Sunday, September 12, 2010


If you look at the house we seem surrounded by a golden cloud. It's the Jewel weed, mostly. That's about chest high and somewhat golden orange with spots and speckles. It trembles with the beating wings of the hummingbird checking out each bloom. Sometimes the shaking of the flowers causes the seed pods to pop, reminding me of the other name for the Jewel weed: "Touch-me-not".Great fun to watch them curl and scatter their seeds. Mixed in with the Jewel weed is Goldenrod and there are many kinds. Some have a huge single clump of bright golden fluff while other weeds have multiple heads, smaller but more exciting. They look like golden fireworks. Down the way we have many sunflowers, giant grey striped sunflowers and dozens of Jerusalem artichokes. I have actually pulled a few and examined the little tubers, like water chestnuts. They seem like the kind of food a wild man must eat, like Solomon's seal and bolete mushrooms. A lot of the yard is edible.

The flowers that I bought and are hanging from the front of the house are dead and dried, whereas the colorful weeds and volunteers are big and beautiful. The golden cloud around the house continues to the rear and is mixed in with the pinks and lavenders. This time of year we have one or two bright fuchsia roses growing next to the funny Turtleheads, whose pouty mouths grump in four directions. They are as much fun as snapdragons, which oddly enough don't like to grow here. Too many competitors I guess. There are maybe a half dozen lilacs of various shades growing flowerless in the late summer morning. Each year I am surprised by the increasing size and volume of flowers on the lilacs. Another shock is the wandering and misnamed Obedience Plant. Half the one bed is covered in pink flowers and spiky leaves. I have long since forgotten where I first planted them. They struggle with an un-named weed whose nasty stickers are a handful all the way onto the roots. It has small flowers which are not pretty enough to forgive the pricks over but whose roots apparently have wandered all over the beds. I pull them up by the handfuls and they come back nastier. I suppose I should boil and eat them just to scare them away but we can't be sure if they are poisonous or not. It's a desperate plan developed from an observation that certain weeds become less intrusive once I realize a use for them. The valerian root is great for back pain, so now they grow in more attractive groupings where the wonderful scent of the pinkish flowers can startle and delight the walker by.

An odd yellow surprise are the number of squash plants which not only volunteered to grow this year, but who volunteered to grow in funny places, like out by the well head, near the garden path, and of course where the old compost heap used to be. I expected either tomatoes or squash and got them both. the pumpkins gave us two fruit, both big enough to carve or small enough to eat. The blue Hubbard squash was planted from a packet of seeds last year and has come back to haunt me this year. It overran the path to the hammock and wandered over the obedience plants, mixing it up with the evil prick weed. yet all the plants manage to get along better than the residents of New York City do when politics are in the air. Two avocado trees from the compost have sprouted and are about a foot and a half. that's still a far cry from the ten foot tree we grew last year. I had it in a pot and eventually the head was so tall I had to move it to the deck, where the cold autumn air finally got to it. Let's see how the twins do this winter.

The Goldfinches have found the Jerusalem artichokes and are picking away at the flowers. They leap from choke to sunflower to chicory, looking for all the world like animated sunflowers. Over their shoulders is the more thorough hummingbird buzzing from the hibiscus to the Jewel weed, one flower at a time. After putting up the hummingbird feeder I am startled to find a little hummer poised in the air about two feet from my face, examining my features and perhaps evaluating my intent. She buzzes off, satisfied that the feeder is safe enough and later she comes by to see if it is, and it is safe and tasty. But as she sips a male comes by, chipping and buzzing, slamming her in the air and chasing her off. Then the male goes over to the hibiscus plant to sip and watch the feeder. I'm not sure why he doesn't just feed at the feeder or share the hibiscus, but that's hummers for you, too busy to think.

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