Autumn's Cornucopia

Mel and Mo enjoy summer's scenery on the farm
When we extracted honey two years ago it flowed into jars light, sun-drenched, summer blonde and floral to taste,” my friend Jack emailed. “Yesterday brought dark, dark, heavy orangish jars of flavorful anti-oxidant fighting goodness. Same hive.”
On the other hand, my bees disappeared again—another year without our raw honey in my pantry. After investing time and finances, I could be disappointed.
For what profit? As farmer and poet Wendell Berry says, “We live the given life.”
In my mother-in-law’s vernacular, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
On the brink of seventy years, I look on the bright side more than ever. I consider what our land has yielded, regardless of drought, fruits and vegetables to nourish us. There’s plenty left to consume with great pleasure until springtime.
Plenty to give away.
As I sliced one of our last watermelons into a bowl, I considered Michigan’s motto, Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice. Yes, if we seek a pleasant peninsula, if we open our eyes and rest them upon our lands and waters, we’ll see what abundance they give.
If we pause and lift our heads, perhaps we’ll notice our neighbor, risk a wave hello. If we slow down we might see what natural and human resources await our health and pleasure within our own community.
For heaven’s sake, there’s ample raw honey available in these parts of north Oakland and south Lapeer counties. I’ll buy what was given to another beekeeper.
Good economy.
I may not have bees to overwinter, but we do have five new chickens and their eggs to collect daily. Rain or shine. Those silly girls toured the greenhouse yesterday while I tidied apiary equipment. Like kids in Disneyland, the hens cocked their heads this way and that and chased crickets.
This is goodness from autumn’s honeyed mouth, October’s cornucopia spilling earth’s gifts upon our table and into our souls.

Mo sleeps on our chicken chair 

All our place wants is our cat Mo. After eighteen years, we’re lonely for our black and white friend. Although we buried him next to Goldie, our protective hen, we still expect to find Mozart sleeping under the lilac bushes or sunning on the patio’s pea gravel. We listen for his voice. Mo said “Me-el” like nobody else.
Now we wait for our next mouser to show up. PJ, our first cat, and Mo both came to us when least expected. Two cats in twenty-six years. We may not know how to keep bees, but somehow our tomcats settled in and abided a long lifetime.

I know dear Reader, bees and tomcats are entirely different creatures not to be compared. However, I must say it’s a wonderful feeling to love and be loved by a living thing. And it hurts when they leave, bees or cat.
On this rainy October day, I turn to my study window from habit, remember Mo on the sill outside, talking to me. He couldn’t tolerate muddy paws. I appreciated that.
Oh yes, this place flows with more than enough goodness.

Autumnal Rites

Variegated Porcelain Vine berries, an autumnal beauty
However busy you are these days in physical labor, spare a few moments to enjoy the beauty of the flowers that remain. Richardson Wright, The Gardener’s Bed-Book 1929

According to an entry in Mr. Wright’s Bed-Book, I should’ve divided my irises in August to share with other growers. It’s not that I’m stingy. Years ago, I carried a basket of iris rhizomes everywhere until they were no more. I wrapped the gnarly things in tissue tied with a bow.
In Mr. Wright’s day, the landscape in view from his Connecticut hilltop flourished with his iris offspring. He kept a bucket of tubers on hand for conspirators who dropped by in hopes of securing a cutting from a prized rose. Wise man.
On this hilltop come August, flowers play second fiddle to food. Have to harvest and freeze raspberries and green beans. Can tomatoes, hang onions and garlic.
It’s tough, but I’ve learned to suffer the sight of seed heads for a pantry and freezer full of homegrown vegetables and fruit. What a glorious feeling when the last butternut squash is baked and frozen for winter soup.
Mr. Wright is on the money when he says, “By the end of September, one becomes surfeited with garden beauty.”
It’s the physical, emotional, and financial cost to sustain succession of color that leaves me wishy-washy about buying mums pumped with Miracle Grow. If deer don’t destroy them, winter will. Oh, but it’s tempting to pull into a nursery and walk amongst the scent of blooming chrysanthemums. An autumnal rite.
An alternative is to meander along our country roads and the Polly Ann Trail and harvest a handful of asters. Their dark purple, lavender, and white starry blooms make a darling and long-lasting bouquet.
There’s one on my kitchen table, a gift of nature’s cultivation. If only asters thrived on our little estate. I cannot tell you the number I’ve planted and lost the past thirty years.
Asters appear with apple cider and cinnamon donuts. Michigan’s comfort food at its best! A perfect way to celebrate summer’s end in the tang of coloring leaves.
“At such time we should not expect too much of the garden,” says Mr. Wright. “Let us turn our eyes to the rich panoply the trees are beginning to put on and the multitude of colored berries the bushes now hang out to indicate that their cycles also have been completed.”
Ah yes, the iridescent turquoise, lilac, and blue edible berries of the variegated porcelain vine. To my great pleasure, the plant grows happily here and prefers the south side of the pergola.
Another autumnal rite, I decorate my dining room table with the vines. Any flower lover is thrilled to receive a handful.  
Mr. Wright concludes, “The secreting of porch and garden furniture in the bowels of the barn—is an act of finality that brings me complete satisfaction.”
Me too, dear Reader.
Then I spare those moments on my backyard swing, observe the panoply of cycles turn, turn, turn.