Notes from Windward: #69


The Rains and the First Freeze


     The rains have finally arrived and the dry earth is soaking up every drop of moisture that falls from the sky. You can sense the relief--the oak leaves are no longer covered with the suffocating layer of dust and have regained their sprightly upright position, the ground is softening as the moisture penetrates into every pore space and footsteps now leave an imprint rather than create a cloud of dust. The young fall grass is beginning to grow after a long summer without enough moisture to germinate, creating a layer of green beneath the dead grasses.

the first rains bring out new grass

     This year the rains continued unusually late into May and June, but have been unusually absent this fall. We had a cold snap at the end of the second week in October, before the rains had arrived, and night-time temperatures reached down into the 20's. It even snowed earlier this week, the earliest snow fall in Windward memory. It has since warmed again to mild October days, but the cool temperatures certainly served as a gentle reminder of the much colder weather to come--an inspiration to get more firewood split and stacked.

lots of green tomatoes to set to ripening

     Having freezing temperatures before the rains came was an odd combination. In preparation, we had the final harvests of many heat loving crops, bringing an end to the summer garden. We harvested the remaining green tomatoes (about 25 lbs), brought them inside for ripening, and placed them in paper bags with a few apples to quicken the process--ripe apples produce ethylene gas which is a plant hormone that triggers ripening. We harvested the last of the basil in the main garden and Sarah made the last of the pesto for the season.

our first peanuts

     We harvested the Oaxacan corn, peanuts and sunflowers which are all now drying and brought many potted herbs inside to their winter residence in the kitchen's south facing windows. The winter squashes and pumpkins are also now in storage--some already haven been made into delicious pumpkin pie. Since ground moisture helps to buffer plant roots against freezing, we made sure the perennials were well watered as well.

beans and corn growing together

     The main garden still has some frost tolerant plants growing--cooking and salad greens, beets, turnips, cabbage and carrots--but the deer and ground squirrels have been routinely helping themselves to the vegetables, taking a significant toll on our fall and winter supply.

a sunflower towers over the garden

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69