― Cynthia Rylant, In November
I've lived in a lot of cold houses. The house in Orland Park with no basement, the chilled brown tiles atop the concrete foundation laid across the frozen black earth of northern Illinois. The unheated second floor of the sandstone farmhouse in Calloway where we breathed frost into the air if our noses escaped the mountain of wool blankets. Our first house on the farm with neither furnace nor basement, where the electric baseboard heaters fought a losing battle with drafts from above and below and we preheated our bed with the electric blanket every night.
We fought back. With lath and plastic, hammer and nails, Blake covered every window, shrouding us in a blurry world until spring returned. It was not a pretty sight. When we moved out to the windy hill by Deadman's Hollow, our situation improved with the comforting on and off of the furnace blower and warm air coming out of the register. But I still covered the windows...on the inside this time...and felt virtuous and smart when the plastic breathed in and out like it was alive every time the wind attempted to get in.
This old house on Spruce plays by its own set of winter rules: slippers for everyone, an electric throw for Blake's uber cold feet, the friendly hiss of the gas log in the front room. The new windows thwart the sound and fury of winter with one exception: the sun porch upstairs where the houseplants go to spend the winter. And that's where I spent part of this glorious November afternoon, swatting away sun resurrected houseflies and late season lady bugs, spreading out cellophane and double sticky tape like generations have before me. When I am finished, the sun porch is winterized and the plants as cozy as I can accomplish. One more November task put to rest.
November is full of satisfactions like this. Harvest continues, but the acres are piling up behind the combines and there is cautious talk of an end in sight. The sun greets us in the mornings for a few days after the time change and helps compensate for the long evenings of work after the sun sets when other folks are headed home. By November, the mum mess has been picked up...groundcloth piled under bricks, irrigation lines rolled up, fertilizer machines and pumps put up where they won't freeze and break.The greenhouse work revolves around emails and phone calls and web sites.
Sunday morning finds us women folk gathering after Sunday school to pool resources in the kitchen. There's a new recipe to try, a chicken enchilada casserole that promises to feed 12 people. In our line of work, a dozen is always an option, so I screw up my eyes trying to read the capacities of the largest casserole dishes in my cupboard...there it is! Found one....4.5 liters is the winner. The bean dip appetizer is partly for the meal...and partly to accompany the preparation of the meal. The cooks dip Fritos; the oven pings as it heats; the conversation warms as the kids check on dinner's progress and the dog sneaks in from the back porch to sit on someone's feet and be sociable. It's an anti-Martha kind of kitchen, crowded,noisy, busy, steamy, made more so by the growing stacks of dirty pans and the overflowing trash can.
O tidings, of comfort and joy...welcome, November....