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Warming up to the idea of autumn

Garden Muse
by: Courtesy of Barbara Ashmun, Autumn’s harvest is endearing to gardeners.

At first, I resist autumn. It's too cold, the sky is overcast and it's (shudder) raining! I'm not ready for this change.

Longing for the warmer, longer days, I cling to what's past and over. I hate donning rain gear and layers of fleece. Reluctantly, I turn the heat on in the morning and hide under the covers, like a lazy bear. Plus the days are so short - why does the sun have to sink so early?

A Bright New Palette

Then, like a persistent lover, fall wins me over. The leaves on 'Grace' smoke tree brighten from mahogany to translucent red, like stained glass. The pear tree leaning over the neighbor's fence turns a burnished oxblood. In the front yard, the gold red-twig dogwood suddenly fills with warm pink tints, enticing me to give fall a chance.

The heart-shaped katsura leaves turn bright yellow, while the parrotia tree fills with orange and red tints. And when the fern-leaf full-moon maple just outside my office window gradually morphs from green to red, I'm smitten. Fall redeems itself with a new palette of color - a last fling before winter.

Celebrating the Harvest

Autumn also calls for a celebration of the harvest.

Tom and I have a tradition of driving up to Hood River in search of our favorite 'Mutsu' apples. Our destination is Kiyokawa Family Orchards and Fruit Stand www.mthoodfruit.com in Parkdale, where they grow 80 varieties of apples and pears, including 12 kinds of Asian pears. Heading up the Columbia River Gorge, a visual treat at any time of year, we especially enjoy fall's dramatic show on the steep hillsides - trees and shrubs glowing orange, gold and red against the backdrop of dark green conifers.

A Fall Feast

Every fall, my friend Marian and I head over to Sue Berge's homestead in Scappoose to tour her incredible edible garden. Sue owns New Dimension Seeds www.newdimensionseed.com, and her prolific country garden is also where she tests seeds. On a balmy October day, long Japanese and round 'Opus' eggplants hung from sturdy stems, and lustrous basil and red peppers gleamed in the mild autumn sun. Green Asian pears and red Fuji apples studded the fruit trees.

Seventeen chickens clucked away inside their wire coop, and when Sue slipped a sunflower seed head through the wire grid, they went nuts pecking at it.

Sue fixed a homemade lunch from her garden harvest that was an ode to autumn: sliced, breaded and fried 'Opus' eggplant, sliced 'Old German' tomatoes, roasted red peppers and bread, fresh out of the oven. Side dishes of eggplant caponata, homemade marinara sauce and slices of ripe melon rounded out the feast.

After lunch, we headed back outside with shopping bags that were bursting to fullness by the time we left for home. Sue picked green and purple kohlrabi, round and long eggplants, red peppers, corn, butternut squash, basil, parsley, beets and tomatoes for us, and it was only when it began to rain that she stopped piling veggies into our bags.

A New Tool

On the way home, we stopped at the Linnton Feed and Seed www.linntonfeed.com to browse. I love the old-fashioned smells of a feed store - a blend of alfalfa pellets, straw, leather and old wooden floors. Unlike what happens when I wander around box stores desperately looking for a salesperson, I went straight to the counter. A friendly fellow directed me straight to the suet rack - time to feed the birds - and then to the tool display.

I quickly found a replacement for my old trusty shovel that recently snapped off at the base while I was digging up invasive water irises. At first I was slightly dubious of the fluorescent chartreuse circular handle and the $42 price tag on the Radius Pro shovel www.radiusgarden.com, but when I picked it up, it felt perfect in my hands. Although it was lightweight it looked indestructible. It even came with a lifetime guarantee.

In honor of fall I splurged, and now that I've tested it, I'm sold. The very next morning, with very little effort, I dug up a dead eucalyptus, and transplanted a large rose shrub from a shady area to a sunnier home. The sharp blade cut right through the dry packed earth and around the root zones, going deep quickly, and I was able to lever out the root balls with ease. I'm on a roll now, digging out the old and planting the new.

Fall is a pretty wonderful season, after all.

You can reach Barbara at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.