Signs of fall, waymarks of winter

Our Troy-Bilt rototiller ready for a long winter's nap

Our Troy-Bilt rototiller ready for a long winter’s nap

October 27 – If the wind hadn’t been blowing so hard today, I might just have thought it was summer, at least as far as temperatures go. We just missed the all-time record by about five degrees, as our thermometer registered a nice warm 82! Not bad for a few days before November.

Made me think of the letters or messages we have been getting from a number of our friends back in Pennsylvania where they have already had temperatures below freezing. Brother Pete said they had had severe frosts in Massachusetts too. Back in our garden shed stand the rototiller, the old wheelbarrow, work gloves, pruning shears, buckets, and baskets, all ready to be stored for the winter season not too far ahead of us.

While Dale answered a number of e-mails, I pushed the hand mower about a block from the barn up to the barbed wire fence that divides our neighbor John’s property from ours. Using our riding mowers, he and I keep our sides of the fence mowed all summer long, but now and again, I get out the hand mower and clean up the grass, weeds, rose bushes, and blackberries that can’t be reached with the rider. That hand mower sometimes makes me feel like trading it in for a new one because it just quits right in the middle of a job, and then I have a hard time starting it again. I think it’s because my arms are so short, that I can’t pull the starter rope hard enough. All went well until I had finished and was mowing over some grass that wasn’t at all tall, but just didn’t look too good. About 20 feet before I was finished, the mower began to sputter and cough, and I moved faster, hoping I would finish before it gave up the ghost. Hooray! I just finished the last few inches of grass, and the mower quit.

These tomato plants have seen better days

These tomato plants have seen better days

After putting the mower away in the barn, I went into the tomato patch, planning on cutting out some of the plants that were pretty well withered and had dead leaves around them in their cage. With the big pruner, I tried to cut the plants down at the roots, but if you have ever tried to use a big cutter inside a cage, you know what happened. The big pruners just would not open in the small area between the wires. Off to the barn for the small pruners, and I soon had the big garden cart full of no-longer-good tomato plants. After taking them down to the burning pile (we just finished burning that one last week!), I went back for more, but decided it would be better to work on the whole patch when it was time to pull all of them out. Not too long after that, I had a half bushel of ripe tomatoes picked and ready to carry up to the garage.

After Dale had finished painting the Dun Roamin‘ sign that hooks onto the front porch, we went out to the pear tree in the pasture. All over the ground are pears and more pears that have fallen. The flies and yellow jackets are enjoying the sweet pear nectar and practically live in that area. Dale reminded me to be careful if I picked up any because some of those yellow jackets really do enjoy showing who’s boss! When we had picked what we could from the ground, Dale got the step ladder and climbed up to pick the remaining pears, throwing them down to me to catch. Good thing my brothers taught me how to do that! Two bucketfuls were plenty because we still have a lot of Asian pears we picked earlier.

Chestnuts "in the burr"

Chestnuts “in the burr”

Yellow is the color most in evidence in our part of the country as far as fall leaves go. Strange though. While one of our big chestnut trees would agree to that, the other has green leaves instead. As I checked under the trees to see if I could find any more chestnuts, I often slipped on the sharp hulls that had fallen to the ground. I try not to pick up one of those thorny things, as I have done it in the past as they can truly defend themselves!

When those shiny nuts are boiled a few minutes before breakfast and eaten as part of the meal, I feel we are truly blessed to have them. I remember the first chestnuts I had ever eaten. Back in London, on our way home from Southern Rhodesia, we were checking out as many of the famous places as we could. Nights were pretty chilly at that time of year (November), and on just about every street corner a man was standing by his little burner, roasting chestnuts. How good they were! I still enjoy that old song that starts, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Walking back towards the house, I found that our paw paw tree is finally doing well after having a hard time becoming accustomed to this area. The dogwoods are also doing fine, and farther up the path are the trees which support our comfy hammock in the summer. Looking pretty lonesome is the yellow rope and chain, still attached to the first tree! And of course, our big wood pile with plenty of wood for the fireplace when the nights are cold this winter!

Clematis - after the bloom is over

Clematis – after the bloom is over

On the other side of the barn it’s easy to see that the Jerusalem artichokes are just about ready to be cut down to just above the ground. And these were those tall almost-trees that stood up to twice my height back in the summer. Almost time to cut down the asparagus stalks, too. Off along one fence are the clematis which have lost their delicate white flowers to almost-balls of pink seed pods with a strange pattern. Nearby on the trumpet vines are the big seed pods, some still green, but mostly brown. Some have split open to let the wind carry their seeds far and wide.

One brave but lonely dandelion

One brave but lonely dandelion

Walking back up to the house, I saw one golden dandelion, standing tall, not afraid of the cold days to come! I couldn’t help but think of the Percy Bysshe Shelly poem, “Ode to the West Wind.”

O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red…
O Wind, if Winter come, can Spring be far behind?”

– CHRIS

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