The biggest surprise, on waking up in the Pennsylvanian countryside (after the difference in temperature - 55'F/12.7'C when we left NYC, 39'F/3.8'C when we arrived, two hours later) was the leaves. We had arrived in the dark, so I was unprepared for the season that greeted me through the windows when I drew the curtains the next morning. The surrounding woods - layers and layers of trees, were stripped to branches and trunks, and many still held on to dripping colour. Yellow, mostly, with splashes of crimson where maple appeared.
I felt like a town mouse transported to another world.
While setting up pictures on the mossy lawn I was distracted again and again by fallen leaves like jewels in the grass.
Even the undergrowth of ferns was beautiful in a brown and pale yellow way. Then Ellen showed me muddy bear paw prints on the side of the house and I looked a little more carefully at the woods.
My reason for visiting: wine, in this case Linden flower. Think Noble Late harvest, but with an essence of something entirely different. But that's all I'll write about it now - more in February (she says, cryptically). We carried this in chilled hands to the lake nearby (Update: Read the story I wrote about Ellen's wine for Edible Manhattan here).
The walk, on leaf-covered roads, showed witch hazels in bloom everywhere
One of my favourite trees, and this one only familiar to me after last year's trip to the Catskills. The native Hamamelis virginiana, which blooms now, rather than the more famous pre-spring flowers of its Oriental cousins and cultivars.
Woodpiles. This wood is used to heat the house in winter, via the woodstove in the basement. Michael's weekend job was to move it all into the garage and out of the coming, winter-long snow.
In nearby Milford:
White pickets fences...
And sculptural gingko.
And near the highway Ellen stopped to show me silver berries - Eleagnus umbellata - heavy with fruit. Tannic, tart, and juicy.
Probably Virginia creeper berries. Not edible.
Soon I was on the bus, headed back to Brooklyn, snapping road pictures and watching as the season contracted again and met half way the one I had left, where leaves are still green.
Port Authority, the Frenchie meeting me in its charmless bowels, the A to Brooklyn, packed with New Yorkers, teenage mothers, a crying, unhappy child, Hipsters, workers, tourists. Back in the hood in the dusk, warm bread and fragrant coffee from Sahadi's, more mushrooms from Mr Lee to supplement the succulent oyster mushrooms from the woods, delicious Chilean Pedro Jimenez wine from the Wine Exchange, which was hopping on a Saturday night, and home to a handsome black cat and a terrace that drank its fill as I watered it in the cool air under stars that had just come out.