hump day nuggets: equinoxes and harvest moons

hump day nuggets: little bits of the season in photos and words about the last week

An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator.

The harvest moon is the moon at or about the period of fullness that is nearest to the autumnal equinox.

Turns out it was the exact same moment this year. Did you see it? It was, hands down, the best effing full moon I have ever seen. Round and sexy and hissing with excitement.

happy birthday Caroline!

The thing is, we don’t need such scientific truths to announce fall ’round here. The air crunches, the leaves relax into rainbows. College students sit on couches on their front porches and bed time becomes more of a time. The sun yawns over the mountains sooner and insists upon sweaters.


Here, we haul closet loads of stuff we can clearly live without to thrift stores and talk about weather-proofing windows. We wish we had planted more carrots and pick hundreds of pounds of fruit from neighbor’s trees. We opine about the snow forecast and spread the down comforter over our bed.


:: Lots of surprises in the garden this year including one giant head of Kaboko cabbage.


:: Annual peach butter making.


We did it over the course of several days this year. Breaking up the blanching and peeling from the cooking from the canning made it seem like a snap. However, I think we lost a good 20 pounds of peaches to hungry kids. We still ended up with 30 pints of summer heaven.


:: Pear-picking with friends.

As I was pliéing way up in a tree I remembered last year when I was up in that same tree negotiating a big belly. As I approach Ruby’s first birthday and I keep thinking about one year ago I was _____. It’s a crazy thing that she was in my body a year ago and now she’s long and strong and here.


I’ll make pear apple sauce. Method and recipe next week.

:: Our contortionist baby can bend in half to reach anything at all. Dare her and it’s even more astounding.


:: The winter squash harvest will be wildly successful in a few weeks.


:: Lately I have insane twitches where I SEE Margot as a teenager.


:: WE GOT A NEW RANGE and it took a minor miracle to shoehorn it into our beligerant kitchen. Some day, a remodel. For now? I have four working burners, convection and lots of things to make without having to hop on one foot while singing supercalafragalisticexpealadocious.


:: I made a cake for my friend’s birthday (in the schizophrenic oven) and it was good. Like, finishing-it-off-for-breakfast good.


Adapted from Vegetarian Planet cookbook:

Cornmeal Plum Cake

1 1/3 cups cornmeal
2/3 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1 1/2 cups halved plums

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter nine-inch cake pan. Mix cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. In another bowl, mix butter and sugar with a wood spoon (don’t cream them). Stir half beaten eggs into sug-but mixture. Then add the rest. Add vanilla. Add half of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir well (don’t beat). Stir in yogurt. Add remaining flour mixture. Fold in plums. Pour into pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until knife inserted into cake comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes and serve at room temp.

And because it stuck like crazy and was all fuhcockta when it came out, I fixed it up with a boulevard sunflower.


:: I hear all the time on facebook how people dork out at Target. I do not do this but I can relate. I can walk the aisles of my local hardware store like I’m on a secret scavenger hunt.


Especially when accompanied by a WIDE AWAKE baby before sunrise.

We left with canning lids, Barkeeper’s Friend and a dog poo shovel. What were you doing Saturday at 7am?

And, even though I CANNOT WAIT TO SLEEP PAST 5AM, I always feel lucky to witness sunrise.


:: I think plums are nature’s most perfect color combination.


To preserve plums I simply halve, pit, toss in bags and freeze. We add to muffins, cakes and desserts all year.


:: We have a farm seven blocks from our home. It’s absolutely one of my favorite things to wake, make coffee and walk to Benson’s for produce that was picked that morning.


And my true Montana girl. It was cold on this morning and she insisted flip flops were fine if she wore a hat. Yep.


We loaded the stroller with as much corn as it could carry (leaving room for two small children) to freeze for the winter.


Swear, corn is the easiest, most satisfying thing to preserve. Once you taste fresh summer corn in a Rocky Mountain January, you’ll never go back. Here’s how we roll: blanch for three minutes, cool immediately, let dry a bit, cut of cob, spread on cookie sheets (to eliminate corn wad), place in freezer, wait until frozen and then flake the kernels into bags, label and store. Do it.

:: I love my dog.

ant hat for sale here

So that’s a week on our stead. This next week we will tackle the pounds of pears and tomatoes that are keeping each other company in our entryway at the moment. And we will ride the biggest pumpkin we’ve ever grown like a champion bull.

I had so hoped to grow enough food to feed our family through the winter. It didn’t happen. But every year I am closer to maximizing the yield from our plot. The good news is that I am surrounded by generous souls who want their trees picked and want their tomatoes adored. I think we’ll make out just fine. Just like Margot picking out her own clothes, it always works out, no?


53 Responses to hump day nuggets: equinoxes and harvest moons

  1. Lacy says:

    I just got 20 pounds of both pears and apples…if any survive till next week I will totally try that recipe!!

  2. Wow. Love your oven – jealous, sister! I totally agree with you on the color combination of the plums. Inspiring colors for a knitted Fall hat, no?!

    I love hardware stores – right down to the paint sample color strips that make great bookmarks. On Saturday before 7 we were getting ready for our newish role as soccer coaches. Funny, I know.

    Hey, Bug. Hey, super-sassy-teen Bug. If it weren’t for the bear tucked into her tank I’d of thought she was twelve.


  3. Ingrid says:

    Well well, I see you weren’t to drunk to store up food for next winter. HA! I love you and your little blog.

  4. Gardenatrix says:

    Cannot wait to try that recipe. YUM!

  5. OK!! I am moving Montana up to the top of list for places I want to live . Great photos and such a natural revalation of fall.

  6. I’ve only been reading your blog for a couple of weeks, and I already want to come live next door. I’m in awe of your gardening, your preserving, your cooking, baking, exploring. Montana’s never been on my list of Places To Visit, but it certainly is now. Thanks for the glimpses into your life!

  7. Chiot's Run says:

    So happy for you to have a new stove, I remember the days of throwing a cake in the oven and then it decided it just wasn’t going to bake anymore – so frustrating! Here’s to happy baking, enjoy it!

  8. Sarah says:

    I love the way you write and the way you live……this one gave me the chills. I love how important MT is to you…I wrote about how important “where are you from?” in my latest blog. The ramblings in my head and heart and You are a part of the inspiration!

    My parents go to MT to fish, but I’ve never been, although I’m enjoying a visit every time I read your blog.

  9. You are such a hard worker! What a blessing to be able to have all that great produce all winter long!

  10. Tonya says:

    LOLOL Ingrid!!!

    I hear you about the hardware store, my dh and I go to Home Depot and Lowes on dates lol We have one planned for Friday, we are going have lunch and then to Home Depot to buy snapdragons and to wander around fantasizing about all of the cool renovations we will do one day. We also have dates at Target, they have awesome clearance prices. We lead an exciting life ; )

  11. Ha, yes, Ingrid. Sorry to burst people’s assumptive bubble! Alas, I don’t party like a rock star. Although, waking all night with a baby can sure feel like a hangover the next day. I swear it helps so much to open one eye at a time in the morning. I am winking at you right now.

  12. Gorgeous Pictures……my favorite of the lot: Margo doing the catwalk down the sidewalk….
    SO reminds me of my tweenie Grace!!
    Congrats on getting one step closer to supporting your freezer for the entire winter! I try too….but with 3 kids I’m certainly not there.
    Enjoyed this one, Nici!!!

  13. Sage says:

    Freezing corn and roasting and freezing tomatoes are my two favorite (and easiest) ways to preserve. I can do that. Since my poor body is now recovering from too much hiking last weekend, I am starting to feel like those pear trees behind the house might get picked this year. For pears, I adore my dehydrator…do you have one? It is easy and I love dried fruit. Also, Annica could eat fruit leathers / rollups round the clock, so it is a good way to make our own. xo

    P.S. Totally jealous on the oven!

  14. TOTALLY agree about sweet corn in January…I am in Nebraska and was stock up the freezer now so we can enjoy in the dead of winter. Happy Fall!!

  15. Becky says:

    Great idea on preserving plums since I already made 30 jars of preserves and I have a HUGE tray-full sitting on my buffet and I was just wondering what the heck I would do with them all. Also have you ever made plum sauce like applesauce – it may be too runny don’t cha think?

  16. Love this today! Yes, glimpses of Margot as a teen. And Ruby. I remember your post picking fruit with her in your tum~it didn’t seem that long ago. Sigh.

    The harvest moon. Oh, my. Sullivan awoke that morning at 5:30am~something he never does. I crawled out of bed and looked out the window. The downtown Denver skyline was backdropped by the most beautiful pink-yellow mountains and above it all the harvest moon, huge and amazing. Took my breath away. I never would’ve seen it unless Sullivan hadn’t woken up. There are no accidents.

    Beautiful day, friend. xo

  17. Deedee says:

    I recently discovered your blog as well. It was wonderful to find a blog by a Western Montana person! I discovered “Frayed Sew” here and I drove right down there the very same day! I adore that store! Also, thanks for the tip on freezing corn. I will be doing that. I am wondering about your tomatoes. I have one ripe tomato so far and about 6 or 7 almost ready. And tons of green ones. They sure are late this year. I don’t think they did well with all the rain in May and June? I’m hoping for enough good weather to get more ripe ones.

  18. Hillary says:

    Beautiful post. This is my first time commenting, but I absolutely love your blog. The diversity. The smiles. The life. Thank you for sharing

  19. Jeanne says:

    What a beautiful blog! I especially love the plum picture. So luscious and the colors are astounding! Not to mention how eloquent your writing is. This post really makes me feel like I need to kick my game up a bit! I can not believe how much you did this past week! WOW! You are an amazing woman and mother! Thanks for the inspiration! And thanks for sharing!

  20. j.j. says:

    Looks like a great week at your house! Cheers to the season…can’t wait to see the pig pumpkin pics!

  21. TRB Holt says:

    I wish I lived closer to you Burb for many reasons….but this time of year I long to be canning with you! I have OH SO many love-filled-memories of canning with my mother and my dad. I remember like yesterday sitting in the backyard with Dad scrubbing cucs with the cold water from the hose while Mom readied the brine, garlic, dill & jars. Then like a well oiled machine we had the most efficient assembly line, one that would put GM to shame! I smiled this summer when Travis stood shoulder to shoulder with me and repeated this tradition! Just recently he called and said, “Mom these are the best dills we have EVER made”! When we lived in the Pacific NW a whole new meaning of canning fruit was born….love the Yakima Valley! I have so many little lessons tucked away in my brain from my mom…and when I can the canning ones magically burst out and I hear her say, “alum, just the size of a pea honey” or ” 1 jar at a time, don’t get ahead of yourself” or “like music to my ears!” when that satisfying POP tells us that a jar has sealed! I miss my mom…. I love how you love to can too….NOTHING more rewarding than standing back and surveying your larder…the beautiful jars, filled with your labors of love, lined up on a shelf! Well maybe eating ice cold pears for breakfast on a frosty December morn runs a close second!

    Margot~you get cuter every day, how is this possible? I may not get twitches where I see you as a teenager, but I do see a beautiful little girl blooming behind toddler eyes! You too are already standing on a chair helping with the seasonal canning….I LOVE THIS! I can’t wait to see you taking control of the reins when you ride that pumpkin! I Love You A Bushel & A Peck!

    Ruby~So crazy to think back that a year ago you were still growing inside your mama. Now that you are here, all is right with the world! Your mama asked, “What were you doing Saturday at 7am?” I wish I was pushing you around the aisles of my local hardware store! The photo of you and Alice is my new Desktop Background, two SWEET girls!….You Are My Sunshine!

    xoxo, Mom/Gram

  22. TRB Holt says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. joan says:

    Hold the show. Is that “little orange guy” in Margot’s hot little hand in the last photo? Good job Auntie Neysa.

  24. Maria says:

    Nici~Thanks for all your tips. I’m usually craving summer fruit & vegetables by mid winter here & you make it sound so easy to have them all year round. Duh! I’m looking forward to chunky chicken & vegetable soups with brown rice, roasted acorn & butternut squash, hearty turkey meatloaf & creamy mashed potatoes, steamy hot cocoa with a splash of strong coffee..I especially love a bright sunny day right after a dark, dreary night of snow.
    There are pleasures to each & every season. Enjoy!

  25. Gramomster says:

    Oh my god that farm!!! That is soooo beautiful! And I’m totally with Margot on the whole flip flop thing. I wear my Chaccos as long as humanly possible every year.

    Love the catwalk strut she’s got going. No wonder you’re getting teenager twitchies!

    Ruby in the squash?! Holy cats! Too cute! And what a phenomenal squash patch! Jeeez!

    Love it. As usual. Love it love it love it!
    Here in Grand Rapids, we are in the middle of ArtPrize, which is a really cool thing in a fairly uncool, but improving, place. It opened on the equinox, and we went a-wandering, looking at huge amounts of outdoor public art in the early evening with that moon over the river. Pretty nifty for sure!

  26. TRB Holt says:

    ps..LOVE your new stove! And I spy Ruby in YOUR Montana Grizzlies sweatshirt that you wore at her age….love this too!


  27. Lindsay says:

    oh you are my new fave blog. probably because I see myself in you (but I have yet to have kids). I too have a schizophrenic stove, coupled with baking at high-altitudes (I’m by the Rockies in Alberta) makes for some interesting outcomes. so I am so jealous of your new range. can you post more pics so I can drool?
    my favourite thing to can this year was roasted tomato salsa with these cute cherry peppers (sweet AND spicy) that I found at my farmer’s market. I am going to do the corn you suggested. thanks eh!

  28. MyRayOLite says:

    I am envious of your garden and preserving it all! I tried to grow pumpkins one year as I had this idea I was going to have a pumpkin patch and have a picking party for the neighbors and friends when fall arrived. Fungus overtook my patch! I was watering at night. OOPS! Some day! I will attempt it again.

    Wow, those plums are beautiful and I blushed as it looked almost pornographic! :o)

  29. RMAinMD says:

    ,,,i “dig” your new room-mate (your range) she is a beauty,,,i live vicariously through you, oh how i wish i had a really cool garden, how i wish i could sew on that ‘ol machine my grandmother used, how i wish i had 2 little girls to love, teach, enjoy life with,,,because none of the above is going to come true anytime soon i keep coming back for my “nuggets” at “dig this chick”,,,i’m gearing up for the new season (my favorite) i will support my local farmers and purchase as much produce and fall mums as our home will support, i will wear the knit scarves, caps and mittens that other very talented women have made me, and i will continue to enjoy the view from your lens,,,thank you Nici!

  30. Staci says:

    have you ever made plum butter? ohmyword it’s delicious…we made some out of those little plums from a missoula tree two years ago and it was to die for. especially warmed up and spooned onto some vanilla ice cream!

  31. Yes, kick ass moon!
    Nice range!
    Beautiful plums!
    I’m also in very much in the phase of “last year at this time…”
    Yes, being up with baby all night can feel like a hangover!
    We usually freeze some of our IL sweet corn too, and you’re right, amazing treat in the dead of winter!
    That is all.

  32. KWQR says:

    Major harvest envy here! The only thing we successfully grew this summer was our tomatoes. Have been enjoying BLTs like crazy but hope next year to have a bit more diversity. Congrats on the new range – makes such a difference having one you can count on.
    Gorgeous photos!
    p.s. As an Alaskan girl I can totally vouch for the flip flops & hat theory!! As long as your head is warm your feet can be in denial of the coming cold. :-)

  33. Yeah, I can see a kind of teenage sashay to Margot’s pics…the beany baby she’s got peeking out at the same time is adorable!

    I too look at my dudes and wonder…jock, artist, computer nerd, who knows?

    Love your cake and the “sug-but.” That made me laugh.

    Seeing the hardware store pics reminds me to see if the one around the corner from us carries the refill canister of gas for the Sodastream thingie that you had in a post a few months back. If they do, we’re so getting one.

  34. Yeah, I can see a kind of teenage sashay to Margot’s pics…the beany baby she’s got peeking out at the same time is adorable!

    I too look at my dudes and wonder…jock, artist, computer nerd, who knows?

    Love your cake and the “sug-but.” That made me laugh.

    Seeing the hardware store pics reminds me to see if the one around the corner from us carries the refill canister of gas for the Sodastream thingie that you had in a post a few months back. If they do, we’re so getting one.

  35. Yeah, I can see a kind of teenage sashay to Margot’s pics…the beany baby she’s got peeking out at the same time is adorable!

    I too look at my dudes and wonder…jock, artist, computer nerd, who knows?

    Love your cake and the “sug-but.” That made me laugh.

    Seeing the hardware store pics reminds me to see if the one around the corner from us carries the refill canister of gas for the Sodastream thingie that you had in a post a few months back. If they do, we’re so getting one.

  36. Yeah, I can see a kind of teenage sashay to Margot’s pics…the beany baby she’s got peeking out at the same time is adorable!

    I too look at my dudes and wonder…jock, artist, computer nerd, who knows?

    Love your cake and the “sug-but.” That made me laugh.

    Seeing the hardware store pics reminds me to see if the one around the corner from us carries the refill canister of gas for the Sodastream thingie that you had in a post a few months back. If they do, we’re so getting one.

  37. Yeah, I can see a kind of teenage sashay to Margot’s pics…the beany baby she’s got peeking out at the same time is adorable!

    I too look at my dudes and wonder…jock, artist, computer nerd, who knows?

    Love your cake and the “sug-but.” That made me laugh.

    Seeing the hardware store pics reminds me to see if the one around the corner from us carries the refill canister of gas for the Sodastream thingie that you had in a post a few months back. If they do, we’re so getting one.

  38. Melina says:

    I love how the plums look like Oysters. And something about that photo from a few feet away, of the smiling Ruby happy in the shopping cart in hardwear store…I don’t know, but it’s a particularly cheerful shot. I love, love, love fall coming on, seasons turning. Where I am now in Seattle it’s nothing compared to my home in Vermont, but sometimes I feel a leaf crunch under my foot and smell woodsmoke from somewhere and get that shooting joy through my body….
    thanks for another great post.
    -Melina from the wilder coast

  39. Dana says:

    Everything looks so yummy and your new stove…awesome!!

  40. Stephanie says:

    The pictures are beautiful! Loving the fall feel you captured and the adventures you’re having with your family. The children’s place jammies are great from your shopping extraveganza. They are definitely my very favorite in the jammie category!

  41. I find myself nodding at all of your praises of my new stove! It rocks. Margot had to show me how to turn the oven on this morning. Seriously. I was staring at the knobs and couldn’t figure it out and then she said, ‘push this button mama’ and phwupt the flame ignited and we made cookies! That baked evenly! When she wakes up from her nap she is going to show me how to transfer photos from my macbook to my desktop.

  42. FinnyKnits says:

    Delicious post! I agree-plums are the perfect color combo. Here we’re trying to get through watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers and beans. The canner soldiers on.

  43. Kerri says:

    Wow, I just adore this blog! I rarely take the time to comment, but just have to tell you that I look forward to reading your nuggets every week. I LOVE your descriptions of Missoula…We used to live right near Benson’s Farm and it’s the best. Other faves: Ruby in the squash patch, perusing hardware store aisles, and the plums! And Margot couldn’t be cuter walking down that sidewalk. Oh and the range – so jealous. My oven is driving me insane…never know how hot it actually is so my cooking adventures are hit and miss :) I only hope that I can be half the rockin mama you are some day. Seriously. Thanks for the smiles and inspiration!

  44. Amie says:

    Margot’s got ATTITUDE!! I am very sure you hope her teenage years arrive sloooooowly. Love what you’re trying to accomplish with your garden. Quite inspiring.

    Oh, and Saturday at 7am at the harware store? I can relate. Glad for the 24 hour grocery store around the corner ;)

  45. Katie says:

    Moments. This post is one of those. When everything comes together and life is grand, because it always is. I love it.

  46. Aunt Deb says:

    Nickers, you make me feel guilty as I didn’t do much of anything with the garden this year. My excuse is a new grand baby in Aug. and then school starting! I have a great freezer corn recipe from my aunt where you cook the corn with butter, etc. and then freeze. It is soooo good. Haven’t done it for awhile. Love the pics of my beloved Missoula..not to mention YOU guys. Yes, I can see Margot AND Charlotte as a teenager..God help us!! Love, Aunt Deb

  47. Jennifer says:

    Man, I’m jonesing your new stove!! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. (like that’s going to be hard for you?!? Not!)

    -Jennifer from Annapolis

  48. Anonymous says:

    atta girl margot! She IS a montana girl, i will wear flip flops until there is at least a foot of snow on the ground!

  49. Kelle says:

    Ha…in that first picture I thought before I saw the caption “That’s Caroline!” I love your Montana fall. And yes, it is so awesome to look and see those babies and know I’ve held them, kissed them, soothed their boo-boos…ha. xo Margot as a teenager? love. And congrats on the ov!

  50. Amy says:

    Probably my favorite post ever!! The way you write… feels like home! I am coming to Missoula… soon?!
    Tell Margot I would have done the same thing… its perfectly ok to wear flip-flops if I wear a hoodie! This rings true until November-ish! Love it!

  51. jen says:

    i used to walk past a storefront in charlottesville, va (where we lived for a short while) that had the best quote about peaches and plums written on the walkway. and i spent forever trying to figure out what the quote was when i moved back to mpls … and then i realized i could email the guy at the store next door. and did … here it is.

    the inside of peaches
    are the color of sunrise.
    the outsides of plums
    are the color of dusk.
    –Robert Hass

    i spent … forevah … trying to track down such a simple quote. i’m still not sure why that quote makes me as happy as it does.
    but it does.

  52. MaggieMae says:

    Love it… if not from afar (being on the right coast). While I’d love to be a gardener along with being a solar oven bread baker… maybe in another life, in reality I’m an NYC suburban gal who lives and thoroughly enjoys that “other” life vicariously through blogs like yours. Maybe someday. Meanwhile, purple and yellow is my fave color combo and I LOVED the pic of the plums (among so many others). NEver thought about it before. Found you through Kelle Hampton’s blog… b/c she and I have a 47th-chromosome-thing in common (x2 for me). Looking forward to more. Thanks for writing and shuttering so I can enjoy the big Montana moon too.

  53. What’s up, just wanted to mention, I liked this article. It was practical. Keep on posting!