The Beauty and Bounty of Fall

 

Autumn Blaze

One house we lived in had a window in the upstairs bathroom with a view of trees and fields. Each year in August I would look out this window in anticipation of the bright red patch that always appeared in an otherwise green expanse of a maple tree. It seemed that much brighter for being surrounded by the remaining green leaves. Later the rest of the tree would turn red, yet there was something very special for me about that first splash of color.

Perhaps that is because it heralded my favorite time of year. I cherish the first tinges of red and yellow beginning to blossom in the trees by the roadside. It is truly said that the strong colors of fall echo the pastel shades of spring except that they are strong and vivid. I have also noticed that in the weeks before the autumn colors emerge, the green of tree leaves takes on a grayish look that hints at the ageing of the leaves, preparing them for their ultimate brilliance. The other colors are present in the leaves all along. When the cooler weather comes, the green disappears and the red and yellow take over.

Fall colors are lovely and bright. Pumpkins, squash, chrysanthemums, apples, and fiery leaves are all part of its panorama. Highway vistas of hills plumped up with pillows of brilliant hue are a delight to drivers and passengers alike. As spring is a time of tentative melodies and pastel colors so fall is loud and strident, its colors are bold, its thunders vibrate around us. Farmstands open up and share their bounty with passers by. In more rural areas little collections of garden produce appear by the side of the road with prices and trustful boxes for payment.

When I was a child I delighted in scuffing through the rustling leaves. I loved the sounds and the tastes of fall. The sweet concord grapes that grew on the fence around my great aunt Alice’s garden tasted so wonderful. I was equally happy to breathe the slightly sharp air of fall that held a tinge of the frosts to come. I didn’t care much for raking the leaves, however I got paid to do it and that helped. I never tended my parents’ gardens, nor was I asked to. Later when I had a garden of my own, as fall emerged I hurried to pick the last tomatoes as well as the remaining marigolds. However I paid someone to rake the leaves.

Busy squirrels scurry around storing up food for the winter. Some alas are harvested by swiftly traveling automobiles. These provide a feast for the crows, so nothing is wasted. Autumn is a time for all of us to store food. My mother busily canned and later froze her garden produce. When I had a large freezer I did too. I loved the feeling of providing for my family. Now I can’t store much food for the future, however I can take advantage of the seasonal plenty. I got out my old Fanny Farmer’s cookbook and looked up apple recipes. We had Apple Brown Betty for supper. Yummy! Fall is my favorite time of year and I rejoice in its bounty as well as its beauty.

The Outdoors Is My Garden

        Butter and eggs in yellow vase 2 I grew up with gardening parents. My dad, a horticulturalist grew lovely flowers. My mother, far more practical grew vegetables. I have grown both along with herbs and at one time I had a large lovely spiral garden that was a delight to show visitors and quite arduous to take care of. However, in those days I didn’t have a computer and I didn’t spend as much time writing, either.

          One of the good things about gardening is the exercise you get from doing it; another benefit is the fresh air from the time out of doors. However, where Stephen and I live now there are nice places to walk and people have lovely gardens we can look at. It is also possible to find wild flowers growing by the side of the road. This delights me because I have always loved the flowers that nature provides for free.

          Stephen and I were out for a walk recently when I spotted the little orange and yellow wildflowers I’ve known from my childhood as Butter and Eggs. Joyfully I gathered a small bunch to take home and put into a vase. Then I looked them up both on the Internet and in my own reference books: their Latin name is Linaria vulgaris. They were originally brought over from Europe centuries ago.

          I’ve often wondered whether snapdragons might not have been developed from these similar looking flowers the way carrots were developed from what we know as Queen Anne’s Lace. However there seem to be no connection beyond the resemblance. Bumblebees are one of their chief pollinators because of the tight construction of the flower.

          Another name for it is Toadflax. At one time it was thought these flowers would attract toads to the garden. Gardening and herbal lore tell us that what resembles a thing might be connected with it in some way. In the light of this information, it made sense when I read that the flower was called Toadflax because the blossoms resembled tiny toads.

          In addition to eating many harmful insects toads delight in dining on slugs. Not only are they far cheaper than noxious chemicals, they are much better for the garden as well as for the gardener than any poisonous insecticides. Also the flowers and other parts of the plant have been used as an herbal insecticide. Taken together with the insect killing properties of toads the name Toadflax seems even more appropriate.

          Although I have been a gardener for most of my adult life I am currently without a garden. People often ask if I miss it. To some extent I do, however, the many hours I once spent weeding and pruning can now be used for my writing and my rather large email correspondence. I can also console myself with this thought: The wildflowers that grow by the side of the road are available to the eye as well as for picking. Whether I gather them or just leave them there to grow I am glad, because all they require of me is my admiration.