Suddenly it is winter. Fall was last Thursday. Last Tuesday, midday in mid-garden the thermometer read 99 degrees. Today the sweet potato leaves are collapsed from an overnight freeze and we are all dressed in multiple layers. The last melon has been harvested, the last squashes lie on drooping vines. Over the weekend we had a bit of rain, at last, and also hail and something called grapple: puffy bubbly white stuff like damp packing popcorn.
The sturdy winter veggies are going in the ground. Onions, garlic, rutabagas, turnips, beets develop their dense, nourishing roots under the soil, while kohlrabi dare to dance on top. Also, broccolis and cabbages, greens -- collards, kales, lettuces and some hardy chards. The trellis is going up to support the snap peas. And finally, we drop we’ll-grow-anywhere fava beans in any available spot.
The beds are covered with row cloths to protect the seedlings from frost and create a greenhouse effect in the sun. And this year it also protects them from a nocturnal visitor. What the creature leaves behind suggests a raccoon, but an eagle-eyed monk spied a skunk. So perhaps both. They do not eat the plants, but dig around for worms and grubs and dislodge plants as they do so.
It is possible in many indoor spaces to create what seems like a steady environment, where switches and knobs maintain conditions we choose. Blessedly, our garden is outdoors. The seasons come and go; it is dry, it rains, it grapples! The temperatures seesaw – 99 one day, 24 two nights later – and creatures conduct nighttime excursions through our best-laid plans and beds.
And we have the challenge and stimulation and joy of responding. We participate, we are part of the ebb and flow. What we bring is mindful attention, and the garden never allows that to morph into the illusion of control. What a teacher! All we need to do is step through the garden gate.