Winding down with the garden

The leaves on the snowball bush are turning red, as are the tips of the leaves on the dogwoods. That’s the first message sent saying “Get ready. Fall’s coming.”

6-25 Page 4A.inddEven before this nature alert, there was something in the air. Just before the onset of autumn, we notice a discernable difference when the front door is opened and we breathe in the morning. It’s in the breeze. The sky seems a slightly different shade of blue.

The butterflies hovering around the lantana are beautiful, but some of their wings are a little tattered on the tips. In the late evening yesterday, there were 25 zebra swallowtails counted on one lantana alone.

They know something is coming. There is going to be a change, a new cycle begun.

The petunias on the walkway are past their prime. They’ve been cut back once but again are sprawled out untidily with smaller and fewer blooms.

The bee balm has retired from the scene, and the hibiscus, though still blooming, are signaling that each bloom they manage to produce may be the last one seen this year.

The sweet autumn clematis is in full bloom along the fence, on the trellis and elsewhere. It’s a source of wonder to know this vine sells for $12.95 in high-end garden catalogues. If we dug up all the clematis now running rampant and sold it for that amount, we would be overnight millionaires.

It will spread anywhere on the place where tendrils of the vine touch. It roots itself and is known around here as a traveling vine.

Right now it is beautiful and pleasing to the eye and nose.

In spring, birds choose clematis vine as an ideal location to build nests and raise families.

In the vegetable garden we bid farewell to tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and green beans. Each growing season brings with it both positive and negative experiences. Growing a garden is just like life. You win a few and you lose a few. There may possibly be some late corn, but that’s still up in the air

Last year we harvested and sold a lot of corn. Not so this year. The seed, now costing $14 a pound, and fertilizer, now about $14 per 50-pound bag, were dutifully bought and diligently used.

But, as the old saying goes, “Man proposes and God disposes.”

Nobody controls the weather. We had gully-washer rains immediately after planting, which led to replanting corn.

After the flood followed the drought. Things didn’t look good, and what did come up was spotty. What is out there now is small and lacks potential. Also, the deer have visited the field and are treating it like the buffet at the cafeteria.

The only thing producing well now is the okra, and it has been very late this year. As the weather cools and summer winds down, the okra will quit bearing. Some stalks will be left in the field, because the dried pods are pretty in fall arrangements.

Even if the corn is a washout, the dried stalks in the field will be cut and fed to the horses and goats. They love it.

Perhaps the most gratifying part of farming is the free gift of perspective that comes with it. I love feeling the deep connection to the earth and the joy of watching plants you have nurtured thrive. This is real. This is life. It keeps me balanced to recognize the difference between an artificial way of life and an authentic life.

Growing things keeps you honest, both with yourself and others. It clears the mind and is therapeutic to the soul. So in order to get real, get growing.