vegan zombies eat grains t-shirt
Gift from a friend

We finally got frost a little over a week ago. Not a below freezing kind of frost, more of a close enough to kill the tomatoes and squash vines frost. The asters still have a few flowers and the sage and oregano are still hanging in there too. We are going to hit the freezing mark tonight though and just below freezing for a few nights following. All that to say the gardening season is officially over.

It has been such a difficult growing year, I am relieved to be done with it. The wilted tomato plant went into the compost bin. We emptied the rain barrels and turned them over. I cut the tall nettle stalks and stripped their leaves, brought them in to dry so I can then turn them into cordage. We cut the amaranth flowers and brought those in to dry too to harvest for their seed grains. The late start pumpkins are not looking hopeful. I don’t think they will get ripe indoors. We had a lot of green (cherry) tomatoes that I picked before frost. James decided to try fermenting them along with some ripe cherry tomatoes we had from our final CSA box. You put them whole in a brine and let nature do her thing. We have never tried this before so I have no idea what the result will be. I’ll let you know.

And since it’s frosted and the ground is not frozen, it’s sunchoke time! We’ve dug a good amount of sunchokes twice now to cook up with dinner instead of potatoes. They taste so good plain or with a little black pepper to compliment their subtle sweetness. Yum!

The leaves are coming down, but there are still plenty on the trees. I raked up the ones from the sidewalk today into the garden beds in the front yard. I don’t generally put these in the back garden because they are full of perennial prairie seeds that I do not want growing in my veg beds. Even though I’m careful, I still have to dig out grasses and coneflowers and asters that find their way. 

I did get a nice trash barrel and a half full of oak leaves from the empty house nextdoor. Is that stealing? I raked them up off the lawn and poured them on top of my garlic bed, then put some old mesh fencing on top to keep them from blowing away and to keep the chickens from digging in them. After the frost finishes off the oregano and sage this week, I will pour some leaves on top of the herb spiral too so they have a cozy blanket to help them through winter.

That is the extent of my garden “clean up.” I don’t believe gardens need to be clean and tidy. I leave the arugula and beans and squash where they are to decompose and whatever is left in spring that is too big to dig into the soil goes into the compost bin. 

The perennial prairie garden in the front yard doesn’t get cut back until spring either. Having a sleeping garden with dead plants and leaves is a refuge for overwintering bees and other small critters like the toad who makes me scream in surprise every summer because I forget about ki’s presence until we meet while I am weeding and out ki hops from under a shrub or the raspberries. 

This year it was the bunching onions that had flopped over and made a right nice little tent. I had planted some radishes in the same bed and as I weeded I moved the onion greens a little and hop, hop, hop!  I screamed because I was startled, not expecting anyone to be living in the onions. And then I laughed in delight, my friend Mr. Toad! I worry the chickens will find Toad sometime, but Toad is really good at hiding.

Speaking of chickens, Elinor had her molt and is growing back her feathers. Mrs. Dashwood is almost completely refluffed after her molt. The Nuggets are getting closer and closer to all grown up. They have their big girl voices now, no more peeping, but they are still a noisy trio. 

Getting big!

The Dashwoods have not fully accepted the Nuggets to be part of their flock yet, but I increasingly catch them hanging out together in the garden. Eventually Elinor tires of them being so close and casually takes a few steps towards them, enough to make them scatter. When we give them treats though, like leftover air-popped popcorn from movie night, Lucy, the black Australorp, can rush right into the treat scrum next to Elinor without repercussion. Our laughing Margaret was an Australorp and she was BFF with Elinor. Elinor knows Lucy is not Margaret but they look very much alike so perhaps she is kinder to Lucy because she is like her dead friend?

It is a time of endings and beginnings, so to celebrate the season of Samhain, James and I were going to attend a Dia de los Muertos festival in a nearby park this afternoon, but we are still COVID paranoid and didn’t feel comfortable being out in a crowd. Next year. 

As part of our private celebration we tried out potato and (homemade) sauerkraut latkes. This is in remembrance of ancestors for both of us—his Jewish, German and eastern European, mine German, Irish/Scots/Welsh and some northern European mix. We had the latkes along with chickpea cutlets and it all tasted delicious. And there are leftovers to enjoy later in the week. While we ate we spent time remembering family and friends who have died. Earlier in the day we reminisced about non-human kin. 

And now, this evening, I am thinking about the coming darkness, the indoor projects (mittens, hand spinning, mending, sewing) and the mental composting and intentions I might plant in that compost. 

However you celebrate the season, may it be safe and happy and fill you up for the long nights of winter.

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12 thoughts on “Happy Samhain!

  1. We are just where you were a week ago: the first most-but-not-all-things frost last night.
    I can relate, also, to the whole not-this-year-after-all-maybe-next; caseloads here have started to rise again.
    Love the chicken stories, as usual.
    How many times have you watched the groundhog video? I save it for “bad days”. LOL

  2. I love reading about your garden adventures. I love gardens that are a bit wild or at least I tell myself that as we are so bad about cleaning up! haha… We are still very cautious as well and have missed out on a lot of things but I’m hopeful next year will be better. I definitely thought a lot about my family this Dia de los Muertos and wrote in my journal special entries for those we’ve lost in recent years. Hope you are having a great week!

    1. Wild gardens are the best Iliana! So wonderful you wrote in your journal about family you miss. I might have to borrow that idea from you this time next year. 🙂

  3. I don’t cut back in the garden until spring too, the dead plant material often looks great in frost, and also insulates any new early growth, when the time comes. The gritter lorry appeared for the first time yesterday, but I think they were being over careful it hasn’t been cold really, but our clocks turned back an hour at the weekend so it feels like winter. I’m so looking forward to the winter solstice when it begins to get light again, no matter how slowly!

    1. You are right Katrina about the dead plant material looking great in frost. At least until it gets buried under snow Also I had to look up what a critter lorry was. I thought it might be a bird that appeared in your garden 😀

  4. How wonderful that you have a toad friend who regularly surprises you! I also don’t think a garden needs to be neat and tidy. Your time of remembrance for lost relatives and non-human kin sounds very nice. I’ve been thinking about my departed relatives too. Happy Samhain!

  5. Happy Samhaim! We did a lot of leaf work yesterday too. We get SO many leaves from all the maple and oak leaves in our yard. This year we shredded them and I covered the beds that I need to re-work with cardboard and put a thick layer of shredded leaves over them. Some of the unshredded leaves will go into the chicken play yard so they can dig around in them. We’ll have to do this several more times before all the leaves are down, but there are still plenty of places in the yard that need mulch, so I’m happy for it. I am planning what I need to do this year: dividing iris, install a watering system in one area, cover a random grassy area with cardboard and mulch to make another planting bed, etc. The chickens are happy because they get to roam the yard for an hour or so every day before sunset (long enough for them to get some treats, not long enough to get into real trouble!). I can’t yet pull the main garden bed because I have luffa growing that aren’t *quite* ready to pick, but I might have to give in soon and see what I can do with the almost-ripe gourds. I got so many more luffa than expected; I bet there are 20 huge gourds. Lots of happy scrubbing in the future! (I hope!). I am starting the winter projects too: embroidery this year, and some tapestry work (a new thing for me). We also have the right kind of pine needles to make pine needle baskets. I harvested a big bag full a few weeks ago and need to finish bundling them — once that’s done, I can start experimenting with this traditional local native craft. I’m excited about that!

    1. I love all your plans Daphne! How many luffas did you plant? You will be able to scrub for years by the sound of it! 😀 So cool about the pine needle baskets! I really want to learn how to make baskets. I have lots of cattail reeds I can forage at the lake near my house. I just need to plan it and do it instead of thinking about it.

  6. I’m looking forward to reading about your winter inside projects, especially the mittens. I too am planning to upcycle an old pullover into mittens and whatnot (last year i tried a beanie and it was a success, I’m becoming more ambitious… I have many clothes that are over 15 years old and I can’t seem to be able to part with them entirely)

    1. That’s really cool Smithereens that you upcycle old pullovers! I’ve got some old clothes too that I hope to upcycle this winter. I just have to find a place to have my sewing machine out that it won’t be in the way 🙂 I will be knitting my mittens so it’s going to take awhile.

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