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Archive for October, 2014

OakLeavesAutumnI think of my grandmother at this time of year; it’s a busy time for gardeners, and I do think of her when I’m gardening — but it’s the season when she took her leave of us.

When I was little, this would be the time of year she’d be collecting long pine needles or salt hay to put around her roses, and checking on the last root vegetables to be harvested for the year.  We’d all rake leaves [or chase the leaves as my grandfather used the leaf-blower], and then we’d help collect the output of the leaf shredder/mulcher to put in the compost heap by the raspberry cage.

I don’t have enough leaves to justify a shredder, although I guess if the Oak and the Yellowwood really get going in the next few years…

Here, all the asters but the white ones have gone to seed in the front meadow garden, and the goldenrod blossoms have faded to amber fluff.  The first frost should be by shortly [although much later than my preference would decree; I’d like to get those bulbs in the ground, now that they’re here!]. The zheeeee! of goldfinches still occassionally zips above me as I work the ground, but more frequently I see small brown stripéd birds who skirl down into the shrubbery or peck among the stalks of plants looking for whatever has fallen that day.

I am ankle-deep in the trench I am digging, bending over frequently to remove stones from beneath my shovel. I hear somebird complaining, and look up.

Oh.  Song sparrow.  I whistle-cheep at it, adapted from the calls I’ve heard from pet cockatiels.  It flies a little closer, into a thicket of tall ornamental grass that I have tied up like a sheaf of wheat, and after a few moments I can see it nibbling seeds.  I go back to digging.  Every so often the sparrow sings.

From the corner of my eye, I see a pinwheel of short, pointed wings ,with black and white bars.  Four wings, two birds —  one a bit closer than the other.

It gets closer, for reasons I don’t understand, and I realize it’s a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.  Insects are what it wants, not seeds.  I guess there must be some still around, because it seemed to pluck something from an stem and then flit even closer. You! What are you? What? What?

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Kinglets were (I think) the last of the birds I got to talk with my grandmother about — one showed up around her birthday one year, and she couldn’t remember ever seeing one in the wild, either.  I think of them as spring birds, although it turns out that we live in their winter range, so maybe they’re around more than I’ve noticed.

My grandmother would have wanted to hear about that. One of these days I’ll get around to reading more of her garden journals, which may be as close to conversation as we can get right now.

Two little Kinglets. Such small things. And yet such dear things: birds, bits of conversation, echoed garden chores, responses to seasonal cycles that come round and around, even if the people change.

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Last fall’s carve-outs from the lawn were the long bed in the back right of this photo and the two brick-edged sections in the foreground:DSC_0020

This fall, rather than perennials from Bluestone, it’s bulbs and a few more peonies from Van Engelen, from whom I’ve been ordering since….oh, could it be 20 years now?  Maybe.  I’ve had several different gardens in that amount of time, with generous contributions to the gardens of relatives and friends along the way.

Alas, I once again missed the window for ordering winter aconites, and I completely forgot to get crocus.  Ah well.  I’m going to have plenty enough digging to do….

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The wheel of the year turns, and it’s time to admire other gardens…

DSC_0531We quite like the drive over to Longwood, one of the old DuPont estates [better living through chemistry, etc., etc….]. The new meadow area has grown in beautifully since our visit last fall, and the restored lily ponds were gleaming in the light of late afternoon.  Even if I do put in a small pond in our meadow, I’ll never be growing specimens like these!

DSC_0453We got a good five miles of hiking and strolling together before heading back to the car and visiting one of our old haunts for dinner.

DSC_0206No, not that kind of haunt.  We stay firmly on this side of the veil, even at this time of year…

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Well, one metric at least…

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Several years ago, a hunter killed a moose for food, then brought the skull and antler rack out of the woods to a carver. And then owls happened:

Please note: this image belongs to Shane, whom I do not know personally.  This is only here to direct you to his work!

short-eared-parliament-760.jpg_1Go here to see the development of the “Short-eared Parliament“sculpture.

It’s a long scroll backwards to the beginning of this project, but it’s worth looking through, both for the slow and steady progress and for the cataloguing of artistic choices as the project moves forward.

And OWLS, of course.  Yay, owls!

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Soon the neighbors will be talking about autumn clean ups, and I will still be looking at the sky…

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Click through for larger image…

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