Finally the leaves are starting to collect on the lawn and in the gutters. I have just about finished with the yard and garden. We have been having warmer than usual days for which we are thankful as the cats love sitting in the widowsills and watching the birds, squirrels and fluttering leaves. I will have to start raking them soon, a task which I find soothing. I know how much the cats love chasing dry leaves across the wood floor so I have set aside a bag to collect some to bring in for them. I wish I could safely allow them some outdoor time but it is not possible here, so I do my best to bring the outdoors in. Raking the leaves into the garden beds is one of the last outdooor activities of autumn. They are the blanket I use to tuck in the garden for the winter, and under the effects of cold and snow they become a lovely free compost.
I cut back the rue and the Silver Mound artemisia and will bundle it to hang up on the dining room fixture, a chandelier type, to dry. I will use it for making sachets to keep moths and such out of clothes and linens. Traditional moth balls are made with nearly 100% active ingredient, and the active ingredient is either of two very nasty chemicals, napthalene or paradiechlorobenzene. Mothballs slowly turn from solid to vapor and if you are smelling it, you are breathing in toxic insecticide. Mothballs can also be dangerous if they are chewed or eaten. As nasty as the smell is, still, children, pets and wildlife have been known to ingest them and the results can be serious. The herbs are far less dangerous and they don’t look like candy or treats, especially sew into a sachet. My favorite herb for these is another artemisia, camphot southernwood or Old Man’s Beard. It smells much the old chests that were made from the wood of the camphor tree in Asia, but it is also a wormwood and very repellent of insects.
This year I have horseradish roots to dig up. I can’t wait to make horseradish mayonaise and horseradish hummus and horseradish sauce. The secret to getting horseradish grated sufficiently fine is getting a proper grater. A regular old grater will rarely suffice, horseradish can be pretty tough. I use a very fine carpenter’s rasp (never used on wood) which i got before the days of microplane graters for the kitchen. Even now if you look at them on line with a view to buy, among all the things listed to grate with them like nutmeg and hard cheese, you won’t find horseradish.
None of these matter to the cats. Their herb is catnip which the borrid weather and thoughtless and ignorant yard men the landlord sent managed to decimate this year. Fortunately the roaming cats of my neighbors ate the buds and spead the seed in their poop. I have dug up the tiny plants in the back of the garden and brought them in for potting. The back bedroom is now a storeroom/lumber room and plant room. Milk, Skye and Cloud will all chew on plants so I have to keep them out of reach. Some are in the Wardian case but I moved in too many this year so I am keeping them safe behind a closed door. Last winter I noticed the floor vent in that room was not sending any heat, so I have moved into the living room and started sleeping on the futon up on the frame now. In winter the floor is like ice, the cold and damp coming up from the crawlspace under the house overpowering the heat from the vents. A thrift store oriental rug is underneath as the frame as sometimes Dolly and Mi Sun like to “hide” under the bed. This freed the bedroom which gets the most sun of any room in the house to hold the plants, which sit up on a section of plywood on sawhorses under the window. So there will be more catnip coming, in the meantime I still some sealed up in tins from prior harvests. Once winter comes that will have to suffice as a bit of outdoors for the cats.