Saturday, October 4, 2008

A small dance

This morning brought a surprise; a version of the Last Dance I have not seen before.

This has been an odd year, weather-wise; extremely wet in the spring, then extremely dry in late summer and early fall; and cool, throughout.  The corn and beans are late and locally stunted by the summer drought; at least one neighbor had corn on shallow soil dry out and die with half-formed ears.

All the trees are showing responses to the year, too; mostly they are running late.  The crops we're harvesting are 2 weeks later than average, and still driving our days.  The forecasts yesterday were for real frost overnight; we've had a couple "radiation" frosts already, where the air temperature doesn't even hit freezing, but frost forms on grass under open sky anyway; with no real freezes.  So I was on alert this morning; up before the sun, not certain what to expect.

Coffee in hand- made on the woodstove this year, since we ran out of propane a month ago and it's been cool enough for the fire to be a comfort since early September, I watched the sun touch the treetops.  The walnut to the south of the Little House still has its leaves, and since the thermometer was showing an air temperature of 27°F, a good solid freeze, it really seemed likely they would begin sailing soon.

Nothing.  One hackberry leaf.

Eventually, I gave up and turned away from the walnut, wondering how all the various factors had combined this year to leave the leaves still attached- and found that in the little ravine north of the house- the sugar maples were providing a steady rain of bright yellow leaves.

Just the maples on the north slope, very specifically.  The sugar maples don't usually participate in the Dances I've watched, and the shower of leaves they were making now was not of the same intensity as a "true" Dance; still, it was noticeable, real, and charming.

Smidgen was up in time to see the last of it, from inside- she was a bit too slow in getting clothes on (she'd still prefer to be a nudist) to get outside while the little rain was going on, but she saw.  

Later today, we'll go down the hill, under those maples, and scuff the leaves.  She discovered the joys there all by herself, no instruction needed, and kicks the fallen leaves all up and down the paths now, generating lots of noise and mini-whirlwinds of leaves as she goes.

Not the full experience- but plenty, today.


Secret Garden Supper Club said...

It's still in the 60s here in Oregon but it has started to rain finally.

I love fall and am eagerly awaiting the real leaf drop here too.

We don't get a magical overnight kind of dance like you describe because our frosts are so late that that we have a gradual decline instead.

Your Sugar Maples sound so beautiful - take some pictures for us!

WrethaOffGrid said...

Hello Greenpa, I am really enjoying your blog, thanks so much for taking the time to write it. My hubby and I have started our journey living off grid, we moved to our place last December. I am always looking for other people who live as we do, but what I usually find is people who wish to do it or plan on doing it... someday... it's really great to find someone who is not only doing it for real, but who has been doing it for as long as you! I am very interested in the part about living without a fridge, that has been an issue for us, we have a small cube fridge, but don't use it most of the time because it sucks so much juice, we have learned to live without or with very limited refrigeration. With winter coming it's not such a big deal for now. This is our real life, not just a vacation or play (although it is fun!). I look forward to reading more of your blog. :)


Anonymous said...

Very nice post, I appreciated it a great deal.

knutty knitter said...

Its all pink blossom here and lovely new green leaves. There are lambs across the valley and the snowfields have shut up shop.

I really ought to plant something :)

viv in nz

Anonymous said...

Here in Canada - Vancouver Island to Ontario, everything is 2 to 3 weeks late. Everbearing berries have had only a single crop - late. Lettuce, for the first time in >5 years didn't bolt early, but lasted until the middle of summer. The extreme wetness did the tomatoes in with late blight weeks before previous years. Trying a fall crop (as per Square Foot Gardening) failed yet again - we've never suceeded in 4 years of trying.
Yesterday I had to turn the furnace on - about 3 weeks early. It's been a cold summer; according to me; but not according to our weather station (calls it average). We had no hot spells, never had to use fans or retreat to the basement.
We're considering getting some land and going off grid and growing our own food. Issues are the current job, savings being wiped out by building a straw bale home and what to do with the kids as we don't want to strand them miles from anyone and having to commute for social interaction.

Anonymous said...

This is my first post here. Greenpa--I read you over at TAE and respect what you have to say and have missed you lately. I wanted to ask you a question, so I came here--and have just lost the afternoon reading your posts. It's like hiking through the wilderness and coming upon the most wonderful community. :-)

Now I'd like to ask all of you... Are any of you familiar with off-grid hydroponics? How it compares with soil gardening, pros & cons, and so on? Peggy Bradley at the Institute for Simplified Hydroponics has developed courses for people in Third World countries on how to feed themselves hydroponically. Apparently, people do not need soil in order to grow food--just sunlight, seeds, found pots, nutrient (organic or synthetic), and clean water. I find her work exciting. She writes: "When people engage in activities to sustain their personal daily needs, disaster healing begins.” She's done an extraordinary amount of work in designing and implementing survival gardens for families and communities. Her CD has about 500megs of data.

I don't know her and am not selling anything--but I haven't found any discussion of her work (or hydroponics, for that matter) in any sites like TOD, LATOC, TAE, Casaubon's Book, and so on--and am surprised. Is it because there's something inherently impratical about it I'm not aware of? Or is it because it's a relatively new, obscure technology? Or is it that the First World hasn't looked at something that may be of value in the coming years?

Bradley shows how you can get the benefits of hydroponics (increased yield, use less water, precise nutrient control (unless you're doing it organically), less labor, without electricity, or gadgets.

Like many, I'm now planning an off-grid greenhouse. I've worked as a laborer for many years in a university botanic garden and have no illusions about the amount of work required to grow enough food to consistently feed people--I'm not as young as I once was and want to mitigate my lack of brawn with brain; hence, my interest in off-grid hydroponics. You might ask why I don't just go out and do it--and then tell you about it. The reason is where I currently live has no soil or direct sunlight--doing this is going to take a major move/life change--and I want to do as much planning as possible. If any of you have any experience or thoughts about hydroponics, I'd sure like to hear them.

Greenpa--I'm in awe of how you've lived your life. I don't have your biology background or experience and am particularly curious about your thoughts as a biologist about hydroponics.

Bear hugs to all of you!