Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Wooden Pig

Weather: Temperatures in the mid-30s; last rain 9/18/2013; 11:40 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Silver lace vine, Russian sage, daturas, Maximilian sunflowers, Sensation cosmos.

Beyond the walls and fences: Apache plume, sweet peas, Russian thistle, pigweed, ragweed, chamisa, snakeweed, Hopi tea, Tahoka daisy, gumweed, horseweed, broom senecio, native sunflowers peaked, áñil del muerto, golden hairy, heath and purple asters.

In my yard: Fern bush, winecup mallow, David phlox peaked, catmint, calamintha, bachelor buttons, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, anthemis, chrysanthemums, dahlias, black-eyed Susan, Mexican hats, yellow cosmos.

Bedding plants: Snapdragons, sweet alyssum.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Large and small black ants.

Weekly update: I always think of this period between the first cold morning and a killing frost as the age of the wooden pig.

Last Sunday, the first cold morning of the season, affected those who lived in the house of the straw, the pig and the frivolous town girl he married who hadn’t yet adapted to life in the country. She’s sick and some of the children died when cold came through the dried stalks. Those nearest the ground, where the straw is thickest and holds the most heat survived, fared better. Her relative’s nearer the river, where moisture settles in the evening were less affected.

Zinnias come from México. This year they started blooming the last day of June. The plants became bushier. Flowers skimmed the tops. Few turned to seed. They were everything a summer annual should be, constantly in bloom, dependent on someone somewhere else to provide next year’s seed. They were too inbred to reproduce anyway.

The cold splotched many with brown.

They survivors continue undaunted. New flowers open, next to ones killed or turning to seed.

The pig in the wooden house was smarter. He married a local village girl who may forgo the tolls of middle age as long as possible, but knows what needs to be done. When cold seeped through the cracks between the wooden planks, she shivered some. In the morning she began the necessary preparations for winter.

The native sunflowers have had a hard summer. Droughts took its toll. Some began blooming in July, but it was only in September tall plants were surrounded by flowers.

As soon as the weather began turning, flower heads drooped and seeds appeared.

They’re still producing flowers, but converting them to seeds as quickly as possible.

The pig in the brick house doesn’t worry. He repaired the cracks in his mortar this summer. His house is snug. His wife, a country girl, finished the canning long ago. But like all women facing menopause before contraception, she has an occasional late burst of fertility. She may not live to see the youngest children graduate from college, but she is lives today.

The perennials took their cues from changes in light, moisture and temperature early. They bloomed early in the summer, produced their seeds, and quietly started the leaf buds for next summer. But, here and there, an unspent bud opens. Some blanket flowers in the grass.

A pink salvia protected by neighboring plants.

The last of the large-leaved soapworts.

They serve no purpose but life itself, doomed to the same fate as the zinnias, and just as determined to bloom until the very coldest frost.

Photographs: Except where noted, all were taken yesterday in my yard.

1. Scarlet flax.

2. Scarlet flax.

3. Zinnias last Saturday, 28 September 2013, before temperatures fell to near freezing.

4. Zinnias.

5. Zinnias.

6. Native sunflowers blooming along an irrigation ditch close to the Río Grande, 13 September 2013; taken from a bridge.

7. Native sunflowers.

8. Blanket flower.

9. ‘Rose Queen’ salvia.

10. Large-leaved soapwort.

11. Jupiter’s beard.

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