Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Birdland is full of Fall.
BIRDLAND IS DAMP AND CHILLY AND FULL OF FALL. Leaves fall, walnuts fall, rain falls, temperatures fall. Night falls early and the day comes late. Last Monday I lay in bed and convinced myself that it was so dark when my alarm went off that surely it was time to set the clocks back again. It was nearing 7, and the sky was just lightening. But when I got up to check, instead of finding I had another hour to get ready for work, I discovered we still had a few weeks left of daylight savings time, and this morning I had to pay with my hopeful thinking by rushing to get ready for the day.

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but this year I just didn't have it in me to garden. Instead, I've been keeping my eye on the tomatoes at Barb and Dave's house. They have the best tomato patch with assorted varieties. Big, chunky salad tomatoes, summery grape tomatoes, sugary cherry tomatoes. I've invited myself over to help keep them picked, and they are very generous with their bounty. The vines always seem to be full of fruit in all stages of ripeness. We've been keeping an eye on the weather, too, hoping to strip the vines just before the first frost. This afternoon I received a frantic text from Barb, asking me to come by and pick. We're supposed to get our first frost tonight. I had told her about my method of ensuring a winter's crop: just before the frost, cut the vines and hang them upside-down in the basement. The vines die, but the green tomatoes slowly ripen, and we have red tomatoes into January. They tend to get a little wrinkled on the outer skin, but they taste at least as good, or better than, grocery store tomatoes. Barb told me she wasn't going to have time to harvest, so I should go and cut all I want. I picked up Ellis and his friends and drove to Barb and Dave's. Their oldest son was home with a cozy fire, and I popped my head in to tell him I was raiding the garden. “That's what it's there for,” he said. I raided the kitchen, too, for a salad bowl and some plastic bags, and first set about picking the red tomatoes, and there were plenty. I left a big bowl of all varieties on their counter, and we filled several bags to take home. Tomorrow we'll have fresh tomato soup.

The sun was setting and the air was crisp. The fruit was cold, too, and the chill was beginning to seep into our hands. The boys thought we had plenty of tomatoes, but the hard work was ahead of us. Barb and Dave's tomato patch has lovely wooden cages, pointed at the top, like tall pyramids, and painted green. The bushes grow tall into these cages, sometimes two plants together, so that big beefy tomatoes are intertwined with the cherry or grape tomatoes. Pulling out whole plants was impossible, so we began cutting off branches and piling them into the back of my car. The boys were glad when the car was finally full to the top, but the work was still not finished.

At home I drilled hooks under the basement stairs and bundled the branches together with string to hang from the hooks. I used to hang whole plants, roots and all, from ancient nails in the joists. It worked well, but the roots brought in a lot of dust, and the plants were so big that picking the ripe ones was sometimes difficult. I hope that hanging bundles of branches will make picking easier.

Yellow Pear Tomatoes

When I finally finished it was dark, but I still wanted to gather the walnuts I've been stumbling over on the front walk. I did it mostly by feel and gathered about a bushel. I thought about how much I love the Autumn when we can reap what we sowed in the spring. And if we didn't have time to do our spring sowing? Our world is pretty fertile. We need only look around to see what is provided for us by the trees and by the generosity of neighbors.

Collect Beauty; Garner Peace; Blessed Be.

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