As I head out to the woods to cut greens, I am thinking about the annual round again.
It comes to me frequently now that we live on a farm with woods. Since we came here — and I am a little surprised to note it has been better than 10 years now — I’ve come to see how city life shelters a person from the progress of the seasons. It’s not just that we sweat more in summer and shiver more in winter (and we do!), but that I notice more of what’s going on close at hand.
In art, one thinks of Nature on the grand scale. In the woods and farm, I find I have time to pause and see the tiny packages that make up the big one.
So, as I was clipping greens for seasonal wreaths, and taking care to choose the unblemished leaves from the thickets, I could not help but admire the damaged ones:
How could a perfect leaf be more beautiful than this one in its dying moment?
For that matter, though we think of the white berries of Symphoricarpos as its main attraction when we see it in a garden or along a roadway (those would be the cultivated forms of Snowberry; in the wild the branches are spindly, the leaves are tiny and without distinction, and even the berries are sparsely held). But look at this one, this beautiful rot on last summer’s stem.
Or this perishing haw clinging to a thorn’s winter branch.
I am not trying to be contrary here. These are wonderful colors and shapes, tiny details we catch only now, as winter heaves around the calendar toward us.
In the forest floor, fungi of the most amazing colors
erupt from among the needles. I have no idea what they are, only that they are strange and mysterious to my eye, and easy to miss in the hurry-hurry of weekday city obligations. They seem so fragile, and there they are, all on their own in the big woods, blasting color into the winter.
I found this while I was out cutting greens, too:
This is a coyote track on the path down to the woods from our stock pens. Or, perhaps, it is the path to the stock pens. And freshly set in the mud, too.
After cutting my buckets of greens, there was still a good part of a glorious blue-sky early winter day left. Even in December, the garden beckons. I took cuttings from the gooseberry bush in the vegetable yard, in the hope that by next spring I will be building the garden around the house construction site, and I’m thinking a path down the back would be a good place for a casual hedge of gooseberries. They don’t look like much, little sticks.
But each has its growth nodes ready to put out next spring’s branches and leaves.
They are set into soil now, where they can sleepily make roots over the winter. I will report on them when buds break, months from now.
And then, back down to the vegetable patch. The last item of harvest for this year is the shelling beans. These were Scarlet Runners. By this time, the pods look pretty well lost. But you know by now I am taken with the beauty of spent remnants of plants. Look at the beautiful colors remaining in the pods!
I wish I could share also the snap and crackle of the papery shells as they break open. And look here inside! Whole, huge beans, beans big enough to grow a stalk to the sky, beans great enough to take in that trespasser Jack.
With a ham hock and some good roots (parsnip, turnip, carrot…), these make a fine, farty soup for a winter day!
But, alas. The season of the garden truly is at an end. The signs are there at morning feeding. Frost on the blackberries signals a long plunge into the dark season here.
There are just so many tiny things to see! Slow me down, big world, and let me look around!