The word “frost” came into the weathermen’s forecasts a couple of times last week. The late afternoon of October 1, Dean and I decided to move our perennials indoors while the colder air pushed its way into our town, but before a frost could lay its frozen fingers on our delicate green friends. We moved 20 planters of several varieties of ferns, lantana, lobelia, geraniums, swedish ivy, moses-in-cradle, philodendrons, and a Meyer’s lemon tree to the basement under a huge plant light on a timer. Two favorite perennial planters went upstairs in the house with us, along with 5 pots of herbs. It always amazes me how big the plants have grown over the past 6 months under mother nature’s care. Maybe I have a green thumb, but more so God blesses us with sunshine and rain at the right times. He reminds me when I can help with a watering can, pruning, and plucking the withered leaves and blooms. The frost finally gripped its frozen fingers on the cars, rooftops, and the earth very early this morning. But 27 pots of plants are snug and safe and sound in Deanna’s Cottage here in St. Charles, Missouri this autumn and winter seasons.
My haven is home. So blessed during this stay-at-home order Dean and I have been given opportunity to care for our home and yard. Our home gives back so much more. And spring has been so pleasant this year, very much like spring should be. Sunshine, rains, a random storm brews up, cool mornings, and warmer afternoons. We had a couple of days it felt more like summer, but it cooled down after the rains. And then a few frost warning mornings, but it never came. Better safe than sorry, we covered our annuals and perennials. Kind of like the corona virus for us. We take the precautions: masks, social distancing, and extra sanitation in our home and when we are out.
These mild temperatures and regular watering from the rains has provided such a green haven of leaves, grasses, mosses, and foliage. Mid-spring the dogwood, azalea, clematis, irises and the flowering trees, bushes, and stemmed blooms are clothed in white or more showy colors of fuchsia, paler pinks, purples, blues, oranges, yellows, and reds. The peonies are exceptional this year. The song birds are plentiful. Their songs divine. The morning doves, robins, finches of purple and yellow, grosbeaks, cardinals, indigo buntings, nuthatches, and sparrows of many species come to our feeders and reside in the birdhouses or bushes. Hawks and owls call out throughout the day and night as their homes are nearby. Of course, families of squirrels and rabbits in the neighborhood are for the taking by these birds of prey. Occasionally, it is a morning dove for a meal.
Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest; Home-keeping hearts are happiest, For those that wander they know not where Are full of trouble and full of care; To stay at home is best. Weary and homesick and distressed, They wander east, they wander west, And are baffled and beaten and blown about By the winds of the wilderness of doubt; To stay at home is best. Then stay at home, my heart, and rest; The bird is safest in its nest; O’er all that flutter their wings and fly A hawk is hovering in the sky; To stay at home is best. Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Last evening at the greenhouse was lovely. Mild, a bit of a breeze. Dean mowed as I weeded, watered, harvested a bunch of basil, and then trimmed the tomato plants. All the growing energy needs to go to the fruit, not all the leaves. We may only have another 6 weeks of producing fruit before frost sets in. As the sun sets, the owls hooted into the dusk sky and the late summer bugs hummed in unison. And then the quiet. I listen to the quiet, and the earth’s heart beat… Leaving Boone Hollow Farm we were greeted with a yellow-orange moon. The huge trees along the county roads seemed to glow yellow. Was it from the moon, or is this the first signs of autumn? As we drove from the countryside in Defiance to our St. Charles home the moon seemed to get closer. It is officially a full moon today, and it is called a “grain moon”. Also known as the “green corn moon”, “barley moon”,
and according to the Farmer’s Almanac the August full moon is known as red moon based on its color illuminating in the hazy sky or sturgeon moon named after the large number of fish caught during this month in the Great Lakes region. Here is a list of names for the moon from this internet source: https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/full-moon-names:
North American full moon names by month:
January: Old Moon, Moon After Yule
February: Snow Moon, Hunger Moon, Wolf Moon
March: Sap Moon, Crow Moon, Lenten Moon
April: Grass Moon, Egg Moon, Pink Moon
May: Flower Moon, Planting Moon, Milk Moon
June: Rose Moon, Flower Moon, Strawberry Moon
July: Thunder Moon, Hay Moon
August: Green Corn Moon, Grain Moon
September: Fruit Moon, Harvest Moon
October: Harvest Moon, Hunter’s Moon
November: Hunter’s Moon, Frosty Moon, Beaver Moon
December: Cold Moon, Moon Before Yule, Long Night Moon
My life is surrounded with people, animals, and plant life. My home is shelter to the wandering soul. “Happy is the house that shelters a friend”, Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted. Midnight, Celine, Joe, and Pennylane … all adopted because someone else could not care for them. Our furry critters are family. Our Midnight wandered the streets of town late evening on Friday. A construction or utility person must have left our gate open. Thank God for the internet, digital photos, good people, and prayers. A group of teenage boys watched him as he paced back and forth near a busy road, contacted one of their parents, and then brought Midnight to the shelter of their home. We were rejoined with our Labrador by early Saturday morning after a series of FB postings. Well-fed and watered, he rather enjoyed is overnight stay at his new friends’ home. The boys renamed him “Hercules”.
Saturday afternoon Dean and I prepared the garage for our potted plants to be brought inside. The first hard frost seems to be delayed, but may come this week. Geraniums, succulents, a lemon tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, spider plants, and moses-in-the-cradle create a jungle our cats like to prowl in from time to time. Over the coldest months between November through March, my green friends are somewhat dormant under the high power plant lights, and most survive to be brought back outside with the warmer spring days. One green friend gets some special treatment going into 2017. My arrowhead plant grew lushly green and full over the summer. Sensitive to the cold air, the semi-heated garage may not stay warm enough for it to maintain its brilliant green foliage. The arrowhead plant is sheltered near the mantel next to my palm until our room addition is completed.
The “F” bomb will be coming to our neck of the woods soon enough. I am starting to think about improvisations to ensure a daily diet of greens. My palette has grown accustom to fresh organic arugula and lettuce since May. I think a fresh pot of microgreens seeded every 3 or 4 weeks throughout the colder months will do it. I have the ceramic tile floor in the kitchen to put my pot(s) with the patio door to provide light. My herbs feed me nutrients also. Smaller terracotta pots of herbs will be seated in the kitchen window. The 480 square-foot room addition extending the kitchen into a family room and a small guest bedroom will give a new place for my green friends. There is always a place for green life in my home. How about yours? Where do your green friends stay in your home?
The threat of frost for two nights this weekend kept Dean and I busy moving plants into their seasonal home Friday evening. Deanna Greens And Garden Art geraniums, perennials, succulents, and tomato plants were placed into their cold season home, our semi-heated garage with plant lights on a timer. Our countryside greenhouse situated on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance still does not have electricity running to it; therefore, no heat or fans blowing. Greenhouses are naturally designed for solar source, although not adequate enough for heat in 1300 sq foot during Missouri’s winter. We still want to invest in solar panels for added heat and run fans. The prices for solar keeps declining, so maybe in the next year or so we can justify the expense.
On Saturday I dug up our herbs in the greenhouse bed. Terra cotta pots of chives, parsley, sage, and cilantro set in my kitchen for culinary use. We had two volunteer grape tomato plants thrive in our compost bin late this summer into the autumn. They are loaded with fruit. The bin is huge and sets just outside the screenhouse side of our structure. Overnight Friday the frost nipped the upper branches. While at our greenhouse on Saturday, we dragged the bin into the all plastic side, protected from the crispy cold frost. It is to warm up again this week, so not quite ready to hide under our make-shift tall tent of clear poly. With our gardening experiment, we hope to eat homegrown grape tomatoes all winter. See what happens. If it works, maybe next summer we can build those cold frames in the greenhouse with more homegrown organic veggies to eat throughout the winter. Seasonal homes come in many forms. In a few short days I will share about a seasonal home for Dean and I and our guests … Exciting stuff!
Our bromeliads need to be divided as they had been quite busy this past year producing babies. A bay window in shallow terra-cotta pots had been their home. Showy fuchsia edges contrast with the fresh green, these babies needed new homes as they were crowding their parents. Dean and I carted two plants with us to our July Minnesota destination. The bromeliads stayed outside near the cabin and lake for a few days. When the storms brewed up, we brought them onto the screened porch. We hoped these showy plants were accumulated to their new surroundings, when we spent an afternoon dividing and repotting them. Five planters were made and given to our northern friends. We hope these tropical plants enjoy their new homes. We brought to our Missouri home gifts of heirloom tomato plants and streptacarpella, which have thrived well this past month. These tomato plants should produce fruit well into the winter months in the comforts of our semi-heated garage. And maybe the purple-flowering streptacarpella will find their home in window planters in the spring.
We are cleaning out that garage this month, finding new homes for bikes, toys, old furniture, and throwing away those “why did we keep this?” stuff. Our lawnmower and garden tools will go into their new home, a shed built in our back yard this week. We are making room for our beloved plants as the air changed this week. In about 6 – 8 weeks, our planters landscaping the yard this summer will be in their winter home, inside the heated garage under plant lights before the first frost of the autumn season.
Dean and I dream of a new home for just the two of us. The place we call ours, some where between St. Charles and Hermann along the Missouri River and the wine valley. If I chose, retirement from my office job is only 5 years away. But not retirement from living. So much more to experience. See what adventures come as we seek and find God’s will in this approaching season. Wherever we go, green things, art, and hospitality come with.
Surprisingly, these October days have been fairly mild. The first weekend of October we had 2 nights of cold air, but stayed frost-free in Missouri. Dean and I were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that weekend, where frost covered the corn fields and pumpkins. Snow came down in the northern part of the state. In Missouri rain and more rain last week and through the weekend, but still no frost in our neck of the woods.
My herb bed still produces lush greenery. I have delayed potting the herb plants for the kitchen window. They do so much better in natural light, warm air, and a bed of organic soil. Tonight I needed to get away from the madness of the local urban troubles to my green sanctuary. Dean and I headed to our greenhouse situated in the countryside ar Boone Hollow Farm. Mild evening, still in the 60’s and the rain had passed for the time being. The creek had a steady flow over the rocks in the road next to the barn, which evenually leads to the greenhouse. Bugs sang their soothing tunes while we watered our geranium starters, hanging moss baskets, and the herb bed inside the screenhouse side of our structure. Despite the early sunset, I needed more green therapy. So I repotted some basil, sage, summer savory, wild parsley, and marjoram under the light of our gas lantern. Mid-June two misly sprigs of marjoram sprouted from a old packet of seeds. But look what produced, this huge herb plant. This October evening I pulled the marjoram jungle from its organic bed and potted it into a 14″ terra cotta pot. My pot overflows! Good organic soil, regular watering from the well or our rain barrel late summer into early autumn, and mother nature takes over. Oh how green friends can bring joy in life once again!
My inner farmer tells me that an early frost will be here soon. Beware of the “f word”, Farmer Dave recently warns on his local radio talk show. Only 2 more days and it is offically autumn. Our bush beans have come to the end of their producing. We had some delicious green beans most of the summer months. The final harvest of our herbs will come this next week to 10 days. Last week we harvested buckets of basil, of which I made lemon-Tai pesto and Italian-Genovese pesto. The lemon-Tai pesto will compliment chicken breasts and rice for our Sunday dinner tomorrow. The Italian-Genovese pesto has made a pesto pasta as well as tangy pesto-mayo spread for turkey sandwiches this past week. I had given away basil for others to dabble with in their kitchens. Our summer savory, sage, and marjoram will hang to dry in the garage along side the dill we harvested a month ago. But before the final harvest, I will plant a pot of each herb for the kitchen window to use over the long winter months. Our tropical and house plants will come indoors to their winter home before Jack Frost has a chance to nip their leaves. This frost frenzy comes every year, but comes quickly even after a long summer when cooler air is welcomed. Grower beware.
Earlier this year I accomplished a major feat, paying off my debts accumulated from years ago before my divorce. Now my household budget is blooming, looking brighter everyday. I am determined to stay in the black with my green habit. Red blooms only, no budget in the red! Did you follow all those colors and what I am saying? It means I am gardening on a budget, small budget at that. With three grown children getting married this year outside of our town, cuts are made before the flowers bloom. Dean and I need to budget our time and funds with our growing adventures. We chose to not go to the farmers’ markets. We can concentrate on the redesign of Deanna Greens And Garden Art rather than the market. We will continue to grow organically. Dean and I’s health matters too much, so no short-cuts there. The founder of Missouri’s organic Mueller Farm, where our friends at EarthDance are housed has a sign displayed which says, “Health begins in the soil.” BTW: EarthDance has a class they are offering at a nominal fee called “Health Begins In The Soil” for St. Louis locals in May. Checkout their web page: http://www.earthdancefarms.org. Dean and I may see you there as we could use a refresher course. More vegetables and herbs than perennials will grow in our newly constructed raised beds made with 1 part good quality compost, 1 part good quality organic soil, and 1 part sand for proper drainage. The rich soil and the non-treated lumber to make the raised beds are our most expensive investment in 2014. Our hardy red geraniums will continue to bloom in big pots this growing season as they have all winter under our plant lights in our semi-heated garage. Sunny zinnia and marigold blooms will welcome parishioners and guests at the church once again this spring and summer. In about 2 weeks our gourd seedlings will go into the ground underneath recycled metal arches situated near the greenhouse, trusting we will be frost-free by then. If we have a bumper crop of gourds, we may venture to a farmer’s market or two this autumn. Gardeners and weekend farmers, how do you cut cost with your green adventures?