Monday, September 27, 2021

Autumnal Equinox

22 September, awake suddenly in the dark, the sound of rain pummeling on metal roof. An insistent wind swelled the curtains at my open west window, filling the room with the scent of wet grass.

After a moment I gathered my wits, heaved myself from my warm nest and trudged around the end of the bed, feeling the prickle of rain against my wrists as I lowered the window.

The cats immediately acknowledged that I was at least out of bed if not quite ready to meet the day, so no choice but to poke about for my slippers and make my way to the kitchen, kittens tumbling at my feet trying to catch the trailing ends of my bathrobe sash. 

Jim drove off through the rain having rented a mammoth bulldozer to clear some lots, Dawn was at work; Matt and Gina rounded up neighbors and drove to the Casey County Produce Auction a favorite destination this time of year,

I sat at my desk loading photos in a desultory manner. The phone rang, Matt requesting my presence for lunch at the Bread of Life Cafe.

Rain streamed in torrents against the car's windshield, the wipers slashing madly at full tilt. The parking lot when I arrived was slick with puddled rain. Howard had also been summoned; when he arrived we were ushered to a large family-sized table. Soup of the day was beef stew which I ordered with my favorite marinated chicken breast, grilled and served on a soft roll. Others opted for the buffet of southern style favorites along with the salad bar.

Howard chose to take this photo with Gina's phone rather than pose with the group.

I don't like photo ops, was caught in protest mode, while Howard kept his attention on his plate.

Betsy admiring Howard's vintage Dodge Ram.

Betsy and Gary were our neighbors in Gradyville during our first years in Kentucky, but weren't sure of the location of our new home. Gina and Matt led them there, where we found Jim had returned, shed soaked clothing for a hot shower and dry attire. The rain slacked off as we sat companionably talking, the kittens moving from one warm lap to another.

The line storm that arrived with the autumnal equinox gave way to blue skies.
I repeat in my mind the phrase 'autumnal equinox' always having enjoyed the roll of the syllables and the memories conjured.

The lane that leads from the main road past a cornfield awaiting harvest.

The pond on the opposite side of the lane. Goldenrod spills from the edge of the woods.

Gold finches picked out the sunflower seeds and have mysteriously departed leaving the gaunt stalks to rear against the September sky.

Blackberry lilies raised from last season's harvested seeds, settled into the new raised bed near the front door.

Ragged zinnias flattened by the equinoctial storm,

I'm familiar with many of the poems of Robert Frost, proudly claimed by my home state of Vermont. This is one I'd never read prior to finding it online. 
Those of a certain age may recall his attempt to read an essay or poem specially prepared for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy.
It was an outside venue, a cold January wind whipping the elderly poet's white hair, a relentless sun glaring off his spectacles.
The paper in his hand flapped and shook, unreadable.
With considerable aplomb he laid aside the 'Dedication' written for the event and spoke from memory, another of his poems, 'The Gift Outright.'
Frost often wrote of rural scenes referencing a countryman's knowledge of season and place.
We return to his poems to appreciate his underlying humor, pathos, quiet wit and his evocative gift of words.

 A Line-storm Song

Robert Frost - 1874-1963

The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift, 

  The road is forlorn all day, 

Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift, 

  And the hoof-prints vanish away. 

The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,

  Expend their bloom in vain. 

Come over the hills and far with me, 

  And be my love in the rain. 

The birds have less to say for themselves 

  In the wood-world’s torn despair

Than now these numberless years the elves, 

  Although they are no less there: 

All song of the woods is crushed like some 

  Wild, easily shattered rose. 

Come, be my love in the wet woods; come,

  Where the boughs rain when it blows. 

There is the gale to urge behind 

  And bruit our singing down, 

And the shallow waters aflutter with wind 

  From which to gather your gown.    

What matter if we go clear to the west, 

  And come not through dry-shod? 

For wilding brooch shall wet your breast 

  The rain-fresh goldenrod. 

Oh, never this whelming east wind swells   

  But it seems like the sea’s return 

To the ancient lands where it left the shells 

  Before the age of the fern; 

And it seems like the time when after doubt 

  Our love came back amain.      

Oh, come forth into the storm and rout 

  And be my love in the rain.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The End of Summer

Sunday 19 September, a color-washed sky at 7 a.m. 
Mauve, dusty lavender, shades of dove grey and palest blue, peach warming to coral.

It takes longer for the sun to appear, sliding low along the horizon. The grass is dew wet, silvered and chilly. If I walk out my boots leave a greener trail in passing. 
The promising sunrise gave way to banks of grey clouds, small flurries of rain. The air felt still and heavy with incipient moisture.
It rained most of Monday, intermittent showers requiring my car's windshield wipers at a slow speed on the way into town, some sharp deluges that I tried to wait out before resolutely pulling my red rain jacket around me and dashing through the wet.
At 9 p.m. the sky suddenly cleared and the harvest moon rose, a pale golden sphere that sent my shadow looming ahead of me when I made a last trip out to the trash pit with veg trimmings.

We have the hope of a few meals of green beans from this final planting of the summer. A late July sowing was destroyed by Mexican bean beetles before I got out with the shaker can of Sevin dust. A bad year for bean beetles!

Beyond the planned row of beans, volunteers have sprung up since Jim cleared and tilled that area. These are the progeny of the ill-fated pole beans which tangled through their trellis and became infested with chiggers/spider mites--or whatever those horrid pests should be called. The season won't extend for them to blossom and bear.
Myriad clumps of cucumbers have likewise sprouted in their cleared area, brought on by this month's frequent small rains.

In addition to our usual planting of butternut squash which bore well, I bought seed of a bush variety. 
The squash are bell-shaped rather then the usual elongated shape.

Weary of watering the plants in the greenhouse by hand I've ranged them outside where I can water them with the nearby hose if rain doesn't give them enough. These are the remainder of my seed-grown plants designated for the extension of the west garden--a project derailed last spring.
I'm not quite resigned to giving these up, but a way to accomplish that garden hasn't presented.

Nasturtiums are willing to give me at least two flowerings per summer. I drag this large pot into the greenhouse when winter threatens and it sits there until late spring warmth encourages the seeds fallen from the previous summer's blooms to germinate. I allow a number of the blossoms to set seed which with a bit of judicious encouragement sends up fresh plants. The big planter was tucked out of the way in the corner where the greenhouse abuts the shop.

A bit of yellow to lighten a sunless day.

One tendril of nasturtium poked its way through the gap between the two walls, climbed for a bit then sprawled across the greenhouse floor.

This smaller pot of nasturtiums rested in the greenhouse until it again flourished and has come out to grace the front entry until frost.

The tangle of the unfinished west garden troubles my peace of mind each time I walk past. Last season it was lovely, thyme and lavender flourishing along the edge of the raised bed and spilling over the stone path. While the herbs came through the winter their situation didn't suit, and I've had to watch the wiry twigs blacken and rot. In part I'm blaming the butterfly bush; designated as 'dwarf' if has sprawled and rambled spilling over the edge of the raised bed creating too heavy shade for the sun-loving plants below.

A last stalk of bloom on coneflower 'twister.'

Dr. Ruppel making a valiant effort.

Another view of the buddleia in its unrestrained sprawl.

Duchess of Edinburgh giving me a few last glowing blooms.

A few roses after the Japanese beetles have retired until another summer.
They last for a day or two then the petals fall in soft heaps on the windowsill.
Autumn is my favorite of the seasons. As the weather cools and days are crisp I'll tackle such garden cleanup as I can manage--pruning, tidying, while watching the turning colors of leaves, listening for the wild calls of Canadian geese and sandhill cranes as they fly overhead on their way to winter grounds.
'To everything a season.'

Monday, September 13, 2021

Early September

Mornings come softly. I am awake by 5, watching drowsily for the grey of night to diminish beyond my west-facing bedroom window, for daylight to bring the return of color . The cats know that I am not sleeping; they skitter in and out of the room, lumber across the bed, waiting for the moment when I swing my feet to the floor and walk quietly to the kitchen. At this time of year the pine floorboards creak underfoot announcing my progress. 
The barn cats, Willis and Sally, are waiting on the front porch when I turn on the outside light and slide their kibble pan into place. 
Several of the cats who spend nights inside poke tentative noses around the half open door, wanting out but wary of Sally who guards the steps with the ferocity of a troll.

The morning ritual seldom varies: pour water and spoon coffee into the machine; trudge downstairs to clean litter boxes, shower in the downstairs bathroom. 
Shelby-cat flies down the stairs ahead of me, rushes to the back door, twirling around my ankles, imploring me in her tiny voice to let her out where she needn't brave Sally's aggression.
By the time I come back upstairs Jim has emerged, coffee has brewed, blinds have been raised. Ground fog swirls around the garden,  grass is silvered with dew.
Most days it is noon before the grass dries. 

August departed with bursts of rain giving way to humid sunshine. With the turning of the calendar page to September suddenly the air cleared bringing cool mornings. 
Grass and trees remain green due to ample rains in July and August.
The garden is bedraggled; the glory of the sunflower hedge is over, the stalks dry, leaves sere and brown. Since this photo was taken Jim has removed the bean trellis, mowed and then tilled most of the garden space.

I sheared spent blooms from the zinneas nearly two weeks ago allowing fresher blossoms more room.

Orange is not one of my favorite colors, but this brilliant zinnea and the golden fritillary butterfly are eye-catching.

Samaritan Jo has put out a few fall blossoms, much paler than the spring profusion.

First blossoms on clematis Dr. Ruppell--the plant has struggled.

Prairie Sage, grown from seed.  I can see these plants will need staking next year to do their best.

Seed pods on Redbud.

First blooms on a New England aster grown from seed. The bees found this one the minute it opened.

A moody sunset after a sharp afternoon rain last Wednesday.

A mottled pastel sky at day's end.