At six o’clock the setting moon casts its waning glow in the west, while a thin wedge of dawn opens up on the eastern horizon. A pale, thin dawn that silhouettes the trees, stark and bare on this November morning. At seven the little birds congregate at the feeder, wings buffeting the air, their tiny heated hearts beating impossibly fast. Beneath them fat squirrels gather seeds the birds kick down and plan their own incursions at the feeder.
Yesterday, on the last improbably warm day of this beautiful fall, I finished putting the gardens to bed. On Thursday I planted the garlic, pushing fat cloves down into yielding soil, and set the containers against a stone wall in our front garden where they will receive reflected heat and light, and yesterday I mulched them and tucked leaves deep around the containers.
Yesterday I pulled the last of the tomatoes, harvesting the green fruit, and picked red and green peppers. One final, fibrous eggplant revealed itself, too woody to be eaten, and so with regret it went into the compost. All the containers are now tucked away; the walks swept; leaves mounded on the gardens; a couple of nursery trees dug down into the soil to overwinter; patio furniture put away; the air conditioning compressor covered; verandahs swept.
The final task—the one I always put off until last—was to clean out the eavestroughs on the garage. A few years ago we had the eavestroughs on the house replaced and covered with gutter shields, and this has saved us from needing to wedge an extension ladder between the houses, climb up two stories and stick our heads above the roofline in the narrow space, hoping not to swallow too much leaf litter while hauling it out. But the garage eavestroughs are old and uncovered, and fill up over the season with decaying leaf material and bits of grit from the old shingles. Usually I complete this messy task on the last possible day, while rain and flurries swirl about my frozen head. Yesterday it merely rained, a warm rain, as I sang ‘Swamp Thing’ to myself and hauled buckets of sludge down a step ladder and dumped them into the compost (where they will make incredibly rich soil).
Then I put the ladder away, swept the walks one last time, and cast my eyes over the gardens, looking for anything that might be vulnerable to winter. The only container plant left uncovered is the pineapple sage, now blooming in bright red fireworks, which I will cut and bring in today before tucking the very last of the pots away.
There are flurries in the forecast for tomorrow, and then it will be time to turn inward, to warm interior spaces, and hearty meals, and cozy evenings spent with books.