Thursday, November 08, 2012

late fall

We escaped the hurricane that brought such terrifying storms to our coast and mountains. All we got here in central North Carolina was some much-needed rain. I feel almost guilty enjoying some beautiful fall weather while my relatives on the Jersey Shore struggle though yet another storm knocking out their power and disrupting their lives.

But Nature is glorious around us right now, so I will take her on those terms and be grateful.

The other day HWWLLB cut down all the faded, raggedy-looking summer flowers from our front yard - mostly zinnias and gomphrena - and stuffed them into the yard waste bin. The Little Pea took the nicest of them to school for their flower-arranging activity. We've got several this-might-be-the-last-bouquet bouquets of salvia and asters all over the place. Every time I pick a green pepper or a stalk of basil, I say a little thank-you for the harvest, in the recognition that this might be the last of it.

At the same time, the greens and lettuce are sweetening with every cold night. Now that it's generally too cold for insects, I don't have to worry about the caterpillars munching on my baby broccoli and cauliflower plants. All I have to do is pull the occasional weed and fantasize about the delicious meals they will make soon. We have enough fresh salad greens for a much larger family, and a nice selection of dark leafy greens to round out any meal.

I'm awful at cleaning out the garden. I cling to the memory of the summer bounty, even if it is a hazy memory of what I wanted it to be, rather than a clear picture what it actually was. Once the stalks are spent and the disheveled vines are everywhere, you could forget that the cucumbers never produced or the squash were all mutilated by vine borers. It was a glorious summer garden. Now it's spent. I hate clearing away the debris afterwards, even though I know it would mean fewer disappointments next year from over-wintering marauders.

Right now my eye is on the leafy green things, wondering which of them will be sweet and tasty and abundant enough to grace our Thanksgiving table. There will be plenty of mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, Russian kale and red sails lettuce. The tatsoi will be my own little treasure that I keep just for myself (and the Little Pea), my very favorite green and one that I never seem to be able to grow very much of. In the freezer are two big tubs of roasted pumpkin, the surprise harvest from the volunteer pie pumpkin plant that came up in the middle of a vegetable bed and braved the vine borers to give us several adorable, perfectly round, bright orange pumpkins.

Surprises, disappointments, bitter and sweet. I'm giving thanks for a little garden that helps me ride out life's storms every season.