Saturday, October 12, 2019

Autumn Prelude

In the space of a week, the season has moved from seemingly endless summer heat to temperatures more representative of fall.
The first Friday of October dawned cool and warmed into a mellow sunshine that lured me outdoors.

I invented tasks beyond the usual watering of plants and the trek to the mailbox.

I harvested heads of sunflowers--all dwarf varieties--and will have far more seeds than needed for next season's planting.  
Although the sunflowers now look spent and straggling I've asked Jim to leave them standing so that birds can continue to glean seeds. 

I forked up the grass and weeds which edged this plot--a heavy job with the ground so dry.
A few late tomatoes still ripening, so the bedraggled plants were left for a few more days.

Intermittent showers on Sunday which tantalized  with the hope of rain.
At dusk it began to rain, a solid drumming on the roof which continued through the night and into Monday morning.
The cats darted out the door, came back damp, disgruntled, shaking wet paws.
After weeks of dragging a hose about to water gardens it seemed strange to have nature attending to that need.  

 Prodding experimentally in the soil around the transplants of foxglove and balloon flower  near the back porch, I realized that the moisture had soaked in deeply.
I cut half-opened blooms of David Austin roses, the petals cool and freshly sweet.

Yesterday [another Friday] I picked the remaining late tomatoes, yanked up the plants, spread out a bag of mushroom compost to await Jim's work with the Troybilt tiller.

The veg garden after bush-hogging--cabbages and broccoli responding to rain and cooler weather. 
A few zinnias and the sunflower stalks have been spared. 

Cockscomb rode in from the farm--stow-away seeds dropped into the potted perennials that I hastily stuck in the ground here a year ago.
I think there are two varieties--you can see that some of the plants are taller and tasseled, while others are more compact with the dense flower crests that give the plants their common name.
Prior to the rains they were still appealing.

After the rain, the tall cockscomb were leaning, well past prime and shedding seeds by the thousands.  I uprooted them--the lower stalks as thick as young saplings--and carted them off to the edge of the woods.  Tiny black seeds caught in my shirt, clung to my bare arms, sifted down my neck.
I left the low-growing plants for a few more days of brilliant color. 
With the towering ones gone, I could begin to clear weeds.

Raydon's Purple asters;  I will order several more of these in the spring.

I have watched for new seedlings to appear at the base of the Camelot foxgloves. Before the rain there were only a few--the larger ones in the photo. 
Kneeling on the damp earth on Friday I discovered  tiny seedlings --dozens of them--marking where each plant bloomed in the spring. They are late-comers--how many will survive the winter?  With their biennial tendencies, I hope to keep a new crop each season.  I should have bloom from those started from seed and nurtured in pots through the summer.

A clump of wild ageratum along the lane.

Ipomoea Coccinea 
Discovered growing up a rusty fence stake beside the old barn at the end of the road.  One of the common names suits it: 'red star.'
Tonight the temperature is expected to plunge into the 30's F--not a frost, but a chill that will proclaim autumn is finally with us to stay.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


The sky these past few mornings is nearly opaque, stained with faint colors like the inside of a seashell.
The air is not crisp as it should be with the calendar proclaiming autumn. 
I sit on the east porch, fingers wrapped around a mug of decaf sweetened with maple syrup.

Hummingbirds--still with us--make the first visits of the day to the feeders dangling from the overhang of the porch ceiling.
While I wait for the sun to appear around the corner of the barn, I watch for the squirrel families who live in the trees that line the ravine across the lane.
In the springtime, from this spot on the porch, the gymnastics of the squirrels were easily visible through nearly leafless branches.
Now I take note of a jiggled limb, a cluster of leaves suddenly shaken, and follow the sleek dark bodies as they shimmy down, branch to branch, make a horizontal run and leap to an adjoining tree.

During high summer we grew accustomed to sightings of the foxes--if not daily, on several consecutive mornings during the week. I've expected that they were out and about in the mornings even if I missed seeing them lope across the lower field or trot down the lane to melt into the tree line.  Pegging sheets on the line I once caught a flash of movement and turned to see a fox meandering behind the clump of small trees where our camper trailers were parked during the winter of house building.
A special confirmation of the fox family''s continued residence was seeing one saunter boldly across the meadow above the gardens last week as I stood at the kitchen window.

 The first owners named the lane leading to the three homes here in reference to the wild turkeys who frequent the area.
When we first came here to begin clearing the house site we saw the turkeys daily.  Like the foxes, they seem to disappear for weeks.
Unlike the foxes the turkeys have no discernible routine--they may appear at any time of day or evening. 

This group was pecking about below our bedroom windows early one morning.

Turkeys are skittery--as soon as they realize we are aware of their presence, panic ensues. 

Deer cross the property--usually grazing across the upper meadow.
We come to think of these creatures possessively--'our foxes'--'our deer.'
It is more accurate to realize that they were here before us; we are the interlopers.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


All week the sunrise has been lovely, although it is still barely light at 7 a.m.

Sunsets have likewise been splendid.

On this Thursday morning, all was pearly grey. We hoped for rain, but there was only a misty drizzle, quickly over.
Looking up the lane I noticed hundreds of birds ranged along the wires.

I walked quietly up to the bend in the lane that designates our driveway.
Birds jostled for space, while still more alighted in trees along the boundary hedgerow to the east.
The air was full of their soft twitterings and the swoop of wings.

Not barn swallows as I first thought, but tree swallows. Our neighbor has placed several nest boxes on fence posts along the lane, which the swallows are pleased to occupy.
Later, walking to the mailbox, I found a single blue tinged feather laying on the stubbly grass.

Bedraggled sunflower heads.

Zinnias are faded.

This one was a brilliant red-orange.

Leaves are drifting down along the drive; the cool air has a tang of woodsy dampness; a faint breeze stirs.

Willis, my ever faithful companion on walks. This has been his 10th summer.
He is still lean and supple, still the overseer of the property.

At the edge of the open-ended barn, a nest had fallen from the ledge above the entrance
It has a mud-daubed base, but has been sturdily wound into shape with fine stems, twigs and bits of moss, lined with soft down.

A balloon flower bud, so intricately veined.

A 'balloon' bud ready to spread its petals.

I miss the autumn proliferation of  New England Asters which grow wild on roadsides and in old pastures in my native Vermont. Here, the tiny frost asters bloom, but the purple beauties must be purchased as garden plants. There were no purple ones at my favorite local nursery in the spring, only some of a garish 'hot' pink. 
This one, Raydon's Purple came from Select Seeds--the only one in stock when I ordered.

Cockscomb in all its brilliant velveteen glory. There are seeds for a few million plants!
Temperatures are meant to climb again this weekend, but the days are shortened, giving way to cooler nights.  The equinox has passed and autumn is slowly moving in.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Autumn Flowers

As the gardening season slowly winds down, the flowers which rebloom after the heat and insect pests of high summer are especially cherished.
I have continued to water my shrub roses through the long stretch of drought and have been rewarded with blossoms to bring indoors each day.

My favorite of the shrub roses I have grown in Kentucky--Hawkeye Belle.  This rose has been moved twice--from our first Kentucky home--to the Amish farm--now to our new place.
It is a 'Griffith Buck' rose, bred to withstand cold winters.  I think I ordered this as a bareroot plant during our first Kentucky spring. 
It has a soft sweet scent.

A Landscape rose purchased this spring at the local garden center. 
I removed the tag thinking I would remember the name--but I don't.
I have two of these which stay compact, bloom profusely and have a light scent.
I am happier with these than with the varieties planted on the east retaining wall. Those tend to straggle over the ground and aren't scented.

Two David Austin roses--the apricot variety is Roald Dahl.  The shrub has a very open spreading form. The pale yellow rose is The Poet's Wife.

Hawkeye Belle in the background, and the 'un-named' rose moved from the Amish farmhouse. 
It is very fragrant with some variation of color from one bloom to another.
At the nursery I saw one nearly identical called "Cameo.'

Ballooon flower--raised from seed this spring and tucked along the improvised fence.

Dwarf butterfly bush from the local nursery. This began the season in a large pot, but after its first blooms were over I trimmed it sharply and put it in the ground near the fence.

Coneflower from seed--in spite of being ravaged by caterpillars these are making a modest show of bloom.
I putter outside each morning to inspect my plants, finding a quiet joy in those that are flourishing--reward for the hard labor of creating gardens where none had been before.
Still waiting for rain to mellow the ground for setting out the remainder of the plants grown from seed and now bursting from their pots. 
Then will begin the repotting and pruning of tender plants that need to come indoors before frost.
Some can reside in the sun room--for others I hope there will be grow lights in the basement.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Endless Summer

The heat continues, temperatures varying only a few degrees between the high 80's and 90 F.
Nightly dew fall has become sparse.  A few trees along the edge of the north ravine have begun to shed their leaves, which crackle underfoot. The grass and weeds there are limp, bleached and diminished.

The power company sprayed herbicide to the south where the ravine runs deep below the lines. 
Last year it was a tangle of brambles, poison ivy, honeysuckle vine, thistles, but rimmed at the upper edge with goldenrod, joe pye weed, ironweed.
Today I noticed one stalk of ironweed in triumphant bloom above the blackened rubble of dead plants.

I'm uncomfortable with the use of herbicides, while understanding the constant battle to keep wild plants, some of them undesirable, under control.
A year or more of neglect by the former owners of our property resulted in drifts of weeds along the lane, encroaching on the gravel, thistles and briars bristling along the side of the barn.
Jim mows, runs the bush hog, trims out saplings and over-hanging branches along the lane.
I wish it was possible to save the pretty plants--the wild ageratum, delicate frost asters, the goldenrod. 

Fungus grows on a rotting branch in the deep shade at the edge of the south ravine.

Walking slowly up the lane, late afternoon sun striking through the denim of my jeans, I hear a muffled thud ahead of me.
Black walnuts falling into the rough short grass.

It occurs to me that standing under the black walnut tree is not the most sensible place to linger!

Zinnias at the edge of the garden have faded.

I need to gather seeds from the spent sunflowers--seeds for another summer.
At 7:30 in the evening the sun is melting into a molten pool behind the treeline to the west.
It is too warm still to open the bedroom windows hoping for a breath of cooler night air.
The rooms are comfortable with the A/C running, but I long for the freshness of an autumn breeze, for an end to heat and drought.