Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The frost is on the pumpkin...

Oct 25th - woke up to a light frost this morning, with more predicted.  Everything I care about in the garden is covered up.  Rather than flaunt the bowl of raspberries I picked when I came home this afternoon, I will show you what I did with them:
My granddaughter is one of the reasons that we don't get a lot of raspberries - they mostly go to her.  That's ok - keeps her healthy and helps her develop a love for fresh, organic choices.  (I know where the frozen stash is anyway).

She is also a big fan of dried tomato chips. between her and her Aunt Jess, they have gone through almost 100 pounds of tomatoes so far ( that is about a gallon of dried tomatoes).


Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Fall Garden, part 1

Two weeks ago when the autumn rains started, I hurriedly threw on row cover on most everything I wanted to save, what with the temps dipping down into the forties.  That is the advantage of raised beds and the small home garden- you can create micro climates to extend the growing season.

The rewards are there, in the bowls of tomatoes I am still harvesting:
Plum tomatoes from the south side of the bed

To extend the life of your tomatoes, you have to go in and clean out the dead leaves, the spent branches you picked tomatoes off of.  With increased moisture in the air, and the cold weather, you want to make sure you have good air flow and limit the amount of mold that can grow.  This is before the cleanup.

Cleaning up allows you to also pick all those tomatoes that have been hiding out of site.  I also picked the rest of the sage and dried it in my food dryer ( on a low setting).  Will be using that in stuffing and sausage the rest of the winter.

The east tomato bed all cleaned up.  There was so much foliage in here that the ground was dry, even though it had been raining off and on for a week.  This way the water gets to the roots, I don't have to water, and there is good air circulation  this is not my main bed of tomatoes, so i am not covering this up.  There are not a lot of tomatoes left to ripen on these branches, and they are mostly the yellow pear.  I figure about 3-4 days of sunny weather ( which we have coming up) will ripen them. 

There about 30 pounds of tomatoes left on the vines to ripen - I'm hoping the warm weather we have over the next few days will help.  Picked about 20 pounds of paste tomatoes on Wednesday after work - which all went into the dehydrator.

The rain stopped for a bit last weekend - long enough for me to plant my garlic bed:

Last spring this is where the potatoes and broccoli grew.  But I am moving the location of those to another bed, so got this one ready for garlic.

Ready for the garlic:
This is a soft neck variety - can't remember the name because I left the tag outside - think it is a silver rose, but bought them from my favorite nursery - 13th Street Nursery here in Salem, Oregon.  Also picked up several blueberries - they were having a sale on all their perennials!

It is not supposed to rain for several days, so that give me time to finish mulching, get out the old corn stalks, cover up the silly tomato that took root in my carrot/pea bed, bring the dried herbs in from the shed, build a small storage area (root cellar) for our squash, build a winter shelter for Hitlers mistress, pick the seed beans for drying, pick the last of the grapes...  I think you get the idea.  When you are a gardener, there is a never ending list of things to do, not enough good weather to do it in, so you have to work fast in the fall to get it all done.  Hmm, should probably seal those leaks in the gutters, winterize the faucets, start raking leaves, plant the blueberries, ....
Picked the Chinese lanterns before the rains started; they are now drying in the shed.
One of today's projects - get the corn stalks and sunflowers stalks out of the ground.
Off to work..


Friday, October 14, 2011

Thoughts at the beginning of autumn

Autumn - 1974
I started college at 17 (thirty-eight years ago), and felt horribly alone.  I had chosen to move 50 miles away from where I grew up and knew no one.  I had left the small group of friends that I had painstakingly gathered about me over the years and the loneliness was unbearable.  And I found that first week at college, in the library, a book that would nourish me the rest of my life.  

The title drew me in, “Journal of a Solitude”.  I was unfamiliar with May Sarton; had never read any of her poems or novels.  She published this journal in 1973, about a year before I picked it up.  I delved into it like diving into a cold lake on a hot summer day.  She was one of the first authors I knew who had the gift for laying her soul bare, exposing the loneliness, frustration, anger of being human, and I knew I was not alone.
Her words have been constant gifts to me in this struggle we call life.  When I can’t express what I feel, I pick up one of her journals, ( I also have Plant Dreaming Deep and the House by the Sea); open to the month that I am currently in, and always find something that nourishes me.  When I first started reading May, I was just a girl, but even then I found common ground with her.  An epiphany tonight – I read her entry from October 5th:

I woke in tears this morning.  I wonder whether it is possible at nearly sixty to change oneself radically.  Can I learn to control resentment and hostility, the ambivalence, born somewhere far below the conscious level?...  There is nothing to be done but go ahead with life moment by moment and hour by hour – put out birdseed, tidy the rooms, try to create order and peace around me even if I cannot achieve it inside me….

The realization was that I am now almost as old as May was when she wrote this.  I feel gratefulness to her for putting into words those things that I still struggle with.  You would think after 40 some years I would have gone further in my journey toward – toward what?  

I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep…It is all closed in, to a kind of still and intense waiting.   Is this a key?  Keep busy with survival.  Imitate the trees.  Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain… Sit it out.  Let it pass.  Let it go.

There have been times in my life when friends have compared me to Job. Perhaps it is because of the many trials I have had to face in my life.  There is a common misconception that Job bore patiently his trials – not so – he was willing to accept whatever came his way.  What angered him was friends trying to convince him that he had done something wrong to earn these trials, this was his punishment, he should repent, admit his sin, and die.  Or something like that.  He wasn’t angry at God; he was angry at his friends.  I think he was bewildered, and the only way he knew to get through it was to sit in ashes and weep.  I can certainly understand that.  But for me, having something to do in the garden has always helped.  If it is raining too hard to work outside, I can look over seed catalogs and dream about next spring.

My frustration in my life is that there is never enough time.  And energy.  I have bits of thoughts, starts of poems, floating around in my mind that break through once in a while – but I need the time to develop them.  I need quietness and some solitude to nourish them.  That is not something that I get very often.  Working full time, taking care of my family, doing the barest chores necessary to maintain life and sanity, doesn’t leave much time to nurture the poems that try to come through.

Last fall, going in to work through the back way, the rain slicking the concrete and making the red maple leaves bright, I saw one brilliant leaf that had been ground into the concrete by the myriad of office workers heels.  That leaf called out to me, “I did not deserve this death”, and I have sought for time ever since to tell that leaves story.  But there is no quiet.  There is no true solitude.  Even when I shut myself in my room, I am not alone.  Macie senses my desire to be without her and sits and cries at my door.   

Mom, don't you love me?
 Someone once asked William Wordsworth’s servant to show him her master’s study.  She answered, “I can show you his library, but his study is out of doors”.   When I am at my lowest, even if it is the middle of the night, in a rainstorm, I find solace by going outside and letting nature envelop me.  At least until the mosquitoes start to bite.  Then I shake myself and go back inside, but am always comforted by the few moments stolen alone with nature.

So I write this for all you, for mothers and fathers who work, take care of your children, for anyone who is striving to survive in this economy, this world, trying to hold onto your house, the few things that really matter to you – those who take care of elderly parents, own their own business, who deal with physical pain that can be so draining, who fall exhausted into bed at night, wondering when your time will come.  Well, this is your time.  It may not be what you thought it would be.  You have to treat your time/energy like money in the bank.  You only have so much – make sure what you expend it on is worth it.  Pare down your life.  Say no to the things that rob you – even though they seem worthwhile endeavors.  Simplify, simplify.   Focus on those things that you are passionate about.  Keep busy with survival.  Imitate the trees.  Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain… Sit it out.  Let it pass.  Let it go.  Accept.  Be grateful.  Joy can fill you even in the midst of a time of pain.  It doesn't have to be the giddiness of youth, or even the passion of a first love.  but those moments of simple joy are so worth waiting for.

(Sally, my thoughts are with you today - and my prayers for a quick recovery)