Saturday, October 31, 2020

31 October

October has moved through the last ten days with intermittent showers, a few hours of pale sunshine, wind that has brought down drifts of leaves.
Mornings have been slow and misty.
The last offering of green beans was picked this week; the broccoli has needed to be harvested and used while at its best.
We are still making salads with the crisp and spicy Napa cabbage, but now buying cucumbers and peppers, salvaging the last small tomatoes picked green and left to ripen [or rot!] on the west porch and on a tray in the kitchen.

It has been just wet enough to postpone the rest of the garden clean-up. 
I did manage to plant out 5 foxgloves and a clary sage that were languishing in the untidy greenhouse.
The Double Red Knock-out Roses continue to produce a few half-opened blooms to bring in and display in tiny bottles and vases on the kitchen windowsill.
We were spared frost last night--when I looked at the outside temp this morning just before 8 the reading was 36 F.

Late yesterday afternoon [Friday] the sky cleared, the sun shone through the trees, some nearly denuded of leaves, others still clinging on.
By the time the nearly full moon rose behind the barn, the air had turned chill.
Realizing that no one had gotten the mail, I walked up the lane in the moonlight to collect it.
I'm always enchanted by the way the moon seems to 'follow' me when walking or driving. 

Looking toward the west end of the property late in the day.

 On Monday I drove to the South Fork community, making a brief tour of the discount food store, then turning across the road to the produce market. The sales area outside the store building was bright with fall color in spite of the overcast sky.

 Mums and giant pumpkins.

I suspect few of us buy or raise pumpkins to process for pies or puddings--too easy to avoid the mess and open a tidy can.

Indian corn for autumn decorations.
A hand lettered sign above the smaller pumpkins announced that all were '25% off.'

Small decorative pumpkins heaped in the entry of the market. 
A variety of bagged apples spilled their cidery scent in the dim space.

Rustic wooden birdhouses for sale.
Note the ladder leading to the 'second story' of the one on the left.

Blue sky on Friday afternoon; the meadow still deeply green from frequent autumn rains.

Towers of color against blue.

Nearly bare branches on some trees along the ravine, others still clad in green.


Streaks of apricot in the eastern sky before sunrise. 

 Rose colored clouds heralding the appearance of the sun.


Rose, coral, smoky lavender, lemon--the sun is about to pop around the corner of the barn. 

The morning was brisk and bright. I went out, wearing a light jacket, to cut a few roses, to enjoy the few blossoms still lingering in the perennial strips.
The Michaelmas daisies have passed their prime, though from a distance they are still a lovely splash of purple. A nasturtium or two raises a pale yellow head above the tangle of vines. 
The petals are stained and fading on the Duchess of Edinburgh clematis and Candida nearby has only these curly seed heads to mark where blossoms have been.
Frost is expected on Sunday and Monday nights. The gardens will go to rest--- memory of the season now closing and anticipation of another to come.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Colors On a Cloudy Day

A day without sunshine, skies a pale pearly grey, the air warm with a moist softness.
Gusty rain and wind on Friday evening, and a dreary intermittent drizzle on Saturday have brought leaves swirling to the ground to lie in soft drifts along the lane and the edges of the ravines.

Looking into the south ravine.

 There are few sugar maples here to give the crimson and deep scarlet colors of a New England autumn; Shades of gold, russet and bronze prevail, giving an illusion of light even on a day of drab weather.

A sycamore leaf lies bleached and tattered on a bed of earlier fallen leaves.

After many years of country living I should be better at identifying the trees around me.

Some trees still cling to green leaves, a sober background for shades of gold.

Jupiter's beard [centranthus ruber] has produced a few late blooms which hang over the concrete retaining wall at the west end of the house.
Numerous small plants have appeared around the parent plant; I wonder if they will winter over.

Foxglove tucked near the daylilies that march along behind the Double-Red Knock-Out roses

Nasty little green worms stripped most of the foliage from these landscape roses, so I trimmed them back ruthlessly.  A half-opened bloom glows in the grey afternoon.

'Moonlight' nasturtium, a 'second growth' volunteer in its big pot on the back porch.

The surprise of a lemon-hued daylily in the rough strip of garden along the driveway.

Coneflower 'Sensation' grown from seed this season.
A quiet Sunday with neither rain nor sun, but warmed with the gentle faded hues of late autumn.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Falling Leaves, Falling Temperatures

A light and windy rain last evening just at dark brought down leaves along the lane and the rims of the north and south ravines.  
The garden and east meadow were already in shadow when I went out at seven this evening to drape old towels over the green beans which are still providing us with fresh veg.
I moved geraniums into the sun room, along with a pot of nasturtiums.

Dawn harvested the remaining green tomatoes at the Dry Creek garden yesterday and they are in rows on the west porch covered with a fleece blanket.
There is a chill in the air and the warning of possible frost in the hours before daylight.

September frost was the usual in my native Vermont; early morning outings saw neighbors' window boxes and porch planters draped with old pillowcases or towels while a sprawl of faded sheets or bedspreads covered vulnerable rows of tomatoes.

Inevitably there came the afternoon when we knew that 'killing frost' would move in shortly after nightfall. 
Green tomatoes were stripped from the vines, spread on kitchen counters, lined along windowsills, laid out on newspaper covered tables in back entries or pantries.

The last fall flush of blooms came inside to be crowded into the McCoy vases, ceramic pitchers, small jugs and mismatched creamers.
The straggling vines of nasturtiums were clipped and brought in to be stuffed into mason jars, their pungent cool scent vying with that of a few roses tucked into vintage teacups.

In my childhood I crouched in the bed of the horse-drawn wagon when Grampa Mac harvested the field pumpkins and the knobbly Blue Hubbard squash. These were arranged on the south-facing covered porch of the farmhouse to 'cure'--if frost threatened horse blankets were brought to cover them. Soon these would be carried to shelves in the dirt-floored cellar, joining the earlier harvested potatoes heaped in their wooden bins.

The morning after that killing frost is one of gentle sadness as the slow sun climbs the sky revealing blackened tomato and squash vines, shriveled bean plants, limp masses of sodden stems where only yesterday there were blooming plants.

To everything a season.
After the brief mourning for the ending of another growing time, we gardeners turn to the final clean-up for the year.
Choosing a mellow afternoon we work under the slanting autumn sunlight to yank up spent vines, trundle them off to the trash pile or compost heap; in the greenhouse pots and trays need to be sorted and stacked, trowels and diggers wiped clean and put away.
Here in Kentucky grass will need to be mowed through the end of the month.

As these tasks wind down and the days grow shorter, we  pull sweaters and down vests from the closets, spread an extra quilt at the foot of the beds.
Working outside at mid-day is still pleasant if there is sun, but the east porch no longer invites as a place to sit with a book and a mug of tea.
With the labors of the garden over for another season, I am more aware of the pantry which needs to be re-organized, my craft area downstairs that needs a good sorting.
Sewing/quilting projects laid aside in April will soon invite my attention.

As I finish writing at nearly 9:30 P.M. the outside temp has fallen to 46 F.
It was dark and chilly an hour ago when I picked my way across the back yard to fling corncobs and beet peels into the garbage pit. 
Opening the door to go out I surprised a possum gobbling kibble from the outdoor cats' dish.
I yelped in surprise, the possum glared at me, then scuttled off with Dixie-the-dog in indignant pursuit.

The cats have gone to bed, the house is quiet.
Sunrise will tell the story--whether the frost has come--or we have been spared for yet a few more days.

Trees along the north edge of the property as it slopes into the ravine.

Wind and rain have splayed Raydon's Purple Aster
That is one plant.

Spring violas self-seeded in this pot--too many to grow on properly.
These are the cheerful survivors.

A late bloom on Duchess of Edinburgh clematis.
The sepals are strangely distorted and mottled.

This bud--if spared by frost--looks like it will open with the same odd markings.

One final blossom on my favorite, Candida.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Early October

October mornings are notably quiet, dawn-glow and sunrise slow to push away the darkness of night.
Mist hangs over the meadow.
We are balanced here on the dividing line between Central and Eastern time, choosing, as do most at this end of the county, to live on eastern time. 
With curtains opened and blinds raised, I still need to switch on the overhead lights in the kitchen.
The cats clamour to go out, then hesitate on the front steps.

By mid-morning the mist has burned away and the sky is brilliantly blue.

The veg garden has been cleared and Jim has mowed all but the section where late crops are flourishing.
The broccoli is forming small heads, Napa cabbage is ready for salads, the green beans need picking every other day. 
Dawn brings home tender small peas from the Dry Creek garden; Jim's late planted corn there is supplying a few ears. The last tomatoes are ripening on the west porch.

 The clump of self-sown zinnias is still pretty from a distance, although a closer inspection proves they are tattered and fading.

I labored on four consecutive days this week to prepare my flower gardens for winter. 
I started with the easiest and smallest of the plantings, very carefully tweaking out grass around the clematis vines, digging around the foxgloves and adding several more that spent the summer in the greenhouse.

The new garden at the west end of the house has been mostly successful, though the weeds have been a challenge.  Most of the thyme plants along the raised edge and under the window have settled in.  Several lavenders seem happy in the angle of the wall--you can see the flower heads against the logs.  One lavender died--I don't know if it was one of those I grew from seed or a nursery purchase. 

The brilliant Mexican sunflowers [Tithonia] have spilled wildly over the space allotted to them.  Somewhere underneath that orange exuberance there is a smothered pink landscape rose and a clump of lemon balm.
The dwarf butterfly bush which I moved there has spread and flowered abundantly, crowding balloon flowers and nigella. 
The twiggy stems of signet marigold, Lemon Gem, have gone brittle since this photo was taken earlier in the week.
I have grubbed out weeds around the three David Austin roses to the right of the walkway, stirred the dirt around the foxgloves, pruned the roses.  There is still weeding and mulching to be done.

This is the original rough strip where plants moved from the farm were hastily interred two years ago.
It is a difficult spot to maintain.  Pasture weeds constantly invade--the ground seems suitable for only robust plants.  
Gooseneck loosestrife [Lysimachia] took over and had to be removed earlier in the summer. I noted that a few plants have reappeared. Daylilies do well here, also coneflower which defies weeds and insects to happily self-sow.
More work to be done here, some foxglove to set in, forking over the ground so laboriously weeded.
It will never be a tidy area, but the peonies are there, some iris, two varieties of shrub roses which I cherish.

Red Knock-Out Roses!
What would we do without them?
Tough, dependable, reviving after the mid-summer onslaughts of Japanese beetles, providing cheerful blooms til killing frost.

The roses have been troubled this year by these small green worms who can turn the leaves to lacy skeletons in short order.
I've not yet identified them, but they are surely a pestilence!  I smash every one I find.

Foxglove, tucked among the miniature daylilies which front the Knock-out roses.

Blackberry lilies raised this season from seed.  This was an interesting project. The seeds germinated slowly and at widely different intervals. In the end, I had 9 plants to set out in the new west garden. They are thriving.

An exotic coneflower grown from seed--at the moment I can't recall the variety. 

Willis, in his 11th summer and feeling his age a bit, still loyally supervises my gardening activities.

Robert assisted my efforts in the rough perennial strip.

Edward [who is lazy] enjoys the warmth of the autumn sun on the stone path.

On Thursday, feeling the soreness and fatigue generated by four days of crawling about in the gardens, I took a break to do errands and some cooking.
Friday there were green beans for us to gather.  More pruning!
It was something of a relief when the sky clouded over and a light rain began to fall late in the afternoon.  The rain continued in desultory fashion today.

Jim declared a country drive was in order, so we puttered along winding back roads through a landscape that quite suddenly is colored with autumn hues of gold and russet. 

I have watched as during the past two weeks a few trees along the south ravine and the pasture edges have begun to 'turn'--a branch of yellow leaves on the big sycamore, the dark gold of the hickories. 
A scuffing of leaves lines the edges of the lane, more drift down with each stirring of the wind.

On Monday morning [5th Oct] a lone hummingbird drank at the feeder where several had darted the day before.  By mid-morning, working in the strip of garden near the hanging feeders I noted that the busy little birds were no longer in residence--gone--until another spring.

I walked out late this afternoon, just before the early dusk, wearing my tall boots, sheltering my camera from the light drizzle.
I've been intrigued with these several trees in the hedgerow which I haven't identified. The purple leaves stand out among the yellow and golden russet of the others. I was surprised to see the clusters of red berries.

I am pleased with these 'Michaelmas daisies'--a variety called 'Raydon's Purple'.  I bought one plant last year from a favorite mail order garden, hoped for more this spring, but they sold out quickly.  The flowers are not quite identical to the New England Asters which grew in pastures and along roadsides in my native Vermont. 

Nasturtiums straggle, become shabby, and yet they have marvelous powers of rejuvenation.  Seeds from the spent blooms fall into soil of the pot and germinate. Clusters of fresh leaves and buds appear at the ends of drooping tendrils.

In a few weeks the frosts will come.  Each season I cherish the last blooms, the October flowers, knowing that the joy of them must sustain me through the winter.
For all my grumbling over creaky knees and aching muscles, the labor of gardening is richly rewarded.