Marking Time by Kelly Sears

For some, cranberries are what come jellied in a can. For others, they are tart little orbs that, when combined with enough sugar, make a cranberry sauce that can be slathered on bread for a leftover holiday turkey sandwich. For me, cranberries mark time; the beginning of one season, the end of another. The first weekend in October has my husband & me, yellow lab and little beagle loaded in the truck, packed up for the change of seasons.  

The trek begins north, well above the mitten, to the land of shuttered mines, pasties, and Yooper’s. If you’re lucky enough, along the drive, Mother Nature will unveil her latest fall line.  Trees filled with leaves bursting with the colors of a late September garden; golden pumpkin, deep green acorn, scarlet Swiss chard, auburn Hubbard squash, and yellow field corn.

freerangeThe house, a transfer of ownership from late father to son, off a bumpy old road named after alphabets and county numbers, is tucked in a place with no Starbucks, three television channels and a very weak cell signal. But on these 40 acres of Pure Michigan, where the deer play, the chickens are really range free, the Northern lights dance, and the sky is so clear it seems like every star is visible, nature’s playground trumps electronic entertainment.

This stop on the journey brings a chimney sweep, a delivery of wood and a harvest of apples. The old house is warmed by wood. Three face cords get dumped, split and stacked. For those that don’t speak lumber, that’s north woods slang for a really good arm/chest/back workout and two Motrin before bed. The two apple trees in the front yard produce enough for the chipmunks, squirrel, deer, and a couple of buckets for me. Some apple butter, applesauce, and a pie or two are on the agenda later but for now, this house is ready for winter, which up here, ends on a Monday and begins the following Tuesday.

blackcatThe second leg has the truck traveling west to Wisconsin for part two of the winterizing weekend. No highways, just more roads that keep your speed at 60 until slowing you down to 25, through the small towns all with different names but the same three bars, two gas stations, and local super club. Running parallel with Lake Superior, the air stays chilled and the sky clean and clear. A pit stop in Ashland at our favorite coffee shop The Black Cat, and favorite bakery, the Ashland Baking Company, has us refueled for the final 90 miles.


This is cranberry fest Saturday. The first Saturday in October every year when the small town of Stone Lake swells from 500 to 10,000, all in celebration of the cranberry. Most rural towns lay patronage to some fruit, vegetable, or commodity that helps the town survive. In college, my roommate from rural Michigan was the potato queen from her spud producing community; Hayward Wisconsin respects the elusive prehistoric fish, the Musky, with a bar, a museum and a festival. And our little town is no different; the cranberry reigns supreme.

For 12 hours, Main Street, lined with hay bales and checkered flags is transformed into the race track for homemade derby box cars, crafty vendors hawk their hobbies, an old hippie sells the best cheese curds ever, and the whole town stands in the street to drink cranberry wine, red solo cups of Wisconsin’s finest brew, and eat meat on a stick.

But what this weekend is really is the end of the season. Summer is officially over. Piers come out, boats get trailered, life jackets get strung up to finally dry out, inner tubes deflate, flannel replaces the cotton sheets and the mouse traps get set. The leaves are beginning to fall revealing the neighbor’s house that, throughout the summer months, is almost hidden from view. So for now, I’m done making jam, pickling vegetables and preserving summer. The cranberry tart is in the oven. Fall has arrived and winter is nipping at its heels.

Cranberry Deep Dish Tart
  1. 3 cups fresh cranberries
  2. ¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  3. ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  4. zest of one orange
  5. 1 t. cinnamon
  6. ½ t. each; nutmeg, allspice, and cloves
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  9. 1 cup sugar
  10. ¼ cup sour cream
  11. 1 t. vanilla
  12. 1 cup flour
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a deep 10’ pie plate.
  3. Toss cranberries, pecans, brown sugar, orange zest, and spices in prepared pie plate until well mixed and spread evenly throughout the pie plate.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, whisk eggs, butter, sugar, sour cream and vanilla until thoroughly blended; gradually stir in flour until smooth and pour evenly over cranberry mixture.
  5. Bake 55-60 minutes until browned on top and fruit bubbles.
  6. Serve warm with cinnamon or vanilla ice cream or at room temperature.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/


  1. Peter Groninger says

    wonderfully written; can’t wait to try my hand on the tart.

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