October sidled in to this year at the end of summer, and slipped back out amidst warm temps and green leaves. October graced us with pleasant temperatures bordering on warm, but only a few yellow, orange, or red leaves. Tennessee always provides four spectacular seasons, but Autumn didn’t arrive until November this year. Despite the warmer (and greener) conditions, we still completed many fall activities throughout the month of October.
We kicked off our fall season about midway through October with a hike at Justin Wilson park with Joy and Cori. Joy and I took Ian for a hike at Frozen Head State Park in September, but his enthusiasm didn’t run overly high. He was a pretty tuckered out kid that day, though. But on this hike, Ian had his Mogwai and Chaco, his hiking backpack he can ride in, and a new dog to play with. Ian absolutely loved Cori’s German short-haired pointer puppy, Paisley, who wrestled and tumbled to Ian’s heart’s content.
The next weekend brought us to East TN to spend some time in my dad’s apple orchard taking advantage of this year’s bounty. His apple crop hasn’t fared well the last few years, mediocre at best, but this summer had a record amount of rainfall, combined with the unseasonably warm weather this fall to create the perfect growing conditions for apples. Ian had a ball picking apples with Grandma and I, then again the next day with Aunt Joy. I ended up taking home about 4 bushels of apples to makes this year’s canned goodies. Ian and I also discovered our favorite variety of heirloom apples: Arkansas Black. These unique apples have a dark, almost black skin that deceptively looks spoiled while hanging on the tree. The flesh of the blacks provides a stark contrast with its firm, but sweet bright white fruit. Ian would pick up an apple off the ground, take a bite, drop it, and move on to another apple. He also enjoyed carrying apples over to the fence to feed Sugar and Reggie, who strongly approved.
After an evening of apple picking, Ian and I got up bright and early on Saturday for a big day of events. Ian spent the morning with his Nana, and afternoon playing with Aunt Joy, while I attended the Tennessee/South Carolina Game. What an amazing event! Tennessee hasn’t won against a ranked opponent since Lane Kiffin left, despite a valiant effort against Georgia a couple of weeks earlier. The vols really waited until the last SECOND (well, technically until the last 2 seconds) of the game to pull out their win. This is the biggest win they’ve had in 3 years, and it just so happened to be the same game that vol legends attended for the vol walk.
Back in the ’80’s, Coach Johnny Majors created the vol walk. He had all the players on the team walk down the street to the stadium in a parade like procession proceeded by the marching band. This gave fans a chance to see all the vols out of uniform, score some high fives, and add to the game day atmosphere. I can’t event count how many vol walks I’ve attended in my life. But vols who played before Johnny Majors’s tenure as coach didn’t get to park in this fun tradition. New head coach Butch Jones, in a brilliant marketing move, invited ALL the football alumni to participate in the vol walk before the USC game. Talk about an emotional event! The greats who attended the walk stretched back all the way to the 1951 national champion team, with other unique individuals peppered in. My dad’s biggest excitement came in the form of Tony Robinson, qb for TN from 1982 to 1985 . Robinson had been a candidate for the Heisman Trophy until he blew his knee out against Alabama. Even Johnny Majors came in to participate in this vol walk! Some of these greats came through the vol walk on their own ability, while others needed to the aid of canes, walkers, and golf cart. Well done, Butch, well done.
When Tennessee takes the field at Neyland Stadium, they always run through the T; the marching band forms a giant Power T on the field as part of the pregame show, then they open the T up for the team to run through. The alumni greats also had the opportunity to run through the T with the current team. Many of them watched the game from the sidelines to watch Butch guide the team to his first SEC victory. After a strong first half, the vols started slipping and let USC get too many points on the board. Late in the fourth quarter we were down again. A succesful field goal attempt could even up the score. We sat on pins and needles as the vols ran the clock down (presumably to prevent USC from having time to get into scoring position) to 2 seconds on the clock. The vols changed players, brought out our kicker, Palardy, who carried off the most beautiful kick through the goal posts. We won! Now usually after the game ends, Neyland begins to empty almost immediately, but not on this historic occasion. Fans stood in the stands screaming out “Rocky Top” while Butch shared the drum major’s podium to conduct the band. One of our players even turned a back flip on the field!
After a weekend of football, Ian and I returned home for a week of canning apples. We canned apple pie filling, apple jelly, apple spice jelly, apple based jalapeno jelly, and apple cider. We had a great assembly line going: Brinn slicing apples, Ian putting them in a bowl of water to rinse them off, and me adding them to a stock pot to blanch them then pack them in jars. Just in case next year produces a meager apple crop, we’ll be ready with enough apple products to last two years. We’re also stockpiling to prepare making Christmas baskets. Act surprised if you receive jelly!
After a couple of weeks of apples, apples, and more apples, Ian and I left Brinn for a day and drove down to Chattanooga for an adventure in Rock City with my mom and Aunt Joy. We took Mogwai along as well, since Rock City is dog friendly. We started our adventure at Noodles and Company where Ian had his own bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. I’m now in love with this place –they have simple, kid friendly foods like mac-n-cheese or spaghetti and meatball AND adult friendly dishes like pad thai! Perfect! For less than $15 Ian could pig out on his favorite form of pasta while I indulged in my own. We’re permanent fans, now.
In Rock City, most of the paths were flanked with stone walls, creating a great barrier to keep Ian from wandering off through the forest, so I was able to turn him loose for most of the day. My mom and Mog stayed ahead of him, while Joy and I brought up the rear, effectively trapping him between us and the walls, yet he thought he was free. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend a visit.
It’s been a month of adventures for Ian, and looks like November will follow pretty similarly. We’ve got a few things on our calender, including another East Tennessee/football trip this weekend. I didn’t realize how quickly time’s gotten away from me until I logged in today to see that my last post was in September! I’ll try to get back here soon to share our adventure of Cooking on the Square and Halloween.