After a good month of warm sun and rain, the gardens looked refreshed today. The vegetable garden is fading and many of the perennials are nodding off to sleep, but the perfect climate these past few weeks has allowed for a last burst of growth for some of the herbs. The catnip, mugwort and even the raspberry canes are flourishing. I gladly brought in a handful of clippings from the mugwort - a final gift from the generous plant - and hung them next to the long stems of hyssop waiting to become something marvellous.
Tonight, as the hour grows late, I've had to rush out to the bed of tomatoes and tuck them in under blankets like a nervous mother. The temperature has dipped further than expected tonight and the forecasted rains for the next few days are said to become snow on the valley hills. If this is so, it will be one of the earliest snows we've seen here. And the tomatoes will all have to come in tomorrow. I have enough boxes and newspaper to create a makeshift ripening environment, but I'd prefer them to linger on the vine a bit longer.
These last harvests are always bittersweet. Truthfully, I'm thankful for the rains and the cooler weather. Hauling water each morning to all the gardens becomes a real chore by August, and keeping up with the ripening veggies can lead to much hair-pulling and passing of baskets full of produce over the fence to the neighbours.
Still, I love coming inside with fresh tomatoes and green onions and making some brushetta for dinner. I love the smell of just-picked herbs sprinkled on my meals. So many carrots became spiced carrot cupcakes this summer and were passed around to friends and co-workers. Golden beets were roasted, zucchini was shredded and frozen for winter soups and sweet loaves, and cucumbers were made into tzatziki.
Now, as the very last of the harvests are coming in from the garden, I'm looking around to see what I'm letting linger in my life, that may need harvesting too. Decisions put off too long. Habits that have become stale and meaningless. An unhealthy friendship that needs pruning. Lessons learned this year that need to be implemented.
As I prepare to settle in for the winter (which may arrive earlier than I'd hoped,) I know the freezer is well stocked. I want to be sure my mind and heart have gathered a healthy harvest too. The cold months are not for snuggling up with the spirits of things I wished I'd accomplished, and the elephant in the room makes a poor bedfellow. Best to put those things to sleep with the gardens.
These "last harvests" we mark or celebrate, are never really the last though. Some plants grow through the dark months, even under the snow. There are still feasts and festivities to be had. And we always have the opportunity to bring an idea or lesson home and either carry it out or compost it, as we see fit.
As for Ms. Mugwort and I, I think I'll tuck a bit under my pillow tonight to aid in dreaming and perhaps keep a pinch in my pocket for protection if I'm wandering through the gardens again at midnight. After all, the Wild Hunt will be doing some harvesting of its own soon.
A good and safe harvest to you!