Crawling out of its hiding place into the sunshine a woolly bear posed itself on a pot of thyme just outside the kitchen door of the Lady-of-the-House. It came and went in early autumn, sunbathing regularly at this same spot. The Lady-of-the-House started thinking of it as her pet of the patio. She only disturbed it once to cradle it in her hand and watch it curl up into a ball of bristles.
Then she came into the house and opened to page 82 in Lessons at Blackberry Inn to refresh herself with the folklore of the Isabella Tiger moth. In its caterpillar stage it is said to have the ability to predict the weather.
“As we walked I shared some New England folklore. . . . It is believed that the severity of winter can be predicted by the amount of black on the caterpillar. “If you see more black than brown on the woolly bear,” I told my children, “it will be a stormy winter. If the woolly bear is mostly brown, we can expect a mild winter.”
A few weeks after observing her “mostly brown” optimistic caterpillar, the enormously expansive storm Sandy approached the east coast. The Lady-of-the-House was busy preparing and serving. She started by baking a big batch of molasses muffins and then kept her kitchen simmering and her washing machine spinning.
For days all her thoughts were passing thoughts. Full of care she urgently focused on doing the “next thing.” At bedtime she found that she could concentrate on not one paragraph of her novel. She closed the book.
The storm hit in the night. In nervous wakefulness she heard the wind roar in the trees and the rain pelt at the window glass. But in the morning little damage was found in the neighborhood. How very thankful she was. Calm was restored. But she couldn’t help thinking, “There might be something to the woolly bear’s ability to predict winter weather but when it comes to autumn it is far from the mark,” she nearly said out loud.
During the storm rigmarole, the Lady-of-the-House appreciated the autumn decorations out of the corner of her eye. And does so now.
What a funny crooked handle this brass candle pan has. It seems to have been made in haste or by an amateur. It is an antique find of the Man-of-the-House. He thinks it unpretentiously reflects the everyday wears of the everyday man at a time when electricity was unavailable for lighting hallways.
Resting inside its pan is a tiny autumn ornament - a squirrel minutely cross-stitched on linen, a gift reflecting friendship afar.
Also on the family room windowsill sits her newest pincushion. A circular sprig of faux autumn berries surrounds it. This gift to her was sewn from the wool fabric of a cast-off skirt purchased at a charity shop. Deft fingers turned it magically into a pumpkin. The leaves are to hold the needles so they won’t get lost inside the pincushion. Has this ever happened to you?
Potpourri lends its spiced autumn fragrance to the air. “Mmm, it smells good in here,” says the son of the Lady-of-the-House when he enters the room where his mother sits writing you on her laptop. She points to her bowl. He nods. She smiles.
The Lady-of-the-House has a friend who is frugal in the most creative ways – ways that enable her to provide frugal niceties as well as frugal necessities for her family. The potpourri is a nicety from this friend who used resources close at hand, such as dried sage and bay leaves from the garden, orange peel, and spice balls made with cinnamon dough studded with cloves. How fun.
This hand-quilted square was pieced with naturally dyed cotton. It is a souvenir of a living history museum. A paper pinned to the back reads that that the brown came from acorns, the orange from madder, and the tan from tea. I think Blackberry Inn’s Dora would be charmed by its primitive handiwork.
An antique wooden kneading bowl brightens the low shelf of the kitchen’s farm table with a faux harvest.
Speaking of kneading, with evacuees staying over during the storm, the Lady-of-the-House prepared some comfort food.
She rolled out whole-wheat bread dough for cinnamon buns.
Conscientiously, she halves the quantity of brown sugar and butter listed lavishly in most recipes - using coconut oil in place of some of the butter.
Less “sticky” than most, they are still very much of a treat for the Man-of-the-House.
But one doesn’t need an approaching storm to make them.
Thanks for stopping by,