Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

September 7, 2012

Autumn has many benefits

It is getting hard to ignore that fall is slowly creeping into the two Virginias.

The change of seasons is something that seems subtle at first. Little things change like kids going back to school, a crisp nip in the morning air and the fact that Halloween candy has been on the shelves at local grocery stores for a month already.

Ingredients like apples and those for thick, hardy stews and soups that make the colder months worth the while are starting to find their way into my grocery cart. So far, none of the Halloween candy has come home with me but as it gets closer and closer to time I might have to snag a bag.

In addition to all the ads for fall festivals coming to the area, I have also caught sight of a few trees with their leaves already starting to turn those red, yellow and orange hues. Technically, fall might not be coming for another two weeks but I have learned the “Autumn Begins” marker on my calendar isn’t always right on the mark when it comes to changing leaves and colder temperatures.

Fall was never a season I really enjoyed growing up and probably ranked as my least favorite until I moved to the two Virginias. Of course, fall in Middle Tennessee is much different than in Appalachia.

You would go to bed and it would be hot, 90-plus degrees and summer then wake up the next morning to find all of the leaves on the ground, the temperature a cool 50 or 60 degrees and a couple of snowflakes on the ground. Fall was the hour or two at night everyone seemed to sleep through. A friend of mine who was an army brat said he had never seen anywhere have such a short fall like Tennessee. You could say the area was “Three Seasons Country”: the warm, dry season; the warm, wet season; and the cold, wet season.

I suppose there were some pluses to not really having a fall. We didn’t have to worry about snow because it hardly got cold enough and there weren’t months and months of raking leaves but rather one Saturday of cleaning up the yard. The fact that you could go trick-or-treating without needing a heavy winter coat was also a bonus. There was no real gradual changing of the leaves or lowering of the temperature like here.

Now, autumn ranks as one of my favorite seasons just because I get to watch the gradual changing of the leaves as I drive to and from work every morning. I am actually quite surprised I managed to stay on the road that first fall, watching the awe-inspiring autumn hues gift a burst of color and life to the rolling mountains. Even though the natural beauty of the mountains in autumn probably tops my list for why I now appreciate fall, I have also learned there are some definite bonuses to a good, lengthy autumn besides pretty scenery.

Anything that pairs apples and cinnamon together easily has become my favorite from apple butter and apple cider to apple crisp. A recent revelation is apple pie flavored ice cream, which I doubt will do me any good in the long run. I even have apple cinnamon scented candles and air freshener to give the inside that freshly baked apple pie smell.

Soups and stews are another reason to keep me in the kitchen in the fall. I love the smell of beef, carrots and potatoes simmering in the crock pot or a nice, warm bowl of chicken and rice soup. Chicken and dumplings done the right way is also a fall favorite.

Sweaters are another favorite part of fall. I have always loved sweaters and probably have way too many of them. There is just something about them that makes me feel like I’m all wrapped up in a blanket and warm. Having a fall that lasts more than a couple hours and actually gets colder than 75 degrees gives me plenty of opportunities to open up otherwise unused dresser drawers.

Though I am much more used to warmer temperatures, I have even learned to adapt and to like — not quite love — those cold autumn mornings. Of course, the smell of smoky firewood permeating the mountain air and a nice cup of warm coffee can really help one acclimate to those colder temperatures.

In the next few weeks, I anticipate pulling out those winter clothes and getting the extra blankets out of the closet. Changing the thermostat from “cooling” to “heating” will probably occur, as usual, when I wake up in the middle of the night freezing because it has suddenly gotten so cold.

Even if I’m not completely on board with the autumn chill, I am looking forward to those nights when I can curl up with a thick blanket, a good book, a cup of coffee, beef stew and a thick slice of apple crisp.

Kate Coil is a reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at kcoil@bdtonline.com.

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