Tea Time Stories
On either side of the road leading to Tasha’s house the asters are in bloom. They are the wild, New England variety, and though they are fond of roadsides, their largest colony thrives at the end of the vegetable garden. Phlox, goldenrod, Joe Pye Weed and a few hardy annuals flourish in the terraces in front of the house, while along the borders of the field the hardwoods are rapidly turning color.
A short distance beyond the stone terrace in front of Tasha’s house where the land tilts south and the jewelweed and nettle possess the ground between lawn and woods, a population of creatures surprising in variety has taken up residence. A doe and her fawn wait out the heat of the day in the shade where the moss grows, along with several porcupines. The porcupines make their appearance at dusk, generally near the crown of the pear trees where the leaves are especially to their liking, or else in the raspberry patch where this year’s canes are on the menu. It is harder to keep porcupines out of a garden than deer.
Tuesday brought our first official afternoon tea (lemonade) on Granny's porch! We were all so excited! This tradition is full of happy memories, and this occasion was no exception. Marjorie brought out our favorite picnic basket and juiced all of the lemons, Amy and Ellie picked some mint, and Seth carried the basket of goodies through the garden to the porch.
Over the years the clapboards and shingles on Tasha’s house have darkened from sunlight, rain and time. Winter brings a moment of rest and peace to the land, gardens and house as it sits in the quiet landscape. Christmas is here, as is a cardinal not indifferent to the sunflower seeds scattered around the back step and under the lilacs. Balsam needles and melting snow from the newly set up tree have been swept from the floor, along with bits of paper left over from wrapping presents now under the tree. Indoors everything is alight in reds, greens and gold.
To the north of Tasha’s house where the bee balm blooms red in the summer and beech leaves rattle in the winter wind sits the old birdfeeder. It rests atop a cedar post about six feet high, and has for many years, been the center of activity for chickadees, blue jays, and red squirrels. It was even used as a scratching post by Tasha’s one eyed cat Minou, who preferred canned sardines to birds. The feeder is a six by fourteen inch platform with wooden sides six inches high on each end and a glass roof, and there are even two narrow strips of wood running the length on each side to keep the birdseed from blowing away.
Tasha was fond of chickens, especially the rare Spitzhauben breed. She said their combs did not freeze in winter, as they had a topknot to keep their head warm, and that they were especially intelligent. “The intelligence of small children and chickens is often underestimated,” she was fond of saying.
Between autumn and winter there is often a type of weather that lasts a few hours or as much as several days. This pause between the seasons often accompanies the big storms that spin off the Atlantic and bring snow, or rain, or wind, and often all three.
Hand cranked ice cream is one of those traditions that is particularly relevant nowadays. It takes a while to make, but it is supposed to. That is why it tastes so good. Tasha used an old ice cream churn, painted green on the outside with copper wire holding the staves together. The gear and crank assembly that spanned the top of the wooden bucket and turned the stainless drum within never quite stayed seated and required occasional adjustment during the cranking process, but it made the very best ice cream. The open door of the woodshed with a view past the dovecote and to the pines to the south was the preferred location for ice cream production. Even on hot days the shade is cool beneath the roof where rows of firewood sit quietly, and there was always a corgi enjoying the proceedings.