Cake and flowers for the inconvenienced.

In the midst of destruction, smoke, fear, and drama of the worst sorts, I rested for most of last week as though at a peaceful (indoor) oasis, with my dear friends. First it was the two evacuees, and then a third who was merely on her way home to Ohio. After all were gone, I hurried to prepare my part of a church school lesson, attended Liturgy…

…and a new week had begun. Whoa! While I had my head turned, a new season had suddenly arrived. The nights are cooler again, the sun is slant. When the wildfire smoke thinned out a bit, I could notice the fall feel of the air, and skies turning from orange to blue. It made me weep with relief.

The butternuts needed to be brought in, the zucchini yanked out, and a general clean-up begun. I had planned to plant peas in September; now I hope to do it before the first week of October is gone.

The zucchini plants were disgusting; for many weeks the white flies have flown up in a cloud every time I rummage around to pick the perfect fruits; those insects are still present, and now ashes blow and drift down wherever I move a stem of salvia, or a fig branch.

I try not to keep talking about cinders, but they have gone from being an unusual element of the weather to being constant, and hard to ignore. When it doesn’t include smoke and ashes I find the weather to be always interesting, but in a more satisfying way. Of course, I am merely inconvenienced; those of you who experience tornadoes, hurricanes and floods have your own reasons to not be exactly “satisfied” even with more natural weather made up of rain and wind.

When the zucchini was gone this flower was revealed, its bloom pristine though its leaves are sooty. My Seek app can’t identify it, and I don’t recall seeing such a plant here before.

The two 4-inch zinnia starts I planted in June have grown gloriously bushy. It took me months to get around to deadheading them; this week was only the second time. A few flowers had formed seeds, which I scattered in hopes of finding some sprouts next spring. But they are likely hybrids, so who knows?

The figs keep coming, and I plan to make this autumn cake again. But I can’t eat the whole thing… who is in my “bubble” that I might invite to share with me? I could give the whole cake to a neighbor! Actually, I had thought to make two, and already planned to give one to a neighbor…. I don’t have my thinking cap on right now to work out this problem.

Because while I was typing, the smoke thickened. I have shut the windows, taken the laundry off the clothesline, and turned on the air purifiers again. Since I did make a little start in the garden, and brought in a few of the red zinnias, I am content. If no new fires start, we can expect the skies to clear more and more, just in time for cold weather and wood fires in the house. I hope.

I know that many of you pray for us who live in wildfire country, for the firefighters, for rain. Thank you!

17 thoughts on “Cake and flowers for the inconvenienced.

  1. Your autumn cake just reminded me of a fruitcake I always enjoyed. It’s called “California Fruitcake,” and the only ingredients are dates, apricots, and pecans, held together with a light batter. Have you heard of it? If you’re interested, I could send the recipe. I don’t know why I stopped making it. Now I’m eager for colder weather — we’re still in summer mode, and fruitcake in summer just doesn’t seem right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I know about the California Fruitcake. You and I compared notes about our different versions once before. This one does have some of the same flavor elements!

      After a few years of experimenting with different proportions of more ingredients, I settled on using mostly apricots, dates, apples and almonds in my fruitcake. I’d be interested to see your recipe, because if I saw it I don’t think I saved it.

      Oh, but look! I just found an old post about what I had freshly named “Nativity Cake.”
      https://gretchenjoanna.com/2013/12/14/nativity-cake/ But I may not have baked it since I renamed it!

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      1. I’d forgotten that we chatted about all this before. No matter — and I enjoyed your nativity cake recipe. One difference is almonds in yours and pecans in mine. That’s probably the difference between California and Texas. I’ll dig out the recipe and send it to you!

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      2. Yes, pecans are quite exotic in my way of thinking, but using them is therefore even more festive! AND I made your Black Walnut Cookies one year… now I am thinking ahead to Christmas. Come November I might start putting cookies in the freezer for the holiday!

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  2. Hello lovely friend. I am so sorry that the ashes keep coming and the smoke descends.

    I love the sight of your figs and your zinnias. My zinnias were nibbled by rabbits. I have few survivors. My cucumbers were low producers this year, as were many other gardeners’ cucs. I wonder if it was the seeds. I keep spreading marigold seeds when I pull up huge dead ones. I will spread them in places they cannot reach, too. I still love to water and pull and most of the time I am quite weary of the garden by now. Not this year. Thank you, God!

    Maybe you could freeze the yummy autumn cake. I did that with a rhubarb crisp and one of these days I shall defrost it and eat it again.

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  3. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with so much smoke and the threat of fires. We pray for y’all every day. I don’t know how y’all live with these things on a daily basis. What a year it’s been! Take care GJ!

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  4. These photographs are encouraging in that they demonstrate the possibility of focusing on beauty and order in a fearful time, and how to do that. I was struck also by your discovery of the unfamiliar plant that arose from the “disgusting” zucchini, and how its flower seemed so fresh even though the leaves were marked by ash and soot. And that next photograph of the dark gravel, fallen plant stems or leaves, and scattered seeds– lots of meaning there, and throughout all your words and pictures.

    P.S. I edited yesterday’s prayer a bit to make it more likely to register with my 10 yr old twin grandchildren in Los Angeles. I’ll let you know if they make it part of their day for at least the time being. I sure do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also appreciate your thoughtful noticing of possible symbols and metaphors in my images… I did halfheartedly think about some…

      I was headed another direction with this post, but fatigue dulled my mind, and the increased smoke made me too sad to be creative. You are making me feel better again… or maybe it’s my coming bedtime that perks me up! Thank you, Albert, for persevering. One step at a time, God help us.

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  5. The smoke and ash blanketing your area seem to be visually symbolic of the path this year has followed along blind alleys and rough patches through a pandemic we cannot see. Your positive attitude is an example to us all. You struggling with fallout from fires and we are in our sixth year of drought … There IS light in all of this and you encourage us all to focus on the good things – of which there are many – instead of the bad or unpleasant, or the ‘inconvenient’. Thank you for this!

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  6. Dear Gretchen ~ I have been praying for the fires to be put out and no more started, and for all involved in putting them out and all who are having to live with the ash and smoke. ~ Your autumn cake looks delicious! ~ Be well, stay safe and God’s continuing blessings be upon you and His comfort surround you, is my prayer for you. Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What an abundance of figs you have this year! And the red Zinnias, so lovely. How could I have neglected to sow Zinnias this year?

    Hopefully very soon you’ll be done with smoke and ash falling. It’s been quite the summer.

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  8. Here I am catching up on current and previous posts and enjoying both immensely. The prayer in times of wildfires is going into today’s journal entry. …’lives of the beasts and the well-being of the land” Such worrisome times! I certainly would love to be in your bubble and share a bit of your delicious fig cake. Ivy is doing well to have learned the blanket stitch at such a young age. What a lovely birthday remembrance she will have! I would also like to get my hands on the Edwina Hume Fallis book. I am fascinated with her making of toy props which must have delighted her young audience.

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  9. Figs and zinnias and squash — all wonderful. Your world is filled with great beauty and abundance.

    I’m so sorry you are still dealing with the poor air quality and ash. I know it has to be wearing and concerning but I am glad you are all right.

    Liked by 1 person

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