Fall in the south is a special time. We enjoy the last blooms of the beautiful flowers and watch in awe as the leaves show the first hint of color and then burst forth in all their splendor. Pumpkins, chrysanthemums, cotton in the field, colorful leaves, apples for the freezer and a nip in the air seems to put a spring in our step. It is a respite from the hot days of summer and a chance to savor the delicious scent of wood smoke in the air.
In mid-October, my wife Margaret and I often ride up to Hendersonville, NC, to purchase apples. We live north of Greenville and Greer in a pleasant neighborhood and it is an enjoyable drive as we ride through the countryside. There is a change in elevation of about 1,000 feet from where we live to Hendersonville and the change has an effect on the coloration of the foliage. Around this time is when the south's signature deciduous trees begin to change colors, and it is a photographer's delight.
Even amidst the pandemic many orchards are open with social distancing and other safety measures in place, and given the outdoor setting it can still make for a wonderful and safe family outing. Just be sure to call ahead in case they have limited hours.
We always try to get some Granny Smith apples and prepare them for freezing.
All that is required is to peel, quarter and remove the seeds and drop them into salty water to keep them from turning brown. When the preparation is complete, they are bagged and placed in the freezer. When needed for applesauce, Margaret works her magic and they taste as if they just came off the tree.
I often core and peel and slice ringlets of some and place them on the racks of a dehydrator and dry them for what were traditionally know as "mule ear" or fried apple pies. For the sake of minimizing the caloric content, we often bake them in the oven rather than deep frying and sprinkle some sugar on top. They are delicious as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
It seems that fall and early winter are never complete without chrysanthemums and pumpkins to decorate the front steps. That seems to start the season off right and they brighten the way with their radiant colors.
Last October, I attended a writer's conference in Santee at Black's Camp. We had a wonderful time fishing and learning new techniques for writing and photography.
One of the highlights of my trip was seeing the revival of cotton farming in the coastal areas of South Carolina.
As a boy, my grandfather and many of his neighbors grew cotton, but it was later displaced by soy beans and corn. It took me back to my childhood to see the endless fields of snow-white cotton stretching alongside the country roads.
The laborious days of picking cotton by hand have been replaced by mechanical pickers. As a former textile/apparel manager, I can testify that the hand-picked cotton was much cleaner with less leaf trash, and required less processing to clean.
Fall and winter offer opportunities for hunters, hikers and campers to enjoy a refreshing time without as many insects and hot temperatures.
It is not uncommon in our area to hear gunfire in the distance. We know that some hunter is in pursuit of doves, squirrels or deer.
In addition, the cooling water of streams, rivers and lakes encourages fishermen to break out their favorite gear in pursuit of trout, bass or bream. If they live close to coastal areas, there are abundant opportunities for salt water species.
And of course we all look forward to the opportunity to turn off our air conditioning and throw open the windows for some of that fresh fall air.
It is so nice to sleep in a room that is cool enough to make you reach for more cover before morning, knowing that the thermostat is set at a comfortable level and the heat pump or air conditioner is not running.
We are blessed with moderate temperatures in the southern U.S. We have learned to tolerate the hot months, but look forward to the delightful temperatures of fall and spring. Snow is an event here and a couple of inches plays havoc with the population.
Our daughter and her family recently moved to Denver, Colorado, and they have a forecast of 1°F. in the near future. After a recent snow, our granddaughter was distraught to learn that school was not cancelled. It is a different world, with different realities. I, for one, am glad to be a southerner and often blessed to see four distinct seasons.
When I think of fall, a holiday song comes to mind, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year".