October 9, 2014

Going Green Instead of Blue

Summer Ends

I know—this post should have been done a week or more ago. This is Florida though, and most often the calender says Fall before it actually arrives here. Earlier this week, it finally did. After two weeks of quite uncharacteristic waves of heavy rain which flooded low lying areas and roads, made driving a nightmare and just generally left us soggy, our first spell of cooler and drier air arrived. While certainly a Godsend, it is to be short lived. Still, it is not as hot as it was, and the lessening of humidity is wonderful.

Plantpot Dapperling (Lepiota lutea) aka flower-pot parasol
Plantpot Dapperling

We can enjoy the beach all year round, here in sunny (most of the time) Florida. However, the change of seasons is already evident in the feel of it, in the coolness of the water and the less crowded conditions. It is always lovely, but already we are going less often. It seems that Autumn is as much a shift of mood and temperament as a physical turning of seasons. We are moving into another busy time, but with less than subtle differences from summer's mad rush.

 I wrote last year about the melancholy that seems to overtake me every year as September ripens into October, lingering even through my favorite time of year, the Christmas Season. On the whole, I went through last year's Autumn better than I have most, but I still have issues to address seemingly. I have been feeling troubled of late, for no particular reason, and depressed off and on. That being said, I am too occupied with a million other things to wallow in my misery, and perhaps that is what is required and for the best. Instead of having the luxury to indulge in my version of a Seasonal Disorder, I am focusing on the Green that is not only the result of all the rain we have had, but of the moderating temperatures and humidity that October finally delivers to Central Florida.
Early Fall in a Florida GardenAs I mentioned in my previous post, Autumn is a busy season in the Florida garden. Probably as much so as the Spring. If you hurry and get them in by late summer, many of the hot weather vegetables will still flourish. A bit later and you can start planting winter greens, onions and other crops that belong to the very early spring in more northern climes. After mostly looking droopy and haggard, struggling through the late Summer heat, both perennial and annual flowers and herbs perk up, and the air is filled with the tantalizing scents of rosemary, basil, lavender and flower blossoms again.

My daughter Gaia and I have gotten two beds prepared and one planted thus far. Tomato plants I started back in late July went in, along with some radish, borage, fennel and onion seed. I have noticed that some yet unknown insect is munching my radishes. I am used to a certain level of adversity in the garden at this point, so I am not terribly troubled. We have started a temporary fence around the other bed, where we intend to grow greens, carrots and some other leafy vegetables and herbs. Hopefully, we will stymie the deer who have enjoyed more of the fruits of our labor than we have this year. I will include pictures and report on our (I am being optimistic) success at a later date.

Rattlesnake Plant and Chameleon

In the Garden House, the post-equinox sun is slanting invitingly through the big south-facing window. As often as not, chameleons and a variety of other small lizards dart about inside, occasionally startling me when I pick up a pot one is resting in, or else have one land on my head in a misguided leap from one vantage point to another. Their antics are welcome and entertaining, and they are voracious devourers of bugs, so we welcome them. Recently, I discovered that the bucket of potting soil I keep in my shed had numerous lizard eggs in it. I carefully potted them up along with the plants. It is a rare and wonderful pleasure to see the tiny young lizards, perfect miniature replicas of the adults, emerge beneath a patio plant.

Lavender Redux
The Seedlings I started on the Garden house porch and an array of plant cuttings are doing fairly well. Not all my cuttings took, but a good number have, and I can try again on most of my failures. I am still fighting an insect invasion, and some of my small plants have succumbed to the assault. The various organic methods and sprays I have tried so far have yielded only limited success. I start with handpicking (only a marginal help) and progress through a soap based spray, diatomaceous earth and finally to my most effective control so far, a pyrethrum spray. I know there are lots of other options, but my budget is limited, as well as my time, so I do the best I can.  Another thing to look forward to as our weather cools, is the less dense population of bugs. Last year in early winter, I had more tomatoes from a couple of patio tomato plants than from half a dozen in the garden this summer. Sad but true.

Japanese Climbing Cucumber
Japanese Climbing Cucumber
 At left, I have included a photo of a cucumber from the vines I planted on the Garden House trellis. I love these cukes. They are Japanese Climbing Cucumbers sourced from my favorite seed company, Seed Savers Exchange. Until the onslaught of the tiny caterpillars ( the very same who took out my pumpkin patch in a matter of days last fall), we were thoroughly enjoying these amazing cucumbers. They remain crunchy and sweet even at large size, and the seeds are small. I think I have successfully, at least at the moment, fought off the caterpillars, so I should get more as the remains of my previously beautiful vines are still blooming. Another so-so almost success story from the garden.
Insulator topped copper pipe hoseguard
Insulator/Copper Pipe Hose-guard

Even as I look forward to finishing planting the fenced garden area soon, I am preoccupied by all else that is looming over these next few weeks. I have been working on my first chalk-painted furniture make-over out in the barn, and will have pictures of the results as well as a report on the process soon. We are having a garage sale in a week and a half, myself and three of my daughters as well as a grand-girl or two. The garage is beginning to look like a second hand shop. There is much yet to do.

And finally, what we have been planning ever since last year— our Second Annual Halloween Barn Party. It was a blast last year, and we are hoping to make it even bigger and better this year. On the plus side, the barn does not need nearly as much work to get it ready this year as last. We have a theme of sorts going also. It all grew out of a casual comment by one of my granddaughters while we were thrift-shopping. 

Halloween Barn Party

She was wishing there were reasons to dress us in the lovely gowns we always see for a few dollars at these stores. So we decided to do a Princess theme for the ladies, large and small who will be attending. Anyone who wants gets to dress up in a fancy gown and sport a tiara or crown, and there will be prizes for the best Princess costume. I have got my gown, but I need to get to work on my crown. More next time...

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