Sunday, November 28, 2021

Bedding Down & Tidying Up

 ProfessorRoush accomplished several main fall chores last weekend and during the week. Last Sunday was a windy, but pleasant and sunny day which I took full advantage of in a fit of tidiness.  Of highest importance, I covered the strawberries with a nice thick bed of straw to protect those tender buds from any further frosts and freezes.   Last winter I neglected it as the bed was in poor condition anyway, but this year, with 50 new plants out, I thought a nice golden blanket was in order for the patch.  It looks so nice and cozy and protected now, don't you think?

I also bustled around the yard and ran the mower over some late invasive cool season grass and mulched up a few leaves in the process.   I do like a lawn with a nice even trim, don't you?   I also realized there were a couple of hoses that needed draining, the purple martin houses needed to be cleaned out and brought indoors, and my pack rat-bait stations near the house were empty.  All the usual and none too soon as, sometime between the strident warnings about new COVID variants and the apocalypse, the frantic media voices tell me that winter is coming.   Sure, except for the 70ºF temperatures predicted this week.   Those strawberry plants must think I'm nuts and just cut off their sunlight.

Also completed was the annual "over the rivers and through the woods" to our Indiana past trek of Thanksgiving, in our case the "over-the-river" being the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and the "through-the-woods" was of the forested Illinois and Indiana I-70 corridor.   A few days gone in a cloudy and colder Indiana landscape where it actually even rained one day, and Mrs. ProfessorRoush and I were never so glad as to come back Friday into this gorgeous sunset, occurring just as we made those last few miles through the Flint Hills to home.  Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home....err Kansas.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Suddenly Winter

How did I miss it?  Was I asleep, beginning hibernation at the onset of cold weather, plodding in stupor through the daily cycle of wake-eat-work-eat-sleep?  Was I distracted, preoccupied with the mundane tasks of life and inattentive to the greater world?  Is this how empires crumble, marriages collapse, and friendships end, with inobservance and insouciance?

Regardless, I realized with shock this week that Fall was past and Winter was suddenly present.  Perhaps it was the first recent chance to walk the garden in daylight on 11/18/21, the first time for the past week since nighttime now begins at 5:00 p.m. and I'm seldom home in daylight.  I only made it early on Thursday because I'd gotten my COVID booster the previous day and had run a fever and chills for the past 24 hours.  It will, by the way, be a cold day in hell or in winter before I get another COVID booster.  Why take an annual vaccine that certainly makes me sick every year to prevent the small chance I get sick? Three days later and I'm still not normally controlling my internal temperature when active. 

But I digress down the deep slope to COVID anger.   More pertinent to the subject of today, the leaves all dropped, seemingly overnight, from trees and shrubs galore.  I'm not ready, not prepared at all mentally and emotionally, for winter.  The granite bench in front of my River Birch no longer is hidden in shade by the protective limbs of the birch (above, top), and my 'Jane Magnolia' (left) is bare but for the fuzzy light green buds that I'll have to protect from the equally fuzzy lips of hungry deer.  Even the 'October Glory' maple of my last blog post has dropped a huge portion of its leaves, an unusual occurrence this early in winter.   All that remains of Fall in the garden are the still-shimmering shafts of the ornamental grasses.  The small clump of Miscanthus sinensis 'Malepartus', pictured below, remains a pleasing sight, catching the last rays of sun in a cooling world.

'Malepartus' is, however, a symbol of hope for me this winter.  I received him as a very small division given away by the K-State gardens last fall and in a single year of planting it is already a reasonably substantial garden presence.  Only time and winter will tell me if he can hold on to these silvery seedheads or whether they, too, will be quickly dispatched by the cruel onset of the first "polar express."  All I can do is wait now, and watch, and try to be present in the garden for its trials and triumphs.  I'm out there now, hurrying to spread new straw in the strawberry patch before the cold can dash my hopes for next spring's harvest.   A gardener never fully rests.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Sun, Clouds, and Glory

The changes in setting and mood according to ambient light sometimes astounds ProfessorRoush, particularly in relationship to photographs and camera settings.   Take, for instance, this 14 year old 'October Glory' (Acer rubrum) maple out to the left front of my driveway as I leave for work every morning.   On Veteran's Day this year, 11/11/2021, at 7:20 a.m., the sun was just rising up and 'October Glory' was, indeed, glorious in its observance of Veteran's Day this year.   I don't think I've ever seen this tree in better foliage and, as I leave for work, these mornings brighten my day and set me on a happy path through the weekly turmoil.   Thankfully, although the color diminishes somewhat over time, this tree holds its leaves through early winter.

On a cloudy day, however, the tree broods, begrudgingly showing only dusky purples against the brown prairie behind it, leaving my own mood murky and dark as I take that same morning path to work.   This picture, STDD or same-tree-different-day, 11/10/2021 and at the same time (7:20 a.m.), shows the dampening effects of clouds and winter.  The whole scene dulls my morning commute, leaving me dispirited and soul-worn to start the day.  I, for one, would much rather either leave in total darkness, as it was just last week before the annual "fall back" nonsense, than to leave to this sight on cloudy days.  Thank you again to our political so-called "leaders" for their misguided help in that regard.

The prairie is colored this year far better than most.   Always, in fall, we hear written or television media talking about expectations for fall color in various parts of the country, usually discussing the effects of moisture or warmth on sugar production, and often telling us that it isn't going to be an exceptional fall in the usual way of our depressing national media.   I have a friend, a former news-junky, who recently told me she had sworn off the news because it only reports stories that keep us riled up or upset about the state of the world.   So it seems and I cannot disagree.   But fall in Kansas has been exceptionally colorful this year and I'm thankful for whatever natural processes or the harvest gods that influence the beauty.   

Sunlight, however, helps always, and I'm thankful for the Kansas sun every day.  Searing in summer, spiritual in spring, fitful in fall, and warm in winter, this morning it streams in through all the windows of the house, warming the walls and making a home of house, a warm nest for a pleasant Sunday.  

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Keeps on Ticking...

"It takes a licking and keeps on ticking" used to be the advertising slogan for Timex watches during my youth. Maybe it still is for all I know, but I'm not sure Timex even still exists in this world of FitBit's, AppleWatch, and Garmin's.   The Timex watch of the rose world, however, has to be Canadian rose 'Champlain'.  Mine is still out there "running", blooming despite the recent frosts long after most of the garden has gone to rest.

What a red, right?  How much brighter, how much more glorious could a gardener ask for, especially now when the leaves are falling from the trees and winter keeps poking into fall.  I can see this clump from my bedroom window, 50 yards away from it, calling me into the garden on a Sunday morning.  It says "Cmon man, forget about the stupid time change this morning and write about me."   "Write about the fact that I have one of the most frequent bloom cycles of almost any rose, that I'm impervious to summer sun and winter alike."   "Write about one of the toughest and most floriferous roses of the garden."    

And I can't, I can't be mad this morning about the time change.  So much disruption of our diurnal rhythms and so much anger over political power wielded autocratically and irrationally just isn't worth the fight today when I'm staring at the happy face of 'Champlain'.  Oh don't get me wrong, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. instead of 5:00 a.m. because my soul didn't get the memo about changing rhythms, and I waited the same amount of time for the sun to rise after waking.  I just know now that I'll be driving in again with the rising sun in my eyes, endangering every walking or biking schoolchild for another month, and that I'll now be driving home in darkness every evening instead of having another hour of light to enjoy. 

But I won't be mad about the time change.  I can't waste the energy for Champlain's sake and also for the sake of this last bloom of beautiful 'Polareis', delicate and refined, pink tones betraying its dislike of cold mornings, embarrassment by the otherwise pure white petals.   Yes, I know, if you look closely there is a little damage on the petal ends, but she's still putting up a good brave fight to the end.  Another tough rose in my garden, hanging on to the last breath of summer.

Okay, yes, I'm mad as usual about the time change.  I'm mad that my chances for a heart attack are greatly increased this week and that automobile accidents will increase due to bureaucratic political whimsy.   As I've said before, a pox on the houses of every politician, Democrat or Republican, who doesn't repeal this nonsense and leave us on daylight savings time all year long.  As I vowed last spring, I'm staying on Daylight Savings.   If you want ProfessorRoush, you'll find him with his watch and computers set to EST, my new solution to the biennial B.S. imposed on us by our elected nonrepresentatives.  Stores and schedules will now just have to confirm to my time, ProfessorRoush Standard Time.


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