Autumn is the hardest time of year for me here in the desert southwest. September is hard because it is still quite hot during the day but cooling off at night. This means the pool cools off and swim season comes to an end before we can start going outside during the day and not melting. (Next year we are getting a solar blanket for the pool to hopefully extend the season.)
With school starting in early August I am more than ready for it to feel like autumn sometime in September. But it seems like the autumn temps I am used to don’t happen until January around here.
By October I am depressed from the heat and the blazing sun. This is my 3rd autumn here and I decided it was time for me to learn some coping skills, see what I can do to create my own autumn and focus on the small, positive changes in the weather here in Tucson.
Cooking: I have gone ahead and started cooking like it is cool like fall should be. I have made turkey cutlets with an apple- rosemary glaze, butternut squash and pork tenderloin. We are lucky to be sort of near (1 ½ hour drive) a farm where we can go and pick fruit and veggies all summer and pumpkins in October (I can’t wait!) We picked lots of apples in August and early September. I made crazy yummy apple turnovers and froze an apple pie for around Halloween.
Best soup I ever made apple pie for freezer
Maple sugar leaf cookies from last year
Decorating: There may not be any signs of leaf color outside, but it is busting out inside. Last year I taped silk leaves all over the walls but I didn’t love the look. This year I used my leaf garlands in different places and am much happier. Now I have to figure out where to put all those silk leaves. Maybe in a bowl or two somewhere? I also have some apple pie scented wax I melt and sometimes I add a little pumpkin fragrance oil. Definitely feels and smells like autumn inside.
Traveling to Autumn: One positive of living here is we can camp year round. We don’t need to winterize our trailer, though if we have a rare below freezing cold snap we do run the heater and try and drain everything we can and keep our fingers crossed. Last year we went to Oak Creek Canyon (near Sedona) in October and Chiricahua National Monument (near Willcox) in November. We got to wear long sleeves and do lots of hiking and eat hearty soups. At Chiricahua it was down right cold in the mornings and one very damp foggy day we even saw some snow flurries. I was one happy camper!
This year we are going to Dead Horse Ranch State Park (near Cottonwood) in October. It probably won’t be quite as cool as I would like but we are hoping to see some good leaf color. We are going to ride the Verde Valley Railroad and I am pretty excited about that. No camping plans for November yet. We have tickets to a University of Arizona football game the week before Thanksgiving. I’d like to go back to Chiricahua for Veteran’s Day weekend but I need to check our schedule. The negative of Chiricahua is they don’t take reservations and the campground is small.
I have one more place to find autumn: Mt Lemmon. We are very lucky to have a nearby mountain with a very nice road to a small village at the top. There are hiking trails, a couple of small restaurants, a gift shop and a ski resort! Crazy I know. And in October the leaves change color up there! Aspens, a few maples, lots of deciduous trees. It is usually about 10 degrees cooler in Mt. Lemmon than Tucson, so once we hit 80’s here I will be going up to ~8000’ to enjoy the 70’s and gather leaves.
Oak Creek Canyon
Chiricahua Nat’l Monument
Closer to home: While the sun is still blazing down during the day I can see the difference in the evening and morning light. I like the way the sun slants in my office window in the afternoon. Sherlock and I have resumed our post-dinner strolls. While it is hardly sweater weather, or even long pants weather the evenings now are pleasant. I like walking as the shadows lengthen and a hint of nighttime cool emerges. Soon there will be Halloween Decorations to admire in addition to the real bats swooping around and owls hooting.
Last year, leaves from Mt Lemmon scattered in our yard (so doing this again this year!)
I may not have my ideal autumn, but I have made peace in my heart with where I am and found contentment with this new version of fall.