Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Summer's Last Stand

In the too early darkness of early evening, I can feel the nip in the air as I walk out to the dairy maid's cottage which is now home to my regular barn cats, Solomon, Sheba, and Nomie, as well as the occasional visitor enjoying the cat food I leave or the exotic treats occasionally left by Morris. Elusive Black and White kitty, who is more often seen as a shadow disappearing around a corner than actually seen ever since he got stuck in the house for three days, takes after his putative father, the Original Black Coat. Even with one gimpy leg, Black Coat, managed to cover a lot of territory. If cats had theme songs his would be, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."

There is no frost on the pumpkin here. It rarely frosts, and no one grows pumpkins because they need the leisure of a long growing season. Like pumpkins, I need more light and warmth to flourish than can be had here without some effort. I grew zucchinis this year with a little help from a raised bed. Next year I'll start earlier with some fleece on top to warm the soil. I also grew tomatoes in a mini greenhouse. It was undoubtedly not worth the effort from a practical standpoint, but the joy in seeing the red ripe fruit like lipstick against the grey stones was worth every penny.

The gale ripped every single leaf off the last of my outrageous orange nasturtiums and calendula. The marigolds took a chill and retreated into themselves, and then the flood took them out altogether. Within a day I had lost all the colour that had sustained me as the sun faded. The sunflowers, even a dwarf variety that I hoped to sneak in under the wind, did not live long enough to provide seed for the birds, but I did get a half-hearted bloom or two.

With one exception, the only plants now hanging on in the kitchen garden are leeks and brussels sprouts. This is their time of year. Neither wind nor flood nor threat of frost could deter them. I should love them as much as I love all my garden children, but their solidity somehow saddens me. They lack the verve and usefulness of zucchini, the outrageously round orangeness of pumpkin, or the summer-sun tang of greens like rocket and spinach. I will harvest them and cook them affectionately, but they can not help me hold on to summer.

The single, against-the-odds exception to the fading of summer in the kitchen garden is the dill. Perhaps akin to Pascal's thinking reed, their lacy leaves let the wind whistle through and then collected themselves to have a laugh about it. These saucy survivors made their presence felt by their scent. As I stumbled with cats swirling around my ankles through the darkness to the dairy maid's cottage, treading gently over the algae-covered sidewalk still slick with the latest rain, I smelled something. It was so unexpected I did not place it right away. But I inhaled deeply and felt summer running through me before I identified the distinct, buttery aroma.

I'll harvest some leaves and dry them in the microwave to keep a little bit of summer in a jar. The dill plants themselves may hang on long enough that I can have the sturdier part of the plant, dill seeds, too, but just the thought of taking out those lacy leaves in the fullness of the long dark winter chases the chill out of the air.


At 2:46 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

beautifully evocative! the dreary rains have started here, the air is heavy with damp. I find my temper is as short as our stunted days...

At 12:40 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

the colorful photos I brought you last July were to help you in the darkness and grey of winter. Don't forget to look at them.

At 8:58 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hayden, I like sadly the ratio of short days and short tempers. I'm yougoing to go to a lower latitude for some respite, but lst year we went to the southern hemisphere. I recommend it.

Amy, I have your photos by my computer upstairs. When I go up, I am flanked on one side by the photos and on the other a heater. The combination makes me almost invincible!

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

I love the image of you flanked by those two things. Like "his rod and his staff." I believe you!


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