On the death of summer

I spent the autumnal equinox in my car, driving home from Wisconsin.  I thought mostly about changing seasons and death.

Funny:  most of the weekend was spent wildly reveling in the strength of my body and embracing life.  And food.  Glorious food, the fuel of life itself.  But death has a way of sticking its nose in.  Fortunately, I was able to spend some time at the bedside of a dying friend.  I was able to at least say goodbye.  The rest of the weekend was living the life of the living, and living it with those who remain alive, without him now.  He died Friday morning, at home.

Ostensibly, the reason for my journey was to configure a large screened enclosure to house this thing.  This wood-fired oven has been a labor of love for my friend C on her farm.  It’s been wonderful, helping shape this dream with her:  lots of sweat, edible payoff.  The oven needs to be stuccoed yet, and the concrete legs on the side are to hold up plank tables for easy pizza assembly.  But as you can see it is functional.  I spent much of the weekend playing with its functions.

Here are the tomatoes I brought for her (with some gnocchi I made): we threw these in for an overnight roast in the cooling oven (300* down to 125*).

I adored the quick hot pizzas we would wolf down for lunch, but the oven’s greater wonders for me were in its long-term cooking abilities.  Seeing what it could do with the tomatoes, I threw in unshucked corn cobs, some glut sauce hastily made from what I could find in C’s garden, and sliced apples and pears from two neighbors’ trees.  In different pans, we let them cook all day while we labored…except the corn was just on the oven floor. The glut sauce is now frozen and the apples/pears are now butter with ginger, allspice and sugar.

Sweaty dirty working girly arms, and one should always drink out of canning jars, don’t you think?

And then after digging and hammering, wine would come out, and a walk through the cornfield, then hot outdoor showers in the cool dark in this lovely space.  Then dinner.  Repeat the next day.

Ah.  Life.

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13 responses to “On the death of summer

  1. I am sorry for your loss of a friend.
    The oven must have been allot of fun and good food.
    I send you my best wishes,

  2. Wow, I’ve seen outdoor ovens and then I’ve seen outdoor ovens. THAT’S an outdoor oven! Fabulous!

    Thoughts are with you on the loss of your friend…

    Robin
    Ntl Gardening Examiner
    (and chicken lover!)

  3. I’m so sorry you lost a friend, El. xoxo

  4. I am very sorry about the loss of your friend and very glad that you got to be with him. Closure is often a wonderful thing. On the subject of oven – OMG!!! I want one! I’ve been playing with the concept for about a year but haven’t quite gotten my arms and mind entirely around it. And yes, wine should most assuredly be consumed from canning jars (a habit my mother finds grossly offensive which is probably why I do it).

  5. Oh, El, I’m sorry, I was logged in as my daughter above.

  6. That must have been a comfort for your friend to leave from home with loving friends and family around. I’m glad you were able say goodbye and sorry for your loss.

  7. Good Times and Bad Times I guess that’s life. Sorry to hear of the loss, but glad you were given the opportunity of closure.
    I hope Wisco was as lovely as it always is. I miss the old hood.

  8. I too am sorry for your loss. I hope you and all those who loved your friend are able to find peace.

  9. Thanks, all. His death was a relief: his illness was mercifully quick, and he suffered, but not for long.

    It’s a bit of a puzzle. What would YOU do if you didn’t feel well, went to the doctor, and the doctor told you that you had two weeks to get your affairs in order? And it was two weeks, actually, 12 days, and he died.

    Because it was so surprising, I think we are all in a bit of a fog right now. It’s definitely put a different spin on the way I saw the trip, and the way I am thinking now.

    That pizza oven, though!! This is the second one I have helped build, and I have plans to build two more: one for our kid’s school, and one, of course, for US. Stay tuned.

  10. Thoroughly enjoying reading through your site. Just notice the ‘Fear of Food’ post while this was trying to load. In light of the recent food scares around the country, perhaps you could recycle that title and write a literal post! Isn’t it nice being fairly food secure at a time like this???

  11. PS. You may wish to read my own post in keeping with that theme: http://howlingduckranch.wordpress.com/2008/09/page/2/

    I hope you enjoy it.

  12. It sounds almost perfect — death in life. What’s the phrase from the prayer book? “In the midst of life we are in death”?

    May we all live so fruitfully.

  13. Can you post some building plans on the oven? Nice job.

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