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the garden, slowly transitioning

The weather has stayed surprisingly warm here for most of October, so the main garden season has been prolonged quite unnaturally. Marigolds are still going strong, and if they hadn't all been brought low by blight the tomatoes would still be producing. The peppers still are, sort of—they're still alive, at any rate, so when I noticed that there's a freeze forecast for tonight I headed out to pick what I could and, why not, cover the plants. Neither step is really necessary: a week or two ago I already made more pickled peppers and hot pepper jelly than we could ever hope to eat ourselves, and still the counters are overflowing with unused peppers. But I'm still proud to report that, working by headlamp after putting the boys to bed, I picked another pound of hot peppers and little stunted unripe bell peppers (bell peppers were not a success this year).

Covering the plants was probably a little silly, since it's not really prime pepper-growing weather any more, even when it's not freezing overnight. And if it were just for the jalapeños and bell peppers I'd be happy to let go and give them over to the frost. But this year I also tried some Thai peppers, and I want to keep them going as long as I can: there are still so many unripe peppers on the plants, and I want to give them a chance!

Still, while I'm holding on to the peppers the rest of the garden is gradually sinking down into winter stasis. In some cases the sinking is literal: I pulled the tomatoes and took down their stakes, and the crazy squash trellis I cobbled together is also no more. (I don't know how that one went unblogged, because it really was remarkable, designed as it was to let the squash keep growing out of the compost pile without stopping us from, you know, actually disposing of compost.) So the average height of garden structures is like two feet lower than it was last month, and will be lower still when I finally get my act together to put away the cucumber trellis (the cucumbers have been dead for months, it seems). I'm also spending much less time back there, though it may be that I'm more than replaced by the chickens, who now have the run of the place.

Pretty soon it'll be time to spread compost and mulch on the beds (just as soon as the last few squashes ripen up and we can pull out the plants and actually get to the compost!). Unlike last year I didn't start anything for winter harvest—in part because the summer stuff hung on so long!—so pretty soon the whole thing will just be empty flat beds resting under cover and waiting for spring. It's kind of nice that way: nothing for me to do or worry about!

Oh, except the parsnips, of course: we don't want to harvest those until after a few good freezes to sweeten them up. And next year's garlic has to go in soon...

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