Many a year it was that I got up in the middle of the night, donned warm clothes and took off for points west, namely Fort Wayne, Indiana, and usually with my dad at the wheel. This, on the busiest shopping day of the year, because there were bargains to be had! Freebies to scoop up! Madness to be a part of!
Yes, it was like a party of sorts, although I doubt my dad thought so. He just wanted to get his shopping for Mom finished and he figured I was the only one who would be crazy enough to do this with him. It's not that he enjoys shopping, or all the people, it's just that he's an early riser and he likes a good shopping bargain as well as anyone.
In those days (1980s), shopping the day after Thanksgiving wasn't the absolute madhouse it is today. Stores opened at (gasp!) 7:00 a.m. Dad and I would have breakfast at Bob Evans and be outside L.S. Ayres (now Macy's) when they opened. They'd be passing out coupons or samples or ornaments or something that the sleepyheads would miss out on. We'd have our shopping done by 10:00 a.m., just when things started to really get hopping. It was fun. One year, we were captured in all our consumer glory by one of the local television stations reporting the start of the Christmas shopping season.
But now it would take ... well... I'm not sure what it would take to get me up early enough to take advantage of the doorbusters. Kohl's and J.C. Penney opened at 4:00 a.m. today and Value City actually started their sales at midnight. I'm a dot-com gal, remember, and there are online sales that make it attractive and worthwhile to stay home and shop in my jammies, although I haven't yet made a single purchase.
So how did we spend Black Friday? In the garden, of course! It was a pretty nice day out there and we had work to do. The winds in recent days had stripped most of the trees bare of their dead leaves and they were now in our yard and in the flower beds. Romie powered up the leaf blower and did what he could to help me remove them from the flower beds, but I still had to do much of it by hand, due to the rains we'd had. This created that suffocating mat of wet leaves that would mean death to the perennials if left in place all winter, and some of them were already completely covered by them.
Once Romie blew out the beds, he attached the bags to the mower and chopped the leaves in the yard, dumping them out on the compost pile (With Jack along for the ride - yes, he rode on the back. You can run the vacuum cleaner under him too and he merely watches).
I was working up by the house when Romie came to me and asked, "What do you want me to do with the rest of these leaves?" I wondered why he was asking me this until he told me to have a look at the compost pile. Oh boy. And this isn't even half of it.
He piled some more on, then took the bagger off the mower and chopped the rest for mulch on the lawn. We'd already put a layer of compost on the bare parts of the garden. But now we had this huge pile of chopped leaves that I was pretty excited about. (Who ever thought I'd be excited about a pile of dead leaves?) By spring, it will be a smaller pile due to decomposition, and will be a great start for compost for the garden.
Since we don't have bins built yet to contain the compost, we had to come up with some way to keep the leaves from blowing away. Wetting them down would help, but they'd still gradually blow away with the strong winter winds to come and no windbreak. So we took some mesh that we'd used on the strawberries to keep the birds out and covered the pile, securing it with garden staples and twisty-ties. We won't be able to stir the compost this way, but air and rain/snow can get in, and at least we won't lose the valuable organic material. We'll resume proper composting techniques in the spring and hopefully have a bin to keep it in.
I had a few bulbs to plant: Allium schubertii, Fritillaria meleagris, and Narcissus 'Jetfire.' There are still some to come, which UPS says will be delivered next Tuesday, and then I'll be done. So much for my vow to not buy any new bulbs this fall. The half-off sales sucked me right in.
While I was putting mulch over the freshly-planted bulb areas, I noticed all the new life still springing forth in the garden. I was surprised, because we've had plenty of cold weather, much of it below freezing, yet here was new growth! The new Campanula 'Pink Octopus' was green as ever and new plants were sprouting all around it.
I saw beautiful Viola 'Fuji Dawn' seed pods that had broken open and were full of teeny little pellets that would become more Viola 'Fuji Dawn.' This had already begun happening though! New little seedlings were flourishing all around the mother plant. I collected the seeds I could and I'm saving them for spring. Maybe I'll want to start them somewhere else.
As I was doing some other cleaning up, I noticed beauty all around me...
The burning bushes are ablaze, but they're in their last days, as the winds have robbed them of their leaves, too. That left a carpet of them on the brick pathways that I find strangely romantic.
The 'Crimson Pygmy' barberries are just now showing their best color and I don't think I ever truly noticed them like this before. Shame on me.
There are several rose buds that I'm certain will never open, but 'About Face' and two unnamed miniature roses get the prizes for last blooms. I never thought I'd see roses in bloom just a week before December.
The Japanese spiraea are awash in luscious fall color, too. I've always thought of these as somewhat mediocre offerings at the garden centers, but at a time when I needed something with certain criteria, these fit the bill. I'm very glad I chose to go with them. They've made me happy with both their blooms and foliage.
The only thing left in the vegetable garden is the Swiss chard 'Bright Lights.' Grandma thinks it's the prettiest thing we grew in the garden. It's still fresh and crisp and if we liked it, we could still be eating it, but we grow it just because we think it's pretty.
'Clara Curtis' chrysanthemum is proving to be a real trouper, especially considering it was just planted this September. It doesn't seem to be bothered by the cold.
Another new one planted this fall, Echinacea 'Pink Double Delight' just deepens in color the colder it gets. The foliage has turned a shocking yellow that contrasts nicely with its blooms, although I wouldn't like to see it look like this year round. It's a nice change for fall. The other coneflowers are long gone.
So the leaves are taken care of and I'm up to date on the bulbs, until Tuesday. The mulch is all in place and all gone, finally, after having a huge pile of it since spring. It was a productive day and while not warm, it's a satisfying thing to get work done, especially when you can do it when the sun is shining while snowflakes drift down. I felt like I was in a movie and the stage hands were opening boxes of fake snow above me. Gotta love that.