Pumpkin Fun

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There was one pumpkin from our Halloween collection that we didn’t carve into a Jack-o-Lantern. Those that we carved into Halloween pumpkin faces have already drooped and been thrown into the compost heap, but this one last pumpkin provided an afternoon of fun for us out our kitchen window. Hubby cut it in half and put the halves in the oak stump garden and we stood at our kitchen window to see what would happen. The show was highly entertaining!

What curious birds and critters we have in this neighborhood! The Scrub Jays immediately appeared to check it out, and tasted a few of the seeds. The Northern Flicker flew to the top of the birdhouse and looked down curiously at these things. A few minutes later a Spotted Towhee took its turn checking out this new “stuff.” The little birds: sparrows, chickadees, and a junco were fluttering in the hedge waiting their turn but weren’t bold enough to interfere with the curious bigger birds.

It wasn’t too long before the squirrels arrived. Two of them, jealously chasing each other away from “their” newfound loot. They started feasting. First, sitting on haunches eating the seeds with some delicacy, then, chowing down on the inside part of the pumpkin.

A little while later, we looked out to see a black cat sitting near the pumpkin, keeping a close eye on the squirrels. Boldly cautious, the squirrels continued feasting. But when one made a slight move away, the cat chased the squirrel full-speed up the oak tree. But not for long! Cat got bored and went elsewhere. Squirrels returned to their Fall treat.

What a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment in our garden!




My November Guest

November at Fern Hill Wetlands

November walk at Fernhill Wetlands…

It seems like just a short time ago I was busy in the garden, enjoying the warm sunshine and the work of preparing the garden for winter. My cover crops are planted and happy with the cool and the rain. All is settled in the garden, but I find myself feeling rather blue. We have turned our clocks back, the skies are very gray most days, and the drenching rains have returned.  I miss my gardening time outdoors!

So, as late Fall and early Winter settle in, it is time to refocus my energies on projects, plans, and reading. My friends-in-books bring me solace as I mourn my summer gardening time, and remind me to keep things in perspective… May Sarton gently reminds me to be patient with the winter darkness, for  “Without darkness, nothing comes to birth, As without light, nothing flowers.”  And one of my favorite poets describes a lot about my own November doldrums but celebrates this seemingly bleak time of year.

My November Guest
~by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, with its very gray and rainy winters, could be very gloomy indeed, but despite my melancholy, I share much of Robert Frost’s beautifully described love of bare November days.  I, too, love my soggy walks in the beauty of those stark days–walks along sodden paths with bare, withered trees, and under heavy skies…

Waterproof Boots

Another October Flower

Fall blooming rhododendron

Here’s a photo of another flower blooming in the garden today. I don’t know if this rhododendron is confused, or if the warmer weather we’ve had here for two years now has encouraged an extra bloom time, but it is a repeat bloomer this year (and was last year, too!).

These rhododendrons are planted all around the house and are very pretty for about one week in the Spring, but they fade quickly after blooming. They’ve also struggled terribly with the lack of rain and our unusually hot summers, so the last two years have been very hard on them. But we’ve had cooler temperatures and some nice rain this week, and so here they are in bloom again!

Click on the informational links below to read about fall blooming rhododendrons:

Trying a New Cover Crop

Last week we removed all the sunflowers from our “mini-field” (which we sometimes refer to as our whimsy garden) and tilled the ground. We then planted a cover crop for the winter in hopes of improving the soil for the Butterfly Garden we are planning to plant there next spring. Last year we planted Crimson Clover in this spot, and it was a successful cover crop and a fun gardening experience. Although it was our first experience with cover crops, it really seemed to enrich the soil–the sunflowers we planted there loved being put into that field afterwards. This year we chose a different cover crop: Austrian Winter Peas, and we’ll see what happens. We watched the weather closely and planted the seeds just before this weekend’s major rain storm. Hopefully the rain will give them a good start.

As part of my own education on the subject, I found the following helpful links about cover crops and about Austrian Winter Peas:

Austrian Winter Peas 1

The Flowers Ring Their Changes

I love what happens to my hydrangeas in the Fall! This part of that “long cycle” is so beautiful, and I know that Spring will bring the return of these lovely flowers.

…the flowers ring their changes through a long cycle, a cycle that will be renewed. That is what the gardener often forgets. To the flowers we never have to say good-by forever. We grow older every year, but not the garden; it is reborn every spring.

~ May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep

Goodbye to the Sunflower Garden

sunflower heads

This week we said goodbye to our sunflower garden. In June, we planted Sunspot Sunflowers in the sunny patch of ground on the other side of our little garage and along the alleyway and sidewalk.  Inspired by the photographs of sunflower fields in France, (we watch the Tour de France every summer, and those shots of bicycles and sunflower fields were my inspiration) we planted masses of seeds. The next door neighbor cautioned us that we were planting them too close together and that the plants would compete for nutrients, but we massed them together anyway and our Sunflower Garden was glorious. Neighbors walking by stopped to take photographs or to ask questions about what kind of sunflowers we had planted. The garden brought us many compliments and many pleasant conversations with neighbors we hadn’t met before.

But this week it was time to prepare that garden for winter. The flowers were spent, with heads bent over in woe, “mourning the end of summer”, as my friend described them. Time to clear them out. I cut off the heads and put them in paper bags to dry for the winter and then started pulling sunflowers. I didn’t count how many were growing in our mini-field, but it took me three days to complete the job.

Next, we will till the ground and plant a winter cover crop like we did last winter, only this time we will plant Austrian Winter Peas to enrich the soil. When Spring comes, we will build and plant our Butterfly Garden there. My dream is to create a butterfly garden that can be an official certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.

This summer of sunflowers was a wonderful gardening experience!


Autumn Activities

The oaks are losing their leaves and we’ll soon have to rake them to the curb for the first city-wide leaf pickup of the season. The summer vegetables in the kitchen garden are almost spent, with only a couple of remaining tomatoes. The squirrels are digging everywhere and hiding “treasures” in almost every garden pot. And I have been busy all week pulling out the sunflowers from our fun sunflower garden, saving the big heads and putting them in paper bags to dry, hoping to have some seeds to feed the birds this winter. With Cackling Geese flying overhead, it is definitely Autumn in Forest Grove!