Friday, October 29, 2010

Why I don't eat at the kitchen table

As you can see, it's still dark here (as it should be at 5:30 in the morning). When I opened the front door to test the temperature a few minutes ago, the street light seemed to be reflecting off a skim of ice on the birdbath. So it looks like the big freeze arrived.

This was predicted for Wednesday night, but then clouds moved in and the wind began to howl. Although it felt cold (the furnace now is up and running), that combination held off the frost. But last night was clear --- and cold.

It's kind of a relief --- I can never bear to begin clearing away summer until the frost arrives. Anticipating the cold Wednesday, I repotted and brought inside a few plants. It's not clear why I do this. They never do well inside, but for a few days at least will hold their colors.

I'm probably channeling my mother and maternal grandfather, who rarely considered buying bedding plants in the spring. Everything that could be held over was held over and replanted. Granddad was a master of the old way with sturdy geraniums --- uprooting them, binding them in bunches with twine, then hanging the results foliage-end-down in the basement. Somehow, in the spring, he revived them, repotted them and back outside they went.

My mother slipped everything during late summer, then potted the results to bloom through the winter in downstairs windows. The mother plants were dug up and jammed shoulder to shoulder into buckets that lined the upstairs hall, catching sun from the door the led onto the porch roof. Watered occasionally, they prospered in a ramshackle kind of way until spring repotting.

My salvaged summer will just drop their blossoms, grow leggy and turn ugly. But at least I've tried to uphold the family tradition.

The bowl of peppers presents another sort of problem --- I don't really like peppers, but plant them anyway because I feel that I should. Both peppers and tomatoes behaved oddly during the odd summer just past. Confronted with too much moisture, they produced one crop --- then stopped and sat around for a while. Then they began to produce again. I've already eaten the last of the late tomato crop --- small, perfect and very sweet. Now I'm in the market for a stuffed pepper recipe.

All of this results in a new crisis at the kitchen table, usually looked upon as a landing zone for stuff in transit rather than a place to actually sit down and eat. Eventually, the plants will be distributed, the peppers will be eaten (or refrigerated) and the orphaned wall decor will be put on a wall. Maybe then I'll be able to find a place for a plate or two again.

I started hacking away at the waist-high asters, goldenrod and other fall-browned vegetation in the bed along the south side of the house yesterday, hauling it by the pickup load down to the dump along the river. A friend, making a similar trek Saturday, spotted a huge prosperous asparagus fern that someone else had recently dumped cruely on top of a pile of limbs --- and brought it home for first aid and a warm winter inside.

She and her husband have a huge brick house capable of absorbing orphaned plants. There wouldn't have been room for both the fern and me in the little gray Quaker house, so they're welcome to it. Some days I envy them the space --- then remind myself that I don't need a bigger house; I need less stuff.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Frank, enjoy reading your blog! You have quite a way with words.