By Phyllis Galowitz

It’s a late afternoon in the middle of October when I’m taking my usual walk along Route 28. The sugar maples in front of my house are completely bare, but the birches, late in getting their leaves in the spring, have held on to them long after the other trees are mere skeletons. The sumacs are brilliantly red, as are the burning bushes. Willows are softly waving their delicate, slim leaves and the wind moves those of the ashes, dispersing their seeds and making the leaves twinkle in the sunlight. The hills around me are still splashed with vibrant color: gold, russet, copper and scarlet, but a strong storm is predicted for tonight. I know that that will be the end of what we wait for all year to enjoy: the magnificence of fall in the Catskills!

Most of the flowers are gone. A few goldenrod, white asters and yarrow hold onto their stems, but most have turned. Along the road, among the beiges and browns, the bright red berries of the bittersweet nightshade dot the landscape.

It’s quiet at this time of day, not a bird in sight. The only sound is the gurgling of Bryant’s Brook, meandering along, first one side of the road and then crossing under to the other side.

Today I will plant my garlic, flat side down, in a protected place, where they’ll get the cold soil of winter and mature next summer.  They did well in the flower box, next to the south-east wall of the house, last year. I’ll cut the dahlias down to 6” now that the hard frost has definitely struck them, and lift the clumps, trim off the fine roots, and treat the clumps with fungicide. I’ll place them upside down for a few weeks in a frost-free place to dry out, then pack them away in a box of vermiculite, perlite or peat and store them in a frost-free place until the spring, when they will astonish me again with their gorgeous flowers and foliage. They’re worth the effort!

I’m never quite sure whether I want to transplant the rosemary and thyme, still looking beautiful in their containers which are too heavy to move into my unheated sun porch, or just to enjoy them as long as possible where they are and start new pots in the spring. Maybe I’ll try rooting some of each in small pots to bring into the kitchen; they’re so pretty; or just dry or freeze a few sprigs for cooking.

Enjoy what autumn days we have left. Rake leaves for the sheer joy of it and notice the day-to-day change in our surroundings, walking or driving!

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