Tuesday, September 10, 2019

At Home

It was back in July when we spotted the first giant puffball of the season. This was early -too early to our senses. By August's middle the water table had been coming back up, not quite draining after a moderate rainfall. The temperatures had descended to the mid to high seventies and steadily declined into the mid to high sixties by the last week of August and first of September. The trees prepared themselves, the monarchs passed through, the squirrels returned to the lawn, and the rains fell. Our autumn is upon us, and has been since mid August. I have casually mentioned to some that the season had changed, before the Minnesota State Fair -typically a late summer festival. For my observation I received a squint and pursed lips, huh blended into hmm.

To perceive the early arrival of autumn is nothing special. To read the language of our environment and to understand its meaning, in the Western mind, is like understanding Latin. Most will see an archaic text, pass over it, and only occasionally fathoming the root of some current verbiage. Millions of years of evolving, hundreds of thousands of years within this epoch of variable, yet recognizable, climate and species and still we have lost the ability to be at home in the world. I write 'at home' to indicate that set of cues that are so familiar as to become understood inconspicuously.

Our trip to Yellowstone National Park, the primary stimulus for these thoughts, offered some very unfamiliar cues. If you haven't been, go. The park is massive, often taking several hours to get from one site to your lodging. There are bison, and more worrying -grizzly bears. You are walking on a volcano, something difficult to dislodge from your steaming, sulfur-scented consciousness.


Every season I have five, ten, maybe twenty projects to accomplish during the warm season. I typically finish three, especially when the warm season lasts only three months. This year's major project was to complete the renovation of the front lawn-vegetable garden. Above, eggplants, peppers, and cucumbers.

vegetable garden raised bed in a frame mulch
The far left raised bed was refurbished as it had been made from scrap decking, then a new ten foot bed was built and installed, and the remaining two beds moved from last year's location. The framing and mulching was accomplished in early June and then I moved on to other projects.

tomato plants raised bed in a frame mulch
After our return from Yellowstone I set about laying the sod. We chose sod to cover the area previously covered in black plastic laid to smother creeping charlie. Sod is outside of my experience, and I messed up. When laying sod it is best to have prepped the ground ahead of time, it's best to get it unrolled in a day or two. I had to stretch it over four days and nearly composted the sod on its pallet because I hadn't the time to prepare the soil, pull the volunteer tomatoes (what was I thinking?), or deal with the unknown habits of sedge that had grown where the beds had stood the year before. 

It was only continual rain storms and the early autumn temperatures that spared me the near-total loss of live grass. I credit this for its return from tawny mush to lively green, albeit a few patches of dead remain. Although I've been spared the shame of spending a small fortune on sod and then killing it, the lack of soil preparation will undoubtedly reduce the benefits of sod over seed in the long run.

We've had a good year for brassica, getting two months of broccoli from under twelve square feet. BT worked well on the cabbage worms after I removed the floating cover fabric. I've also observed that deer do not seem to care for kale when there is so much else to eat in your garden.

My July planting of green beans were trimmed quite well by the four-legged pruning crew. But, they came back and I now have a steady supply to snack on in between mosquito raids. Unlike a national park (the "wilderness"), our place is home to us and many other creatures. Living with them feels much more natural than any wilderness experience I've had.

A new garden bed grows out an area of removed hydrangea. Scraps of plants, all flowering blue-purple, have been planted throughout the summer. In the background, the browning of a wet autumn.