bare feet on a garden path with yellow flowers

Happy October! While the days are shorter and the leaves are changing color, the temperature says summer. The temperature Sunday reached 92F/33.3C, shattering the record of 87F/30.5C from 1897. It was also the hottest day ever recorded in October, breaking the record of 90F/32C from October 3, 1997 and October 10, 1928. And it was quite humid. The combination of heat and humidity prompted officials to cancel the Twin Cities Marathon Sunday morning, which explains why the roads we thought were going to be closed when we left very early for grocery shopping were not closed. That really stinks for all the runners, but safety is far more important.

We just finished the warmest September on record, and it appears the weather is off to a good start for warmest October ever. Yay.

But at least we have been getting rain. We got poured on Tuesday during the week. I biked to work in a thunderstorm. It was glorious. And more rain fell Friday night. The rain barrels are full to the brim. I haven’t had to water anything in the garden for over a week. We have more rain in the forecast for Tuesday/Wednesday when a cool front is expected to come in and push out this heat.

I went out to the garden to hang laundry to dry Saturday and paused in the morning sun. All of the bright yellow arugula flowers bobbed with visiting bees. Bees on the hyssop too, and on the asters. Bees on the Jerusalem artichoke flowers and in the zucchini flowers and morning glories. The joy was palpable. I called James to come out and look. We stood on the deck watching and grinning from ear to ear.

I received the first 2024 garden catalog in the mail, trees, shrubs and perennials from Fedco. Yes, I devoured it. Not literally. But now I’m wondering if I should get a quince tree? Since paw paws are too marginal to risk, a quince with its alleged citrusy-pineapple notes, might do just fine. Relatively small, hardy in my zone, the catalog says self-fertile but plant two for higher yields. I have no room for two. How much will one tree produce? Elderberries are self-fertile but plant two for higher yields and I get pints and pints of jam from one tree-shrub. Plenty for my household. Is this the case with quince too?

I looked at the co-op today for quince jam, hoping to try it. They don’t sell it so I have no way to try it first. But really, I’m sure I’d love it. Do I order a quince? Anyone have one and have advice to offer? It’s a spendy tree, sent through the mail, and will take several years before developing fruit. Not someone I want to regret inviting into the garden, so if anyone has quince experience to share, please do!

yellow Jerusalem artichoke flowers
Jerusalem artichoke flowers

One of the plusses of the weather continuing warm is that I can still go barefoot in the garden. Up until this spring I always put my garden boots on, but this year, after reading about how important it is to touch the earth with our skin, I decided to start going barefoot.

When I was a kid I ran barefoot around the entire neighborhood all summer. I was frequently cursed with stubbed toes, but that didn’t make me think I needed to put on shoes, only that I needed to be more careful when running on the sidewalk. I have wide feet and grew up before one could find shoes for wide feet in regular stores. Every year for school shopping I had to go to the “special” shoe store to buy blocky ugly brown shoes while my sister always seemed to get to wear the exact shoes I wanted most but couldn’t have. So I hate shoes. I still do.

But at a certain point going barefoot all the time is frowned on unless you are a Hobbit, which, sadly, I am not. I put on shoes like a grown up to go out into the world, and as soon as I get home, I release my feet from their prison.

And with a garden, well, one needs to protect one’s feet while grubbing around in the dirt just as one needs to protect one’s hand with gloves. And those gloves are usually always too big for me because I have small hands. Even women’s size small gloves generally have an extra half to a quarter inch of glove past the tips of my fingers.

I did find some gloves that fit this year and they are quite good. But I only wear them if I am doing heavy garden work like pruning or grabbing potentially prickly things. And shoes, only if I am going to be going out to the chickens because who wants to inadvertently get chicken poo between her toes? Or, if I am going to be doing heavy garden work.

At first my feet said ouch ouch ouch! They had become so tender. But now, unless I step on a rock or stick, I’ve built up some callus. The damp ground after all the rain feels glorious between my toes, much better than the dry sandy soil that the summer drought inflicted on us. I’m in the process of putting down wood chips on all the garden paths as I reconfigure the garden beds from weird and wavy to straight (it seems the straight beds with narrow paths between are going to give me more planting space!). I’m not sure how walking on wood chips will be, maybe not comfortable. Definitely, slower and more cautious. Perhaps by spring next year the winter will have decomposed the wood chips enough so they are softer and more walkable.

  • Book: Astrotopia: the dangerous religion of the corporate space race by Mary-Jane Rubenstein. I mentioned a few weeks ago listening to a podcast interview with Rubenstein and now I have read her book. It’s really good! She looks at the language of “New Space” and how it couches its objectives in religion but it’s all about money and colonialism. America’s Manifest Destiny rhetoric is alive and well.
  • News: Sycamore Gap Tree. The tree, thought to be over 300 years old, was murdered last Wednesday. A teenager has been arrested and released on bail. Friday a retired lumberjack was arrested and is also out on bail. He and a number of people on his behalf are claiming he’s innocent. It seems authorities aren’t entirely certain who actually cut down the tree or why. It is clear, however, that people are angry and in deep mourning over the tree’s death.
  • Movie: Barbie. I really enjoyed this movie. The meta narrative was hilarious and Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie was a hoot. I played with Barbie when I was a kid. My Barbie was stereotypical Barbie, she was the only one back then. I did not have a Ken or a Skipper. My dad brought home a well loved Barbie camper from the swap meet one weekend and my sister and I thought we were so lucky! Barbie’s swimming pool was a big bowl from my mom’s kitchen. My Barbie didn’t have much of a high fashion wardrobe. Her clothes were expensive and if it was between Barbie clothes or a book, the book won nine times out of ten. Kind of like now, do I get a new pair of pants or this new book? I’ll mend the pants. Book wins! Some things never change. But also, because I didn’t have money for fancy Barbie clothes, I learned how to sew so I could make my own. And while a Barbie wardrobe that looked like it was sewn by the 8-year-old I was didn’t reach the heights of couture fashion, I did gain some important skills I still use today. I had grown disdainful of Barbie over the years, but after seeing the movie and thinking about my own Barbie experience, I can fondly remember my days of playing Barbies with my sister and best friend.

Hope opens the door to possibility and allows us to envision change, particularly change that we desire. But hope alone will not affect change—that requires movement.

Andrew Mellen, “UnStuff Your Life” 
James’s Kitchen Wizardry

There were peanut butter cup cupcakes but I didn’t think to take a photo until they were gone.

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14 thoughts on “Barefoot in the Garden

  1. I had no idea that jerusalem artichoke flowers were so beautiful! Or that they had flowers at all, LOL. Clearly I knew nothing about them. I am going to have to investigate this!

    I’ve had some wonderful bee-watching moments this year too. 🙂 It makes my heart happy.

    So glad you got rain! We’ve been very dry the past few weeks. We got one night of rain this week but need more. At least the temps are cooler!

    1. Oh yes Laila! Jerusalem artichokes are closely related to sunflowers, they can get very tall and their flowers are lovely! I get to eat the roots and the birds get to eat the little seeds (they do not look like sunflower seeds though)

      Yay for bee watching!

      Yes, thank goodness it has gotten cooler! I hope you get some rain soon. We have a big storm heading our way here and the forecast says an inch or more from Thursday night through Friday. yay!

  2. My husband, who lived in California for three years and wore only flip flops, says that socks are the oppressor, so I think he’s on the same page as you about freeing the feet.

    I used to play with Barbie all the time, and I would often get Barbie clothes from family members who had bought them at craft shows or flea markets. I don’t see that much anymore, but back in the early 90’s, ever craft show had a table with a nanna who sewed conservative clothes that would fit a Barbie.

    1. LOL Melanie! I actually don’t mind socks especially since they keep my feet warm in winter when I walk around the house 🙂

      Maybe the Barbie movie will revive the art of Barbie homemade Barbie clothes 🙂

  3. Oh, those peanut butter cup cakes look delish! 😀

    We love watching the bees too: who knew it would feel so good.

    Looking forward to hearing about the quince outcome.

    Where I grew up, there was a department store that sold toys but no books, so my Barbies were startlingly well dressed. But I do, still, have some of my sewing experiments for them, even so. (#sad)

    We’ve had the same weather, and are now deep into rain-ville.

    1. LOL Marcie! Bees make me happy, especially the big fat bumble variety 🙂 That is awesome yous till have some of your Barbie sewing experiments! Mine are lost to time, for better or worse 😀

  4. I love the description of your garden on Saturday morning with the thriving plants and happy bees. The story about the Sycamore Gap tree is absolutely sickening, I’ve been glad to see such a strong reaction from people everywhere and hope the perp is caught.

    I’ll bookmark the Zadie Smith conversation, she’s someone like Hilary Mantel and Elif Shafak – I love the ways their imaginations and minds work. I still miss Mantel’s sharp and perceptive ways of looking at the world.

  5. I go barefoot as much as I can. Oddly, it’s easier in town than out in the boonies. Glinting things that cut are easier to avoid than goatheads and thorns and all the itchy plants. 

    I had a quince out in New Mexico. Or rather it adopted our house — because it was very happy! Loves sun and cold and heat. Doesn’t care how much water it gets, but it make more fruit with more than high desert rainfall. Its fruits look like huge, lumpy pears, but that’s about where the comparison ends. It tastes nothing like any other fruit. It is not particularly sweet; it’s floral and tart. Maybe a bit of bitter. It is also not the best fresh eating, but its flavor and texture improve with freezing — which can happen right on the tree, if you like. It makes sublime syrup and sauce and fruit preserve of all kinds. But the best thing about quince is that it is just a beautiful tree. It’s big for a fruit tree (and I didn’t notice that it’s a particularly slow grower… just that it’s a few years before you get fruit). Its flowers smell divine. It never gets that ragged look of most fruit trees. It doesn’t sucker or send up lots of rainsprouts that need pruning. It’s like all the best things about a flowering pear, with actually edible fruit and a docile temperament rather than an aggressive menace. So… you can see… I love quince.

    1. Yay for going barefoot! Clearly the city does have some advantages for going about without shoes. Ouch! Would hate to step on thorns and such.

      Oh my, I think you have convinced me to get a quince! It sounds amazing! I’m 100% ok with tart and even a little bitter. I think raw rhubarb tastes great and I like elder and aronia berries with minimal sweetener. Now I just need to figure out where in the garden to plant this lovely tree. Oh, something to look forward to! Thank you!

  6. I love that you go barefoot when you can. I do too, although I’m increasingly less able to navigate irregular terrain without a cane.
    My niece, who lives in Houston, came to your area for the marathon and said that most of the runners ran anyway. She didn’t think it was dangerously hot, but then again she does her training in Houston!

    1. I love that you go barefoot too!

      Yes many runners ran the course anyway. I have a friend who lives on the route and she said some of them were clearly having a hard time of it. The temperature for the race is usually around 60, and race and medical officials were concerned that there would be too many people requiring medical help and there was not enough support for such a big influx in local hospitals. What a bummer your friend came here all the way from Houston. I hope she was still able to enjoy the cities though!

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