkansas. Only a month ago, I was feeding hummingbirds and searching my garden for monarch chrysalises. Three weeks ago, I cut purple aster and sprigs of lantana to decorate my kitchen table. Two weeks ago, the leaf color surged. I snapped picture after picture and marveled over how each day brought more brightness than the day before.
Last week, winter came quickly, bringing sleet, a dusting of snow, and a cold wind that sent shivers down tree trunks and into the bones of our house. For a breath of time, leaves clung to branches while nature’s color drained. Flaming crimson faded to rust. Bright yellow bleached to grocery-sack brown. When the trees couldn’t bear to be admired any longer, they released an explosion of leaves to the earth and stood to face winter head-on.
Squirrel and bird nests, hidden during summer and fall, are now in full view. Hawks are visible from the tallest perches. A variety of bark texture and patterns jump from the landscape providing fresh, new scenery during my daily walks.
Once again, I see beauty in the changing Arkansas seasons and pinch myself that I get to live here.
First Magical Snow!
For me, the first snow of the season brings a magical, stop-what-you’re-doing-and-take-notice sort of quality. So on Monday when our first dusting arrived, that’s exactly what I did—nothing other than watch the snow fall. From our kitchen, we have an almost 190 degree view of our backyard. As I watched fat flakes fall, I felt as though I was inside the protection of a snow globe.
No, actually, the opposite.
The world was a snow globe, and I sat cocooned inside the only dry, warm space. Forgive my lack of panoramic picture-taking skills, but I think you can get the general idea of our kitchen windows.
Anyway, most of my day on Monday was spent doing laundry, reading, watching the snow fall, and piddling around the house—yes, there’s a real art to piddling, and as a rule, I’m too organized and efficient to be good at it.
We humans rush around, busy, busy, then we feel guilty and unproductive when allowing ourselves a few minutes to simply be. As fall turns to winter, I vote for more sitting and thinking, more walking and less talking. More piddling.
Accidental Butternut Squash and Fennel
Sometimes the best things happen by accident. Like this squash dish. It all started when I noticed a lush stand of dill growing in my garden. I should cut it before the cold weather takes it, I thought. Once I took a fistful inside, I realized I’d harvested fennel.
My accident compounded when I sliced open a spaghetti squash only to discover it was butternut squash. Now, I realize this makes me sound like I have no idea what I’m doing in my garden or in my kitchen. And I’m not gonna lie, that’s often true. I planted fennel in early spring from a start I was given from the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks. Then, I forgot about it. During summer it disappeared beside dill (yes, real dill), parsley, and asters that grew in a crazy tangle. And the squash? It was given to me over a month ago. While I know the difference in my squashes (on a normal day), that day I wasn’t thinking straight.
Turns out the flavors of fennel and butternut squash go together. (I consulted The Flavor Bible, my favorite kitchen reference book.) I drizzled olive oil, sprinkled diced garlic, added freshly ground pepper and chopped fennel, and baked at 350 degrees for almost an hour.
I will be making this again and again. If you’re looking for a healthy Thanksgiving side, (crazy-talk, I know) this fits the bill.
Pickin’ and Grinnin’
I would be remiss if I didn’t extend a personal farewell to Roy Clark who died last week at the age of 85. No, he didn’t know me. But I knew him. When I was a kid, he and Buck Owens and the whole Hee Haw gang were a regular part of our family every Friday night. Their cornpone humor lessened the gloom, despair and agony we rural folks felt on a regular basis. ?
Not many people thought Hee Haw would succeed. But the show lasted 24 years with 585 one-hour episodes!
If you never watched Hee Haw, what I’m about to tell you will probably make no sense whatsoever… Each week, the Hee Haw gang recognized a small, unknown town and saluted the people who lived there. We watched and waited and hoped one of the teeny towns surrounding our farm would be recognized. Keiser, Osceola, Wilson, Dyess—we claimed them all.
On October 21, 1972 it happened. I witnessed the greatness right there in our den. During Episode 83, the Hee Haw gang saluted Etowah, Arkansas, Population 200. (Etowah is 12 miles due west on Highway 140 from our house at Cottonwood Corner.)
What an exciting thing.
I bet Etowah people of a certain age still remember.
Today, I salute Roy Clark. I imagine he is pickin’ and grinnin’ with Grandpa Jones and Buck Owens and Minnie Pearl and anyone else who has pulled up a chair and joined in.
Things Momma Says
Look! It says right here—sign up for autopay and save time. I’ve been trying to sign up for 3 days now.
To my Grace Grits Sunday Letter friends~ thanks for continuing to read, share, and comment. I appreciate each of you and wish you a happy, healthy Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and good food.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.