November in the Garden

To those who have not yet learned the secret of true happiness,
begin now to study the little things in your own door yard.
~ George Washington Carver

Door-yard contentment is something I need to remind myself of,

again and again.

An enormous sunflower — moth included — has surprised us

by volunteering under the birdfeeder

as all the other blossoms go to seed.

We’ve been gently making our way around the glossy webs

of orb weavers —

or forgetting and getting a face-full of sticky silk

and that sudden, freaky feeling:

I don’t know where the spider is.

The garden champs — my valiant ground cherries — finally expired.

The peppers in pots are finished.


One Cuban seasoning pepper didn’t want to quit.

I brought it inside where it sits like it’s waiting for Christmas,

festooned with dozens of miniature red ornaments.

A couple of the garden beds are already in full winter shade.

I’m putting them to rest under used straw from a neighbor’s chicken coop.

Honestly, I don’t know much about fall and winter gardening —

by this time I mostly want to clean up and rest.

But I’ve got a few small experiments in progress.

Look at this tiny, tender leek . . .

Here’s a baby radish . . .

A mix of new greens . . .

My first time planting fava beans as a cover crop . . .

And a friend handed me a bulb of garlic from his garden,

along with a book to help me grow my own.

“It’s easy,” he said. “Start in December.”

I’m waiting.

It is getting colder.

(Try not to laugh when I say that, here, 53 degrees is a chilly afternoon.)

The rooster is rusting.

The sweeping is ceaseless.

The pigeons, who are now almost nine months old, are learning about autumn, too.

Quincie just finished her first big molt,

dropping feathers like leaves from a tree.

Yuzu wants to show you the new artwork in their house.

And they would both like you to know that they do not like carrots.

Not one bit.

I tried adding some to their regular salad of spinach and cucumber.

Here’s what they thought of that . . .

They spend a lot of time snuggled together,

which seems like a good way to welcome cold weather.

Don’t you agree?

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  • Reply lani November 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    What a nice post I am going to go into the backyard after the rain and snap a few..Thanx love the dovies xoxo

  • Reply meg November 11, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    I love putting the garden to rest. Even as I am growing things still it is nice to see the changes, the rest, the sleepiness. The pigeons are looking fantastic!

    • Reply Shae December 6, 2011 at 10:35 am

      The pij are great. Meg, I keep thinking about your hoop houses. Next year, I’d like to plan my fall and winter gardening a little better, including appropriate row covers.

  • Reply Leslie November 12, 2011 at 7:27 am

    We’re thrilled at a heat wave prediction of 59 degrees here in Chicagoland! Still picking chard & a few confused tomatoes! Cuddling pigeons are role models!

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse November 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    It looks great, Shae. Besides the sweeping. Enjoy those leeks and radishes and favas. Good stuff.

    • Reply Shae December 6, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Thanks, Denise. I don’t so much mind the sweeping. For some reason, the pigeons find it exceedingly entertaining, which makes it more pleasurable for me. An appreciative audience goes a long way. :-)

  • Reply Sara November 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Um, my garlic looks like your leek. But I am in massachusetts, and it’s been so mild that even though I planted my garlic at Columbus day (as per recommendation so that the roots–and the roots only–could get a head start) my poor bulbs are acting like it’s late april. Will not end well, I think.

    But…growing leeks sounds like fun, and baby radishes are so cute.

    • Reply Shae December 6, 2011 at 10:32 am

      Argh! I still have to get my garlic in the ground. There’s still time, I think. My leeks still look awfully spindly. I wonder if they’ll make it. I am being a halfhearted winter gardener, for sure. Being in California, I don’t really have a good excuse for that — but a winter rest just seems right.

  • Reply janis December 8, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Hi Shae – Just came from reading your article in the the MIJ! I am crossing my finger too… hopefully we’ll see your delicious jams sold in stores soon.
    Which brings me to your apricot jam – oh heavens, lordy – just cracked it open finally treating myself. I hid it (in the way back of the fridge) so Daniel won’t find it :^)

    Keep jammin’ Shae … xo

  • Reply janis December 8, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Oh forgot to tell you how much I love this post with all the seasonal transitions. Kisses to Yuzu and Quince…

  • Reply Christina December 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Growing garlic is going to change your kitchen. After this year, you’ll expand to grow more varieties, and then more, then you’ll be an heirloom garlic addict, like me. Seriously though, you’re going to love it. Hooray for late fall/early winter gardens!

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