Living Local :: The Nature of Seasons + Blackberry Sangria

As much as I work indoors, I feel like I’m trying to be outdoors as much as possible. When we’re not actually out of doors hiking, running, or exploring, a lot of my projects lately have been trying to bring the outdoors in as much as I can – more sun, more light, more plants, more natural materials.

Because of that, I’m becoming all the more aware of the very different weather we can get each season here in Virginia and how the changes impact everything from the growth season to the traffic. It’s taken living here for a year now to make me realize, too, just how much less I understand these nuances than the locals!

It’s August, but the weather has been really, really mild in comparison to when we first moved into the house last year. That August was hot, sticky, and gross. You could go outside at six in the morning and be sweating within moments thanks to the heat and humidity. This August? Beautiful so far.

But it feels like some of the usual August crops are taking their time. August in Virginia supposedly means you’ve got plenty of cucumber, blackberries, corn, peaches, apples, onions, tomatoes, and the beginnings of squash and Brussels sprouts harvesting. We picked peaches and cherries at the end of July, but we just started to see the blackberries coming ripe and the apples aren’t quite there yet.

Is it the weather? The amount of rain we’ve gotten?

You know who knows? The couple next door who have been living in their house for all 13 years since the neighborhood was built, and lived in Fairfax for about 20 years before that. My office mate who was born and raised about five minutes south of our house. They know exactly what’s up, and they are all already guessing what kind of a winter we’re going to have this year, based on the warm February, the frigidly cold March, and the surprisingly temperate summer.

I’m curious to see who’s right and how they know, and I’ve found myself, as we’ve gone on hikes and runs both at the nearby parks or at our favorite blackberry foraging trail just outside our neighborhood, looking for signs in nature. What’s in bloom right now, what’s thriving and growing, where, and how.

Goldenrod, ironweed, rose mallow, and a few I-don’t-know-what’s…I really need to get a field guide. But I don’t have any doubts about the goldenrod, which typically blooms August through early November here.

After spending so much of my life traveling, after listening to so many different people talk about unique elements and signs of changing seasons, the markers they use to judge when a harvest is going to be ready or how the weather is going to change, it’s been a lot of fun to actually be in one place long enough to see them happening around me, to ask what they mean, and to dream of maybe actually living here long enough to know.

Lots of learning left to do. But in the meantime, let’s circle back to something I do know, and the main purpose for our foraging expedition to begin with.

Scott and I both love blackberries. We pick a ton of them on our hike, and we’ll throw them in our morning smoothies, make pies and cobblers and blackberry buckle, or just plain snack on them. They’re amazing on baked ricotta and pairing venison with a blackberry sauce is out of this world.

But this time around, we decided to try them out in one of our favorite summer treats – blackberry sangria.

We had a little help with this sangria from Stonewall Kitchen’s sangria mixer – it’s already got the mixture of sugar and delicious fruit juices in it that you need for a good sangria, so it really cuts down on your time.

Blackberry Sangria

Makes one pitcher {or 6 glasses}

What you’ll need:

  • 1 750-ml bottle red wine {we used Alamos Malbec}
  • 1 1/2 cup Stonewall Kitchen Sangria Mixer
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • ice for serving

How to make it:

1. Mix together the red wine, the Sangria Mixer, and the rum in a large pitcher. Add the orange slices and blackberries. Put the pitcher in the refrigerator and chill at least one hour, preferably overnight.

2. Fill half of a glass with ice. Pour over the sangria and garnish with fresh orange slices and some of the blackberries that have been soaking. Add a few fresh ones if you’ve got them.

3. Enjoy!

Cheers, and hope you’re having a great day!

BEVERAGES, FOOD FOR THOUGHT, VIRGINIA
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