The first batch of chili of the fall season is a special event for me. We generally make the first batch on the first weekend that truly feels like fall. It’s been so warm, it’s felt like an extension of summer in Maryland, but after the rain brought a cold front through yesterday afternoon, it finally feels like fall. There are lots of other symbols of fall, including the trout stocking season, leaves changing colors, Halloween decorations, football season, and pumpkin spice in everything, but a huge vat of chili has to be one of my favorites…and it’s one of my kids’ favorites, too.
Fishing during the fall season is often tremendously rewarding as the cooler temperatures allow more oxygen in the water, increasing the metabolism of feeding fish before the cold of winter. Brown trout and brook trout also spawn during autumn. The adult fish often become brightly colored, putting their best fins forward to find a mate. (I couldn’t resist the pun.) Females will make a nest, called a redd, by pushing and digging a depression in a stream bed. For successful hatching, trout eggs require clean substrates and highly oxygenated water. Often the redd will appear as cleaner areas in the channel bed.
Autumn is described as a period of maturity and incipient decline, particularly in the northern hemisphere, as leaves change from green to a bright yellow or maroon and then fall to the ground. The decline of deciduous trees and herbaceous vegetation is evident, but brown and brook trout have established their life cycles so the eggs can overwinter in the safety of a stream bed and emerge as alevin in February. This is just in time to take advantage of the warming spring temperatures and increases in food availability to put the offspring in a position to survive and grow in a constantly changing environment. The transitions of the season allow for adaptations of species where triggers of temperature, light, and water flow indicate optimal conditions exist to start growth.
Our lives undergo seasonal transitions as we age, with childhood as spring, early adulthood as summer, mid-life as fall, and winter as our later years, if we are fortunate. Each stage brings challenges and opportunities. As a parent, scientist, and angler, I am conservation and sustainability minded. I try to see the long-term impact of things. I want to have a legacy. Making great art and passing on some positive knowledge and values to my children is important to me.
I attended a public meeting for a restoration project this week. The project was initiated by residents of a neighborhood who were concerned about flood damage to their properties. While the engineer was explaining their approach to the problem the residents were experiencing, he mentioned that his team wanted to provide the best solution for the next 30 to 40 year period. One agitated resident interrupted him to say, “I’m over 60 years old, what do I care what this looks like in 30 years?”
My head dropped in my hands. I understand that any change to your property or the property next door seems like an inconvenience or a change in your lifestyle. Even with some disturbance to our lives, a lack of concern for the health of the environment, watershed, and the stability of surrounding stream systems astonished me. Leaving the world a better place than we entered is important to me, but maybe not to others.
Brown trout and brook trout have adapted to put their offspring in the best possible position to survive. Sometimes people only see how they will be impacted as individuals in the short term. In each phase of life, I think we have to learn and grow looking for lessons to build upon for us and for our next generations. As the seasons of my life advance and I near winter, I am hopeful my life will be a life well lived with lots of gifts given and lessons passed along.
So here’s a small gift to you…
First Fall Chili (serves 8)
2 lb ground beef
1 lb ground turkey
1 pound of stew meat
2 Anaheim Chiles
1-2 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
1 Bag of Frozen Corn
1-2 Yellow Onion
1 Large Sweet Potato (Can switch with Beans of your choosing)
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
1 Can of Tomato Paste
Brown the meat and season with Chili Powder, Chipotle Powder, and Paprika to taste. Combine all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
Keep Mending…and pass the tortilla chips.