Home Lessons Ten Life Lessons from September

Ten Life Lessons from September

Ten Life Lessons from September
pumpkin porcelain doll
September's extra credit: Cafe au lait dahlias
September extra credit: Cafe au lait dahlias

Good morning friends, school’s back in session, and as part of my continuing education (and unrepentant need to show off), I’m eager to share everything I learned from summer’s most contemplative month, September. And unlike summer’s other three months, September takes its tutorials seriously. Fail to pay attention and the ruler of a less sympathetic season may just smack you on the knuckles.

1. Farm to table: Three words that mean I love you.

All island-grown and raised; all delicious.

My friend Michael hosted VIGA’s farm-to-table dinner and fundraiser, and the plates were piled high with local goodness. And just like the saying goes, there was love in every bite and a smile on every face.


2. Potluck dishes: Go big or go home.

Plum Apricot Buckle: It's what's for dessert
Plum Apricot Buckle: It’s what’s for dessert.

I often joke that Vashon should change its name to Potluck Island. The culinary stakes are high in a place where everyone seems to be a good cook vying for a little dining-table adulation. For most of my friends, food is fun, and sharing it adds a welcomed dollop of joy to any gathering. Of course, there are the times when someone will ask me to bring a salad, and I have to put down my pie plate, try not to pout, and graciously respond, “Why, of course.”

3. Fans and curtains: Never the sill shall share.

a ragged finish to a fine friendship
A ragged finish to a short-lived friendship

Warm summers are rarer than unicorns around these parts, but this summer was the exception. At night, I’d head upstairs and turn on the fan for a little relief. Little did I realize the dancing white curtain on one side was inching closer to the spinnfan’s side of the window. At last they met, and the encounter was a little strained. While they both agreed to remain friends, they also recognized that perhaps it was best if they also kept their distance.


5. Plant yourself where you will bloom.

Identical seeds, four feet apart, resulting in very different displays

Down in my cutting garden, two amaranths sprouted side by side, but what a difference a furrow made. One thrived and reached for the sky with vigor and unrestrained florescence, while the other remained a diminutive sidekick. I guess realtors are right; it’s all about location, location, location.

6. Attitude can determine your altitude.

Boz like this stable hammock better
Boz, happy to be on any hammock at any height

I found a hammock at our local thrift store. A friend asked, “Do you have a place for that?” (as if that’s a requirement for purchasing things at a thrift shop). I said “No, but I’m sure with four acres of trees, I can find one.”  A couple days later another friend emails me and asks, “Would you have any use for a hammock stand, no hammock, just the stand?” After a quick nod to my thrift-shop muses,  I responded, “Funny you should ask.”

7. Pumpkins are magic realized.

pumpkin porcelain doll
Headless horseman with pumpkin variety “porcelain doll” (photo: Sam Spencer)

I’m a pumpkinhead from way back, always having a thing for twining tendrils and fruiting vines of the cucurbita family.  That said, I can’t go a season without planting a pumpkin patch and marveling at these amazing plants. Varied in taste, size, color and culinary use, pumpkins bring the magic of the garden into the house and heart. No farm or home garden should be without.


8. Sometimes putting things on a pedestal is a good thing.

Potted crabapple: backyard centerpiece
Potted crabapple tree: my backyard centerpiece

The above photo is all about T-DAS, a.k.a. my Temporary Deer Avoidance System. Unless the deer on the island have secured orchard ladders, my little crabapple tree is safe from the antlered epicures until I get it planted in the fenced orchard. Before T-DAS became operational, it took all of 15 minutes for the deer to find this succulent little crabapple tree and subsequently rob the lower branches of leaves and fruit, and me of dignity.


9. If you host it, they will come.

Neighbors meeting neighbors
Neighbors meeting neighbors: good times

On a country island, neighbors are spread out and can live down long and disappearing lanes, but that didn’t stop us. Flyers were made, mailboxes were stuffed, and invitations were received so on one sunny September Sunday we all came to together to greet, meet and share stories with our neighbors. And of course it was a potluck of epic proportions. Good thing I had my massive log table on hand to sustain the weight of friendship and food.


10. There’s art in the everyday

Dried beans on parchment paper
Dried beans on parchment paper

After blind baking a pie crust, I removed the dry beans and parchment from the top of the pan. As the assembly cooled on the counter, I could a see where a few adjustments would yield a most artful square. Once cooled, the exhibition was admired then removed, but not before tripping over one bulldog and scattering the beans like stars across the sky, or in this case my kitchen floor. And let me just say Boz and Gracie are better vacuums then I am sweeper.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the season’s latest life lessons and learned a thing or two along the way. If not, no worries; I’m sure I’ll have more wisdom to share next month.


  1. You boast to your heart’s content Tom, suits me just fine. That pumpkin is MAGNIFICENT! I am not worthy. Intrigued with the sushi on your VIGA plate, can you recall what it is rolled in? My arm, piano and pride are bruised from last week’s misadventure with a gifted swinging cane chair stand. Not a fan of the stand either, bless the pergola.

  2. OMG-I loved EVERY thing about this post.
    And those Dahlias—I am smitten–where on earth did you get those????????????

    Beautiful photos–all of them.
    Thanks for a great post!

  3. Congratulations on a very fine pumpkin, indeed; it looks happy as hell in its portrait there. (Will we see any musquée from your garden this year?)

  4. Thanks, Tom. As usual yours posts teach us about life’s simple pleasures and you are an inspiration. Hope you have another great day!


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