Right now the garden looks like pretty bedraggled. Sad, right? How about these strawberries? They tasted so delicious, but now they look anemic and ready to die.
Well they are about to die…back. Their roots will stay safe and warm in the ground, ready to come back in the spring but the green tops are withering and dying. I think that’s why I love living here, I get to see the cyclical nature of life. All things die, but all things eventually come back.
This weekend is likely the last one we’re going to get here with any substantial sun in Seattle for a very, very long time. Hub and I have plans to get our garden put to bed for the winter. The perennials in containers will overwinter, but if they’re allowed to freeze it can kill the dormant root system. The larger containers, like these strawberry barrels will be fine free-standing with a good mulching.
See my little baby strawberry plants in the square pots? I’ll tuck them in with their big sisters to keep them safe and warm. A nice thick layer of straw, nighty-night and see you in the spring, you delicious things!
But the rest of my ‘kids’ are in much smaller pots, so I’ll gather them all together on the side of the garage and pile straw over them all. I’ll huddle them together like emperor penguins, plus put some large yard furniture around them to protect them from getting blown around. I did all this last year and it worked better than I thought it would, which was pretty cool.
My next experiment, is overwintering some edibles. I planted more carrots, onions and beets late in the summer.
Apparently, all I have to do is mulch them good, so this weekend we’ll be covering them with a thick layer of straw. I’ve read mixed reviews about the beets. Some say don’t bother, that they’ll be inedible and just bolt (go to seed), while others rave about their harvest the following year. Same with the onions. Carrots universally seem to do pretty well overwintering in the ground.
So while I’m busy working on WIP 2 during the rainy season, my garden will be peacefully slumbering and waiting for spring, nestled beneath a cozy bed of straw. All things in their season.
Do you have any rituals for this time of the year? Is there anything you bid farewell to this year, that you look forward to seeing again in the future? Putting the garden to bed is my fall ritual. It reminds me that there is a time to be active, a time to rest, a time to be productive and time to die. It reminds me that death is not the end, but part of a cycle that we all participate in.
For those of you with offspring, do they still have kids write the obligatory essay on summertime activities in school? I thought I’d give you a little reminder of summer if, like me, fall has closed you in with clouds and rain.
Instead of being in front of a computer, this is where I spent most of my free time during June, July and August. And a good chunk of September.
Strawberries, corn, carrots, raspberries, grapes, potatoes and onions.
Also garlic, peas, beans and basil.
Boy did it keep me busy, but I loved every second of it. I learn something new with every season, and I think that is the best part about gardening. Exercise for the body and the mind. Although if you look close, at the end of the row you’ll see I’m not above sitting to do my weeding. That is one of the beauties of raised-bed gardening, it’s that much less distance you have to reach down to weed. The other bonus is, you can plant more closely, so fewer weeds sprout.
I learned that if you plant beans (and peas) too close, you will end up with a towering mound of vines.
In my head, I nicknamed it ‘The Monster Pile’ because it really was a monstrous pile o’ beans and peas. The peas only produced so-so, and I ended up with these little worms inside the peas on half the harvest, so the humans didn’t get much. The chickens, on the other hand, were delighted with the infested peas, and ate them up happily worms and all. The beans produced like crazy, with no issues. I ended up freezing some for Hub and I and donating the rest to the local food bank.
Next year though, it’s all about the placement. Hub has kindly volunteered to put some work in on making another planting bed in another part of the yard just for the beans and peas. Love him! This will let me space the plants better, and improve harvest. Many of the beans ended up choked, or tangled up in the vines because they just swamped each other and couldn’t be harvested or weren’t useful. Again my chickens benefited. When we pulled the bean plants at the end of the season we just tossed them to the flock.
The girls also got the cobs from the corn, after I’d blanched and frozen the kernels. I was greedy, I kept all 4 gallons of corn and it’s sitting happily in my freezer just waiting to be steamed, or made in to chicken corn chowder. Yum!
I did put some pretty in my garden too. From the showy:
To the simple:
But seasons turn as they always must, and my once overflowing garden is now (mostly) bare and dying away. The asparagus has been put to bed for the fall, the carrots and grapes have been plucked, the strawberry plants are starting to lose their leaves, and the potato bags have been moved into cold storage in the garage.
Now, I’ve begun my next garden experiment. Fall/winter garden.
Carrots, onions and beets. I dropped the seeds in the rows and figured if they sprout, I’ll see if I can make them overwinter for early spring harvest. Well, they sprouted, and are still looking remarkably happy. I am equally happy because I no longer have to water the no-so-little guys anymore, Mother Nature is taking care of that chore for me. I have to do more research on just how to get them through the winter and growing again, but I suspect I’ll mulch them in a few more weeks, and then hope for spring goodness.
And that is how I spent my summer. In addition to what I’ve put up, I donated a little over 20 pounds of fresh produce to the local food bank, fulfilling a promise I made to myself at the start of the season.
Here in Seattle, I’ve heard lots of moaning and groaning about fall and winter coming, and how much they miss the sun. I’m often asked if I miss Southern California and all the sunshine. My answer is no, not one bit. I love how the seasons turn up here, and the grey and rainy days are the perfect excuse to sit and write. During the summer, my creativity just wasn’t flowing, so I put all my energy into the garden. Now, the ideas I let lie fallow during the summer are springing forth renewed. Everything has a right time, a right season; something we humans are prone to forget in our hyper-technological world. The trick is connecting to that seasonal, earthy energy that is part of our very being, but once you do, wonderful things happen.
How do you connect? How do you renew yourself? What pastimes fulfill you and recharge your mental, emotional and spiritual batteries? I would love to hear your stories!
Also….the pictures in this post are all under copyright to me. Please ask before you use. Thank you!
Wild Wednesdays will return! However, I’m putting them on hold for a few weeks. Extra days and longer hours at work are keeping me from getting my weekday posts up, but Weird Weekends will continue.
Thank you for reading, and I promise, there’s more animal training, zoo tales, and garden adventures in the works. By the end of the month I will have plenty of free time for writing, and after my surgery, well, writing is probably all I’ll be good for, at least for a little bit.
A gardener’s work is never done, but even if you let things slide you can still reclaim what you’ve neglected. I certainly neglected a corner of my garden. It looked awful; scruffy and overgrown with weeds and grass.
See how long and luxurious that grass is back behind my grape and trellis? Now picture that grass spreading all the way across the rest of the picture, surrounding the grapes and filling in wherever there’s dirt. That’s what I started with, this is about half-way done with getting rid of the grass and weeds.
Have you ever pulled out a thick carpet of healthy grass by hand? It’s not easy, I definitely got my workout today! But what to do with all that grass?
Wild Wednesday Chicken Tip:
You can feed your weeds to your chickens, as long as you haven’t used any pesticides or weedkiller around them. Hub and I call it ‘giving them some chicken salad.’ Okay, maybe that’s only funny to us. Anyway, chickens love dandelions and grass, luckily two things I have in abundance. They best part is you don’t even have to knock all the dirt off the roots, they love to scratch through it for bugs!
It took me all day, but I managed to transform my cluttered, scruffy neglected garden corner into this:
I had stared at that corner for weeks thinking, I gotta do something about that, but wasn’t sure what. Aside from the obvious need to remove the overgrown sea of grass, I wanted to make it a useable space, but I didn’t know what I wanted there. I was dealing with other projects, and because I wasn’t ready to do anything with the raised bed in that part of the garden either, I just sort of shrugged my shoulders at it.
As I tugged on grass, sifted the rocks out of the dirt, and carried each and every one of those pavers, it occurred to me that gardening is good for a number of things.
It teaches me that it’s okay to prioritize things. That corner could have grown quietly for another week or two if need be, and had gone to the wild side while I took care of more critical projects. Did the heavens fall from my neglect? Heavens no! One of the best lessons I ever learned was that perfection is not necessary. I learned to let go of the obsessive perfectionism of my youth, and it’s done wonders for my stress level.
It keeps me active and physically fit.
It gets me outside, closer to nature. I’ve learned to appreciate the movements of the seasons, and it gives me a deep sense of spiritual satisfaction to take my garden through the yearly cycle. Gardening is a very spiritual experience for me, the physical activity is fairly routine, and this frees my mind to practice certain meditative techniques.
I take time to appreciate the beauty surrounding me, and say a little prayer of gratitude. Does that sound cheesy? Take a few moments with the flowers in my garden and see if you still feel the same.
I’m kind of into purple and pink, and it shows in a lot of my flower choices.
Gardening also teaches me patience. Somethings are really worth the wait, the time and the care you put into them. Even if you don’t get immediate dividends, the waiting itself can be a positive experience.
For example, I started an asparagus bed.
That’s not very exciting at all, is it? Asparagus is best started as a crown, every little mound there contains one of these little beauties:
Kind looks like one of those face-hugger beasties from Alien, doesn’t it? I’m lucky to live in a place where asparagus will grow like a weed…once it’s established, which is the tricky part. You can see I’ve dug down (well to be honest, loving Hub dug the bed for me) made little mounds and lovingly placed each crown on it’s own little pillow of dirt and compost.
Cover them up, water and watch them put up little spears, adding more dirt as they grow upwards until the whole bed is filled in at the end of summer. I’ll watch them put up little spears, which will turn into little ferny things, waiting for the bed to establish itself. During that time, I’ll still have to maintain them, keeping their bed weed-free and watered. I’ll do this for the next three years, only then can I enjoy my delicious, home-grown asparagus. No, that’s not a typo…three years until I can harvest. Once that bed is established though, it will produce for up to 30 years. It’s a good thing Hub and I love asparagus, huh?
One of the best things my garden has taught me, is the value of delayed gratification. It’s helped me develop my patience and, as odd as it sounds, an appreciation for waiting. Think about that. We all spend, or waste, time waiting…in line, at a stoplight. Do you spend your time building your irritation, and focusing on how tense you are? What if instead you gave yourself permission to let go of your anger and frustration? Give yourself permission to take one or two deep breaths, and relax. Focus on something you’re grateful for…your kids, your husband, your dog, your health, the list goes on, instead of concentrating on how angry you are to be sitting in traffic.
Try this a few times and see if it doesn’t put you in a better frame of mind. I’m really curious to hear how it works for you! Please drop me a comment and tell me if you found sitting at stoplights or standing in line a little more bearable if you take a few seconds to breathe, and relax.
I’ve been busy NOT writing. At first, I was stressing, because I wasn’t doing it ALL! You know, 10 pages a day on the WIP, blogging multiple times a week, social media socializing, AND raising a bunch of baby chickens, getting my garden started, plus that little day job and keeping the house running, keeping Hub happy. Does the list ever end? What’s a multi-tasking, writer/Reiki Master-Teacher/blogger supposed to do?
I went to play outside.
Here’s some of the planting I did:
It doesn’t look like much now. But that green mist on the left is actually two rows of carrots. The skinny green spires are onions, and I’ve sown more carrot seeds on the right. Those are still under a cold frame at night. Behind them are garlic, some spinach and lettuce seedlings. At the far back, bush and pole beans. So Yummy!
I’m toying with the idea of putting in an herb garden. One of those that’s just packed with plants, no stuffy borders, just the plants making a showy display. So I’m experimenting with the spot I’m thinking of, and I put in a bunch of herbs in pots to see how they do.
Yeah, I’m dangerous in a nursery. I have to avoid them or I just end up with more plants.
My garden just was too tempting to resist. I find gardening rewarding on so many levels; first, I’m out getting exercise, always a plus! It’s also a very meditative and spiritual practice; it helps connect me to the earth and the seasonal cycles by planting and nurturing growing things. I love watching them grow. It helps keep me grounded, and I always offer Reiki to my garden and chickens when I’m out there. Some of my best insights, and writing inspiration have come to me while I was out in my garden. Today was gloriously sunny and gorgeous, I even had to put on sunscreen! My chickens were loving the sun too!
No, they’re not dead, they’re dust-bathing! They have a grand time flinging the dry, loose dirt over themselves, and they kind of coo with pleasure while they’re doing it.
Hub and I also put the baby chickens outside for the first time. They learned about sunshine, and grass, dirt and rocks, and bugs. Now they’re all sacked out, tired and happy.
Hard to believe these dinosaur looking birds were once these tiny balls of fluff!
Hey, I managed to get some writing done after all! I love weekends like this!
How did your weekend go? Were you enjoying the sun? Running around with friends? Hanging out with your kids? Hope that it was awesome!