LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 55: Autumn Sunshine

On Friday, I worked joyously in the autumn sunshine at Red Oak House, on a rare still day, planting 92 tulip bulbs at the request of my husband. He had asked me last spring to plant more and when I received an email from a seed company mentioning bulbs, it hit me that there was still time.

On Thursday night, I went to a local home store, where it looked like I was too late as the Christmas stuff dominated, but I wandered into the semi-dark garden supply area and found lots of bulbs for sale, knowing that Friday would be the day to get the planting done.

These tender shoots are beyond delectable for the ravenous rabbits when it is the only green in the spring, so I must plant tulips inside the garden fence. I dug a trench 6 inches deep — it is muddy and my boots grew heavy with the load underfoot. While I worked, my mind wandered back to pleasant childhood days planting tulips with my mother at our Slope County farm. We also had to plant inside the fence that was around the house to protect from rabbits. My mother loves tulips, bright spots in what can be bleak spring days in North Dakota.

There is not much color in the yard this year as most of the leaves are turning brown and gray, even the aspens, normally a luminous saffron by now. I mowed up the current round of gray leaves from the grass, secure in the knowledge that most of the leaves remain on the flower beds, which occupy far more space than the tiny plot of grass we have, to provide critical cover for overwintering insects. I need the three bags I gathered with the mower to mulch the asparagus.

For some reason, the eponymous Red Oak tree is defying this trend of brown and gray leaves, which we surmise must be caused by the overly abundant rains we’ve had this year. It is looking glorious right now. Soon enough, its leaves will rain down and fill the rain gutters.

Again to protect from rabbits, I’ve erected fences around some of the shrubs they munch on during the winter. The chrysanthemums are mostly flattened from the early October heavy snow, but a few spots of color remain here and there, mostly from the purple asters. On the feeders, the birds are busy with constant visits from nuthatches, both red- and white-breasted, woodpeckers, chickadees and juncoes. I especially like it when the raucous Blue Jays show up. For now, I seem to have foiled the pesky squirrels.

Autumn foods dominate in our kitchen, including last Sunday’s roast with root vegetables, one of our “nothing-from-the-store” meals (we buy the beef from a Morton County friend). Jim happily spent Friday in a boat on the Missouri River, sipping their traditional Bloody Mary and attempting to put some walleye in the freezer before the fishing season ends. He always comes home with good stories if not fish.

Here at Red Oak House, we are mostly ready for the winter, a time to focus on our many indoor projects, including work on our neglected manuscript.

“If you were coming in the fall,

I’d brush the summer by”  — Emily Dickinson

Leave a Reply