When Autumn Leaves

Autumn is many seasons rolled into one. Gone now are the Keatsian days of early Autumn, that abundant time when the garden finally comes good with the fully blown fruits of an earlier season’s hard work. Then my mornings were filled with preserving: now I sweep and rake fallen leaves and gather ‘morning wood’, dry sticks and kindling to store for lighting fires. I often think of Lao Tzu when sweeping. An old black and white ink print on rice paper rises again to haunt me, flashbacks of Nepal, Swayambhunath and Francis, friend and Nepalese expat who helped revive the lost art of Tibetan ink printing during the 70s. Daoist, peaceful, impressionistic, the memory of this print and the act of sweeping helps clear the brain.

Daily raking and sweeping. Melia Azederach sheds early and often.

Autumn’s cold snap, a preparation for things to come, is followed by days of sunshine and warm weeks, a glorious Indian summer, confusing some plants and encouraging others to linger. Chillies have re-flowered, fruit tree buds are swelling: all in vain I’m afraid.

May 26: Borlotti beans are flourishing but I’m keeping an eye on them.

Just as I begin to indulge in the melancholy that comes with late Autumn, along come the Borlotti beans in their splendid pink scribbled coats and plump promise. I’ve been watching them and feeling them for weeks. One of their alternate names in Italian is Fagioli Scritti, a more vivid and appropriate title for this colourful and useful bean. I grow the tall variety and usually plant them late in the season. They are adapting to our microclimate as the same seeds are picked late and saved from year to year.

Borlotti beans prefer Autumn.

The cheery colour of pink tinged lettuce is also a mood changer. All the lettuces are better in the cold: cos and romaine, curly endive, bitter escarole, the butterheads and the soft oakleaf varieties, rugola, each one delicious on its own but more so when mixed. Large pink radishes and the ‘heart of darkness’ radicchio are now in their prime. Beautiful colours painted by cold.

Baby leaf mix of late Autumn
Heart of darkness radicchio

This version of Autumn Leaves seems to suit this season. It makes sense of nostalgia, missing and parting more than the crooning versions of the 50s, although the original French version, Les Feuilles Mortes, written in 1945, is also rather charming.

22 thoughts on “When Autumn Leaves”

  1. . . . . smiling, laughing, remembering . . . at the end of a magnificent autumn here: sunny, peaceful and beautiful . . . . looking at your bountiful harvest for the table . . . reading your evocative words . . . my heart and mind still both return to Yves Montand and then perchance to ‘September Affair’ and so many nods in the same direction when my hormones first bloomed and imagination was wild . . . . thanks for the memory, as the saying gees . . .

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      1. Hi Francesca how are you doing, I’m Terry i was on here searching for a military post when i saw your write up and post i was very interested in them so i decided to send you my email address terry444u@gmail.com please contact me so we can know more about each other…Terry once again..

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  2. It is so interesting seeing Fall especially since here we are ending our spring…The photos are beautiful are the leaves bamboo? there are soooo many! your baby lettuce looks so good, nice job on all your plantings.

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    1. No, we don’t have bamboo here. ( only n pots as they tend to spread too quickly and choke everything). The green/lime coloured leaves are from a Melia tree( sometimes called Persian Lilac and the red ones are from a pin oak.The lettuce really love the cold weather and are a nice contrast to rich winter foods.

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  3. We have been blessed with lots of night rain during Autumn in FNQ, interspersed sunny 27 oC days. It’s all go in the tropical edible garden. I didn’t realise that Kang Kong is almost a runaway weed. You can literally see it grow. We’ve now contained it to the Barramundi pond where it creeps over the rock wall only to be beheaded to join the crisper. All the Chois are also prolific as is the saw-tooth coriander. As with all edible gardens we have the bugs to contend with – non more so that the tropics. However, I (along with many others) have tried heaps of organic sprays. Most of those were effective until either raining and watering washed it off. I attended a tropical veggie gardening club recently and was given the following recipe which also kills eggs, aphids, moldy mildew, etc., etc. I made the base then added water just before spraying. I x cup bi-carb + 1 cup organic baby shampoo + 1 cup cooking oil. Shake it up – put 200 ml into 1 litre spray bottle add 800 mls. water and go on a non-chemical war-path. Do all the under-side leaves as well. I nearly lost all my frangipani to mold and mites but alas they are now leafing again after just 2 treatments over a month . As for the veggies, not a insect nibble to be seen. You don’t have to wait until you notice any bugs or mold as in this case prevention is the cure. It seems the solution adheres to the foliage so it can tolerate heavy rains/watering. Here is a list of some of our Aussie pests and mates – 50 species of stick and leaf insects
    162 species of mantis
    250 species of cicadas
    348 species of termites
    428 species of cockroaches
    550 species of shield bugs
    2,827 species of crickets and grasshoppers
    4,000 species of ants
    7,786 species of flies
    20,816 species of butterflies and moths
    28,200 species of beetles!
    And that’s only above ground!!
    Sorry to have used your blog Francesca but such a success story needs to be shared. BTW we planted snake beans which we adore in a Malaysian mild curry.
    Eat well!
    Cheers
    Peter

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    1. Great recipe for bugs and you certainly have your fair share up there. Far North Queensland is the home of an amazing world of insects thanks to the tropical forests. Lets hope we all value their importance more than we valued the reef.
      Snake beans are the best beans for a good curry. F xx

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  4. Francesca. I love autumn. It means winter is on its way, the promise of rain and green, at last. Summer can be harsh in the west. I am still getting tomatoes but they are struggling to ripen before bugs disease gets them.

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    1. We are also getting a few late tomatoes but as they ripen on the windowsill, they get a bit soggy. The weather changed yesterday so it’s time to pick the remaining beans.

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  5. We’ve also enjoyed a lovely Autumn. My favourite time of fhe year, and when it’s good on NSW’s Mid North Coast ie sans East Coast Lows… it’s spectacular with sunny warm days, occasional showers for the garden, autumn foliage and a wood fire at night.
    We had a patch of corn that did not much, I must pull it and give it to the chooks, plant the space with more rocket seedlings I have on the go, and you’ve now inspired me to add more lettuce varieties… I love leaves. We haven’t had many pests, a swarm of gnats for a week or so and some eggy-aphidy things in the daylillies that I sprinkled with cinnamon -thanks Google- and the cold nights probably finished off.
    I planted beans, snowpeas and broadbeans that haven’t done much and the G.O.’s spuds and my radishes were delicious but not abundant… our soil needs more work and will appreciate the chooks’ manure. However the vege garden the G.O. planted next door has kept us in snowpeas, sugar snaps and a few beans. Having gotten more adventurous I turned our carrot-less carrot tops into pesto -yum… With all that and what gets dropped off from friends we eat economically and well, much inspired by you ♡

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