Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fall's First Frost

Gardeners, I give you....Frost.  These are the sights that greeted the risen sun in my garden this morning; frost on the persicaria, frost on the buffalograss and frost to the horizon.  Yesterday's weather was supposed to be drizzly and cold, with a predicted high of 45F, but the particular weatherperson who made that prediction was a little bit wrong.  A little bit wrong like the engineer who said the Titanic was unsinkable. We actually had snow flurries most of yesterday morning, melting as fast as the flakes hit the ground, but snow nonetheless.  And yesterday afternoon, the high reached only 37F, eight degrees off the prediction and cooling already as I came home from work.  Couple that with a clear, cloudless night and this morning's thermometer showed 30F when I rose.

What does it mean, this first frost of Fall?  The hoarfrost was not a surprise and actually right on time, inevitable and almost obedient to the average frost date, October 15th, for this part of Kansas.  I've been waiting patiently for this day.  To ProfessorRoush, it meant that I could finally chop off the errant foxtail grasses who were trying to push that last seed out before winter and that I could safely start to prepare the lawn mower for spring; drain the oil, change the filters, and clean the deck.  It meant that I could proceed with planting those daffodil bulbs that have been biding time in the garage for the past few weeks.  It meant that I could mow off the peonies, and move some infant volunteer redbuds from an unwanted spot to their secret garden rendezvous.  It provided the impetus to gather the ornamental gourds and the birdhouse gourds from the vegetable garden and move them to a drying place.  All these things and more I accomplished today, on a beautiful, bright, crisp Saturday afternoon.

The first frost also brings death and sorrow.  The end of the roses draws nigh, buds caught napping by winter's cold breath.  Some, rescued by the shears, will yet open indoors, but many will blacken and wilt, unborn.  The leaves on maples and oaks previously dawdled, slowly changing from dark green to light, but now they will rush into color, pulling the precious sugar back to their roots.  I can almost hear them change now, murmuring in my subconscious, unseen brushes of reds and yellows and browns  working their magic minute to minute.  Blue-toned buffalograss turns tan and hibernates, waiting beneath the earth for summer's warm rays.  Now only straw protects earth from the footprints of the beasts, and the beasts eat the dead grass, the carbon of life's recent fires.  The garden withdraws beneath the earth and the gardener retreats inside.  We plan, and then we await last frost, the last gasp of winter.  In the river of time, we know that last frost will come again just as surely as did the first frost this morning.

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