Thankfully, my fall garden-related chores are essentially complete. Hoses are drained and stored, peonies and irises and daylily beds hacked down, and the lawn mower oil has been changed, blades sharpened, and gas preservative run through. Out the back window, the garden has entered dormancy and has turned to sienna, ocher, and umber, colors that are enhanced when the fall rains come to the prairie as you can see in the garden and distant hills below. I wish I had not yet cut down the tall native prairie grasses in the foreground (see the bottom picture below), but in the midst of this dry fall I had given up on seeing any moisture and I wanted to stem the incursion of the field mice and rabbits this winter. And "plant" the seeds of this year's penstemon.
Along with the fall chores of the cultured garden, one of my annual chores is to clean out the eighteen birdhouses that I've placed on the the periphery of the twenty acres I call home. The trek up and down the property provided a perfect opportunity for me to photograph the house and gardens from the back hill, a clear Kansas sky presiding over the scenery on a gorgeous fall day early in November. This is an overview that I don't think I've shown on this blog before. The hill in the foreground falls away to a farm pond, hidden out of the bottom frame of the photo below, and then rises again to the house and barn. The overall garden looks small from this vantage.
My "bluebird trail" and the Professor-Roush-customized bluebird houses were unusually successful this year, perhaps due to the extra moisture of this past spring. Thirteen of 18 houses appeared to have fledged bluebirds, containing the thin grass nests characteristic of the species. Four other houses, all near the woods and pond, contained the deep stick-formed nests of wrens, and one decrepit old commericial house contained only a dead wasp nest. Thirteen bluebird nests is a PR for this little spot of land, a moment worthy of contemplation and celebration.
On the morning of the bluebird-house-cleaning, the back garden was just waking with the sun, long shadows aimed west, and somehow duller, and ready for winter. Seen here, below, you can see the shoulder-tall height of the native bluestem that I have since mowed off. I am always torn between leaving them unmown to capture the moisture of the winter snows and to witness the joyous rusty tones they exhibit when wet, but one of the reasons I cut them down is so that the seeds of the forbs among them drop closer, spread only by the whirring mower and hidden in the debris in hopes of increasing their density. Spring penstemon and fall echinacea are always welcome and appreciated here in my prairie garden. Now if only next spring would hurry up and come along.