by Kathy Riley
After a September that seemed like an extension of summer, we began to have cooler weather and an occasional touch of frost, interspersed with some eighty-degree days whose heat and humidity had us digging out those summer clothes we’d carefully put away. I thought back to the year before when we were in the early stages of our move and visited the soon-to-be new home several times. I knew that I would be living there by late winter, but emotionally I still hadn’t let go of my old city home.
There I had a small garden that I’d established over almost forty years, modest but predictable. In Lumberton, I was glad to see that previous occupants had landscaped the side and back of the house. Everything was much larger, however; ten-foot evergreens against the garage wall and what I later learned were a species of laurel reaching up to block the second story side windows were daunting. I lacked both the expertise and the tools to cope with them, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything for another four or five months at least. I resolved to pack my gardening tools and seek professional help in the spring.
The woods behind the unit also had me a bit worried. I’d grown up in Western Massachusetts, Robert Frost country where “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,” but I had left after college and lived in cities ever since. There would be deer, rabbits, and squirrels to prey upon my future garden, and tales of five-foot black snakes did not make me happy.
Fast forward to October 2016. The roses and pyracantha that I had trimmed somewhat inexpertly during the spring and summer were almost under control and are still blooming and producing berries. Maintenance at Medford found a landscaper to remove the overlarge evergreens on a day when my three-year-old grandson was in town from Los Angeles to watch, and they also trimmed the other shrubs around the house to a point that I could manage them. Pansies in the garden proved a mistake because the woodland creatures grazed then down to the ground, but the subsequent planting of marigolds kept the animals at bay and are the largest I’ve ever raised, knee high and blooming in late October. While the woods do not reach New England foliage at its peak, they are subtly turning colors and providing us with a lovey view from the sunroom. I’ve cut back the perennials and am still harvesting zinnias to enjoy indoors. I’ve added a birdfeeder to the tree in front of my kitchen window and have come to terms with the squirrels who visit. The birds are fine with them and do not go hungry, so I am letting nature take its course and look forward to much entertainment this winter.
The move was not easy, but I feel increasingly at home and have made my peace with “living in the country.”