small fire in a metal fire pit

The Autumnal Equinox happened early Saturday morning, but James and I celebrated Friday evening. Good thing too since he got the new COVID vaccine Friday afternoon and by Friday night wasn’t feeling great. He spent a large part of Saturday alternating between sleeping and walking around in a don’t-feel-very-well funk. After a decent sleep Saturday night he felt a bit tired, but himself again.

Friday, before the COVID vaccine got his immune system riled up, James made Harvest Moon Pies. These are not moon pies with marshmallow in the middle, but they aren’t exactly whoopie pies either. They are cake-y chocolate cookies with hazelnut cream filling covered in a chocolate shell, and since we only have them at the Autumn Equinox, which happens during the Harvest Moon, we call them Harvest Moon Pies. There is no recipe for these babies, they are entirely a James creation. This is the third year he has made them, and each year he adjusts the recipe just a little bit. This year’s were the best yet.

We enjoyed our harvest moon pies along with a small backyard fire.

Last summer someone in our neighborhood Buy Nothing group gave away an old fire pit. It’s a bit rusty and one of the wheels on the rolling frame falls off when we try to move it. But it was free and it works. Only we’ve never had a fire in it. Last summer we didn’t have any dry wood and this year the air quality has been so bad from Canadian wildfires that we didn’t dare add to it.

A couple weeks ago James decided he wanted to burn some bits of garden brush—he’s the one who wanted the fire pit to begin with and he’s been yearning to make a fire. And yes, I’ve teased him about cro-magnon man-fires (insert grunts and chest beating). When James decided he wanted to start a fire to burn the garden brush I was not home, I heard about it after the fact when I found an empty book of matches on the kitchen counter and he admitted he had used them all up trying to start a fire. He couldn’t explain to me what he had done, only that he couldn’t get a fire going.

harvest moon pies
Harvest Moon Pies

For Equinox, with good air quality and a small pile of dry twigs and wood, I told James we could have a fire while enjoying our harvest moon pies. He said he couldn’t start it. I said I would. He asked if I know how. I said, yes I do. He was skeptical.

Family vacation when I was a kid always involved camping. There was usually a fire at some point with hot dogs to roast and marshmallows to char afterwards. Yes, I liked to light up my marshmallows so the outside was charred crispy black and the inside was gooey. And even though I grew up in southern California, our house had a fireplace, and in winter we often had a fire that would serve to heat up the whole house. All this to say, I know how to make a fire. My dad taught me and would supervise while I went through the whole process. And the person who started the fire is also the one responsible for tending it. So he’d keep a watchful eye on that too to make sure I did it right. Fire is nothing to mess around with and he never hesitated to tell me when I did something wrong. In other words, I had a good teacher.

It’s been years since I’ve built a fire, but that is something you don’t forget.

Out to the garden we went, me with some newspaper and matches as well as a watering can full of water just in case, James with the harvest moon pies. We wrestled the fire pit to an appropriate spot. I crumpled up some newspaper and then built a little teepee of twigs around it, and then put a couple bigger, but not too big, pieces of wood against the twigs. James wanted to add bigger pieces of wood and I told him no, that’s for later after the little bits get going. He continued to be skeptical that it was going to work.

I lit a match, touched it to the newspaper in a couple places, then lit a second match to get a few more spots. Within a few seconds the paper was burning fast and hot and the small twigs were catching. Within a few minutes the bigger bits of wood were catching and I was adding in more wood.

We had ourselves a nice blaze.

James was impressed. How did you…? Thank my dad I told him.

We ate our harvest moon pies, watched the fire a bit, expressed gratitude to the garden and gave thanks for all we are so lucky to have.

Purple asters and yellow arugula flowers
New England asters and arugula flowers

The evening was a warm and the fire hot, so I didn’t add more wood. We stood and watched as it all burned down. When there were only a few small glowing bits left, I poked them with my fire-tending stick to beat of the cinders. We stood and watched a few minutes to make sure the fire was out and then went back in the house where James succumbed to the COVID vaccine headache and crawled into bed with a book before going to sleep.

And now the nights are longer than the days.

We got a solid night of much needed rain Saturday into the wee hours of Sunday. The garden positively sang and the trees, I could feel the weight of their collective relief. We got just shy of two inches of rain at my house. Then we got more rain Sunday night, Monday and a little Tuesday. The soil is deeply soaked and the rain barrels are full. We are still in drought, we need another six inches or so of rain to fully recover, but these rainy days will make a big difference to all the plant and tree people getting ready for their long winter sleep. Whether all this rain heralds a change in the weather pattern is uncertain, but I hope it does.

The zucchini is finally loaded with squash. Since the days are still fairly warm and no frost in sight, the eight, yes eight, squash might actually have time to reach a good size. Better late than never!

small yellow zucchini growing on the plant
Zucchini at last!

The fall planting of radishes is doing ok. The plants are getting bigger but they have a ways to go yet before radishes happen. Same with the carrots. And the snap peas can’t decide what they are doing. One of them is starting to climb, the others are indecisive and alternate between looking like they are giving up on life and rallying to make a go of it. Maybe the rain will convince them to grow. The cabbage sprouts are looking strong but much too small. Meanwhile the cabbages I planted in spring that survived the summer heat are growing and two of them look like they might, if I’m lucky, make a small head.

Meanwhile, I have already acquired some seeds for next year’s garden. I was at the library the other day returning books and picking up some new ones and there was a bin of free seeds. My library has a seed library and I think someone must have been tidying it up. So I helped myself to some okra seeds, beets, green zucchini, and a different variety of black-eyed pea to add to the one I already grow. Conveniently I was thinking of trying okra in the garden next year since it likes heat and, I’ve heard, is fairly drought tolerant. Now I can try it for free. Yay for free seed libraries!

On the weaving front, I finished the first towel! It’s still on the loom because I warped it for two towels. Now, I’ve begun the second towel. I’m hoping I have enough warp on the loom for it to be the right length. I calculated and measured, but since weaving is a new skill, I have no confidence that I did it all correctly. And yes, Yo-Yo Ma makes for a lovely weaving accompaniment. I also tried listening to a podcast but my brain kept tuning out the words and I’d catch myself humming now and then. So it seems I need to stick with music.

  • Podcast: Movement Memos: We Can Survive Together By Becoming Kin. Show host Patty Hayes talks with author Patty Krawec, “I want the land to know me, to claim me. I want to feel at home in it in a way that’s reciprocal.” Oh yes please! This is exactly the sort of relationship I am trying to create with the garden and where I live. Thankfully, the land is patient.

Hush, beloved. It doesn’t matter to me
how many summers I live to return:
this one summer we have entered eternity.
I felt your two hands
bury me to release its splendor.

Louise Glück, from “The White Lilies” in Wild Iris
James’s Kitchen Wizardry

See the Harvest Moon Pies above.

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18 thoughts on “On Fire

  1. Congratulations on the towel! Glad to hear MrBookman has recovered. I love the idea of moon pies. We’ve not felt we could have a fire this year either; when I smell them from the neighbours (who’ve also not had anywhere near as many, even though officially the bans were lifted here sooner than I thought they would be) it’s shocking for a moment. Happy Equinox!

    1. Thanks Marcie! With all the fires and smoke, I can imagine how shocking it must be to smell smoke from the neighbors. I hope you had a lovely Equinox!

  2. Huh… I never thought fire starting was any particular process. Shows how much I’ve been paying attention. Grew up with wood heat and a mania for grilling, so I’ve never not know how to build a fire. Funny, but now that you say that, I am noticing bits about my past… Ex never started the fires unless given charcoal and a bottle of lighter fluid (and even those were prone to going out too soon). I thought he left it to me because he didn’t like it. Maybe he was, similarly, never schooled.

    1. Heh, when you grow up in a family that makes fires you don’t think about it until you meet someone who has no idea how to do it. 🙂

  3. Beautiful moon pies, glad you got to celebrate the Equinox after all. The zucchini looks like it’s growing like a weed, hope the radishes, carrots and snap peas do as well. Our fall and winter rainy seasons seems to be getting ready to settle in for the long haul or so say the spiders. Have fun with the weaving and botanizing!

    1. Thanks Julé! Better late than never on the zucchini. At least I’ll get one full size one and maybe a bunch of little ones. It all depends on the weather. Enjoy your rainy season. I hope that means it gets cool enough to enjoy soup and hot chocolate 🙂

  4. Botanizing! I do this all the time! Didn’t know it had a name.

    Hooray for rain! We got some much needed rain tonight, what a blessing.

    Those moon pies look amazing!

    And yay for free seeds. Libraries rule!

    1. I wondered if you might mention the famous Tennessee Moon Pie company! I’ve eaten many in my day. I have a Great Uncle who always brings Moon Pies as his dish the pass at events. He also signs all his cards “congratulations” but no name, yet you know it’s him because he writes with only pencils.

  5. Hurray! Fire success! I grew up with a house that was heated only by wood stoves so I learned to make a fire pretty early on as well. Sounds like you got the skillz! I love that James was skeptical. Ah, ye of little faith. We are having some lovely rain as well. The meadow is still completely brown but I expect it to green up in the next week or so… a few more mows are in my future before the cold sinks in and it all stops growing. My garden was pretty terrible this year, but I did finally get some basil to grow, and I think I can harvest one more batch this weekend to make my basil cubes (I freeze them for soup in the winter). Eh, better luck next year. Thanks for the fire inspiration — it might be a fire pit weekend here too!

    1. Sounds like you’ve got skillz too! Meadows are so resilient. It must be lovely having one. Except for the mowing bit. 😀 Sorry to hear your garden had such a terrible year. Here’s to an abundant garden next year!

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