OLG – Old Lady Gardener #22 Not a gardening post

We have reached mid January and there is already a great deal to think about and the reflect on. We have just passed MLK day with all its past power and my worry that not enough has changed. This day was a hard one to swallow as one more young man was killed on the north side of town over the weekend. Yep he was involved in stuff over his head but death came at the hands of those with guns. Who and why we still do not know. What we know is that a smart bright light is gone.

As a young child he had a glowing smile and was quick with answers to questions. He showed signs of leadership and a gathering of strong friendships. Over the years he checked back in with his early teachers. Home life was crazy but there was a grandmother who stood strong to raise him and his siblings. Somewhere along this road his mentors, it appears, became gang members instead of school teachers and football coaches. I can’t explain that process but it happens all too often.

We as a society can’t seem to understand we are losing so many bright and beautiful lives because we lack the will to turn resources towards those in need. The path out of poverty is rough and full of pot holes that easily side track young people.

I don’t have answers!

(I retired from this daily exhaustion about 10 years ago but still feel it in my heart daily. This kind of sorrow does not go away when our society does not change.)

I watch as teachers, coaches and social workers exhaust themselves trying to make a difference that lasts.

I watch them put their heart and soul into their work.

I watch them fall in love with children and tenderly pass them on to other teachers hoping they will love them as much as they did!

I watch and my heart breaks each time it fails … for students, families, teachers, coaches, social workers – the list goes on.

All I can say is hold your children and students close! All of them! Time is shorter than we think. If there is a small way you can see to help them please help. You never know what small moment might change the path for the young ones in front of you.

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OLG: Old Lady Gardener #21- Seeking Joy

Here we are at the end of another year. A year of turmoil and craziness. (Read the NYT article on The Year we Lost it? https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/17/style/the-year-we-lost-it.html) It is all around us inside and out.

I have worked hard to keep an even keel. I am not an angry person by nature. I become anxious and sad or withdrawn. I move away from anger. I go into my garden. The safe space for me to process and reflect. Plants are great they way they always listen and usually don’t take back. Although I will say the rose bush gets a bit thorny at times and lets me know what she is thinking about my ongoing dialog while weeding.

All that said, I sit this morning in a bit of a fog. The holiday sugar has dropped by energy level and I pushed it over the top this morning with half a glazed donut that tasted wonderful but wow – I have not had that kind of sugar rush in years. The decaf tea is not pulling me out of my stupor either. As I type find myself sliding down on the couch into an easy sleeping position. Can I just slide through to the end of the year? Can I walk away from the undercurrent of disruption felt across our country and world? Boy as a collective we really don’t have good coping mechanisms for all the change we are enduring.

We had a lovely Christmas – great food, family all at home and an aunt and uncle came to join. The Christmas trees in both houses were great and the gift giving was fun and not over the top.

But like our country underneath all this joy and happy energy there were or are struggles. One is struggling with a job that seems great but is not making them happy in anyway. Another is coping with the stress of returning to their high stress job after dealing with a high stress illness. The partners of each are clearly feeling like they are in a billiards game being shot from one place to the next. Depression seems to be running through everyone one of them. Life is hard right now and the social media, politics, poverty issues, health issues and environmental issues are just pulling the rope of anger and frustration even tighter. Yet we managed to have a cheerful couple days of fun, movies, too much food and talking.

So now we talk. We spent time together but not always in conversation. We check in with each other. I know as a parent I can’t solve this for my children. They will need to work through this. I can listen and ask questions and be open to help in anyway they feel they need. Our family group, like the country, will need to keep processing, talking and finding ways to handle change and to make change. These are the growing pains of adult children and for us as the elder adults. We are all in positions of dramatic change. We can’t return. The doors of the past always remain closed. We can only learn from what we have gone through and then make a new path for ourselves and those we love.

Now as I work to pull myself up and keep typing. I think about words that can focus myself and family as we step into 2023. (boy that feels odd to say 2023! How did we get here?) Anyway in looking for one little word or phrase that might be a light for the next year.

I am thinking about the word JOY.

Finding joy personally and within the family and in the world around us. Just wondering if we can find joy in the little moments of each day. Wondering if we can share those little moments with each other?Will that sense of joy, over time, help settle the upset of our current lives? What happens when we continue to find and share small moments of joy? Can we find those little moments of joy in the job we dislike or the overly stressful job? Can we find moments of joy in the people around us that are creating frustration within us right now and most importantly can we find moments of joy for ourselves each day?

Think about it, What would happen if we all looked for joy this year? If we wrote it down, shared it with others and held on to those moments in some small way all year.

I think I might give it a try! How about you?

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OLG Old Lady Gardner #20 embracing the night

Yes, I garden but I also take care of a 3 year old grandson. He is much like my garden. He is growing fast, needs lots of care and attention and can be both loving and frustrating at the same time.

These sentences I start a week ago and were never finished. They were started on a day of frustration and a bit of darkness on my half. I was feeling the weight of a head cold, the quickly approaching nights of deep darkness and the wildness of a three year old stuck inside due to cold and heavy snow. Plus red paint streaked over the living room wall behind the couch by that same three year old. We were working on a Christmas painting for Mom and Dad that is still not done. A whirlwind of winter darkness was upon us.

Now on Dec 20 I am finally taking a moment to return to writing. Grandson is home with Mom for winter break. I have scrub the kitchen floor (and that wall in the living room), done a big cleaning of the basement bathroom and the guest bed sheets are in the wash to be freshened up before my son and daughter in law arrive late tomorrow. There are gifts to be wrapped and a few still coming – I hope today and tomorrow. There is plenty left to do but…

For now I am sitting with a cup of tea, a winter wonderland outside that is bitterly cold. It is currently 4 degrees with it feeling like 12 below. It is 11:30 am. It is about as warm as it is going to get today. But the sun is shinning and I am thinking through next steps but also running with the thoughts of light and darkness.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice. The first official day of winter. It is the turning point towards light. The days will begin to get longer. At first the light increases by just a minute but each day brings a few more minutes of light. We are moving towards spring. I know we have a long ways to go but there is something special about this deep winter marking. The beginning of light, the holidays of light and giving. The gathering of friends and/or family. Many of us work hard to bring this light into the world at this time. The lights on a tree, the candles lite each night, the lights on houses and the bright colors we use to reflect more light.

We are at a balancing point of the year. We are mid way between dark and light. We stand with the longest night of the year before us. It is a time we can sink deeply into the underworld of dark or we can stop and stay here in the moment. We can hold on to the wonder of the darkness and reach to the glory of light found in friends and family. We can take time to listen to the night coldness and the day time quiet that the snow brings.

This darkness is the time that is often hard for me but find if I hold on to finding the little moments of joy the world seems to be brighter. I don’t need to solve all the problems or even chase after all the things that we think need to be done. It is just important to pay attention to the little things – the smiles, the falling of snow flakes, the crisp crunch of snow under my feet or the sound of birds seeking food for warm in the deep chill of December.

Mary Oliver helps us to stop and stay in the moment – not letting the whirlwind spin us around.

Snowy Night by Mary Oliver

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.

“Mary Oliver’s “Snowy Night” reminds us to pay attention and to be with what is present, whether we understand it or not. It invites us to welcome, instead of to shun, the dark and be open to what we don’t “know” and instead step into wonder.”  (poem and ending phrase pulled from Nadia Colburn’s blog)

Here is to staying open to the wonder of this season! May you enjoy friends and family or a bit of quiet night in what ever celebration comes before you.

Happy Holidays to All!

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OLG – Old Lady Gardner #19 Moving on…2023??

Winter is here in Minnesota! We had a day of snow. I think there is about 6 inches out there right now. The winter chill has also set in with temperatures dropping dropping tomorrow night with a brisk wind along with it. This is our second deep cold spell. It could be a long winter. Minnesota’s weather is crazy but the general trend is winter. Boots, hats, mittens, scarfs and coats are needed and with Mason it means he and I both need snow pants while crawling around with the sled. It also means the outdoor garden season is over.

The pot by the front door, the last task for this fall, is frozen solid with the fake sunflowers smiling up at us. It will be dragged to the back and I just went to the garden center to buy a pot of evergreens to replace it. The creating my own winter design this year is just not going to happen. Thawing a pot inside and pulling all the greens inside to make it is just too big of a mess. Simple is better this year I think.

Now I am puttering around inside with house plants and a few plant cutting from outside. My sunroom/plant room is chilly but running at about 62 degrees with the floor heat running all the time. I pulled out a few plants that really need it to be warmer, like the orchids. The violets are there tucked into the back corner under lights. They also might be better in another room but we will see.

The Christmas cactus like the cool and longer nights for now so I am leaving them in hopes they will all bud out at once. It would be a great display if they all decided to bloom at the same time. Maybe a January display since there are no buds right now. They will not bloom for Christmas for sure. (This photo to the left is a White Thanksgiving cactus. The one to the right is the window with all most of the Cactus’ getting ready to bloom. )

The tiny stonecrop plants I rescued from the street machines are growing! We had sidewalks pulled up, deep holes made and new gas meters added to the outside of all the houses in our neighborhood. These guys although nice did not see that there were plants growing. Big machines and big work boots pretty much destroyed the small gardens. These tiny little plants are making their way back to life. Here is hoping they will last out the long winter months so they can return to the garden in the spring. Spring here means May. This means seven months for me to keep this little guys going. Oh Boy! We will see if that can happen.

This row of pictures are a couple of the plants I am hoping to replant next spring. The grow shelf tucked in the corner is my propagation station. My African Violets are here on the top shelf. Below is a new little plant growing in its own little dome. Can you see it? The photo is a bit fuzzy due to the clear plastic dome over the plant.

What really has started is my thinking about next year. For most gardeners there is a bit of a rest here while our brains keep reviewing the glories and the mess of the last season. Then the planning and ordering begins. If I want to start perennial seeds I need to get those ordered within a few weeks. They really need to get started growing in January under lights. Perennials are slow growers. They need a good 4 or 5 months of growth before I can think about adding them to the garden. This is why many gardeners buy their perennials or seed them outside in the fall hoping they will over winter and sprout in the spring.

The adding of a plant room has pushed me into thinking more like the folks at the greenhouses. They are already working on growing plants we will purchase next spring. They have sorted out what they want us to see and have their seeds and maybe even have some of them growing already. They have cleared their greenhouses of the Christmas blooming cactus and the Poinsettia to be sold at garden centers and the spring growing season has started for them.

I am working on planning the 2023 garden. (Yikes, that sounds odd!) The garden catalogs have begun to arrive and with the snow comes time to step back and think. I hope!

Are your thoughts already moving towards 2023? I am not trying to rush the year along but hey winter is not my favorite season anymore. Cold and ice are not as much fun as I get older. Although I have to say the snow angles we made today were fun and looked great since the snow was deep enough. (sorry no picture we were having to much fun in the snow.)

Here is to dreams of spring weather and green plants!

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OLG -Old Lady Gardener #18 Why do I grow plants?

As winter approaches and my garden here in Minnesota goes to sleep I turn inside to my house plants and those few plants I hope to winter over. Being frugal, really just being cheap, I have taken cuttings from several plants that I believe are easy to grow inside. They are sitting in little pots of water growing roots and waiting to be planted so they can grow on through the snowy days and cold night.

Also in my new sunroom/plant room are some of my house plants. Several of which spend their summers outside and return to the house as the cool weather comes along. (Tropical plants don’t really like our Minnesota winters.) I actually don’t have a lot of house plant.

I have a few pots of Christmas cactus only because when a branch brakes off of my very large old plant I stick the little set of cladodes/leaves in a pot and on it grows.

I have several pots of Peace Lilies, Spathiphyllum. This plant was given to me when I had Breast Cancer over 25 years ago and I just keep growing it. I am a bit superstitious about it continuing to live and be healthy. It has been with me through a lot of health issues. It keeps going and so do I.

Then there are the African Violets. This is a strange plant for me to have. I tend toward easy plants. The ones you stick in any kind of soil, water them and let them grow. I don’t like fussing with plants but here I am with four African violets and sprouting four more leaves. I now have learned they need special soil, must grow in small pots, needs their own fertilizer every week, like temperatures of 70 to 75 and filtered light. Oh come on! Who needs a plant you need to be so careful with? I guess I do!

I have them and increasing my numbers of them.

The only person I knew who really had them growing when I was young was my Aunt and God Mother, Harriet. I was always a big afraid of her. She was a strong woman and had definite ideas about things. I did not want to cross her for sure. She lived on a farm and was not a fussy person but in their dinning room was a fancy metal shelf with many many pots of African Violets. I don’t remember what colors she had. I know there were purple ones but beyond that I have no idea. I don’t remember talking to her about them or knowing how she cared for them. I just remember always looking at them when I was at their house. I remember wanting to know about those flowers and wanted to grow them. I also know my mother thought they were to fussy to be having them at our house and so we did not.

Years later I found myself with two of Harriet’s African violet pots. They are special pots – one pot fitting inside another so you bottom watered them with the moisture being absorbed through the porcelain walls. (thats another thing about these plants you don’t ever want to get water on leaves and then have the sun hit them – bad news for sure)

Somehow this interest in these small fuzzy plants that can take years to flower and months to sprout have take hold of me. They connect me back to my childhood and people who scared me and loved me and some how they become a touchstone of sorts.

This act of gardening and growing plants took hold when I was young. I never had people who acted as mentors to teach me but the family around me were from the farm or were farmers and gardeners. They grew things outside and in. Gardens are what they did but not really what they shared. I know I watched and wanted to be a part of that tradition. For a long time I secretly wanted to be a farmer. The idea of riding the tractor across the fields was thrilling to me and to be honest still is. If I am out driving through the heartland especially in the fall or early spring when the field are being tilled watching those tractors makes my heart sing, just a little bit. My cousins who lived on the farm thought I was crazy. They knew the reality of farm life and the work it entailed. They did it and I dreamed about it.

I grew up living in the city and now live in an even larger city but there is dirt under my finger nails all the time. There is mud on the soles of my boots as I enter the house and now there is a small room dedicated to plants in our house. I can’t really answer that question of why do I grow plants. There is something in me that needs to have my hands in the soil. Something within me that needs to help things grow.

I think it has to do with the family of farmers – the men who told me woman don’t farm, the women who scared me but tenderly gardened – planting flowers and vegetables that fed the family – these people seem to live in my bones. There is Harriet, Inez, Grandma Carlson, Herb and Ester, LaVern and Grandpa Hult, Gen and my Mom. This growing things was not for my brother or sister. So why me? Why did I pick up this need to get down and dirty?

Why do I at 70 still wish I had a field to plough and plant?

I guess there are some things we just don’t find answers to. My eye tracks plants wherever we go. I follow the weather patterns and the sunrise and sunset. I have already ordered the Whole Seed Catalog for this new year. Actually two of them one for me and one for my daughter. I know crazy but nice to have one here at the house all the time in the winter to read about plants from around the world and plan for spring.

I expect all of us have something that pulls us – for some it is music, or visual art, sewing or cooking, woodworking, even reading, and writing can be the pull that holds you and keeps you motivated and happy.

So what is it that makes you happy? What is that thing you do or keep coming back to? It might also drive you a bit crazy like plants and gardens do for me but still you just keep coming back to it.

The question for today is:

Why do I ___________________?

(it is always interesting to ask yourself why or how did this _____ get started)

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OLG: Old Lady Gardner #17 – feeding the little ones

We have left October – a month of sunny days, a few rainy, a couple with snow and lots of wind. The leaves are mostly down now leaving the gutters of the house and the street full. The crispy, crunchy and very dusty leaves are blowing everywhere but also have brought a bright brilliance to the streets. The color flashing in the breeze and then fading as they fall leaving just the dark brown of the tree trunks to hold their place until next spring when the green will return.

November arrived sunny and warm today. We reached 70 mid afternoon. It is November in Minnesota. This has us all out sitting on patios for dinner and pulling the grill back out. But as I sit in my front yard enjoying that my garden has been put to bed and it is warm out I realize there are others not quite as calm about this warmth.

I am watching the birds, squirrels and a small vole. It is clear they know that winter is not far away. There is a feeding frenzy at the bird feeder. The birds a swooping in and empty the two feeder every few days.

The squirrels are also grabbing any seed that falls to the ground. They have also attacked the pumpkins. They chewed a perfect circle and crawled in to enjoy the seeds and soft flesh inside. In the past I would try to find ways to save these pumpkins for a pretty display but this year I decided they needed the food more that I needed the perfect fall arrangement on my front steps.

If I stayed quiet there is a very small grey shape that darts out from the below the tall grasses. At first I did not see him but with time I noticed another round hole. This time coming out from the dried plants. This little guy was also working to get his share of the high protein snacks.

They are all going to need the fat that these seeds and nuts provide if they are going to make it through the winter, that I am sure will come. They are lucky to get this extra warm to gather more food and feed themselves.

The birds will fly off soon to warmer places and the vole I expect will burrow deeper in the the ground around the grasses for warm. I am not sure where the squirrels spend the winter. They come out on warm sunny days all winter but where they spend those cold and snowy days and night I am unsure. I expect many are tucked under the bushes in back. I know the rabbits are burrowed back there for sure.

I may live in the middle of a big city. Minneapolis is not small place but in this neighborhood of houses, gardens and parks there is still plenty of wild live to enjoy and support if you are willing to take the time to slow down and watch for them.

So here is to November – good eating for all. There is pumpkin pie inside for us and pumpkin seeds and fresh pumpkin flesh outside for the critters.

If you live in a cold climate where plants are not growing in the winter you might think about how you might assist a few small critters with a bit of seed or nuts to help them make it to next spring.

Happy November!

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OLG – Old Lady Gardner #16 Patience and Humor

Mid October blew in with strong cold winds, snow and some bright but very chilly days. There is so much left to do the garden. The leaves fall like rain (oh how I wish it was rain) and the flower pots are now dripping with frost bitten plants. I have saved a few in my new sun room – cutting tiny slips and putting them in water to root. Hoping that each will pot up, as they say, and grow slowly over the winter so they can join next years garden.

This means my little sun room is filling up with jars of water and small plants. There are the African violets I am trying to root from a friend plus the slips of Coleus, Begonia (Encanto by name), and Salvia. They are all currently enjoying 50 to 60 degree weather while outside it is blowing a cool 25 (wind chill at 15 degrees) each evening.

The raking needs to be done and am hoping the young guy who mows will be able to mow this week chopping up the leaves to be placed on the garden beds. Last week it snowed on his day to come so no mowing of leaves happened. Yes, SNOWED in mid October. Crazy right??!! I know it is Minnesota but that is a bit early for us even.

I have a box of bulbs, about 150 of them, to go into the ground but am waiting till later this week when we are suppose to warm back up for a few days. No one likes digging holes and planting when it is below 30 degrees.

I am learning once again that gardening is not for the faint of heart, at least if you live in Minnesota. You must be patient, hardy and flexible. A sense of humor also helps.

Not only am I running around saving plants from the weather but then yesterday the city folks who laid internet cable years ago showed up to fix the broken cement they had left behind. Great! I was so excited to get that sidewalk repaired until I watch the backhoe pull up to crack up large pieces of cement and drag them away right through the small succulent garden I have been developing this summer. It is/was a tiny area where they had backed filled with rocks about 4 years ago so nothing would grow. I finally got these lovely stonecrop plants to establish themselves and were flowering this past September. Now they are just torn bits of plants. The backhoe did a lot of damage but I thought maybe I could save a few pieces once they left. No, that was not to be. Once the backhoe did its thing the guys tromped all over the plants with nice heavy work boots. Good going guys!

I did pull a few tiny pieces of plants and took them into the sunroom and have planted them. Between the cold, the heavy cement pieces and tromping boots I will be surprised if they survive. Poor things.

Well, I decided it was not worth getting mad at and so this has become a task on my January to do list for the garden of 2023. Research what new plants can go in this space next spring. Find some fun new stonecrop plants to place in the tiny garden by the front sidewalk.

Oh, yes the wonders of gardening in a northern city! Here is to a few more warm days, time enough to plant bulbs and enough rain and snow this winter to help relieve the two year drought we are currently in!

Happy Fall Everyone!

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OLG: The Old Lady Gardner #15 What does this make possible?

The day opened to a bright sun, mild temperatures for October and leaves falling from every tree. The world was splashed with color and all seems wonderful. Then we look closer and we saw the crisp look is really the dying leaves – yes because if is fall but too crispy because of the lack of water. As I continue to clear the garden beds of wilted tomatoes and peppers I see their roots have only run along the surface of the soil. They did not dig deep for there was no water there. They remained on the surface to catch any amount of water that I gave them each day through the long hot summer days. They were growing. They look great on the surface but their fruits were not ripening well and it was clear they were struggling. I saw the signs but did not give them what was needed.

In life we sometime fine ourselves doing the same thing. We help ourselves or friends or loved ones along and everything looks great until it is not. An early morning call for help and support from a loved one this last week told me that the same pattern in my garden was also happening in our lives. We saw the signs but also the world looking good, moving forward but we quietly were aware of a struggle. The struggle surfaced and an accident resulted. People are ok physically (mostly) but emotionally they/we are in turmoil.

A lesson learned once again – see something:do something. All summer I was aware of both the garden struggle and the personal struggle and keep assuring myself all was well.

Facing the steps to make major changes is hard. We like to sit in the current situation even if it is not working. It is easier. We tell our selves I did this or I said this or it is not that bad. Yet it is!

There is some hard but glorious work a head both in the garden and in my personal life to support the changes needed to bring things around to more fertile ground. In this work I have found the question my husband uses all the time to be very helpful.

“What does this make possible?”

Yep – everything is a mess and it is super uncomfortable but when chaos arrives and everything gets turned upside down the road is often times cleared to make major changes to the system. So over the next few weeks and months we will use this upheaval to ask over and over again –

What does this make possible?

How can we change? What new ways of working need to happen? Who do we need to help us change and sustain that change over the long term? How do we get back – no – how do we move forward to more fertile and healthy ground?

Like my garden life is messy and never perfect. There are always things that need changing and tweaking. It is our job to watch for the struggles, listen when we see the hints of unrest in our friends and family and in my garden family as well. Then we need to take action. Knowing that somethings things need to fall apart so they can get better.

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OLG – Old Lady Gardner #14 – Fall has arrived

The fall equinox was just a few days ago but the weather seems to be racing its way to deep fall. The trees around me are still green but as I walk further from home the red maples are in flame, and the sumac is turning red up at the park.

The wind had been wild the last two days leaving a deep chill in my bones. The ills of old age has left me on blood thinners and other weird meds that I am sure make me feel much colder than it is. I had and have much to do out in the garden so wind or not I headed out this morning. The first task was to take down the fencing around the small raspberry patch and cut away the dead stems. Then I dug what was left and moved them to one of the new raised beds.

The first cut into the soil showed me the devastation of two years of drought here in the upper mid west. It was hard to push into the dry soil but once I got through the crust it was all just crumbles of dust. The roots around the raspberry stems were thin and dry. They looked like they had been laying out in the hot sun for days. I dropped them in a bucket of water to soak for awhile and then moved them into softer soil and watered the heck out of them. I am not sure they will make it but we will see. They are in a better location now but I worry the roots were already too far gone.

I will water them daily for awhile and see if that might help them revive. I am doing this with most of the larger plants in the back gardens now. A daily dosing of water. I don’t want to run a sprinkler when the wind is this wild. It will just blow the water away. So I pull the hose around the back yard to each plant. The young lilac bushes I planted earlier, all the new plants in the hill garden, the Hosta that are all over the yard and anything else that is drooping gets a direct hit from the hose.

I did not keep up a regular water routine in the back gardens this year and now I wish I had. I spend so much time on the front and then ran out of energy for the back. Now this area is dusty, weedy and looks to be almost all dead. Let’s hope my renewed watering will make enough difference before the frost sets in. All of this raises my fears of the quickly moving climate change. I see the difference in the big lakes and the dramatic fires in the west but to feel it run through my fingers. The realization that this once lush green yard now will only stay alive if I am here to run city water over it often, is very scary. I know the front garden beds did not produce well this year and I watered them almost daily. The soil there as I pulled out short stubby carrots today also was dry and dusty even have been watered just the day before.

I turned from that fear and repotted and brought in the deck plants. Tonight the hanging basket out swinging in the wind is also in the sunroom since I don’t trust how chilly it will get tonight. The next few days are suppose to be very cool at night. Temperatures dropping into the upper 30’s – not frost but getting close. All the Dahlia flowers have been cut and put in vases. The tubers dug up and drying waiting to be stored for next spring. These are the routines of a fall gardener but with in them are the worries of dry soil, produce that is not producing and temperatures that are very warm and then drop suddenly to cold, dry and windy.

There is more to do in the garden but…

The days are short, dark comes quickly and so this old gardener is now sitting inside with a light blanket to warm me up just a bit. I have switched the iced screw driver for a cup of herbal tea. The light in the living room comes on by 6:45 pm instead of 9:00 pm. The warmer clothes are being pulled out from the back of the closet and the hiking boots and socks now warm my feet while the worn out sandals plus the sneakers are in the back of the closet also waiting for spring.

My worry of climate change continues as I read another book about drip lines for watering plants, hardy native plants with deep tap roots that will seek water deep in the ground and wonder how to make this small garden land self sustaining and healthy as the world changes quickly season by season.

I hope and dream of fall rains and a good snow cover this year to feed the earth beneath our feet.

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OLG – Old Lady Gardner #13 – Fall Equinox

We have arrived at the Autumnal Equinox. This Thursday we can officially say it is fall. The days are shorter and the temperatures continue to drop (for the most part). Here is what is happening in the Northern Hemisphere.

“During an equinox, the sun crosses what we call the “celestial equator”—an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the Sun’s center passes through this line.

After the autumnal equinox, days become shorter than nights as the sun continues to rise later and nightfall arrives earlier. This ends with the winter solstice, after which days start to grow longer once again. ” (information from Almanac -)

For many they are dreading the short days and long nights. As gardeners many are saddened to see the flowers fade and the trees around us blaze out in one last shine of color and then go bare leaving us with long brown branches reaching to the sky. The grass goes brown and the veggie gardens are closed for the winter months – cleared of the summer growth and covered in crisp leaves to rest for a few months.

I am not a fan, any more, of cold winters. My hands and feet feel the cold way more than they use to. Old joints get creaky and I find the change harder to handle but…

I can’t help feeling excited as the trees slowly change from green to yellow or red. The flowers in most of my garden beds are slowing flower production and the greenery looks tired. I am ready to clear it all away. Some things are over grown and straggly and some garden beds never really took off this year so I am more than ready to let them sleep and try again next year.

Fall for me brings a flourish of activity. The deck plants need to be cleaned up looking for insects and spicers that might want to come in for the winter. (Note the Royal Spider that joined the Queens funeral this week – really google it.) There are gardens that I clean up by cutting down plants and clearing the ground for the spring bulbs to surface.

Other gardens stay as they are allowing the plants to stand and provide shelter for critters and insects for the winter. Then there are the tender plants that the rabbits want to eat all winter so they need to be fenced and mulched.

The plants that are not winter hardy and I don’t want to loose get dug up and stored for the winter in a cool dark place. That means the two large begonia plants will be cut back and the tubers (root mass) is stored in a paper bag till next spring. The Elephant ears also get pulled dried and stored.

Next (because I am crazy and I have a new sunroom) I am taking cuttings from some plants that are considered annuals here in Minnesota – things like coleus, and salvia. These cutting I place in water until they root and then plant them in small containers and hope to keep them alive until next spring when they can return to garden. I am also trying to root some hydrangea cuttings but that looks like it is not going well already. In all honesty the coleus and salvia might not make it either but it is worth a try. I could say it is about saving money but really it is just fun to see if I can keep plants growing all winter. ( Who knows I may try and take cutting from the begonia’s and see if they will root that was as well.)

Oh yeah – I almost forgot about the leaves. I no longer rake them but have a young strong fellow who mows chop them up and bag them. I then throw them on the garden beds. They cover the veggie beds, the peonies and a few other flower beds providing protecting for the cold winter. It is putting the beds to sleep.

All this activity happens starting at the equinox and ends in early November or before. It just depends on how cold it gets and how fast I need to work. I have already started taking cuttings from plants and pulled a few of the Elephant ears and are drying those. Next week I will begin the bigger clean up of the garden beds. I am starting earlier this year because creaky joints, and sore hands – basically aging – means this all takes longer than I want it to.

As always I look to spring so my last job of the fall is planting another round of bulbs – daffodils mainly because they are poisonous and the squirrels, chipmunks, voles and rabbits won’t eat them.

Then I rest! There is a fire out back in the brisk fall air. There is a fall quiet that arrives – the beauty of open land, the details of huge old tree branches reaching out in patterns across the cold blue sky and time to reflect. It is a time where I sit with a cup of tea, maybe a scone and watch. I watch for that first hard frost and then later the snow that leaves the world white and fresh. Those are beautiful moments that I can not wait to see each fall and early winter.

Ok, in reality I am running after my grandson who is three – the tea is sitting getting cold on the table and the scone is just a thought but a good one. We do go walking in the leaves swishing our feet and looking for milkweed to open and blow out into the neighborhood. We do go out and sit by the fire while he runs wild up and down the back hill and through the leaves covering the plants and throwing them back out into the yard but hey you are only three once and so I let him – we are the indulgent grandparent for sure! Somewhere in here we will make apple sauce and pumpkin shaped cookies with orange frosting everywhere and enjoy a Halloween party with all his little friends – an outdoor fire, apples, hot coco and more.

How can one not be excited about fall and then the silent long nights of winter where the garden magazines come back out and I begin to plan for spring once Little Man has gone home for the day!

With that I will end this writing and go put on a tank top – it is in the 90’s right now with high humidity since I refuse to cook in one more hot day we will walk to the neighborhood bar for a bit to eat.

Tomorrow they promise temperatures of 60’s and we can begin fall on Thursday. Tonight it is still summer!

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