I heard the geese last night. The air is still and cold. Getting colder. The last wood thrush has gone – several weeks ago now – and the hummingbirds have left. My father used to say that when the thrush left you knew that fall was not far away.. The first leaves are turning and the sounds are the sounds of autumn- crickets; a few birds – an occasional chickadee or raven- but not the joyous cacophony of spring and early summer with the mating in its full swing. No, fall is coming and with it the first frost. Thus, I turn to my garden.
I am a struggling vegetable gardener. First bad soil, then a herd of cows made me leave it for several years to focus on perennials. Now, with several raised vegetable beds, new and good soil and a terrible economy that has me wanting to fill my freezer for security, I have thrown myself whole heartedly into my gardening.
My garden has its own personality. Kale, slow to start has turned into a monster, towering over everything. Where I planned to grow a few small pumpkins, I have 5 giants, so big I can’t lift them. My cukes and carrots were pathetic, my beans great as were my herbs and peas. Lettuce was so-so, winter squash incredibly wonderful and zucchinis unpredictable to say the least. Sadly I planted tomatoes in a garden that had had the tomato blight. They did really well until one night it looked as if a brutal frost had hit just those plants. The blight was back! My other tomatoes in another garden are thriving. My great triumph, however, was my hot serrano and cayenne peppers. In past years I have harvested maybe 2 or 3 shriveled up peppers. This year they are here in abundance – beautiful and lush….so back to the first frost.
It came at the end of a long week of work but the predictions were insistent. The cold deepened as the evening fell and there was just no way I was going to let my peppers get ruined. They were the first to be covered. Then the pumpkins with grandchildren’s names on them and finally, all my squash, herbs and a few thriving tomatoes.
There is no doubt now that fall is here. Harvesting has begun in ernest and on my counter in full splendor sit 14 jars of Ba’s Red Hot Pepper Jelly.
Carolyn Keck lives in West Newbury, Vermont with her tuba playing husband Bill, two newfoundlands and an obnoxious cat. She teaches music and gets great joy from cooking, fly fishing, gardening, quilting and being a grandma.
Photo by Carlos Porto, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.