Tag Archives: autumn

Fallish like nightgowns and pumpkins.

One of my favorite categories and species of food is Cucurbita, that is, its squashes I have known; in the garden that’s nearly all been zucchini and butternut. But last month I got a vision for pumpkins trailing the paths of next summer’s garden. After browsing seed vendors online and debating with myself till my eyelids drooped, I narrowed the field to two romantic French varieties. Probably their long French names contributed to their appeal. One is often nicknamed the Fairytale Pumpkin and the other the Cinderella Pumpkin. But those names are not consistently applied.

Did you know that there is no botanical category for pumpkin? It’s more of a cultural or linguistic grouping, and at least in English seems generally to be based on its shape. The majority of pumpkins are Cucurbita pepo, but there are pumpkins in the C. maxima and C. moschata species groups, too.

In this Wikipedia photo, they note that the two bright orange ones in center right are C. pepo, and all the others C. maxima. The botany of squashes, as seen in brief on that Wiki page, is complex and historic!

The one above is what I bought this year at Trader Joe’s, and it was merely called “Heirloom.” I think it is a Rouge Vif D’Etampes. Last year I found one at a farm stand, and was impressed by its sweet, deep orange flesh.

I decided on seeds for the Rouge, but it was nip-and-tuck until the end between it and the lovely Musque de Provence, which is a Cucurbita maxima:

Last week I tried these Carnival squashes and my goodness, aren’t they tasty, right down to their crispy and colorful skins. I began to wonder if I should plant them to grow on my trellis….

But they do say that of all the Cucurbits, butternut squash are the best keepers. I must keep that in mind; after all, I want to store other things in my freezer besides squash.

It’s the time of the year when I start to have wood fires — now in my new stove, an Ironstrike — and to discover how many flannel nightgowns need patching or cannibalizing. Always the sleeves, at the elbows, get thin and holey while the rest of the garment is just fine. All of these pictured have the same need for mending, and only one of them is too far gone, so I will use pieces of it on the others.

Four newly refurbished nightdresses will be restored to use, after having sat in a basket, some of them for years, poor neglected things.

A church in southern Oregon, at which I have worshiped at least twice, is renting space in a strip mall while they work on building their permanent temple. In this year’s Alameda Fire much of the town of Phoenix, St Gabriel’s current locale, was burned, but their space was untouched. Here is a photo of the land where the new church is going in. The fire came so close to the icons and cross marking the spot, I thought it worth sharing:

I put my air purifier in the closet today, and thought, Wouldn’t it be so truly normal if I don’t need it next year…. We are getting a little rain this weekend, and cozying up to the hearth.

Drinking up this last one.

Some days the birds are so joyful in my garden that they appear to be beside themselves with exuberance. The finches and warblers gather at the chapel feeder, and then a few fly off into the trees to peck around, I assume for insects. A sparrow swoops toward the fountain, and then pauses, and twists midflight into a hairpin turn back the way it came. I have watched this fancy wing-work many times, as this morning from my spot by the table, which is now a sort of icon corner also. If the birds can have so much fun, maybe I should not worry about the way I flit about in my own little realm.

On a morning like today, when the sun is shining, it can be quite lively with titmice, chickadees and towhees, too. I’m afraid the hawks notice this activity; several times there have been brief encounters when they dive silently onto the playground of little birds, and the sound and size of their wings catches my attention — then they are gone.

But twice this month it happened. Once after the attack the raptor sat on the fence, backlit by the morning sun; I could see the shape and size of it, and the color of its breast. The next time I saw its dark gray back just before it disappeared. I think it was a Cooper’s Hawk. When I read about them, their habit of eating smaller birds was mentioned.

The last day of October is quieting my heart. I know, in the coming months it will be a struggle, to get myself outdoors as much as I know is sublime and profitable, but today was easy. Even the honeybees were enjoying my warm corner with the salvia that has many new little flowers on the ends of mostly dried-up stems. When I first sat down there, the bees were a little slow, but as the temperature rose so did their speed.

So many days of the month have been dreary and discouraging. I think at the beginning of it the plants were suffering from heat and smoke. Now they like the clean and cooler air. I forgot to water the succulents under the manzanita, and one poor specimen is showing just how it feels to be hanging on with one’s roots, conserving water, letting go of leaf after leaf while waiting for the gardener to bring refreshment.

But the majority are enjoying what might be their favorite, blooming time of year:

These last few hours of October are full to bursting with the beauty of the season. I know tomorrow will not be much different from today, in reality. But in our minds…. we remember that it’s time to turn the page of the calendar.

A jasmine flower just opened.

See how the sower goes on.

“When the times are fulfilled and the end is at hand, when the world’s autumn comes and God sends His angels to reap the harvest — what will they find in the barren fields of our hearts? And yet, the time is nearly accomplished and the end close by for each of us, the time which we shall each face even before the common harvest.

“But let us not be downhearted. See how the sower goes on sowing among the rocks and thorns and by the roadside. This means that he places some hope even in such fields as these.

“And we know from the lives of the saints how often a soul which had seemed irreclaimably stifled by sin, blinded by passion, hardened in evil, became good ground, fertile and productive, purified of poisonous mixtures and alien seeds.”

-Fr. Alexander Elchaninov,  Diary of a Russian Priest

 

Cake and flowers for the inconvenienced.

In the midst of destruction, smoke, fear, and drama of the worst sorts, I rested for most of last week as though at a peaceful (indoor) oasis, with my dear friends. First it was the two evacuees, and then a third who was merely on her way home to Ohio. After all were gone, I hurried to prepare my part of a church school lesson, attended Liturgy…

…and a new week had begun. Whoa! While I had my head turned, a new season had suddenly arrived. The nights are cooler again, the sun is slant. When the wildfire smoke thinned out a bit, I could notice the fall feel of the air, and skies turning from orange to blue. It made me weep with relief.

The butternuts needed to be brought in, the zucchini yanked out, and a general clean-up begun. I had planned to plant peas in September; now I hope to do it before the first week of October is gone.

The zucchini plants were disgusting; for many weeks the white flies have flown up in a cloud every time I rummage around to pick the perfect fruits; those insects are still present, and now ashes blow and drift down wherever I move a stem of salvia, or a fig branch.

I try not to keep talking about cinders, but they have gone from being an unusual element of the weather to being constant, and hard to ignore. When it doesn’t include smoke and ashes I find the weather to be always interesting, but in a more satisfying way. Of course, I am merely inconvenienced; those of you who experience tornadoes, hurricanes and floods have your own reasons to not be exactly “satisfied” even with more natural weather made up of rain and wind.

When the zucchini was gone this flower was revealed, its bloom pristine though its leaves are sooty. My Seek app can’t identify it, and I don’t recall seeing such a plant here before.

The two 4-inch zinnia starts I planted in June have grown gloriously bushy. It took me months to get around to deadheading them; this week was only the second time. A few flowers had formed seeds, which I scattered in hopes of finding some sprouts next spring. But they are likely hybrids, so who knows?

The figs keep coming, and I plan to make this autumn cake again. But I can’t eat the whole thing… who is in my “bubble” that I might invite to share with me? I could give the whole cake to a neighbor! Actually, I had thought to make two, and already planned to give one to a neighbor…. I don’t have my thinking cap on right now to work out this problem.

Because while I was typing, the smoke thickened. I have shut the windows, taken the laundry off the clothesline, and turned on the air purifiers again. Since I did make a little start in the garden, and brought in a few of the red zinnias, I am content. If no new fires start, we can expect the skies to clear more and more, just in time for cold weather and wood fires in the house. I hope.

I know that many of you pray for us who live in wildfire country, for the firefighters, for rain. Thank you!