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On The Mark: Fall is fleeting, but oh, so lovely

Autumn has been my favorite month since I was a child. I loved the bursts of orange and yellow. Raking up the leaves in our small Minneapolis yard. Piling them to jump in with neighbor kids.

Putting on our tweener (between seasons) jackets. Feeling the chill on my cheeks. Anticipating the applesauce and cider my mom and dad were cooking up in the kitchen. And looking forward to seeing my schoolmates again.

We're living on the crest of a glacial hill, with a moraine sloping down toward the west, where a small estuary makes its way south to the Tamarack River. We're doing a lot of logging - oak, poplar, birch - to make way for a new septic system. It's hard work. Deciding which trees must come down, tossing the numerous small limbs of the downed trees into the surrounding forest. Chainsawing the trunks into workable lengths. Halving, sometimes quartering them, on the splitter. Piling them in the woodshed.

Harvesting the Dolga crabapples that grow profusely on the leggy tree my grandfather planted 80 years ago. Bringing them home and cooking the juice out of them with our Finnish Mehu-Maija steam juicer that Rod bought me years ago. A three-part system, you place your apples in the top layer, boil the water in the lowest pan, which sends steam through a metal chimney up to the top, steaming the apples and creating juice that drips down to the middle layer, where a spigot sends it out to sterilized bottles. It's the most amazing red rose color. A day or so later, I make crabapple jelly for smaller jars as gifts to family and friends.

I love the profusion of trees on our land, surrounding the house, peeking out from under overstories. Vertical layers of green, gold and scarlet leaves framed by a dozen shades of tree bark. And the berries. And the many varieties of apples of fall - inviting bites into their cool, crisp interiors. Birds continue to flock to our feeders, although the hummingbirds seem to be leaving for warmer climes.

The Carlton County farmers market is still open on Saturdays in the Premier Theatres parking lot in Cloquet through Oct. 21. It's a pleasure to shop there and to enjoy the many tastes and nutritious produce. And there's always the late-season assessment of home gardens - which flowers flourished, and which veggies, given the extended dryness of this past summer, survived. The flowers, however, are thriving, especially with recent rains.

Ann Markusen lives in rural Cromwell and is an original investor in the Pine Knot News.

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