By Christine Tailer
It is that time of year when some folks look longingly back at the summer and wish that its warmth would never end, while others look excitedly forward to the soon-to-be cooler days of fall. But if we pause for just a moment, we can see that this time of year is really a time of its very own. This is the time of the yellowing.
The creek valley has not quite begun to turn, but the hint of something different is there, wistfully floating on a faint breath of cooler air. This is the time when the slightest beginning of the golden yellows, burnt oranges and bright reds hides just beyond tomorrow, but is still a while away.
I’ve noticed that the buckeye trees now have a decidedly yellow tint. It seems that they are always the first to turn. I believe that the prolific buckeyes love the creek valley as much as I do, though for a slightly different reason. They enjoy setting their roots in the valley’s silty, clay loam that ever so rich in leafy organic matter and is perfectly drained by the sloping hills.
As for me, I love our off-grid creek valley life because it has afforded us the place where we can set our feet firmly on the ground and follow our imaginations, and I am thankful to be able to share this land with the buckeyes. On a brutally hot and humid day, I can pluck the largest fan-shaped leaf frond I can find, and wave it before my face. The gentle breeze cools me, and the buckeye and I both smile as I stand under its shade.
Even the stately walnut trees that line the creek valley road are beginning to yellow. Their dark green canopy is fading, and the leaf stalks have just begun to fall to the ground. When I look up, I can see hundreds of walnut hulls still firmly attached, but I know that it will not be long before Greg and I can walk along the road and play a rousing game of kick-the-hull, passing an encased nut between us. I look forward to these walks and the fresh lemon scent of the hulls as they scrape along the pavement.
My garden has also followed the yellowing of the buckeyes and walnuts. The squash vines have withered to a papery tan, and dried quite completely. Even the tomato vines have a gaunt woody look, and the fruits are just about done.
Only a few flowers remain. It seems that early summer’s long dry spell followed by wildly torrential monsoons, was simply too much for most of my garden, though the basil, peppers, and marigold remain. I will say, though, that I feel an odd sort of relief, and maybe even glee, as I gather up the last of my harvest, and ride across the garden on my mower. It is all part of the yellowing.
Then, the black-eyed Susans, are yellow in abundance! They do not tip toe lightly into this yellowing season. They rather jump in brightly without any hesitation at all, their deep yellow petals bursting forth from their black eyes like small rays of sunshine. Goldenrod has also joined black-eyed Susan and seems to be brightly flowering everywhere I look.
Poor goldenrod, however, is really quite misunderstood. I suppose this is because goldenrod looks somewhat like ragweed. Both plants have long, wispy florets perched atop slender stems, but the two plants are really so very different. Ragweed has green florets that are pollinated by the wind blowing across the flowers and distributing its ever so small pollen grains to other plants, as well as to my watery eyes and running nose.
Goldenrod, however, is pollinated by insects, who gather up its large sticky grains of pollen and transport them from one plant to another. Its pollen is actually far too heavy to be carried on the breeze and bother my allergies. If you care to, you might consider picking a bright yellow goldenrod flowerhead, and burying your nose deep inside the florets, and inhaling. A light fragrance will greet you, and yes, you will not sneeze! So, this yellowing time of year, think kindly of goldenrod’s fair-headed beauty as it nods in the breeze.
Our grass is also showing a yellow tint, and thankfully no longer needs frequent mowing. Our second cutting of hay dried quickly, turned to rustling gold, and has now been baled and stored in the shed. Even the creek water has a golden shimmer as it reflects the yellowing of the surrounding hillsides, and as for me, I plan on savoring every single second of this in between season, this time of the yellowing, this time to pause and savor the season we are leaving behind, and the season that is just about to come.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.