Fall is in the air!!! As I recall my days living in cold-weather climates, fall means morning chill, turning on the furnace, pulling out long sleeves and jeans. My northern facebook friends are referring to these experiences this week.
In Central Texas, however, fall means something different. When daytime temperatures no longer crest in the 90's, and humidity drops below 75%, then people begin to emerge from their air-conditioned houses. Joggers and bikers escape from the gym; kids can be found playing in sandboxes and on the jungle gym. Small towns all around begin to put on their annual street festivals. We all collectively sigh with relief as we get back to mowing, weeding, and other yard work in less stroke-inducing weather.
This fall, my thoughts and efforts have turned to gardening. In August I started some tomatoes and peppers; a few weeks later I planted three blueberry bushes. The more I do, the more ideas I get for future seasons. So far, in addition to 100 square feet of vegetable garden in the spring (meaning late February), I've begun thinking about planting some fruit trees. And as I begin to consider trees, the desire grows stronger to get them now and get them growing so they can become fruitful as soon as possible. Those blueberries are already going to make me wait 18 months before seeing any fruit at all. I can hardly stand the idea of waiting so long.
Trees require commitment on my part. First, a commitment to stay in one place. Not just in the same town, but on the same plot of ground. This is a bit of a challenge for me, as I have moved about every 2 years since I was 14. Unfortunately, an acre of fruit trees is a little difficult to transplant every 3 to 5 years. So either my lifestyle has to change in order to grab hold of my dream, or else I'm just dreaming about these fruit trees.
Currently I compromise with container gardening. It's about time to invest in a dozen half whiskey barrels for my portable orchard. It won't be effective forever, but it will get me a couple years before needing to settle the trees permanently in the ground somewhere.
The second commitment I have to make in order to seize this dream of a fruit orchard is to nurture. I need to commit to paying attention to individual water, soil, fertilizer, pruning, and temperature needs. Our little corner of the world here is not exactly hospitable to untended greenery, as evidenced by the predominance of slow-growing deep-rooted live oaks and a whole lot of mesquite scrub. Nurture requires patience before, during and after growing seasons.
The third commitment is to be ready for the harvest. Fall always inspires me to consider canning, preserving, freezing and food gifting, and I think I can be good for this one. Except that in central Texas, harvest begins in June and carries on until Thanksgiving. And once we get going, it's going to be harvest time for five months of the year, every year!
Patience, I whisper to myself. You don't have to launch it all at once. The blueberries are a good start.
But if you were wondering about a good birthday or Christmas gift, I'd probably ask for a Zone 8 appropriate sweet cherry, peach or pear tree.
You can keep the partridge.