Yesterday I checked the weather forecast and saw that this week would have a low of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

And then I felt saaaaaaaad.

I know I can extend the growing season by covering my tomatoes and basil with a row cover, but that’s just prolonging the inevitable. My basil is still producing lush, pungent leaves (and also going to seed), but my tomatoes have slowed to one ripe Italian Plum every three days–and the blue jays get to it before I do. There are just a bunch of green tomatoes on the vine, which I’ll probably turn into green tomato salsa this week.

It’s not just the thought of losing radiant red tomatoes and fresh basil that is making me weepy. I feel God’s love through his creations, and this garden has been full of his love! When I spend time in the garden to observe, work, or harvest, my heart is reawakened with gratitude and love for my Creator. I’ve grown closer to him each day as I witness in real time the miracles of life, growth, sequence, and divine order. Maybe part of me feels like this precious time with him is coming to an end. But a relationship with God never comes to an end–we just change where we both meet up. I can find God in so many other places–in the scriptures, in his holy house, and in prayer.

It’s so hard to say goodbye to plants that I raised from seed, protected from slugs/ducks/crazy heat dome, and watched fulfill the measure of their creation–producing things like baby eggplant, bicolor corn, delicata squash, fennel, red potatoes, and white beets. I probably–nope, definitely!–spent more time with plants than I did with people this summer (unless you count my family). There were so many times Josh walked by the garden while I was crouched down weeding or harvesting and I heard “Oh, there you are!” My fingernails swung the pendulum of being intolerably dirty to being almost clean. No nail brush, however stiff and British, is a match for Mother Nature.

This is as clean as they get–even after a good scrubbing.

The days are much, much shorter now. We all feel that cozy, nostalgic, fall feeling. Last night for dinner our family had soup, fresh baked bread, cheese and fresh-pressed apple cider (from 100 lbs of apples the family picked yesterday–and pressed using the press Grant and I built this summer for such a time as this!). The whole meal just felt like a warm blanket and a long hug.

The apple cider press

I’m going to give myself a season for my heart to be tender. And then I’ll need to find joy in fall and winter. Every season is about growth–and these darker, shorter days mean the growth will happen somewhere else. Somewhere hidden. In the earth.

This is soil building season.

A few years ago Josh asked me “What are the most expensive foods that we could grow in our garden instead of buy at the grocery store?” We came up with a few things like specialty mushrooms and all “organic” produce. Also, cherry tomatoes are pricey when compared to Roma tomatoes.

But the truth is, right now produce is cheap. Carrots are 50 cents a pound. Potatoes are 10 pounds for under 2 bucks. A big bag of spinach that will go bad before you can eat it all is $1.98. So, can we really make a dent in our grocery costs by growing a garden?

That’s why I started my basil garden. Pesto from Costco is around $10 for a 22 ounce jar. If we make + freeze 24 pints of pesto for the coming year, I think we’ve found our gold. That’s $240 worth of something we love, but rarely buy because it’s cost prohibitive. And even if you add in the cost of the olive oil, parm, and a few walnuts, we still come out ahead of store bought pesto.

These are my basil plants (don’t judge!)

They’re struggling a little/lot because the ground where I planted them has never been amended. We’ve just had wood chips + weeds on top of it for the past 3 years. I planted my seedlings anyways. I ended up losing about 15 teeny plants over the past couple months due to slugs. The slugs hide in the wood chips then come out at 11pm. I’m never awake to pick the slugs of my sweet little Genovese basil starts. Anyway, each time I lose a plant, I start over and replant one of my fresh little basil seedlings that are growing in soil blocks.

Most of the basil in my basil garden is Genovese–the quintessential pesto basil. I also threw a few lemon basil plants in there, along with the ONLY Holy Basil plant to survive from my first planting. I put a few other Holy Basil plants in the main herb garden.

I also ordered some African Numun Basil (aka Scent Leaf) which is supposed to have huuuge leaves and taste like a mix of basil and oregano. I started those seedlings last night.

The white rocks around each plant is diatomaceous earth. It’s supposed to deter slugs. We’ll see!

Next year this patch will be amended, pH tested, weeded, dunged (fertilized), and guarded. I’m so excited to have an abundance of basil. It’s an herb that makes me happy.

Here are three highlights of today.

Ten out of our eleven pastured bunnies escaped and ate all the plants Josh bought for me for Mother’s Day. So yesterday I repurchased all my Mother’s Day gifts and replanted them. Two Juliet tomatoes, habanero, and thai chili–but I didn’t replace the snapdragons because I don’t want snapdragons in my garden. I also didn’t replace the leeks because they will grow back. The peppers might grow back too. I also need to replant some greens that the bunnies ate.

Grant, Isaac and I put 2 inch poultry netting on the bottom of the rabbit tractor so they won’t escape, but they’ll still have access to fresh grass.

I also planted 8 Italian Paste tomato plants, another habanero + thai chili for Josh, along with a spicy basil and 6 nasturtiums.

Today I am soaking beans for 12-24 hours before I plant them. I also dug up the horseradish and comfrey and moved them out to the exterior of the pasture.

Today I’ll dig up the ditch in front of our house and plant some wildflower seeds. Mostly sunflowers and millet. Maybe a few other seeds, too.

Our neighbors’ field was cut and bailed over the past week. They generously gave us some bales for our sheep.

Our other neighbors have us three probably-fertilized turkey eggs, and one of our chickens is broody, so we’re letting her sit on them. It’ll be a couple more weeks before we find out if they hatch.

We transplanted a bell pepper plant and basil today. The pepper plant is larger than the one we transplanted way back in early May. I think we really need to be more patient with planting. Things that are planted too early languish and get ravished by bugs. Now that the soil has warmed up, things are finally taking off: corn, bean, beet, tomato, cucumber, and squash plants are all looking fairly healthy.

On the other hand, I wonder, if we fix the pH problem, will plants do better earlier in the season?

Lastly, today we transplanted an oak tree we got from our friends.

The peas we seeded on March 25 are starting to sprout.

The kale and chard are a bit yellowish but surviving. I think nitrogen availability must be lower when the soil is cold, perhaps due to decreased microbial activity.

The basil got killed by the cold nights, but most of the other herbs are doing well, especially both types of parsley.

The plum tree is done blossoming, the pear tree is in full blossom, and the young fruit trees are starting to grow again.

I transplanted kale and chard, and I direct-seeded Oregon sugar pod peas, which were really productive last year. This time, I only seeded one row, leaving more room for planting beans later.

Heather transplanted rosemary, parsley (curly and flat), sweet oregano, and Italian basil (with cloches covering the oregano to promote growth and basil to protect from frost).

I noticed chives growing next to the well.

We had our first significant frost last night. Frost was in the forecast about a week ago, so we harvested our basil, but it was a light frost.