Almanac

Hollowed pumpkins filled with dahlias. Acorns, gourds and pheasant feathers. Cinnamon and clementine. November is a holy shrine.

Can you feel that? The vibrancy among the decay?

The veil between worlds is thin.  

In the garden, the holly gleams with scarlet berries, beckons bluebird, warbler, thrasher, and — do you hear those lisping calls? — gregarious flocks of cedar waxwing. 

We too offer fruit. Some for the living, some for the dead.

Altars lined with flickering candles, candied pumpkins, marigolds and copal incense are lovingly created in remembrance of deceased loved ones, who are believed to return home for El Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday celebrated Oct. 31 through Nov. 2.

Sweet bread, warm meals, soap to cleanse the weary soul . . .

Imagine celebrating Thanksgiving with that kind of spirit.

Or better yet, try it. 

For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together.

For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad. Edwin Way Teale

Seeds of inspiration for the November gardener:

·  Enjoy the quiet hour of morning, the sweet gift of Daylight Saving Time (Sunday, Nov. 4). 

·  Day after Thanksgiving, sow poppy seeds on the full Beaver Moon for a dreamy spring.

·  Feed the birds.

·  Force paperwhites, hyacinth and amaryllis bulbs for holiday bloom.

·  Stop and smell the flowering witch hazel.

The Eleventh Hour

Best known by nom de plume George Eliot, Victorian-era novelist Mary Anne Evans so loved fall that she claimed her very soul was wedded to it. “If I were a bird,” she wrote, “I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” No surprise she was born in November, the 11th hour of this season of swirling leaves, snapdragons, goldenrod and falling apple.

Sesame Street’s googly-eyed Muppet Cookie Monster was born Nov. 2, on the Mexican Day of the Dead.

You want cookie?

In the spirit of life and death, try pan de muertos instead, a sweet bread baked in honor of departed loved ones. The below recipe came from a sweet-toothed friend who isn’t afraid to wake the dead.   

Pan de Muertos (Mexican Bread of the Dead)

Bread:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup warm water

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons aniseed (or 1/2 teaspoon anise extract)

1/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons orange zest

Glaze:

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon orange zest

2 tablespoons white sugar

Directions:

Heat butter and milk together in medium saucepan. Once butter melts, remove mixture from heat, then add warm water.

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, plus yeast, salt, aniseed, and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Beat in the warm milk mixture, then add eggs and orange zest and beat until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (allow 1 to 2 hours). Next, punch the dough down and shape it into a large round loaf with a round knob on top. Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until roughly doubled in size.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then brush with glaze.

To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine the 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over top of bread while still warm. Sprinkle glazed bread with white sugar.

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