Finding A Balance

Ah! The pleasures of autumn! What a difference a week can make. Since this past Saturday, it feels distinctly like fall. Crisp. That word defines the essence of the season. The air is crisp and cool. Crisp apples. Crunchy, crisp leaves underfoot. Even the light has a crisp clarity. I love it all.

Now that the greenhouse is winter-ready, the plants are slowly being moved in. Trimming, picking off dead limbs, washing plant and pot is time consuming. But there is a certain comfort in the ritual as it helps the mind adjust to the inevitability of impending winter. Preparing the plants for that season also prepares me. Inside the house, I’m getting out the shawls and throws, setting up the fireplace with kindling, logs and matches, placing fresh candles, pulling out cool weather recipes, putting away summer linens and stocking up on ingredients for mulled drinks and thick, smooth cocoas. Summer’s bounty is being stored as pesto in the freezer, large canning jars of thick, roasted tomato sauce and pickled cucumbers in the pantry, loaves of zucchini bread also filling the freezer, dried herbs refreshing the spice rack and surplus fruits twinkling in jam pots.

As I trim the plants, I indulge in memories of the recent summer. These are what keep me going when the winter gets unbearably long and severe. And when I’m full of such appreciation, the chores at hand don’t seem so tedious. Sometimes, life is all about tricking the mind. A shift in attitude can make all the difference between whining and celebrating.

I’m also adding plants in the garden – this is a great time to get mature plants into the ground. They’ll settle in nicely and be ready to start growing when spring comes around. I’m expecting my rather large order of bulbs in mid-October and so, I’d like to get all the other chores done before the bulb-planting marathon.

When the weather feels so perfect with just the right combination of sun and temperature, it is hard to get work done. It seems a shame to keep plugging away instead of hanging out with family and friends on the terrace. So, I’m determined to keep a balance. All garden work must cease by Sunday noon so we can sit back under the pergola with the sunlight filtering through the yellowing leaves of the wisteria, get the outdoor oven fired up and while away the rest of the day with gourmet pizza, drink and conversation. What a civilized way to get ready for the work week ahead don’t you think?

Here are a few images of things I’ve enjoyed this past summer:

How many tiger swallowtails can you count?!

How many tiger swallowtails can you count?!

The titan-arum

The titan-arum

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Love this façade in down-town NYC

Love this façade in down-town NYC

Edible window-boxes. Beautiful too.

Edible window-boxes. Beautiful too.

Roasted tomatoes.

Roasted tomatoes.

One of several memorable farm to table meals

One of several memorable farm to table meals

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

 

 

 

 

Falling Into Place

Having been away a whole month, I confronted the garden with trepidation. I did have someone checking on things but as we all know, nobody can tend to one’s garden as oneself. What I see is that the garden does not look as awful as I feared but neither does it look as good as I’d like. So it’s been a matter of getting down to basic tasks like weeding, staking, cutting back and general tidying.

Those fundamental chores alone have got the place looking more attractive. But with autumn officially starting in two days, I’m also addressing seasonal work. The summer plantings in pots and window-boxes while still looking kinda okay were on the wane so they’ve been swapped out with fall plants. The fresh appearance has quite transformed the atmosphere – instead of seeming like it is desperately clinging to summer, it feels more ready for autumnal pleasures. My own reluctance to let go of summer has shifted to welcoming fall.

In the potager, cool weather greens such as Swiss chard were replanted. The collards, kale and arugula are still going strong so we can expect delicious, fresh garden produce well into late November/early December. Assuming of course we don’t get unexpected storms or blizzards. These days, who knows!

Just ahead of the much needed rain yesterday, the ‘lawn’ in front was raked, aerated and reseeded. This ought to have the grass up and growing before I need to tread on it to get the fall bulbs planted in the perennial beds in late October/early November.

It is too late to stake some of the plants and there are some bald areas in the perennial beds. Not the best sight for this street facing part of the garden but it can’t be helped. The drought like conditions and string of heat waves have slammed down some plants. I have no idea if they have it in them to return next year. I need to examine which plants still look good and plant more of them instead. I fear the climate shift is here to stay.

In readiness for cool weather, the greenhouse has been washed and cleaned. Starting next weekend, the tender perennials will be pruned, washed and moved into their winter quarters. While it might still feel like summer, the arrival of a severe frost in early October is not unheard of.

And so it will go as the weeks lead up to bulb planting and getting winter-ready. Lots to do. But, the quiet days of winter await. And once again, while we rest our bodies, our minds will be plotting the next growing season.

[ I apologize in advance for the photos being on their side to those of you who read my article on your phone or on Facebook. It happens when I take the photos on my phone instead of my usual camera and I cannot seem to fix the problem. Any advice?]

Note: This coming Sunday September 25, at the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence event at the FCC in Chappaqua NY. I will be reading one of my topical poems.It is at 4:00 pm and admission is free. Please come.

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(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar

What I Miss When I’m Away

I’ve just returned from a month long sojourn. Four weeks of wonderful. But, there is nothing like coming back home is there?!

So this week, I offer you a poem I wrote about how I feel when I’m away. Let me now if you agree or not!

What I Miss When I’m Away

Do you think the plants will be all right?
Will the squirrels get at the fruit?
I hope it rains a little each day
May the lilac not bear offshoots.

I heard the weather back home is balmy
The roses must love it so
No doubt the weeds are frolicking
And the tomatoes beginning to grow.

Read a storm hit the east coast
I had left a few windows open
Maybe no harm was done after all
Nothing felled or broken.

I wonder if the blue bird’s nest is now empty
Have the phlox begun to bloom?
Did the cicadas begin their noon chorus?
Will moths seek Brugamansia’s perfume?

Forgot to pinch back the asters
They’ll get leggy very soon
It’s too late to stake the lilies
They’ll flop like deflated balloons.

I’m headed back right now
It has been fun to travel and roam
My mind took in the new sights
My heart never left home.

Note: My recent travels included a visit with the children at Mukta Jeevan. You can read about it here.

Here are a few photos from my trip(s):

From India:

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Huge statues of Ganesha the Elephant God were being sculpted at this atelier.

Huge statues of Ganesha the Elephant God were being sculpted at this atelier.

From Provence, France:

Farm to table. Delicious.

Farm to table. Delicious.

Which is better? The view or the ice-cream?!

Which is better? The view or the ice-cream?!

Still life of perfectly ripe figs

Still life of perfectly ripe figs

Sunflowers in Van Gogh territory.

Sunflowers in Van Gogh territory.

(c) 2016 Shobha Vanchiswar