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Judy Isacoff
Castor bean with seed head, left; butternut squash, middle; kale and leek foreground. Oct. 4, 2018.

NATURE’S TURN: Autumn wind and other wild wonders around a garden

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By Monday, Oct 8, 2018 Farm and Table

October 8 – 21, 2018

Mount Washington — The forest around my garden is roaring. I hear it: like the commotion of surf at ocean’s edge and the rattle of stones tumbled in streaming water. It is hundreds of hands clapping at the finale of a virtuoso performance.

The tumult in the treetops; the frenetic jostling of tall grasses below; the swirling, nodding seedhead-heavy stems: Is all this unique to October? Has the timbre of the leaves changed with their colors? Autumn’s full-grown clumps of grass do dance with the wind more fluidly than young, short ones. Weighty, seedy flower heads pull on the season’s longer stems, exaggerating their bowing and bobbing.

Surprising me, a migrating sharp-shinned hawk appears in the air above the garden, where it hesitates, adjusting its tail, then continues south. I wonder if he would have hunted in the garden if I were not there. A delicate dragonfly on patrol cruises at eye level while another’s forward motion is arrested for an instant as it scoops up an insect in its path. Close to the ground, a bumblebee squeezes itself into the translucent white tube of a Glacier Star morning glory. Over in the carrot and fennel bed, an anise swallowtail caterpillar fattens on foliage. Nearby, a huge green frog poses.

Self-sown morning glories, Star of Yalta or Grandpa Ott. Self-sown native winterberry shrub. Photo: Judy Isacoff

In the twilight at day’s end, while collecting tools to store under cover, a black bird flies across my line of sight – until I do a double-take, realizing it is the treasured bat heading to  the garden from its niche under a trim board on the house; it is quickly followed by a second. I flow into the rhythm of day turning to night, reassured that life is sustained through the darkness. I head for the house, leaving the garden to the night shift.

Lemon grass shaman. Oct. 9, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Resources to do and to see

Cover crops to plant now: winter rye, hairy vetch, red clover, New Zealand white clover – http://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/farm-seed-cover-crops/farm-seed-comparison-chart.html

Butterfly gardens – anise swallowtail caterpillar – http://gardenswithwings.com/butterfly/Anise%20Swallowtail/index.html

Grandpa Ott morning glory – https://www.burpee.com/flowers/morning-glories/morning-glory-grandpa-ott-prod002070.html; Star of Yalta – https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/40315/

Plant supports – http://www.bobkeatingsupports.com/garden-supports.html

Opportunities to participate

December 1-2, 2018 – Soil and Nutrition conference – https://soilandnutrition.org/

January 12, 2019 – Northeast Organic Farming (NOFA) Winter Conference – https://www.nofamass.org/articles/2018/10/2019-winter-conference-uniting-thriving-food-system-and-ecology

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