Thursday, October 30, 2008

A time for every purpose: The big chill

Let it be remembered (by me) that the first decisive, no-doubt-about-it hard freeze this fall came overnight on Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 27-28, pretty much statewide. This seems very late, but because I usually don't write stuff like this down I really can't say for sure (next year I'll be able to).

Most years on that clear late afternoon when the cold for the first time seems to go straight to the bone and you know it's coming, there's a lot of scurrying around: sheets and blankets over planters and prized chrysanthemums, into the garden to bring in the last of the tomatoes. But there wasn't much of that this year, as if everyone fairly well had accepted the fact it was time.

Gale-force winds on Sunday may have helped things along, whipping much that remained bright and beautiful into kind of a sorry state. The streets in every town I drove through coming down were littered with limbs and branches and outside town limits, blizzards of corn husks whipped across the blacktops.

Cropwise, Iowans shouldn't have too much to complain about. The postponed freeze allowed most of the corn and beans replanted late after spring floods to mature, nearly all the beans are safely in by now and by the end of this week, most of corn should be, too.

My (retired) neighbor is ruthless when fall comes. Blooming plants were long ago outsted from their planters and everything has been stowed away for winter by now. As long as there's bloom, I can't do that, so the task for the next couple of weekends will involve emptying the planters and turning them over so the coming cycle of freeze and thaw doesn't crack their tender terra cotta. I'd like to get a few bulbs in, too, but that may not happen.

Fallen leaves aren't a problem yet --- one of the advantages to living on a hill. What falls early, blows down the hill. Pine cones are a problem, however. The Sunday winds left the front yard carpeted with cones from the big pines around the neighbor's house across the street. And before long, the mighty oak up on the corner --- always the last in the neighborhood to let loose of its leaves --- will do just that and for some reason, maybe their pin-oak spikeness, they stick.

Up here in the northland it's going to be a beautiful day and I think I'll take a walk, then maybe go over the courthouse and vote early --- getting things done on Tuesday always is a problem since I generally travel early and work late and would rather go to compline at 5:30 than to my polling place.

It'll be a relief to have the campaign over and done with --- so much fear and loathing, so little constructive dialogue and all of it wasted on me since I'd never think even fleetingly about voting for a Republican.

There's consolation in knowing that whoever wins or loses and whatever Wall Street does, frost will come in the fall and flowers in the spring.

Yes, I should have gone out Tuesday and taken frosty-morning photos, but I turned up the thermostat and drank coffee instead. So here you have St. Frank with a few faded late asters in the background and the final flourish in front of the house late Monday after Sunday winds had knocked all of the chrysanthemums and marigolds into a heap.

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