The first day of Autumn…already! How did that happen? In some ways, it seems as though I was just celebrating all the “firsts”…the first crocus, the first daffodil, the first radish harvested from the potager, the first ripe tomato and suddenly I’m aware that the “lasts” are beginning. The last cucumber has already become gazpacho. The last zucchini became part of a vegetable lasagne. The last eggplant is nearly ready to pick, the last potatoes have been dug. The cooler nights brought brown spots to the basil, so the last of the potager’s basil “Newton” has been brought in to become pesto for the freezer. There’s still some “Sweet Genovese” in the quick-pick culinary herb pot in a protected spot by the back door for making Caprese salad, until the last tomato is picked. Soon, even the “lasts” will be finished, once frost arrives.
It was sweatshirt weather this past week, at least until mid-afternoon when things warmed up enough to return to T-shirt wear, so the arrival of Autumn did not come without gentle warnings. The walnuts are falling along with the leaves of the cottonwoods (partly due to dryness as well as the season) and farmers are beginning to harvest soybeans. The mums’ buds are swelling; the sunflowers are being ravaged by goldfinches. The starlings are forming their annual gatherings, swooping as a group from field to tree. It occurred to me that soon the flowers will be nothing but a memory, so armed with scissors and basket I went to the Cutting Garden. It’s the neglected child, tucked behind the potager’s fence, and definitely appeared tattered and weary, with lots of blackened stalks of Black-eyed Susans and dried sunflower poles. Some of the gomphrena had already gone to seed, and the zinnias were forming seed heads faster than new blooms. The feverfew that had sparkled back in May and June was re-blooming nicely for filler, and the dahlia “Sylvia” was still providing lots of fresh flowers. So, even at this late stage there were plenty of blooms to make bouquets: a taller one for the living room coffee table, and a short one for the kitchen table, with a few leftovers stuck in the very last canning jar by the kitchen sink.
Yes, I’m out of canning jars! And, I hadn’t planned to can that much this year, since the shelves and freezers were still full. But, the tomatoes just kept coming and coming and couldn’t be wasted. And this week, the local discount grocery had chicken leg quarters for 38 cents a pound, so 20 pounds became 7 quarts of whole chicken legs and thighs, and 7 quarts of soup stock (some with meat bits, carrots, onions, celery; some with only the veggies, and some clear broth.) That will be 14 meals (not counting abundant leftover meals) for $7.60! But, thankfully my mother has some empty jars she’s not going to use, so I’ll be able to can the two bushels of apples waiting in the garage and the 3 rows of beets nearly ready to pick.
It was a good summer for growing, and I should welcome the end and this new season that has arrived. A gardener needs a spell of rest after such a busy time, and there is a fall job list of repairs and projects to make next year’s season even better and easier. I will try to think of autumn as a new beginning, rather than the end of the gardening year. I will try. I will try. I will try…..I will order seeds!!!