The leggy berry tomato, having left its support far behind lies now, shaggy; new branches refuse to admit that the summer is gone. It has started an enthusiastic attempt to ripen the berries before a frost ends it all, and on the other tomato ladder the segmented tomatoes are beginning to turn, too, all among the brown leaves still more or less upright and others now completely on the ground. I am able to announce that there is no blossom end rot this year, and if it weren’t for the late ripening and the dispirited way the plants are lying all over the place I might be tempted to think that the tomatoes had proven to be a success. But that is simply not true. Just to take a look at the yellow summer squash tells a similar story. It is a squash with a soft edible skin shaped like a club, and it can grow quite large. It’s flawed growing pattern has even outdistanced the tomatoes, mingled with them, destroyed the peppers and egg-plant and is in general so self- aggrandizing that you forget to be grateful for the unending supply of little squashes growing along vines maybe eight feet long. You can’t imagine the work it is to clip these branches to a length that’s acceptable for the compost bin. The only possible consolation in all this is that the western winds have delivered Chuck on his bicycle just in time to help harvesting the squash, clipping branches and cutting chard and kale spared by the marauding Others.
Before moving on it would be good to mention that the method for curing blossom rot has worked very well. (You’ll remember that I dug a three-foot hole and refilled it with manure, peat and compost and planted it in early spring with winter rye.) I suspect that the rye (green manure) took a few weeks to decay into the soil at the same time those plants took off on their growing spree. Betsy is bringing some pork chops home for dinner (Chuck’s favorite) and I am going to saute slices of squash with some garlic and finish them with cut up raw tomato, parsley and a little butter.
Begonias and zinnias are adding a bright touch of red to some of the garden, but on the whole it appears downhearted, brown and slippery and just plain over. The fall rains have come and washed away most of the remaining blossoms. The weather has been pretty disappointing, too wet or too cold or interfering with the work that comes with the end of summer–the jobs, the schools, the various social obligations, and the back and leg pains experienced after dancing at three weddings. Not that I regret dancing at the weddings. I don’t know when I’ve had such a good time. I just didn’t know when to stop.
The weekend reminded us of the time of year, as Jack was brought back from his college in order to be bartender at the Hartwick Homecoming. The OHS football team won the game played last night in the rain and the cannon announcing the touchdowns added excitement to the night. It has always been like this in the U.S. in September and October. Of course Halloween will be here in another few weeks, but its full power is in its position as the culmination of all these other events.It is probably that build up that causes children to go wild with joy as they participate in their costume making, their apple bobbing, their trick or treating.
It’s always been like this. Going to the rich people’s houses around the Lake of the Isles where the butler handed treats out to the ghosts and skeletons and beautiful ladies collecting Halloween Handouts, driving down Main St yelling cheers at all the people in the street here in Oneonta or Nicollet Ave in Minneapolis, helping Aunt Fern can her hundred quarts of tomatoes, getting myself dressed up in a black strapless dress for the homecoming dance. And the air is always bright and clear,the plans rich, the hopes without limit.
Fall really is such a time. When I bring in those slowly ripening tomatoes I know that next year will be better, that I will redo the vegetable beds with a better design and I’ll cut back on the nitrogen for the vegetables. I am certain that next year by October I will have finished the pruning, and made some chutney, and just possibly learned something new. Who says that fall signals the end. I myself, see fall as a new beginning, planted in newly cultivated soil, to sleep through the winter, only to begin to reawaken April It’s guaranteed.