remains of summer

remains of summer

I spent the first 26 years of my life in southern California and I honestly don’t remember ever being any more concerned about the weather other than to ask if I would need a jacket when going out on a January evening. Sure, there would be frost now and then, a minor annoyance that required running water from the hose onto the car windshield to wash off the frost. Sometimes there would be rain. Rain was really exciting because it didn’t happen very often. And there were always days, sometimes weeks, during which the Santa Ana winds would blow making everyone just a little bit crazy. But weather in general, there wasn’t much happening so it was not a major concern.

I look back on those years and laugh. Since I moved to Minnesota I have become obsessed with the weather, most Minnesotans are. Can you blame us? We have snow, blizzards, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods, straight line winds, hail that can be the size of a golf ball, temperatures so cold you can throw a pot of boiling water into the air and it will freeze before it hits the ground, temperatures so hot you can fry and egg on the sidewalk, tropical humidity, drought, you name it we have it except hurricanes, that is one weather event we don’t have to worry about. Even with climate change and the oceans rising we won’t ever be near the coast. I check the weather forecast and maps multiple times a day because the weather can, and does, change in the blink of an eye. It happened a few years before I left California, but people still talk about the Halloween Blizzard of 1991.

I have a thermometer on my deck that Bookman and I consult constantly. We don’t have a rain gauge but I will probably get one next year. Last year when I found out how the weather people measure snowfall amounts I came this close to grabbing a ruler and going out into my garden and taking measurements myself. The only thing that kept me from doing it is the time it takes to bundle up in all the outdoor gear for something that would take maybe five minutes to execute once outside.

Now add to this an interest in gardening, an activity in which weather is of paramount importance. It deepens my weather obsession because I notice the weather even more and see its effects on a small scale. I can curse the weather but I have to also figure out a way to work with it no matter how good or bad it is. There have to be contingency plans for excessive heat, drought, wind, and frost. Since I have sandy soil I don’t have to worry about too much rain which is a relief but it makes lack of rain difficult because my soil doesn’t hold water very well. Mulch and compost help but only get one so far.

This gardening season has been a crazy one. Lots of rain early, a late spring followed by a cool start to summer. Then a

pumpkin pie

pumpkin pie

heat wave followed by a severe drought and then another heat wave. Fall has been long and unusually warm. The average frost date is October seventh. We just got our first frost this morning, October 20th. Since the end of September we have been getting rain again and our drought has been downgraded to moderate edging towards unusually dry. It has rained all weekend with brief breaks. Yesterday afternoon we had pea-sized hail. Today there was a chance of snow. The snow didn’t happen though there was a short period of sleet.

This means the growing season is over. I am glad because the days are getting so short there isn’t enough daylight after dinner in the evenings to do anything outdoors and several rainy weekends in a row haven’t helped much either. I am sad too because this has been the best gardening season ever and now it is done. It has been so much fun writing about it every Sunday and taking photos. I have paid more attention to what is actually happening in my garden than I ever have before and I have been more excited about it too. I am already looking forward to next year, making lists of new things to plant, new projects, new beds for growing more.

Bookman, my intrepid garden helper, had fun this year too. We built an herb spiral and created a new garden path. He hauled more bags of dirt and compost than he cares to remember and lost count of how many trips he made to the free wood chip piles. He told me recently that he is looking forward to next year’s garden but asked hesitantly, we won’t have to build anymore herb spirals or anything like that will we? No, I said, but I have a great idea for making a branch and twig arch over the garden path from all the tree and shrub prunings. He kind of looked a little scared at that. Don’t worry, I reassured him, it will be easy! Famous last words, right?

Today, in a brief break in the rain, I bundled up and went out and picked all the pumpkins. It is best to wait until frost if you can because the cold increases their sweetness. Nine pumpkins! And there are three green ones still on the vine. I don’t know if they have a chance of getting ripe. I guess I will find out!

a visitor

a visitor

While I was out I was also surprised by a visitor. This pretty kitty often visits the garden. Waldo and Dickens are strictly indoor cats and when they see this fellow in the garden they get so excited and run from window to window. The visitor never comes up to the deck or the window though and usually when Bookman or I walk out the door he runs away. But I think I surprised him as much as he surprised me and for some reason he didn’t run away but instead sat watching me. Maybe next year we can become friends.

This will be my last regular garden post. One might pop up now and then before the snow really does fall and then again when the seed catalogs start arriving in January and when I drag my mini-greenhouse out in late March or early April. And if you all don’t mind, they will become regular again next gardening season. So until then, I leave you to ponder the immortal words of Cicero:

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Ah yes, life is good.

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