Archive for the ‘The Garden’ Category

Rooms with a view…


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Checking the tomato patch this morning, the darkened Monarch chrysalis was unchanged.

By noon, the same report.

By late afternoon, only an empty husk of a once bejeweled green chrysalis remained.

In the garden, astride a Verbena bonariensis, was a brilliant Monarch butterfly slowly fanning its wings.

By early evening, it was gone.

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Nights are cool, leaves are changing, autumn arrives this evening.

After a hard spring, it was a good summer.  With a focus on soil health,  the garden thrilled as never before.

Flowers blossomed, vegetables and children grew.  As a Monarch butterfly Waystation, our garden enjoyed the summer-long company of Monarchs and a bumper crop of their caterpillars.

Still gathering tomatoes, I unloaded another basket in my kitchen just now.  To my surprise, I found a darkening Monarch chrysalis attached to the side of a fully ripe tomato.  I carefully replaced the tomato in the garden.  Along the siding of the house, I spotted another chrysalis.  With luck, both butterflies will emerge soon to begin their southward migration.

Years ago, a late-blooming Monarch butterfly named Longshot was unable to take to the skies by the time it emerged. Here is hoping these two make it.

Flowers, butterflies and humans – they all have a better chance of emergence when the conditions are right.

I will keep you posted.

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You say tomato…

Summer’s end signals the presence of ripe tomatoes in my overgrown garden.  Different types, heirlooms grown from seed, vines slide slowly to the ground under the weight.

Fall feeling day, hummingbirds pay me no mind as I move my garden hod through the vines, picking up large tomatoes, many blemished, fine by me.

Blanched, peeled and processed, there is a fine tomato soup in the future, especially when I push past some friendly weeds to find the basil planted earlier this summer.

Early evening, sun in the west window, kitchen is aglow.  Cleaning up, a solid field of tomato seeds and membrane covers the bottom of my white porcelain sink.  Bright red, and red orange, floating with dun seeds,  a moment of extraordinary color that took a summer to grow.  So common, so rare.

Hard to know what we are here for, if not to notice moments such as these.

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It has been just about a year since Longshot, a late season Monarch butterfly I once knew.

Brought inside from freezing November cold, Longshot emerged from its chrysalis too late, with stiff wings.  Passing on amidst fine fresh cut flowers and greenery, Longshot had a view of a sky he or she never touched.

Buried under the milkweed in my garden, I have visited Longshot as the winter and my legal ordeal wore on.  Spring and summer came, with some luck the worst part of a high conflict custody matter is behind me.

Come autumn, the garden is again a riot of bursting seed pods, crimson grass, yellow leaves, azure and purple sage.  Color to rival summer in every way, hummingbirds only now trailing away.

The spell of autumn is different, tales of things that come to pass, like Longshot, or custody trials and the ill they weave, decaying in their time.

Though globally, monarch populations continue to decline,  more visited my garden this season than any year prior.

Here is to you Longshot, for the will to live in the toughest of times and the heart to come again in the spring, eternity is yours.

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In the late 1800’s, my forebears made their way west from Salina, Kansas.  As a locomotive engineer, the Iron Horse provided my great grandfather a respectable living.  He settled down, built a house and worked hard like his Irish immigrant father before him.  In that place, he grew a wild yellow rose bush, its origin unknown.

Time wound on.  My great-grandfather passed away first and his family in due.  The house my mother grew up in remains, sold long ago, but still inhabited.  When she left or sometime after, my mother acquired a piece of that rose and like any good gardener, made history a part of her landscape.

Years ago she sent me a  piece of that rose and gave story to my garden too.  At first it thrived but fell back as life shaded it.  By the time I moved it to a locale with free view of the sky, it was gone.

A month ago, I returned to her garden – a lifetime in the growing – it is something to see.  But age is crowding my mother, leaving shadows in the memory of a garden once bright.  The rose still thrives, scrambling through tree and bush toward the sun, tough.  While there I snipped some stems and ferried them home.

Despite my efforts, the starts I clipped that day dropped their leaves and browned in the water where I had hoped new roots would grow.  Deciding it should depart in the sun, I placed it in a full south window and waited for brittle sticks of time.

Yesterday I noticed green.  The stems have not further withered, but instead produced a tiny unfolding leaflet.

My mother loves the sun, always did.  So does this rose.  Hopefully the story will play on.  We will see.

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The time has come the Walrus said, to talk of many things…
Not here, but there, and further still
where there are  fewer strings.
So meet me there at half past moon and we shall speak again
And if you chance this place, and none be here,  just call for me once more.


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She returned this evening, as she does.  A praying mantis.  Each evening now, as days shorten and chill, she overnights near my office window.

Like her mother before her, she laid egg cases in the agastache in the garden beneath the window and now sits quietly next to them.  Her mother was the biggest praying mantis I ever saw.  Inside the gate,  tucked off from harsh wind, the garden is protected.  A good place to live life.

She is dying now – like her mother before her.  Once bright green, she is browning.  She remains so still I think she has already passed.  It is so cold now.   In spring, I will bury her in that garden as I did her mother.  I am sure there is a keen biological reason for the similarity of habit.  But I prefer  the memory of generations.

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It was the sharp colour on dead leaves that caught my eye.  About two weeks ago.  Closer inspection turned up a monarch caterpillar.  Surprisingly plump fellow for the decaying  stalks of milkweed in his vicinity.

With drought and all sorts of fancy weather patterns, we spotted no monarch caterpillars this year,  assuming, like everything else in the garden, they bloomed and flew off early.

But here was a longshot.  Closing in on November, no food source, and nighttime temperatures edging toward a freeze.  To improve his chances, I relocated him to a more secluded spot in the garden where milkweed leaves remained large and green.

Just that night a storm blew through, by morning I found  no trace.  Wherever it was, I wished it well.

Cleaning up the garden this week, there are few leaves left on any tree or plant.  Filling a composting bag, I turned to scoop up another leaf pile when I noticed it.  Hanging by the slimmest of threads on the edge of the bag, the unmistakable form of a monarch chrysalis, green sheathed cocoon with golden zipper, caught on the bag itself.  From the location, my guess  is I had seen this fellow before.  It wove its chrysalis onto a dead leaf that promptly blew into the garden, leaving it dreadfully exposed.

I tied a tiny thread on the chrysalis stem, suspended it from a stick, and placed it in a jar.  It  rode out distant echoes of Hurricane Sandy inside my house, inside its chrysalis.  I watch daily for signs of failure, they may yet come, its journey late begun, then disrupted, now still.

This one is a Longshot, the name stuck.  I am hoping for the best.

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Weeds II

In a recent post I gave a  sidelong glance to the questionable virtue of weeds.   I must report having since found virtue in the Genus Solidago, the goldenrods.

Noticed first in my yard, mimicking Pitcher sage –  it bloomed like the sun.  Then seen spread across this region, ditches, fields – by plant or by pasture – goldenrod gets around.

A harbinger of autumn, goldenrod is the best kind of  traveler.  Where my world is limited to garden edge, goldenrod tirelessly journeys without bound, seeing sights, setting down roots, experiencing the rush of the world and the quiet of dawn.

Adaptable, sociable, with sturdy stem not likely battered by breeze,  flexible enough to bend.  My hat is off to this charmer – pure gold.

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