P. Allen Smith: Winter at Moss Mountain Farm
The limbs of the large oak tree frame the view to the cottage. The small evergreens on each side of the front door are an easy and long-lasting seasonal accent.
photography by Jane Colclasure, Kelly Quinn and Mark Fonville
For me, the “weather event” that jumpstarts the winter season and firmly closes the door on autumn is the first hard freeze. In many ways I hate to see it coming, because it propels me into a manic state, scurrying around the garden, lugging containers of plants into the greenhouse, mulching around prized perennials, gathering up the last vegetables and cutting any remaining flowers. But once this big push is over, as far as I’m concerned, the weather can be as unpredictable as it wants. I can then begin to enjoy the season ahead … bring on the cold and the snow!
If you are like me, the hustle and bustle around the holidays usually pulls my attention away from the garden. Planning and scheduling gatherings for family and friends, and shopping for groceries and gifts can be somewhat stressful.
As the holidays draw nearer, I like to bring home a fresh tree and harvest berries and foliage to decorate the house. It’s satisfying to pull on a coat, grab my pruners and walk aroundthe farm and the garden gathering items to inspire my creations. Sprigs of boxwood and evergreens; clusters of possum haw berries; branches from my needlepoint holly;
and crabapples all find their way into festive wreaths and centerpieces.
It’s important to have some fun around the holidays, so I like to unleash my whimsical nature. For instance, I enjoy posting my two evergreen reindeer topiary by the front door. An old sleigh resides on my porch with some greenery on the front. Accenting an entry is important so I always adorn my front steps and have even been known to sling some holiday cheer onto the front of my barn! Outdoor lighting, especially during the holidays, adds a festive aspect to an otherwise dreary landscape. The lights seem almost magical, lighting up the night. I use them on the lower branches of the huge oak tree in the front of the cottage to light the circular drive.
Of course, all of this is made even more fantastic if it snows. Any prediction of snow in the forecast, and I get the camera ready, string even more lights, decorate and hang more wreaths and hope for just enough snow to make the gardens beautiful.
This is one of my favorite recipes from a cookbook, given to me by my aunt. These cookies are always a big hit with guests so I always make a big batch and freeze some so I have them on hand.
Aunt Jamie’s Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup crushed corn flakes
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
• Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, blend the butter with both sugars until creamy. Blend in the egg, and mix together well; follow with vegetable oil and vanilla extract. To this mixture add the oats, corn flakes, coconut, and pecans, stirring thoroughly. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the other cookie ingredients.
• Put a sheet of wax paper on your work surface, and place the cookie dough on top. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a ¼-inch thickness. With a knife, cut the dough into triangles, about 2 inches long on each side. Place the triangles on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake for 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the cookie sheet before removing them.
• These cookies will keep at room temperature for a couple of weeks (if they last that long!) or for a couple of months in an airtight container in the freezer.