Common Ground – November

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‘Twas autumn, and the leaves were dry

And rustled on the ground

And chilly winds went whistling by

With low and pensive sound.

Seba Smith (Major Jack Downing)

And so we come to the rituals of fall. Let’s talk about one of the most enjoyable ones first. I have always liked preparing a new bed in the vegetable garden and planting garlic.

This year I emptied a composter to provide organic matter for the new bed. Other years I have used bagged sheep manure. I don’t think it’s too critical really as long as there is lots of organic matter as well as good drainage. And garlic also needs a lot of rain during its growth in the spring.

This past season produced an excellent garlic crop. I know everyone complained about all the rain but it was good for the garlic.

I have never bothered to mulch garlic. Perhaps this is laziness. But I have found that even in past years with little or no snow my garlic was fine. As for when to plant, I have planted any time from September to November and have had good results. Garlic is very forgiving.

The only thing that has changed in all my years of planting garlic is that I only replant my own that I have saved. Garlic now has several pests and diseases that have spread to this area in recent years.

I also enjoy bulb planting but am giving it a miss this year. I know that daffodils and other bulbs I have planted in past years are busy increasing on their own with no help me from me. Eventually I will have to divide them all but it won’t be this year.

One of the less appealing rituals of fall is enduring the annual cluster fly invasion. I can only imagine how much worse this was in the days before vacuum cleaners. I must confess to a certain degree of schadenfreude that my friend’s almost new house also suffers the invasion of the flies.

My least favourite fall chore, however, is wrestling with the stove pipes. Every fall I take down the pipes of the Findlay Oval cookstove and clean them. This is a messy but not very difficult job. The hard part is getting them all put back together. They always seem to fight back and resist being put back in place. Some swearing is usually involved in getting it all put together once again.

I managed to get this job done recently on a rainy weekend morning. Winter or at least the harsh winds of November can come now. The old Findlay is ready for another winter.

And next year’s garlic has been planted. Planting garlic always makes me think of the Stan Rogers song where he talks about putting another season’s promise in the ground. I know he wasn’t talking about garlic but never mind the metaphor is appropriate.

By Jill Williams

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