Friday, September 17, 2010

New Season Promises New Beginnings

Summer officially departs in a few days. Good riddance. It is my least favorite season, finishing a distant last to the other three. My favorite time of year is about to commence — autumn with the changing leaves, cooler temperatures, football season, pumpkins, Thanksgiving celebrations, and the chance to wear sweatshirts while walking in the morning.

My modest porch garden is about to give it up, leaves withering, produce growing ever smaller. There are a few tomatoes left on the vines, but it is doubtful whether they’ll ripen before the birds or other critters get them. Still, I’m satisfied with the yield from these container-raised plants, which kept me in tomatoes, peppers and herbs for a few months.

The jalapeño plants have gotten a second wind for some reason, certainly through no gardening prowess on my part. I barely remember to water. Still, a third round has appeared. Each crop is smaller and hotter, as if the capsaicin contained within becomes more concentrated the smaller the pepper becomes. I long ago adopted the credo that one can’t eat enough jalapeños in a given day, fresh or pickled. Some folks claim it drives away potential cancer cells. Others say they’re good for the heart.

I have elected to be a jalapeño guinea pig in the name of science, and thus eat them with virtually every meal save breakfast. And if breakfast ends up being a brunch at a Mexican restaurant, say a steaming plate of huevos rancheros, then you can be sure there’s a bowl of peppers on the side. I’ll miss my fresh peppers picked off the three plants on the front porch.

The basil plants are still flourishing, though a single grasshopper is bent on chewing up as many leaves as possible. We have an interesting battle underway. I refuse to use poisons. If I wanted to do that, I could just go ahead and buy the produce in a grocery store. So my battle against the grasshopper consists of thumping him in the head and knocking him out into the front yard, in the vague hope he’ll get the hint he isn’t welcome. Grasshopper head-thumping hasn’t worked so far, but the basil is hardy enough to survive a single member of the species. If he starts inviting friends and family, the basil plants are in trouble. Considering I only pick leaves to use every few weeks, usually in a mouth-watering mixture of mozzarella balls, olive oil, tomatoes and warm ciabatta bread, I can afford sharing basil leaves with a solitary grasshopper.

The lone rosemary plant is doing fine. Past readers will be pleased to know I finally learned the purpose of this lovely spice, which I bought for its intoxicating smell. Rosemary is an excellent accompaniment to both oven-roasted chicken and red potatoes drizzled in olive oil. I’m glad I only have one plant, since I end up pruning the plant to keep it fresh without using much to cook.

Turned out that the rabbits weren’t the voracious predators I feared they would be. They hop about, oblivious to the rich pickings nearby. One little fellow the other evening was nibbling grass practically at my feet until he figured out I was a human and not a statue and hopped away. I envisioned plants rapidly denuded by Bugs Bunny’s kinfolks, eager to feast upon my foliage. It never happened.

Some of the trash bushes, as I call them, along my walking route are already turning color. The sun rises later in the morning and will do so until the time changes. I look forward to that, because I’m someone who wakes with the light. Thus it’s hard to force myself out the door walking in the dark of current early mornings, at 6:15 or so. There is a slight chill in the air most days, a harbinger of the change to come. Fine with me if it is dark not long after work ends when it’s too cold to do much outside anyway, as long as there is a bit of light in the morning.

A new season invariably promises a fresh start, in one fashion or another. We’ll see what autumn brings.

Originally published in The Junction City (Kansas) Daily Union, September 18, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. There's been a slight chill in the mornings, although I might be imagining it out of sheer optimism. Fall's my favorite season, too, and I'm growing increasingly giddy at the prospect of it.

    Matt's okra's been thriving!