September is a dry month. Sacramento got an early morning shower about a week ago, but it vaporized at dawn, and the pavement was dry by 8 am.
All around our yard in Chico the landscape is fading, except for the brilliant pink amaryllis. Old people call them “Naked Ladies,” they’re soooo pink. In this landscape, they look unreal, springing up out of dead yellow leaves like plastic lawn ornaments.
Just when I think they’re done another little stand pops out.
It’s tough to do much of anything outside right now – a rake raises more dust than leaves, lawnmower makes a dirt storm. So I wander the yard with loppers and a tarp, collecting dead flowers.
I want to do some transplanting, spread the love. But the ground resists my shovel right now, and I don’t want to break the handle – it’s my grandpa’s shovel, and it’s worn just right for my beat up old hands, the wood smooth as silk from all those years of use.
September is the month of waiting. I’m kind of done with Summer but I’m not really ready to jump right into Winter. So we have Fall, that’s a good system.
Yesterday I started tearing my tomatoes out of their containers up at our little Summer camp in the hills. I realized the little green globes forming at the ends of every branch were not going to amount to much – that dry autumn wind has turned all the leaves yellow, and daytime highs here have already retreated to the 70’s. I got another half dozen ripe fruit – just big enough for a nice salad – and then I went about tearing off the big wire cages my husband made and throwing the plants into a pile to go back to the composter in Chico. You can’t have a compost pile here, it’s just another fire hazard.
That’s what I’m looking forward to – Burn Season. Up here you are allowed to burn in your dooryard. Right now I’m raking up tree trash into little piles, pitching those into bigger piles, and raking a big clean spot in the middle for the burn pile. My husband is using his chainsaw, cutting out little “trash” trees (trees that are stuck under bigger trees and will not amount to anything but “ladder fuel”), some of which are already standing dead. Those are good to get the pile going, then you chuck on your rotten needles and other trash.
The other day my husband cut a big dead oak that was standing over our driveway. Those make perfect firewood, they’re all cured already. He cuts into splittable chunks for my son, who takes it back to his little house in Paradise. He’s taught his old woman to split wood – she’s a mountain momma!
So I’m looking forward to Winter, with caution. I know the days are short and the nights are long, the storms will come up the canyon and howl outside the windows. But there will be bonfires. We like to do a lot of cooking outside, whenever the rain lets up. We like to get some smoked pork chops from Chico Locker and some of those tiny yukon gold potatoes. We wrap them up in a few layers and tin foil and set them in the coals. Since the chops are already cooked they heat up nice. The tiny potatoes are done within 20 minutes.
I feel like I was robbed of Summer this year, with wildfires in every direction. I’m ready for a change in the weather.