Tag Archives: autumn

Broken hearted over September.

Sneezeweed

From my planter boxes I pulled up and cleaned out parsley, zucchini, chives and Love-in-a-Mist; butternut and pumpkin vines, and a volunteer zinnia. When I went after the sea of overgrown chamomile, its warm and bittersweet aroma comforted me in the midst of that violent afternoon’s work. I don’t think I used one leaf of basil this summer; I just wasn’t home enough to take care of the garden in general, or to use half of its produce.

My pumpkins, grown from seed and nurtured in the greenhouse, were a complete flop! But one plant I gave to my neighbors produced 22 pumpkins, so one morning I found these on my doorstep:

Now I’ve sealed the boxes against winter, and added several inches of good soil. Still to do: organize and plant all those beautiful succulents that my friends gave me in the last few months, and put seeds into the dirt.

Trug full of Painted Lady runner beans.
Succulent stem abandoned and unwatered — and undaunted.
My first spider plant ever!
Nodding Violet I propagated.  If you want it, come and get it!

I had fun with Bella the other day at the community garden where she tends a plot. We always like to look around at what the other gardeners are doing, and to forage along the edges where people plant offerings to the whole community who farm there; you might find raspberries, or cutting flowers, or kale ready to harvest and take home.

Some kind of amaranth…

Some kind of 10-ft glorious amaranth.

I brought home seeds from that community garden, too, of tithonia, in a handkerchief I happened to have in my purse:

These mild days with soft air are a balm to the soul. They always surprise me with their kindness, especially when they turn up between others that are by turn sunless and drizzly, then scorching. For two weeks I’ve had my bedroom and morning room windows wide open to the weather all day and night. A cross breeze rolls over me as I sleep.

Sometimes there’s been a bit of smoke, sometimes heat at midday. At night I often have to burrow under the blankets; I hear the traffic early in the morning, and occasionally the neighbors’ loud voices late at night. But it’s the best way I know to feel alive to the earth. Simply by being open to the weather and the air, I can be In Nature. It’s the most convenient month for that, here where I dwell. September is where it’s easy to feel at home….

But — September is leaving this very week, that change is in the air. I admit to being a little broken-hearted; essentially, I’m being evicted, and that’s harsh. There is nothing for it but to take inspiration from that budding succulent stem above, that will draw on its stored resources, and make the most of whatever sunlight burns through the fog.  Those three little pumpkins will likely come in handy, too, because it’s time to start cozying up to October.

Doing sensible and human things.

Not only is my mind typically scattered to the four winds, but it is also buffeted and pushed down and downright dominated by currents of thought — and current events — that somehow turn into raging hurricanes. But in my daily life, they are only passing and mental hurricanes, so when I read this quote from my daughter Pearl, I was freshly encouraged to call frequent moratoriums on the practice of wondering whether it might be a Viking or a bomb or a car wreck that will eventually make my loved ones suffer.

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

—C.S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948)

I also don’t need to spend (all my) time researching how bombs are made, or why the Vikings are so ruthless. Which is great, because it leaves more time for writing a chatty blog post to my friends, which is a very human thing to do, and I hope sensible as well.

September 1st really felt like the first day of fall! It hasn’t warmed up much since, but I’m sure we will get some hot days in the next weeks. My fig tree is absolutely loaded, and one of the four winds that my mind goes to is Preparation for Preserving. Get out the dehydrator, and gear up for the harvest: pushing through the perennials and bushes that surround my tree, and stooping under the low-hanging branches to extract the plump fruits, which are revealed by contrast with the big green layers when one by one they turn black.

I went to a nursery the other day to lay in a supply of echinacea purpurea plants to set out this month. Some areas of my “new” landscaping need reinvigorating after six years, and I have been longing for the standard echinacea species that I used to have. The white ones in my front garden are thriving, the multicolored ones in the back are not.

A friend who was moving across the country asked if I would like any of the potted plants he’d kept on his small patio. I evidently hadn’t paid much attention to them when I’d visited his duplex, because I said I’d take them all, and was quite surprised to end up with 37 pots of plants. Three of them are quite large, and two of those are gorgeous jade plants.

So — I have more lovelies in my garden to keep me company and give me good work to do. This morning I  went out to take pictures of a couple of them to post here, and ended up watering. Not one but two blue jays were visiting my property, and adding to the ambiance with their scratchy voices that make me feel for a moment that I am in the mountains. I noticed a ripe fig, and ate that as a fast-food breakfast. Then… a few ground cherries for dessert! Ah… September.

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.