A storm walloped us last night. The house vibrated and shuddered in the strongest sustained winds that we have seen since moving in. Sometime after midnight, we started hearing thwacking and whumping sounds, as if some large creature wanted its way inside. George investigated and found flashing had broken apart and was flailing wildly against the roof and gutter.
Nothing we could fix in the storm, so we sat snug in bed, warm and dry, with the dogs snoring at our feet, wondering how much damage we would see when the sun came up. The noise and worry kept me mostly awake and I could not help but think how the night felt much like the past months—worrying about a whirlwind of damage, while we are tucked up in our little sanctuary. It has been a terrible year in so many ways, but also, for us, one with rich moments of contentment and joy.
It is a little disconcerting to feel overwhelmed with worry, disbelief, and disgust on the one hand and feel oddly happy on the other hand. But this grim year has given us two things that we never had before—luxury of time and stability of place.
We had endless uninterrupted weeks at home to really dig in and do things the way we had planned and dreamed, but never quite had the time to pull off. And, after a lifetime of moving around, we now live in a place where we can make long-term plans. This has been the year in which our plantings and plans are coming to fruition.
So, covid and crazy politics be damned, we made it a satisfying and fulfilling summer and fall.
For example, George built a garden shed.
I have long wanted one, but we never had the time or place to build one before.
He designed and built the shed of my dreams, small, but with plenty of shelves and hooks for storage and tools and a workbench where I can look out the window while potting, wreath-making, and puttering.
To top it off, it is adorable, with a red door topped with a rabbit head.
It has saved me loads of time to have everything in one convenient place. And, for the first time this year, I feel caught up.
Everything was harvested on time, my garden paths are properly mulched, my compost is turned, my bulbs are in the ground, my perennials are divided and put to bed, and I’m ready for winter.
But winter has yet to arrive. The weather continues its weird ways—an unsettling harbinger, perhaps, of much worse to come. Our drought continued into the fall—days on days of unvarying sunshine.
Even the trees were suffering. Several strong windstorms whipped through. One uprooted the beautiful old wild russet apple that George had left as a signature tree at the top of our driveway and tore off a side trunk of the giant oak that frames our view.
George planted a flowering crab where the apple had been and, because the damage to that oak trunk was on top of previous damage, we had to have it taken down.
Our stately oak now looks oddly amputated and bereft of its other half.
November was freakily mild, feeling more like September, or even May. We had one hard frost that took out the tomatoes and peppers, but the garden continues to produce lettuce, carrots, chard, spinach, and brassicas even though it’s now December.
Overall, we had a good year in the garden, especially for squash, pumpkins, and the carrots that the mice did not taste test.
Because generations of mice continue to plague us. They taste tested almost everything, but liked my precious peanuts best, leaving only a trail of shells behind. For the first time, they got into the greenhouse, decimating overnight the seedlings for our winter greens.
The greenhouse must have seemed like mouse heaven—abundant food, warm, dry, safe from predators. When I cleared the dense greenhouse tomato vines, I found an empty mouse nest of cotton and milkweed hidden behind them.
A few mornings later, I found a mouse drowned in my watering can. I was not happy.
Some mouse relief came in the form of a Cooper’s Hawk that moved in for several weeks in October, patrolling the gardens and yard. One morning he disemboweled a mouse on a fence post right outside our window. After eating every bit, he daintily wiped his beak on the post, one side,
then the other,
before taking his hunting stance again.
Fortunately, the mice did not touch the greenhouse ginger and turmeric and we had a bumper crop.
We used a dehydrator this year for quite a few vegetables and had enough ginger to dry some for our own ginger powder, which packs amazing flavor. Our little ginger patch grows enough to keep us in ginger all year.
Aside from making powder, we freeze it, cover it in vodka and refrigerate, and have enough to give some away. It is one of my favorite crops.
My flax also did well this year, even though it was so hot and dry.
I’m getting more knowledgeable about processing it and this year’s crop has been the best yet for spinning—long, smooth, and much less hairy than previous years.
I’ve been weaving fabric for a dress
and am working on a small overshot coverlet with the wool that I spun and dyed earlier this summer.
I have been happily immersed in collecting, repairing, researching, and writing about (in my other blog) antique spinning wheels and textile equipment and am always spinning—right now some beautiful Gotland, Cormo, and Clun Forest fleeces.
Sadly, my bees, which had been a good strong hive all summer, swarmed at the end of August, which is not good for the bees left behind (or those that swarmed). Although the remaining bees left continued to bring in pollen, their numbers dwindled as the queen was not vigorously laying. The weakened hive was robbed clean of honey by other bees—a quick but ugly ending.
As usual, October and November brought vivid sunrises
and golden light pouring in our windows.
Capp continues to be healthy, which is a great relief.
He is packed with personality and enriches our lives every day. And our quirky, sweet Alice is now a celebrity mom. We bought her when she was three years old from a breeder, who was retiring Alice from breeding after one litter.
We were a bit stunned to learn that one of her pups from that litter, Click (aka Grampian’s Up on the Rooftop (it was a Christmas Day litter)), won Best in Breed at the National Dog Show. The show was televised on Thanksgiving Day and Alice sat in my lap and watched her son Click on TV. An extra Thanksgiving treat.
Despite that excitement, we really missed being with our kids and grandkids on Thanksgiving. Next year we hope to toast to vaccines, a change in government, and a new year that isn’t quite so memorable. Cheers to all (and *apologies to Charles Dickens for using his amazing opening line from A Tale of Two Cities to title a blog post).